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New Glarus yodelers in traditional Swiss garb. (1922).

Yodeling (also yodelling or jodeling) is a form of singing which involves repeated and rapid changes of pitch between the low-pitch chest register (or "chest voice") and the high-pitch head register or falsetto. The English word yodel is derived from the German (and originally Austro-Bavarian) word jodeln, meaning "to utter the syllable jo" (pronounced "yo" in English). This vocal technique is used in many cultures worldwide.[1]

Alpine yodeling was a longtime rural tradition in Europe, and became popular in the 1830s as an entertainment in theaters and music halls. In Central Africa, yodeling was a form of communication announcing the yodeler's location and identity. In the United States, traveling minstrels were yodeling in the 1800s, and in 1920 the Victor recording company listed 17 yodels in their catalogue. Music historians credit the first country recording to include yodeling to Riley Puckett in 1924. In 1928, blending Alpine yodeling with traditional work, blues, hobo, and cowboy music, Jimmie Rodgers released his recording "Blue Yodel No. 1". Rodger's Blue Yodel created an instant national craze for yodeling in the United States and, according to a black musician who lived near Rodgers in Mississippi, everyone, both black and white alike, began to copy Rodgers. The popularity lasted through the 1940s, but by the 1950s it became rare to hear yodeling in Country or Western music.[2]


  • History 1
  • Technique 2
  • Yodeling in the United States 3
    • Performers 3.1
      • Early years 3.1.1
      • Jimmie Rodgers 3.1.2
      • The Lion Sleeps Tonight 3.1.3
      • Radio 3.1.4
  • Notable performers 4
    • United States 4.1
    • Canada 4.2
    • Europe 4.3
    • Outside Europe and North America 4.4
    • The Tarzan yell 4.5
  • See also 5
  • References 6
  • External links 7


Most experts agree that yodeling was used in the [4]

In Persian classical music, singers frequently use tahrir ("tremolo" in English), a yodeling technique that oscillates on neighbor tones. It is similar to the Swiss yodel, and is used as an ornament or trill in phrases which have long syllables, and usually falls at the end of a phrase.[5] Tahrir is also prevalent in Azerbaijani, Bulgarian, Macedonian, Turkish, Armenian, Afghan, and Central Asian musical traditions, and to a lesser extent in Pakistani and some Indian music.

In polyphony.[6]

In Central Africa Pygmy singers use yodels within their elaborate polyphonic singing, and the Shona people of Zimbabwe sometimes yodel while playing the mbira.[7] The Mbuti of the Congo incorporate distinctive whistles and yodels into their songs. Living from hunting and gathering, they sing hunting and harvest songs and use yodelling to call each other. In 1952, ethnomusicologist Hugh Tracey recorded their songs and they have been released on compact discs. [8]

British stage performances by yodelers were common in the nineteenth century.[9] Sir Walter Scott wrote in his June 4, 1830, journal entry that "Anne wants me to go hear the Tyrolese Minstrels but...I cannot but think their a variation upon the tones of a jackass."[10]


The Old Chisholm Trail
Autry, Blue Yodel 5
Bob Wills, Blue Yodel No. 1

Human voices have at least two distinct vocal registers, called the "head" and "chest" voices.[11] Most people can sing tones within a certain range of lower pitches in their chest voice and tones within a certain range of higher pitch in their head voice. Falsetto is an "unsupported" register forcing vocal cords in a higher pitch without any head or chest voice air support. The range of overlap between registers, called the passaggio, can be challenging for untrained singers. Experienced singers can control their voices in this range, easily switching between registers. Yodeling is a version of this technique in which a singer might change register several times in only a few seconds and at a high volume. Repeated alternation between registers at a singer's passaggio pitch range produces a very distinctive sound. For example, in the famous "Yodel - Ay - EEE - Oooo", the "EEE" is sung in the head voice while all other syllables are in the chest voice. Bart Plantenga, author of Yodel-Ay-Ee-Oooo: The Secret History of Yodeling Around the World, explains the technique:

"The basic yodel requires sudden alterations of vocal register from a low-pitched chest voice to high falsetto tones sung on vowel sounds: AH, OH, OO for chest notes and AY or EE for the falsetto. Consonants are used as levers to launch the dramatic leap from low to high, giving it its unique ear-penetrating and distance-spanning power."[12]

The best places for Alpine-style yodelling are those with an

  • Lynn Abbott & Doug Seroff (1993) America's Blue Yodel from Musical Traditions No 11
  • Yodel-Ay-Ee-Oooo: The Secret History of Yodeling Around the World by Bart Plantenga, New York: Routledge, 2004), ISBN 0-415-93990-9 – from Switzerland to the avant-garde, an exhaustive survey of the field.
  • Hal Cannon (2010) Who Were The Cowboys Behind 'Cowboy Songs'? NPR (National Public Radio)

