Musical Borrowing
An Annotated Bibliography

Individual record

[+] Wise, Timothy. “Jimmie Rodgers and the Semiosis of the Hillbilly Yodel.” The Musical Quarterly 93 (Spring 2010): 6-44.

Country musician Jimmie Rodgers’s use of hillbilly yodeling—including his style, choice of melodic material, and lyrical themes—set the paradigm for many popular and country music vocal practices. Throughout his extensive recording catalogue, Rodgers uses three species of yodel: wordless yodel (first species), texted yodel (second species), and yodeled grace notes (third species). Each of these species can be used within three functional categories: structural types, melodic archetypes, and word decoration. One of the central yodel tropes in Rodgers’s songs is the home trope, typically associated with nostalgic songs. An important home yodel is melodically derived from the yodel in John Handley’s Sleep, Baby, Sleep (published in 1885, first recorded by Rodgers in 1927). A cheerful yodel trope is taken from Rodgers’s Away Out on the Mountain, possibly derived from J. K. Emmet’s Cuckoo Song. Less well defined but still widely used are the blue-yodel turnarounds, which exist in two primary forms incorporating swung blues-scale patterns. A later blues yodel pattern is derived from W. C. Handy’s Memphis Blues. The stylistic sources for Rodgers’s yodeling practice are extremely varied, ranging from nineteenth-century yodel melodies to contemporary ragtime and blues practices. As a carrier and aggregator of multiple traditions, Rodgers proved to be foundational in the construction of rural singing style and a major contributor to American music.

Works: Jimmie Rodgers: Mother, the Queen of My Heart (18), I’ve Only Loved Three Women (18), Dream with Tears in My Eyes (18-19), Yodeling My Way Back Home (19), Lullaby Yodel (19), Treasures Untold (19), The Land of My Boyhood Dreams (19), The Cowboy’s Last Ride (19), Whisper Your Mother’s Name (21), A Drunkard’s Child (21), The Yodeling Cowboy (21), The Mystery of Number Five (21), The Brakeman’s Blues (22), Everybody Does It in Hawaii (22), Tuck Away My Lonesome Blues (22), Jimmie’s Mean Mama Blues (22, 26), Mississippi Delta Blues (26), Those Gambler’s Blues (31); Texas Drifter (Goebel Reeves): The Tramp’s Mother (19), Hobo’s Lullaby (19), The Wayward Son (19); Cliff Carlisle: Nevada Johnny (19); Ward Barton: Rock-a-bye Baby (20); Rex Griffin: You Gotta Go to Work (21), My Hillbilly Baby (26), Everybody’s Trying to Be My Baby (27)

Sources: John Handley: Sleep, Baby, Sleep (16-20, 21); Traditional: 5-6-5-3-1-5 Yodel Trope (20-21), St. James Infirmary Blues (31); Jimmie Rodgers: Away Out on the Mountain (21-23); J. K. Emmet: Cuckoo Song (22-23); W. C. Handy: Memphis Blues (26-27)

Index Classifications: 1900s, Popular

Contributed by: Matthew Van Vleet

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Musical Borrowing and Reworking - - 2024
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