Posts Tagged ‘USA’


A yodeling Christmas and a happy new year !

29 December 2008

The end of the year is always a busy time, and I’m a bit late with my weekly post but I found this great song on youtube.

Here is the text that goes with it: “Santa Claus Song,” composed and recorded by George P. Watson (1871-1926) about 90 years ago, is a real HOOT….for kids AND grown-ups. Watson is credited with making the first American YODELING record, a wax cylinder in 1897. This recording, Edison Blue Amberol cylinder # 3034, is a major NOVELTY. Watson was a long-time vaudeville star who made records for virtually all the old time disc and cylinders companies. His first Victor disc—made Feb. 16, 1906—was “Hi-Le-Hi-Lo,” composed and sung by Watson. This record was ENORMOUSLY successful, to the extent that to this day, most Pennsylvania Dutchman know it. He recorded this selection for numerous companies. It’s interesting to note that because of demand, Victor had Watson re-record “Hi-Le-” electrically, on Dec. 30, 1925, a year before his death. He married Marguerite Newton, another old-time vaudevillian who made comic records around 1900. Watson’s death certificate cites his dad’s name as Philip Zint, so one can suppose Watson’s real name was GEORGE PHILIP ZINT.

I wish you all the best for the new year !


Do they yodel in Canada ?: Wilf Carter (Montana Slim)

16 November 2008

It’s quite obvious you can find yodel in Canada, being so close to the USA. So here is a post about Wilf Carter, also known as “Montana Slim” in the USA.

He was born in 1904 in Port Hilford (Nova Scotia) but moved to Calgary (Alberta) to work as a trail rider in the Canadian Rockies, becoming an authentic cowboy and seizing every occasion to sing. That’s where he developped his own style of yodeling (echo yodel or three-in-one, with heavy studio echo effects). His first encounter with yodel was years before while seeing a travelling Swiss performer who made him want to sing, even if it wasn’t exactly what his father (a baptist minister) wanted from him. Here’s what he says about it: “I yodeled upstairs and downstairs, in the parlor and in the apple orchard. Dad couldn’t stop me, though he wore out a dozen slippers on the seat of my pants.” (cited in Bart Plantenga’s book, Yodel-Ay-Ee-Oooo: the Secret History of Yodeling Around the World, p.194)

He began recording in 1933 for the Canadian office of RCA Victor who was looking for somebody who could maybe have the same succes as Jimmie Rodgers in the USA. Wilf Carter’s yodeling wasn’t directly inspired by Rodgers, it was closer to the Swiss style. He became very popular, appearing on radio shows in Canada and the USA, touring with his own show, and recording more than 500 songs for different labels (RCA, Decca, Apex and Starday), his last being in 1988. He made one last tour in 1991, at age 86. He died a few years later in 1996. His simple style of singing and playing guitar have always attracted the listeners and the sentimental and naive music, the sunny optimism is a reflection of the singer himself.

His first recorded song, My Swiss moonlight lullaby, was written during his trail rider days and had unique and wild yodeling. From 1934 is Little old log shack I always call my home, a typical Carter song, glorifying the happy cowboy life, with all the clichés: howling coyotes, moonlit nights, singing birds, horses and sweethearts.

It wasn’t until 1952 that he recorded the first yodel he’d heard, Sleep, little one, sleep.

From the Decca sessions in 1954 are this two yodel songs: My mountain high yodel song and The Alpine milkman. He is accompanied by a eight-men band including Chet Atkins. In 1956, he recorded Silver Bell Yodel, a quite traditional song but with echo in the yodel while The yodelin’ song is a bit more rock’n’roll, as an attempt to modernise a bit his style.

From 1969 is a cover of a Jimmie Rodgers song, Cowhand’s last ride.

My Swiss moonlight lullaby

Little old log shack I always call my home

Sleep, little one, sleep

My mountain high yodel song

The Alpine milkman

Silver Bell Yodel

The yodelin’ song

Cowhand’s last ride

For his discography, one label, as usual: Bear Family.


They yodel in the USA !: Jimmie Rodgers (III) (1928)

19 October 2008

For his third session in Camden in february 1928, Jimmie Rodgers began recording with other musicians. One of them, Ellsworth T. Cozzens, a steel guitarist of Hawaiian origin, wrote a song for Jimmie Rodgers, as did his sister-in-law, Elsie McWilliams. All songs from this session contain yodels.