External links

  1. ^ Perfect Sound Forever - Online Music Magazine
  2. ^ a b Tosches, Nick (1996). Country: the twisted roots of rock 'n' roll. Da Capo Press. p. 110.  
  3. ^ Ling, Jan (1997). A history of European folk music. University Rochester Press. p. 32.  
  4. ^ "Will there be Yodeling in Heaven?". Retrieved 2012-09-24. 
  5. ^ Persian Vocal Stylings
  6. ^ Example of Svaneti polyphony and yodelling in the Guria province in Georgia (BBC Radio 4)
  7. ^ "Mbira Singing". Erica Azim. Retrieved December 24, 2009. Huro (singing) includes mahon'era – low-pitched syllabic singing without meaning; chigure/magure – high pitched syllabic singing without meaning, including yodelling; and song texts 
  8. ^ "Pygmies " Mademoiselle Montana's Yodel Heaven". 2008-11-30. Retrieved 2012-09-24. 
  9. ^ Tosches, Nick (1996). Country: the twisted roots of rock 'n' roll. Da Capo Press. p. 109.  
  10. ^ Country: The Twisted Roots of Rock 'n' Roll - Nick Tosches - Google Books
  11. ^ Titze, I.R. (1994). Principles of Voice Production, Prentice Hall, ISBN 978-0-13-717893-3.
  12. ^ Why it's time we learned to love yodelling The Guardian: Music, Sept. 22, 2006.
  13. ^ a b c Define yodel | Dictionary and Thesaurus
  14. ^ "Yodeling Mountaineers: The Alpine Roots of the American Guitar". Retrieved 2012-09-24. 
  15. ^ America's Blue Yodel
  16. ^ a b "Victor Discography: George P. Watson (vocalist : yodeling)". Retrieved 2012-09-24. 
  17. ^ Victor Discography: George P. Watson (vocalist : yodeling)
  18. ^ Browse All Recordings | Sleep, baby sleep, Take 1 (1901-02-15) | National Jukebox
  19. ^ "Minstrel shows". Retrieved 2012-09-24. 
  20. ^ "Vaudeville, A History". Retrieved 2012-09-24. 
  21. ^ a b c "America's Blue Yodel". Retrieved 2012-09-24. 
  22. ^ Ramblin' on My Mind: New Perspectives on the Blues - Google Books. 2008-01-02.  
  23. ^ "Ragged but Right: Black Traveling Shows, "Coon Songs," and the Dark Pathway to Blues and Jazz". Retrieved 2012-09-24. 
  24. ^ Write Me a Few of Your Lines: A Blues Reader - Steven Carl Tracy - Google Books. 1999.  
  25. ^ "USA " Mademoiselle Montana's Yodel Heaven". Retrieved 2012-09-24. 
  26. ^ "Origins of yodeling in Country Music". Retrieved 2012-09-24. 
  27. ^ ‘Jimmie Rodgers: Life & Time’ by John Lilly (citing Jimmie Rodgers: The Life and Times of America's Blue Yodeler by Nolan Porterfield, University of Illinois Press, 1992). Archived May 9, 2008 at the Wayback Machine
  28. ^ "BLUE YODEL NO. 4 LYRICS - BILL MONROE". Retrieved 2012-09-24. 
  29. ^ Country: The Twisted Roots Of Rock 'n' Roll - Nick Tosches - Google Books. 1996-08-22.  
  30. ^   Originally published as, "In the Jungle".
  31. ^  
  32. ^ Frith, Simon, Popular music: critical concepts in media and cultural studies, Volume 4, London : Routledge, 2004. ISBN 978-0-415-33270-5.
  33. ^ "Inside The Music Industry - Chronology - Technology And The Music Industry | The Way The Music Died | FRONTLINE". PBS. Retrieved 2012-09-24. 
  34. ^ Pickin' on Peachtree: A History of Country Music in Atlanta, Georgia - Wayne W. Daniel - Google Books. 2000-11-30.  
  35. ^ "Elton Britt". Retrieved 2012-09-24. 
  36. ^ Jul 28th 2008 5:00PM by Stephen L. Betts Comments (2008-07-28). "Jewel Introduces Fans to Lost Art of Yodeling". The Boot. Retrieved 2012-09-24. 
  37. ^ Ankeny, Jason. "Cliff Carlisle - Music Biography, Credits and Discography". AllMusic. Retrieved 2012-09-24. 
  38. ^ GUTHRIE, LEON JERRY "JACK" (1915-1948)
  39. ^ Hank Snow - Music Biography, Credits and Discography : AllMusic
  40. ^ - Carolina Cotton
  41. ^ Country - Richard Carlin - Google Books
  42. ^ Cattle Call: from Tex Owens to People Like Us | Mademoiselle Montana's Yodel Heaven
  43. ^ Yodeling Slim Clark
  44. ^ Don Walser circa 1964
  45. ^ - Bill Haley and the Saddlemen
  46. ^ Bill Haley Yodel Your Blues Away
  47. ^ Bill Haley: Before the Comets - NEMSbook
  48. ^ Marsh, Dave; Bernard, James (1994). The New Book of Rock Lists. New York: Simon & Schuster. p. 362. 
  49. ^ Harrison, George (2000).  
  50. ^ Miles 1997, p. 21.
  51. ^ Larkin, Colin (1993). The Guinness Who's Who Of Country Music: Slim Whitman entry. Guinness Publishing. ISBN 0-85112-726-6
  52. ^ Douglas B Green
  53. ^ Riders in the Sky | Bio | Official Site for America's Favorite Cowboys
  54. ^ Mike Johnson Biography - Mike Johnson, Country Music's No.1 Black Yodeler
  55. ^ Mudcat Café Message
  56. ^ Taylor Ware -
  57. ^ Plantenga, Bart (2006-09-21). "High on a hill". The Guardian (London). 
  58. ^ Yodel-Spotting: Lapsed-Mennonites, Yodeling Truck Drivers, Japanese Carnivores in Lederhosen, and Soft-Core Tyrolean Yodel Porn - The Brooklyn Rail
  59. ^ Derschowitz, Jessica (19 June 2013). "Late Night"Brad Pitt yodels with Jimmy Fallon on . CBS News. Retrieved 31 July 2013. 
  60. ^ Wilf Carter Memorabilia, Canning Heritage Centre
  61. ^ Guinness Book of World Records, 1978, p.488
  62. ^ Guinness Book of Records, 1988, p.183
  63. ^ Library and Archives Canada Country Singles - Volume 3, No. 7, April 12, 1965
  64. ^ Bobbejaan Schoepen: The Yodeling Whistler | The Chawed Rosin
  65. ^ "Jodelling Song - Italian Opera". Italian Opera. Retrieved 18 February 2014. 
  66. ^ , October 7, 2002New York Times"In a New South Africa, an Old Tune Lingers",
  67. ^ a b Do they yodel in India ?: Kishore Kumar | Mademoiselle Montana's Yodel Heaven
  68. ^ a b Rafi and Yodeling | Rafians tribute to a true Maestro - Mohd Rafi
  69. ^ GYMKHANA YODEL Lyrics SLIM DUSTY & Heather McKean & Joy


