Yodel for Your Neighbors Day
annually on January 30th
Sounds of yodeling will fill the air today, as it is Yodel For Your Neighbors Day. Yodeling is created by quickly alternating the voice back and forth between the low pitch chest register, and the high pitches of the head register—a register also known as falsetto. The word "yodel" is derived from the German word "jodeln," which means "to utter the syllable jo"—said as "yo" in English. Shepherds in the Alps yodeled to communicate with others long distances away, and to round up cattle. The first written record of yodeling dates to 1545. African tribes such as the Pygmy and Bantu, as well as others, historically used yodeling in their songs, and still do today. Yodeling is also an important part of European folk music, particularly in Switzerland, Austria, and Southern Germany.
Yodeling was likely introduced to America by German immigrants in Pennsylvania in the early 1800s. In the 1840s, the Tyrolese Minstrels of Austria traversed the United States, turning the country on to Alpine music. Throughout the 1840s, other singing groups from Germany, Switzerland, and Austria traveled the country and featured yodeling. American family singing groups in the same tradition were soon created, most notably the Hutchinson Family Singers.
Traveling minstrel shows of nineteenth century soon embraced yodeling. Some notable groups were the Christy's Minstrels and Dan Emmett's Virginia Minstrels. Not only was yodeling featured in traveling shows, but it was recorded as well. L.W. Lipp recorded for Thomas Edison at his Phonograph Company in New Jersey in the 1890s.
By 1905, black yodelers were singing and touring the country; notable singers were Monroe Tabor, Beulah Henderson, and Charles Anderson. Lottie Kimbrough was a country blues singer who sang and recorded from 1924 to 1929. She collaborated with Winston Holmes, who yodeled on her records.
A blind singer from Georgia, Riley Puckett, is seen as being the first to record a country record that featured yodeling; he recorded "Rock All Our Babies to Sleep" in 1924, and it became one of the biggest hits of the year. Emmett Miller was another yodeler of the 1920s; he recorded "Lovesick Blues," which was later covered by Hank Williams. The most famous yodeler of the era was Jimmie Rodgers. Known as "The Singing Brakeman", Rodgers blended cowboy music, hobo music, and the blues into his songs. He released "Blue Yodel No. 1 (T For Texas)" in February of 1928, and it sold over a million copies. His "Blue Yodel No. 9," released in 1930, featured Louis Armstrong on trumpet. Collectively, his thirteen "Blue Yodel" songs started a craze for yodeling songs in the United States. Both black and white musicians began to copy Rodgers. This popularity lasted throughout the 1940s, but yodeling in country western music lost popularity in 1950s.
How to Observe Yodel for Your Neighbors Day
Celebrate the day by walking around your neighborhood and yodeling for your neighbors. It may be advantageous to get a refresher on how to yodel before sharing your yodeling talents with them. To get some inspiration for your yodeling, it may help to listen to some important songs that feature the singing form:
- Lottie Kimbrough and Winston Holmes–"Wayward Girl Blues"
- Charles Anderson–"Laughing Yodel"
- Riley Puckett–"Rock All Our Babies to Sleep"
- Jimmie Rodgers–"Blue Yodel No. 1 (T For Texas)"
- Jimmie Rodgers with Louis Armstrong–"Blue Yodel No. 9"
- Johnny Cash and Louis Armstrong–"Blue Yodel No. 9" on The Johnny Cash Show
- Solomon Linda–"Mbube (The Lion Sleeps Tonight)"
- Hank Williams–"Lovesick Blues"
To learn more about yodeling, you could also pick up a copy of Yodel-Ay-Ee-Oooo: The Secret History of Yodeling Around the World.