Sunday, June 7, 2009
Waltzes, Polkas and Yodelling : Central Europe in country
Charlie Poole - There'll Come A Time (buy) (1926)
Immigrants from Germany, from the different countries of the Austro-Hungarian and Russian empires (Austria, Czechoslovakia, Poland, Ukraine, Russia,etc..) came in numbers to America in the 19th and early 20th century, especially to the mining states of the Appalachian mountains. Like every other group, they brought their musical traditions with them.
First, waltz -originally a German and Austrian popular dance. Waltzes were very common in the first old-time country recordings, like this Charlie Poole song above, and in Cajun recordings in Louisiana. They probably came from the big cities with different waves of European immigrants.
Check out more info on Charlie Poole here at Old Weird America.
Pee Wee King - Get Together Polka (buy) (1952)
Coming from the Czech lands, Polka, with its lively beat and 2/4 time signature (distinct from the waltz's 3/4) was one of the most infectious dances of the 19th century, spreading everywhere in Europe from France to Scandinavia and Ireland. In America, polka and made its way into country music and into Mexican-American border Tejano where accordion became the key instrument (see previous posts). Pee Wee King, born born Julius Frank Anthony Kuczynski, came from Polish extraction and was the son of a polka band leader. A major figure in the Grand Ole Opry, he introduced not only waltz and polka, but also modern instruments (drums, electric guitar).
Roy Rogers - Cowboy Night Herd Song (buy) (1937)
The Swiss, German and Austrian Alps were one of the main places where yodeling was born (along with some areas in Central Africa and in the Caucasus for instance). Although he was not the first one to record yodel songs (Riley Puckett did that in 1924), Jimmie Rodgers popularized yodel in such an extent that he was imitated by legions of singers, including cowboys like Roy Rogers. The origins of Jimmie Rodgers' yodelling remain uncertain. It seems this way of singing was common in vaudeville, medicine, minstrel and tent shows (both black and white) where many country and blues musicians worked. Hawaiian musicians, hugely popular in the early 20th century, had also adopted yodel.