Yodeling Virtuosity and Theatricality in California Country Music
Chapter 4 shifts the subject matter to 1940s California country music and connects the musical career of Carolina Cotton to the vibrancy and theatricality of that scene. Cotton emerged as a formidable vocalist in the leading western swing bands in which her virtuosic yodeling style matched and helped to enliven the rhythmic language of this hybrid style. In film, she continually used the yodel’s historical links to pastoralism, female virtuosity, and vaudeville slapstick to play a variety of roles—the Alpine maiden, the hillbilly clown, the jazz soloist, or the tomboyish singing cowgirl. With thespian flair, Cotton negotiated the aesthetic and cultural terrain of 1940s country music and opened up a performative space in California’s dance halls, where she yodeled swinging rhythms to an Okie audience of women working in World War II-era production plants.
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