See also

The Tarzan yell is the yodel-like call of the character Tarzan, as portrayed by actor Johnny Weissmuller in the films based on the character created by Edgar Rice Burroughs, starting with Tarzan the Ape Man (1932). The yell was a creation of the movies, based on what Burroughs described in his books as "the victory cry of the bull ape."

The Tarzan yell

Bob Nelson was a Brazilian singer-songwriter that sang yodel. He was a frequent apparition at television shows, and has recorded many yodel songs, such as "Boi Barnabé", "Como é burro meu cavalo", and "Vaqueiro no samba".

Mary Schneider is an Australian singer and performer who yodels the works of classic composers. She mainly appears in club and pub venues around Australia as well as overseas, but she has also performed at many arena venues. Her daughter Melinda Schneider is also a country music singer and yodeller.

Joy McKean, Australian country music singer-songwriter, is known as the "grand lady" of Australian country music. By the age of 18 she was performing with her sister Heather on their own radio show as the McKean Sisters, noted for their yodeling harmonies. Mckean performed with her husband Slim Dusty till his death in 2003. Slim, a singer-songwriter and yodeler as well, wrote his first song, "The Way the Cowboy Dies" when he was only 10 years old. He received 37 Golden Guitar and two ARIA awards and was inducted into the ARIA Hall of Fame.[69]

Kishore Kumar was a playback singer from India, famous for his yodeling,[67] while it was JP Chandrababu talented comedian of Tamil film who introduced yodeling as playback singing in India.[67][68][68]

Australia"s first singing cowboy Smoky Dawson was well known for his western-style yodel, and featured yodel on his first single Im A Happy Go-Lucky Cowhand" In South Africa, yodeling is featured in some Afrikaans-language pop music.[66]

Outside Europe and North America

One of the earliest songs to portray an unusual marriage between yodeling and rock music was "Hocus Pocus" by the Dutch band Focus released in 1971. Irish singer Dolores O'Riordan is renowned for her yodelling particularly in tracks such as "Dreams", one of several Riordan-penned singles from the double platinum album Everybody Else Is Doing It, So Why Can't We? by The Cranberries.[13]

In England, Edith Sitwell featured a "Jodelling Song" as part of her series of poems Façade, set to music by William Walton.[65]

Harry Hopkinson (1902 – 1979) has been credited as one of the world's greatest yodelers. He used the stage name Harry Torrani and was billed as the "Yodeling Cowboy from Chesterfield". Frank Ifield, an Australian-English singer, released a double A-sided single record, "Lovesick Blues" and "She Taught Me How to Yodel" in the UK in 1962. It reached number 1 in the UK charts, and also reached number 44 in the U.S.Billboard Hot 100.

