Cowboy Up! With Wylie & the Wild West


That one little word can be said with a wide variety of inflections. There’s the excited “Yahoo!” five-year-olds shout when they get news they are going on a surprise trip to the fair. There’s the mundane “yahoo…” teenagers mutter when they get news they are going on a surprise trip to anywhere. But there’s only one version of “Yahoo” that comes to mind when you think of the internet company. It’s in the form of a yodeled jingle…and it was written and performed by Wylie Gustafson of Wylie & the Wild West.

“I was expecting to write that three minute song that was a hit on Nashville radio,” said Wylie Gustafson, “instead I wrote a 3-note song that was part of a commercial.”

Yahoo WylieThe Yahoo jingle that changed Gustafson’s life was written and recorded back in 1996 when the internet company was just going public.

“They needed a yodel for one of their commercials…one of their local commercials they were doing in Southern California,” recalled Gustafson. “So I went to a studio in LA and came up with the Yahoo yodel and it became the audio logo for their company.”

Before that and since then, Wylie & the Wild West have played thousands of gigs around the world with their unique brand of good-time Cowboy music. But prior to that, Wylie got his start playing in a rock n’ roll band.

“My brother – who was 4 years older than me – needed a cheap bass player for his high school rock n’ roll band and I told him I’d play for free if I got to be on stage. We played a lot of Chuck Berry, Rolling Stones and Beatles type of stuff.”

WylieAlbum1Today, Wylie & the Wild West has been around for more than 25 years and Wylie has recorded more than 20 albums. While he says that Cowboy music comes from various origins, his influences are clear: family.

“My father was a Cowboy singer. He wasn’t a professional, but he knew a lot of great old Cowboy songs,” said Gustafson. “I grew up in a Cowboy family, listening to him play those songs and was always fascinated with the Cowboy lyrics and how colorful it was. And I grew up in a Cowboy family. That never left me. Even when I was listening to rock n’ roll music that never left.”

Crossing over from Rock n’ Roll to Cowboy music might not seem like a natural transition, but Gustafson says that American music is a hybrid.

“The Cowboy influence has stuck with me and run the deepest. But I grew up loving Chuck Berry and loving rock n’ roll. But we would play a lot of dances…and that beat – the Cowboy culture would like to dance. That Chuck Berry beat comes in handy especially when the jitterbuggers come out,” said Gustafson.

While Maine is not rich with performers who yodel, Wylie’s yodeling at the 2003 American Folk Festival was a fan favorite.

A 2003 Bangor Daily News story about one of Wylie & the Wild West’s performances at the National Folk Festival in Bangor read:

Wylie Gustafson leads the Wild West in cowboy songs, yodels and campfire tunes. (BANGOR DAILY NEWS PHOTO BY PRESON GANNWAY) festival

Wylie Gustafson leads the Wild West in cowboy songs, yodels and campfire tunes. (BANGOR DAILY NEWS PHOTO BY PRESON GANNWAY) festival

“We found out last night, Bangor truly is yodeler territory,” Gustafson said Saturday at a performance at the Railroad Stage. (…)

“How about that?” Gustafson said. “They’re applauding for yodeling.”


“Yodeling has been very, very good to me. It’s another thing that my father taught me. Yodeling ended up in Cowboy music in the 1930s and somehow cowboys latched on to it. It’s always worked well with Cowboy music,” said Gustafson. “To me, it’s way more than a novelty, it’s a high vocal art form.”

Wylie Gustafson makes his residence in Montana, and says that the landscape and cowboy lifestyle have a big influence on his music. Wylie & the Wild West will be returning to the American Folk Festival on the Bangor Waterfront for the first time in 12 years, and he remembers his last time at the festival fondly.

“There’s something about Maine that reminds me of Montana and Alaska,” said Gustafson. “A lot of our music is about the landscape, and when I was in Maine I remembered the beautiful landscapes and the people. I just felt at home there,” said Gustafson. “There’s something about the flavor of Maine that reminded me of home.”

Dan Cashman

About Dan Cashman

Dan Cashman has been involved with the American Folk Festival since 2011 and is currently serving on the board of the Festival. For more information about the American Folk Festival, visit