Due to the popularity of the Blue Yodel, Rodgers recorded sequels, the numbers two and three. In fact, in order to increase sales, Ralph Peer decided not to give names at the songs composed by Rodgers but just number them. Lucille blues became Blue Yodel No.II and Eyes like diamonds was relabelled Blue Yodel No.3. Another classic, In the jailhouse now, comes from the same sessions. It tell the story of the prisoner who gains his liberty by playing guitar. This song, with others, helped create the public image as railroader and rambler even if he was to frail to do it in real. Brakeman’s blues, in a blue yodel vein, was quite a succes with 262.000 pieces sold.

Dear old sunny south by the sea (Rodgers – Cozzens) Ellsworth T. Cozzens on steel guitar and Julian R. Ninde on guitar, Jimmie Rodgers, vocal and ukulele

Treasures untold (Rodgers – Cozzens) Rodgers on vocal, Cozzens on steel guitar and J.R. Ninde on guitar

Blue yodel No.II (Rodgers) Rodgers on vocal and guitar, Cozzens on banjo

The sailor’s plea (McWilliams – Rogers) Rodgers on vocal and guitar, Cozzens on steel guitar and J.R. Ninde on guitar

In the jailhouse now (Rodgers) Rodgers on vocal and guitar, Cozzens on banjo

Memphis yodel (Rodgers) Rodgers on vocal and guitar

The brakeman’s blues (Rodgers) Rodgers on vocal and guitar, Cozzens on ukulele

Blue yodel No.3 (Rodgers) Rodgers on vocal and guitar

Link to part I and part II


Do puppets yodel ?: the kiddie show connection

28 September 2008

You can find yodel everywhere, even in kiddie shows ! Puppets do yodel sometimes ! So here is a not so serious post.

My first find is in Sesame Street. It’s not a puppet who yodels but it’s in the show. Y is for yell, yellow and yodel, or how to learn the alphabet to the children. With kids who try to yodel and a really serious yodeler.

The Muppet Show had yodels too:

Season Three, Episode 51: Gonzo yodels Rimsky-Korsakov while riding on a motorized pogo-stick. Not really the best yodel I’ve heard but a funny one !

Or maybe this one where the Muppets yodel in chorus with Kristy Lee, an American Idol finalist (note to myself: find the yodelers in that kind of contest):

And to end this post, a great one from Kabouter Plop, the Belgian gnome who made it on WFMU with a fake phonetic translation of one of his songs. There’s no clip for the yodel song, you’ll find the mp3 after the clip. For the lyrics in dutch, you can go here. Be warned: it’s eurobeat at its best, with yodel !

Kabouter Plop – Kabouter jodel

I presume there’s a lot more puppet yodels out there, in odd languages. If you have any ideas, leave me a note !


Do they yodel in the USA ? Arthur Miles (with some excursions in throat singing)

21 September 2008

Thanks to Diane for the guest post. I wasn’t in the mood (and didn’t have time) to write last week because I was busy nursing my boyfriend who was victim of a hit-and-run car accident. He’s ok now, even if he can’t move a lot around, his foot being in a cast. I think it’s a coincidence but this week’s songs are really sad though they will make you travel on the trails of the Texas cowboys and the herders of the steppes of Tuva.

Arthur Miles, a Texan cowboy, created in the 1920s a style of overtone singing, similar to the sygyt style of the steppes of Central Asia (see below). He recorded Lonely cowboy (part I and II) in Dallas around 1927 for Victor. He is the only artist I heard until now who can yodel and throat sing in the same song ! Both songs are really gloomy, and so are the yodels and throat singing. There’s not a lot of info about him but on this page, you’ll find a very interesting interview of Pat Conte (from the Secret Museum of Mankind cd’s) speaking about Arthur Miles. There’s a modern interpretation of the song by stigandr aka big bro Clifton on youtube, with the lyrics of part II.

Throat singing is a technique “in which the singer manipulates the harmonic resonances created as air travels from the lungs, past the vocal folds, and out the lips to produce a melody” (definition from wikipedia). It is mostly known from the singers of Mongolia or Tuva but it is used in all parts of the world like Sardinia, South Africa or by the Inuit people.

There were other artists who did something like overtone singing: Richard Burnett from Kentucky is one of them and you can hear it a little bit in Ladies on the Steamboat, where he plays banjo and Leonard Rutherford plays fiddle in old time style. It sounds more like “dingdongdingding” but some sources (listen to Pat Conte) say he could do the throat singing, he just never recorded it at the time. The song was issued in 1927 on Columbia. You can see them on the first picture.

