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Hillbilly Maidens, Okies, and CowgirlsWomen's Country Music, 1930-1960$
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Stephanie Vander Wel

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9780252043086

Published to Illinois Scholarship Online: September 2020

DOI: 10.5622/illinois/9780252043086.001.0001

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Carolina Cotton

Carolina Cotton

Yodeling Virtuosity and Theatricality in California Country Music

(p.95) 4 Carolina Cotton
Hillbilly Maidens, Okies, and Cowgirls

Stephanie Vander Wel

University of Illinois Press

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.

Keywords:   Carolina Cotton, World War II, California, dance hall, hillbilly clown, singing cowgirl, Okie, virtuosity, yodeling, western swing

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