Bobbejaan Schoepen was an extremely accomplished, successful, and versatile Belgian entertainer, entrepreneur, singer-songwriter, guitarist, comedian, actor, and professional whistler. In 1948 "De Jodelende Fluiter" ("The Yodeling Whistler") was Schoepen's first hit. In 1953, he was one of the first Europeans to appear at the "Grand Ole Opry" in the United States.[64] Outside of regional Volksmusic, Karl Denver was a Scottish singer who had a series of yodel-based hit singles in the early 1960s. Most famous of these was a 1961 version of "Wimoweh".

Franz "Franzl" Lang, known as the Yodelking (German: Jodlerkönig), is a famous yodeler from Bavaria. Lang also plays the guitar and the accordion and he has authored several books on yodeling. Ursprung Buam is an Austrian folk music trio from Zillertal, Tyrol. One of the most popular touring groups in Austria, Ursprung Buam often tours Germany and many places across the European Union, as well as the Tirolean festival scene. Oesch’s die Dritten is a Yodel Volksmusik family group from the Bernese Oberland, Switzerland.

Yodeling is a major feature of folk music (Volksmusik) from Switzerland, Austria, and southern Germany and can be heard in many contemporary folk songs, which are also featured on regular TV broadcasts. Stefanie Hertel is a German yodeler and popular performer of Alpine folk music. Hertel has won numerous prizes as a performer; in 1992, she won the Grand Prix der Volksmusik with the song "Über jedes Bacherl geht a Brückerl"


Pop rock singer Avril Lavigne, with a singing style very much influenced by Irish singer Dolores O'Riordan who is well known for her yodeling, is known for yodeling in some of her songs, especially in her early works, although one can also hear slight yodeling in songs from her newer albums as well, such as "Let Me Go" and "Falling Fast". The singer's yodeling style is very discrete, and yet noticeable.

Stompin' Tom Connors of Canada is also noted for yodeling in some of his songs.

Canadian country singer and yodeler Donn Reynolds set a world record yodelling non-stop for 7 hours and 29 minutes in 1976.[61] Reynolds later established a world record for the fastest 5 tone yodel (3 falsetto) in 1.9 seconds in 1984.[62] His release of the yodelling song "She Taught Me How To Yodel" reached #2 on the Canadian country music charts in 1965.[63]

Canadian Wilf Carter (Montana Slim) was known as the "Father of Canadian Country Music". He began singing in the 1920s after seeing a traveling Swiss performer named "The Yodeling Fool" in a nearby town. Carter sang in the "singing cowboy" style and developed a yodel with a Swiss-sound sometimes called an "echo yodel" or a "three-in-one."[60]


In a skit that aired on the TV "Late Night with Jimmy Fallon", the actor Brad Pitt and Jimmy Fallon engaged in a yodeling conversation atop New York City skyscrapers. As they yodeled back and forth, subtitles inform viewers of what they are saying to each another. After some small talk Pitt asks Fallon if he'd like to try a "double yodel." Fallon responds, "A double yodel? But that's never been done before!" and the episode concludes with the two yodeling in harmony.[59]

The Sound of Music by Rodgers and Hammerstein contains a yodelling song, "The Lonely Goatherd", in which Mary Martin yodelled to good effect in the original production on Broadway in 1959. Gwen Stefani also yodeled in 2006 single, "Wind It Up". The lead vocalist for American electro-punk band the Epoxies is also known for her yodeling in a lot of their songs. Soul singer Aaron Neville said he was inspired by Gene Autry's yodelling to develop his unusual vibrato singing style.[13]

According to Bart Plantenga, author of Yodel-Ay-Ee-Oooo: The Secret History of Yodeling Around the World, "...unlikely yodellers include the Muppets (with, of course, special guest Julie Andrews), Shakira, Goofy, Bill Murray (remember Charlie's Angels?), Gene Wilder (who was taught to yodel by Rough Guide contributor and yodel legend Kenny Roberts), and South Korea's former Miss World Ji-Yea Park."[57][58]

Kerry Christensen, who hails from Idaho, has been performing since he was three years old. He yodels in both western and Alpine styles and also plays the accordion, the zither and the alphorn...and is very good at imitating chickens. Yodeler Taylor Ware was a contestant on America's Got Talent when she was eleven years old. According to Ware, she taught herself to yodel from an audiotape and instruction book when she was seven years old.[56] Alyse Eady, who holds the title of Miss Arkansas 2010 and was 1st runner-up in the Miss America 2011 Pageant, both yodeled and did ventriloquism in the song "I Want to Be a Cowboy's Sweetheart" as her talent performance.

