Toe-tapping Music at Rosthern Senior Centre

The music filled the Rosthern Senior’s Club again on February 15th as BJ & Friends presented a primarily love themed concert for the 65 people in attendance. The local bluegrass/country gospel group had the audience’s toes tapping and hands clapping in appreciation.

BJ & Friends is made up of Bill and Vi Johnson, Clarence and Ruth Peters, Sam Bueckert and Jim Andres who have performed before at the Rosthern Senior’s Club and always draw a good crowd. Some are especially attracted to the yodeling abilities of Bueckert who thrilled the audience with his yodelling while performing a Wilf Carter tune.

Described now as an “obscure talent”, yodeling was at one time an important part of cowboy music with both Gene Autrey and Roy Rodgers being accomplished yodelers. A Canadian performer named Donn Reynolds established a world record in 1976, by yodeling non-stop for seven hours and twenty-nine minutes. He then went on to earn another spot in the Guinness Book of Records in 1984 as being the fastest yodeler achieving 5 tones including 3 falsettos in 1.9 seconds and later in June 1990, broke that record by achieving the same rapid range change in 0.93 seconds.

Human voices have at least two distinct vocal registers, called the "head" and "chest" voices. Most people can sing tones within a certain range of lower pitches in their chest voice and tones within a certain range of higher pitch in their head voice. Falsetto is an "unsupported" register forcing vocal cords into a higher pitch without any head or chest voice air support. The basic yodel requires sudden alterations of vocal register from a low-pitched chest voice to high falsetto tones sung on vowel sounds: AH, OH, OO for chest notes and AY or EE for the falsetto. The constant change of register between the normal voice and falsetto produces a loud, piercing sound which makes the yodel an effective call for herdsmen to their animals, as well as to each other across mountainous terrain. (Wagner, Christopher (1998). Liner notes, American Yodeling: 1911-1946. Trikont. US-0246-2)

Yodeling first became popular in North America in the early 1800’s when groups from Europe began touring here and performing their incredible vocal skill. By the 1920’s through to the 1940’s yodeling was particularly associated with cowboy music made popular by the singing cowboys of early Western movies, but by the 1950’s fewer and fewer country and western performers employed the skill in their music. While it is not found often in popular music today, it might surprise people to learn that Bill Haley of Bill Haley and the Comets, in the 1940’s was the Indiana State Yodeling Champion. And Gwen Stefani also yodeled in her 2006 single “Wind it Up”.

Of course, yodeling is not the only skill BJ & Friends can demonstrate to their audiences as they showed with The Auctioneer’s Song. That auction cry is another skill that takes much practice to master, but Bill had the magic vocals for that song. The hour long performance included many well-known favourites such as Tennessee Waltz, I’ll Fly Away, and the Wabash Cannonball. One other favourite that was specially reworked by Sam Bueckert was I’ve Been Everywhere. Originally written by Australian Geoff Mack it has been recorded by Hank Snow, Johnny Cash and Stompin’ Tom Connors, Bueckert made it his own by substituting the names of 115 Saskatchewan towns and villages into the famous song.

Refreshments and snacks were available after the concert to give those in attendance a chance to visit with friends and neighbours as well as the band members. The next event will be held on March 15th.

Carol Baldwin, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Wakaw Recorder