To end this post, I’ll travel to the other side of the world with one of my favourite Tuva songs, Igor’s solo by Chirgilchin (on the second picture), on their Collectible album. Igor Koshkendey has mastered six different styles of throat singing, is inventing some more himself and has won the Grand Prix of the International Throat Singing Competition in 1998, 2000, and 2002. This song is very sad, just with the bayan (russian accordeon) and you feel transported far far away in the steppe when listening to it.

Arthur Miles – Lonely cowboy (Part I and Part II) (on When I Was A Cowboy, Vol. 1, Yazoo Records)

Burnett & Rutherford – Ladies on the Steamboat (on Kentucky Mountain Music, Yazoo Records or on Document Records)

Chirgilchin – Igor’s solo


Do they yodel in the USA ? (or is it in China ?): Abigail Washburn

24 August 2008

Another woman, another style, another time.

Abigail Washburn is American but she has studied Chinese language and music. She integrates these influences in her music that is also inspired by the traditions of the Appalachian like old time and bluegrass. She played first in Uncle Earl, then made a solo album and is now part of the Sparrow Quartet (Béla Fleck, Casey Driessen and Ben Sollee are the other musicians). Together they made a wonderful album oscillating between american old time and chinese classical music. And she yodels ! Her yodels are completely different from the ones of Carolina Cotton, they are long and languorous, dreamy and quite celestial.

In Overture, the non-lyric vocals have a yodel style, along the sounds of the banjo that is infused with oriental style. She does it again in Great Big Wall in China, with her fragile and delicate voice. And the rest of the album is great too, it is one of my favourites for the moment ! Go buy it, you won’t regret it.


Great Big Wall in China

Link 1: Abigail Washburn’s official site, with her discography

Link 2: myspace

Link 3: review of the album

Link 4: Great Big Wall in China live


Do they yodel in the USA ?: Carolina Cotton

17 August 2008

There are not a lot of woman yodelers on this site… yet ! So this is a post about Carolina Cotton, the Yodeling Blonde Bombshell, who is a very fine yodeler, even better than Patsy Montana or Rosalie Allen say some ! Her songwriting and yodels are indeed very good, original and fresh.

Carolina Cotton was born as Helen Hagstrom on October 20th, 1929 in a Sweedish-American family and was raised in a farm in Arkansas, before her family moved to San Francisco in 1937. As a little girl, she loved going to the movies to see westerns and listened to the radio, singing along the songs and even trying to yodel. She soon began to sing and yodel in revues (and even appeared at the 1939 San Francisco World Fair) and relocated in 1944 to Hollywood where she played in movies and joined the Spade Cooley Orchestra. It was at that time “the” place for western swing. She had the opportunity to compose a lot of songs and tour with the bands of famous musicians like Tex Williams, Bob Wills or even the Sons of the Pioneers. She would say that she was their only “daughter”.

By the mid-50’s, she got married and had children and performed less and less to concentrate on her family. She became a teacher and worked in a department store. She passed away on June 10th 1997, leaving her recordings and movies.

My selection of songs is a bit arbitrary: songs with yodel in the title… I love to yodel and Mockingbird yodel were recorded in 1946 for the King label with Hank Penny and his band. The first song was written by Carolina, the second one by her former bandleader Dude Martin. I love to yodel was used in at least four films: Apache Country where Gene Autry yodels her tune, Smoky River Serenade, where she played… herself, Texas Panhandle, with the Spade Cooley Band and I’m from Arkansas. Yodel mountain was a Snader Telescription, recorded with Bob Wills in 1951. Yodel, yodel, yodel was used in another Gene Autry film, Blue Canadian Rockies. The song came out in december 1953, at the moment Hank Williams died and didn’t have a lot of publicity because of that.

And then also Nola, recorded in the same session as Yodel, yodel, yodel, because it is the showcase of her yodeling talent ! You have the illusion her yodel is echoing across the mountaintop: it is in fact due to the “sound-on-sound” technique, a technological breakthrough in times before multitracking.

Her yodels are full of joy and humor, clear and crisp, and her lyrics are often about the relations between man and women, but told in a very clever way. And now some trivia: she said she preferred to yodel in her bare feet, so she “could get a good toe-hold” when she yodeled !

I love to yodel

Mockinbird yodel

Yodel mountain

Yodel, yodel, yodel


Link 1: her fansite, full of information written by her family, and an album, also available on itunes

Link 2: Binge Discs with lots of interesting albums, and this Carolina Cotton album

Link 3: her page on IMDB

Link 4: Snader Telescription of Three miles South of Cash, Bob Wills and Carolina Cotton, with interesting links about the telescriptions.

Link 5: youtube clips

(thanks Bart for the info !)