Other western music yodeling singers include Douglas B. Green (Ranger Doug)[52] and Wylie Gustafson. Green sings with his band Riders in the Sky.[53] He is also a music historian and has written a book, Singing in the Saddle "the first comprehensive look at the singing cowboy phenomenon that swept the United States in the 1930s". Gustafson learned to yodel from his dad, who learned from Austrians on the ski team in Bozeman, Montana. In 2007, he released an instructional book and CD titled, How to Yodel: Lessons to Tickle Your Tonsils. Mike Johnson is an African American yodeler who combines the Jimmie Rodgers, Swiss, and Cowboy yodeling styles, . In 2007, 114 of his yodeling songs were inducted into the Recorded Sound Reference Center's permanent music collection in the Library of Congress in Washington D.C.[54][55]

Paul McCartney cite Whitman as an early influence[49] [50][51] In the film Mars Attacks!, a Kansas teenager discovers that the Martians are vulnerable to Whitman's song "Indian Love Call", whereupon he and his grandmother use it to destroy the Martians.

Jazz singer Leon Thomas, best known for his work with Pharoah Sanders, particularly the 1969 song "The Creator Has a Master Plan" from Sanders' Karma album, was known to break out into yodeling in the middle of a vocal. Thomas said he learned to yodel from listening to African Pygmy singers. This style has influenced singers James Moody, Tim Buckley and Bobby McFerrin, among others.

Yodler Kenny Roberts was another member of the Down Homers; he taught Bill Haley to yodel before he did a stint in the Navy when Haley took his place in the band. In later years Roberts was popular on children's TV shows where he used to leap over two feet in the air while playing guitar and yodeling.

Perhaps yodeler Bill Haley of Bill Haley and the Comets has one of the strangest histories of all. Bill Haley zoomed to fame as the "King of Rock and Roll" when his song "Rock Around the Clock" was featured in the popular film Blackboard Jungle. But it is little-known that Haley and his band had been around for years doing Western swing music with Haley featured as a yodeler. Haley was born in 1925 and "Rock Around the Clock" made the scene in 1955 and at that time he and his band were using the name the Comets. However, prior to that time they had gone under the names the Down Homers, the Texas Range Riders, the Four Aces of Western Swing and finally, The Saddlemen. At one point in the 1940s, Bill Haley was even awarded Indiana State Yodeling Champion for his skill, perhaps something that his skillful manager Colonel Tom Parker felt not important to mention to his screaming teenage rock 'n' roll fans.[45][46][47]

"Yodelin' Slim Clark", hailed from Maine and performed for 70 years. (See the sound file above "The Old Chisholm Trail" recorded by Clark in 1956.)[43] Yodeler Don Walser was from Texas. Though widely known in Texas, his singing career didn't really take off until he was 60 years old in 1994. In 2000 he received a lifetime "Heritage" award from the National Endowment for the Arts, and he and his band played at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.[44] Jimmie Davis, who served two terms as the Governor of Louisiana, was also a successful country singer who yodeled.

Yodeler Hannès Schroll was the voice for the Goofy holler, a stock sound effect that is used frequently in Walt Disney cartoons and films. It is the cry Goofy makes when falling or being launched into the air, which could be transcribed as "yaaaaaaa-hoo-hoo-hooey!"

Singing cowboy Roy Rogers yodeled, as did his box office competitor Gene Autry. (See the sound file above in which Autry sings the Jimmie Rodgers song "Blue Yodel No. 5") Zeke Clements, known as "The Dixie Yodeler" acted in "singing cowboy" Westerns and also provided the voice of Bashful, the yodeling dwarf, in Walt Disney's Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937 film).

The DeZurik Sisters were two of the first women to become stars on both the National Barn Dance and the Grand Ole Opry, largely a result of their original yodeling style. Carolina Cotton[40] and Patsy Montana were early cowgirl yodeling singers as well.[41] Patsy Montana's signature song, "I Want to Be a Cowboy's Sweetheart" was again popularized in 1946 by Rosalie Allen, a "singing cowgirl" from Pennsylvania, who went on to host her own "western" radio show in New York City. Margo Smith covered it in the 1970s, and singer/yodeler LeAnn Rimes again brought the song back in the 1990s. In 1996 Rimes also recorded "The Cattle Call", a "singing cowboy" song written by cowboy yodeler Tex Owens, with legendary singer Eddy Arnold. "The Cattle Call" was Arnold's signature song, but it has been recorded by many artists including Emmylou Harris and even Elvis Presley.[42]

Rosalie Allen, 1947

Tommy Duncan, vocalist for "Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys", was a good yodeler. (See the sound file above with Duncan singing Rodger's "Blue Yodel No. 1" in 1937) Bob Wills is considered by music authorities to be the co-founder of Western Swing.

Hank Snow was one of the great country legends of the 1950s, but he had actually been singing in Canada for years where he was known as "The Yodeling Ranger". He admired Jimmie Rodgers as well, and learned to yodel by listening to his records. He even named his son Jimmie Rodgers Snow.[39]

Jack Guthrie, the cousin of Woody Guthrie, performed in the thirties and early forties. Known as "Oklahoma's Yodeling Cowboy", he developed a style of singing and yodeling influenced by his idol, Jimmie Rodgers, and his experiences as a bucking-horse rider and rodeo performer.[38]

Blue yodeler Cliff Carlisle was one of the most prolific recording artists of the 1930s, and a pioneer in the use of the Hawaiian steel guitar in country music. He frequently released songs with sexual connotations including barnyard metaphors (which became something of a trademark).[37]

In 1934 yodeler Elton Britt recorded what was to become his signature song, "Chime Bells". Like so many others of that era, Britt listened to records of Jimmie Rodgers, which inspired him to learn how to yodel. Eventually he became renowned for his ability to sustain his yodel for an unusually long time, a skill he reportedly learned while swimming underwater for several minutes at a time.[35] Swiss-American Country singer Jewel yodels and is known for her version of "Chime Bells" as well. Jewel says that she learned to yodel from her father who also learned to yodel by listening to Jimmie Rodgers.[36]

Known as the "Texas Drifter," Goebel Reeves claimed to have taught Jimmie Rodgers to yodel. Reeves came from a middle-class background, but chose the life of a hobo. His most famous song, "Hobo's Lullaby," has been covered by numerous singers, notably Woody Guthrie and his son Arlo.

United States

Jewel performing for US troops in 2000.

Notable performers

Today radio listeners can enjoy rare outtakes of historic cowboy yodeling on the "Calling All Cowboys" western music program on community radio KPOV-FM and streamed on the internet.

Other than the [34]


By 1948 the song had sold about 100,000 copies in Africa and among black South African immigrants in Great Britain and had lent its name to a style of African a cappella music that evolved into isicathamiya (also called mbube), popularized by Ladysmith Black Mambazo.[32] It was covered internationally by many 1950s pop and folk revival artists, including The Weavers, Jimmy Dorsey, Yma Sumac, Miriam Makeba, and The Kingston Trio. In 1961, it became a number one hit in the U.S. as adapted by the doo-wop group The Tokens. It went on to earn at least 15 million US dollars in royalties from covers and film licensing. Then, in the mid-nineties, it became a pop "supernova" when it was used in the film The Lion King, its spin-off TV series and live musical.

"Mbube" wasn't the most remarkable tune, but there was something terribly compelling about the underlying chant, a dense meshing of low male voices above which Solomon yodeled and howled for two exhilarating minutes, occasionally making it up as he went along. The third take was the great one, but it achieved immortality only in its dying seconds, when Solly took a deep breath, opened his mouth and improvised the melody that the world now associates with these words:

In the jungle, the mighty jungle, the lion sleeps tonight.[31]

One famous yodeling tune known the world-over is the song "The Lion Sleeps Tonight", also known as "Wimoweh". It was first recorded by Solomon Linda and the Evening Birds in South Africa in 1939.[30] Linda, a singer of Zulu origin, wrote the song, originally titled "Mbube" (Zulu: lion), while working for the Gallo Record Company as a cleaner and record packer. According to South African journalist Rian Malan:

The Lion Sleeps Tonight

According to a black musician who lived near Rodgers in Mississippi, everyone, both black and white alike, began to copy Rodgers: "Every one who could pick a guitar started yodeling like Rodgers."[29] Rodgers died in 1933. Many performers that followed him claimed that he had been a big influence in their singing style and career.

Every time I need you mama, lord I always find you’re gone
Every time I need you mama, lord I always find you’re gone
Listen here sweet mama, I’m gonna put your air brakes on
Oh-di-lay-ee-ay, di-lay-dee-oh, de-lay-ee[28]
Every time I see you mama, you’re always on the street
Every time I see you mama, you’re always on the street
You hang out on the corner, like a police on his beat
Oh-di-lay-ee-ay, di-lay-dee-oh, de-lay-ee
She got eyes like diamonds, lord her teeth shine just the same
She got eyes like diamonds and her teeth shine just the same
She got sweet ruby lips, and a hair like a horse’s mane
Oh-di-lay-ee-ay, di-lay-dee-oh, de-lay-ee
She’s long she’s tall, she six feet from the ground
She’s long she’s tall, she six feet from the ground
She tailor made, lord she ain’t no hand me down
Oh-di-lay-ee-ay, di-lay-dee-oh, de-lay-ee

Another famous early yodeler was The Singing Brakeman Jimmie Rodgers, who recorded dozens of popular songs in the late 1920s and early 1930s. While working on the railroad he learned blues techniques from African American gandy dancers, and eventually created his characteristic sound - a blend of traditional work, blues, hobo, and cowboy songs and his trademark "Blue Yodel." His first blue yodel, known as “Blue Yodel No. 1" (T For Texas), was recorded in the Trinity Baptist Church at Camden, New Jersey.[26] When the song was released in February 1928 it became “a national phenomenon and generated an excitement and record-buying frenzy that no-one could have predicted”.[27] Rogers sang about everyday affairs and woes that many Americans of that time could relate to. Here are the lyrics of "Blue Yodel No. 3":

Jimmie Rodgers

In 1923 and 1924 black performer Charles Anderson recorded eight sides for the Okeh label which gave a summary account of his vaudeville repertoire during the previous decade. Five of the recorded songs are yodels : "Sleep, Baby, Sleep", "Comic Yodle Song", "Coo Coo" (J K Emmett's Cuckoo Song, adapted for Anderson's famous 60-second sustained soprano note), "Laughing Yodel" and "Roll On Silver Moon", a sentimental ballad, similar to Jimmie Rodgers' various Southern ballad recordings. Some historians credit white singer Riley Puckett with the first recorded yodeling record.[16]

Most music historians say that the first country music record to include yodeling was "Rock All Our Babies to Sleep" sung by Lovesick Blues", which was later a major hit for country singer Hank Williams. Bob Wills, the King of Western Swing, was also influenced by Miller (see the sound file above with Will's singer Tommy Duncan singing "Blue Yodel No. 1" in 1937)[24] In the early 1920s, African-American Winston Holmes started a record label, Merritt Records, and was a performer himself. His vocals included bird calls, train whistles and yodels. He managed and made some songs with blues singer Lottie Kimbrough in the twenties.[25]

Early years

Caroline (l) and Mary Jane Dezurik
Jimmie Rodgers
Blue Yodel No. 1


While some of the blue yodels heard on late 1920s Race recordings - those by the Mississippi Sheiks, for example - probably do owe something to Jimmie Rodgers' phenomenal success, others - like Billie Young's When They Get Lovin' They's Gone (accompanied by Jelly Roll Morton on Victor 23339,1930), Lottie Kimbrough and Winston Holmes' Lost Lover Blues (Gennett 6607, 1928), and Clint Jones' Mississippi Woman Blues and Blue Valley Blues (Okeh 8587, 1928) - seem more deeply connected to these precedent recordings by Charles Anderson, and to the venerable line of African-American yodelers they represent. There is no reason to doubt that Jimmie Rodgers, who could not resist a show, was exposed to and influenced by the black yodeler-blues singer tradition. Its practitioners were thoroughly entrenched in minstrelsy and vaudeville, and accessible to all races of people. Perhaps Jimmie even saw Charles Anderson himself perform, or heard some of Anderson's crystalline blues and yodeling 78s, before rising to immortality on his own great 'Blue Yodel' recordings. At any rate, the Freeman references strongly suggest that Charles Anderson and his generation of black professional yodelers had introduced the blue yodel in African-American entertainment before Jimmie Rodgers recorded.

Authors Lynn Abbott & Doug Seroff write:[23]

When music critic [21]

Country blues singer Lottie Kimbrough, billed as The Kansas City Butterball (she was a rather large woman), sang in speakeasys and nightclubs. Kimbrough recorded her music from 1924 through 1929 and is now best known for her collaborations with Winston Holmes. Holmes supplied a series of yodels, vocalized bird calls and train whistles on some of their recordings. A good recording of Kimbrough and Holmes singing Wayward Girl Blues (1924) is available on YouTube.

The Male Mockingbird, Charles Anderson, the man with the golden voice, is some character singer, imitator, and impersonator. As an imitator, Anderson has the best on the market skinned, his violin imitation intermezzo went big, and was one of the best imitations of a musical instrument heard in this neck of the woods for many moons. "Sleep Baby Sleep", a lullaby sung in costume of an old nurse went big. The yodeling in this song was excellent. "Baby Seals Blues", as rendered by Anderson, was worth going to hear. After a quick change, Anderson reappeared as the polished gentleman and sang "When the Cuckoo Sings", instantly winning the hearts of the audience with his perfect yodeling, causing said audience to cheer like mad for more.[21]

Charles Anderson began touring with a vaudeville show in 1909, singing a combination of blues and yodeling.[22] A 1913 St. Louis review reports:

The Jolly Hendersons offered a clean, bright and snappy act of singing, talking and dancing. Each song rendered by the jolly pair won for them an encore. Mr Henderson is a real clever light comedian, while his partner, Miss Henderson , is just as clever as a singing and talking soubrette. In fact she is one of the first lady yodlers that we have had the pleasure of hearing.

Known as The Jolly Hendersons, Beulah Henderson toured with her husband Billy from 1905 through 1910. Billed as "The Classy Colored Comedy Pair", Beulah was featured as "America's only Colored Lady Yodeler". In Indianapolis in 1911 manager Tim Owsley noted:

...and Monroe Tabor yodeled as only J K Emmett Sr, of yore could do. At the Avenue Theater in December 1917, "When My Ship Comes Sailing Home" was a fine tenor solo by Tabor, who has no superiors as a yodeler.[21]

And from a 1917 review:

Monroe Tabor sang "A Tear, a Kiss, a Smile". Mr Tabor is a new tenor with a good voice, which suffers only from a lack of training...While there was not quite enough comedy and ragtime, the Yoodle song, "Sleep, Baby, Sleep", was greatly in atonement and showed Monroe Tabor to be unexcelled as a yoodler.

By the 1880s the minstrel show had been replaced by Vaudeville and American Burlesque.[20] By around 1905, more than 20 years before Jimmie Rodgers introduced his blue yodel, African Americans were touring the country singing and yodeling. The most noted yodelers of that time were Monroe Tabor ("The Yodeling Bellboy" - though he was not a bellboy), Beulah Henderson (who appeared in black face), and Charles Anderson (who played a singing "mammy" and a female impersonator in several of his acts). Tabor performed with the Dandy Dixie Minstrels. In New York in 1908, a 'well-known critic' reported:

Though antebellum (minstrel) troupes were white, the form developed in a form of racial collaboration, illustrating the axiom that defines – and continues to define – American music as it developed over the next century and a half : African American innovations metamorphose into American popular culture when white performers learn to mimic black ones.[19]

The American minstrel show consisted of comic skits, variety acts, dancing, and music, performed by white people in blackface or, especially after the American Civil War, black people in blackface. Minstrel shows toured the same circuits as opera companies, circuses, and European entertainers, with venues ranging from lavish opera houses to makeshift tavern stages. When the European Tyrolese Minstrels toured the United States for several years in the early 1840s and created an American craze for Alpine yodeling music, four unemployed white actors decided to stage an African-American style spoof of this group's concerts. Calling themselves Dan Emmett's Virginia Minstrels, the performance was wildly popular and most historians mark this production as the beginning of minstrelsy in the U.S. According to jazz historian Gary Giddins:

[2]); Rodgers would eventually come to be known as the father of both country music and American yodeling when he combined the yodel with southern African-American blues.Bristol sessions (at the Jimmie Rodgers as the second yodeling record ever made (the first was "Rock All Our Babies to Sleep"). "Sleep Baby Sleep" was also the first song ever recorded by Riley Puckett which was later recorded in 1927 by [18] In 1897 Watson recorded the song, "Sleep, Baby, Sleep" [17][16] Other traveling American minstrels were yodeling in the United States as well. Tom Christian was the first American yodeling minstrel, appearing in 1847 in Chicago. Recordings of yodelers were made in 1892 and in 1920 the

Sleep, Baby, Sleep (Watson, 1911)

In 1839, the Tyrolese Minstrels toured the United States and started an American craze for Alpine music. During the 1840s, dozens of German, Swiss, and Austrian singing groups crisscrossed the country entertaining audiences with a combination of singing, yodeling, and “Alpine harmony.”[14] The success of the European groups led to the formation of many American family singing groups as well. The most popular was the Hutchison Family Singers who toured, singing harmony and yodeling. Minstrel shows parodied the Hutchison's yodeling with their own, calling it "Tyrolesian business". In 1853, Christy's Minstrels burlesqued (mocked) the Hutchinson Family singing 'We Come From the Hills With Tyrolean Echo'.[15]

It is thought that yodeling was first introduced to the United States by German immigrants in Pennsylvania in the early 1800s. As the new settlers traveled south through the Appalachian Mountains and beyond into the Deep South they came into contact with Scots-Irish immigrants, Scandinavians (practitioners of a unique yodeling called kölning), and other nationalities including African slaves who communicated with "field hollers", described by Frederick Law Olmsted in 1853 as a "long, loud, musical shout, rising and falling and breaking into falsetto".

Yodeling in the United States


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