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Tue Apr 23, 2019, 08:23 AM

The yodeler who sued Yahoo

The yodeler who sued Yahoo
Twenty years ago, Yahoo decided to roll out a new national advertising campaign. Unfortunately, it didn’t reveal this plan to its star yodeler.
BY Zachary Crockett
April 20, 2019


In the late ‘90s, the ‘Yahoo Yodel’ was inescapable.

For a time, the 3-note audio clip — Ya-hooooooooo-oooo! —defined the young tech company: It came preloaded in Yahoo-branded bottle-openers, doorbells, and plush toys. It chimed through computer speakers. It made appearances in Super Bowl commercials, TV shows, and movies.

But the man who recorded this famous 3.5-second ballad was largely absent from the conversation. That is, until he sued Yahoo for copyright infringement.


On long summer days the early 1970s — the era of The Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, and Pink Floyd — Gustafson spent hours yodeling. In his room, he’d slow the tape down to half-speed and mimic the tongue tricks and aural illusions of the masters.

By 13, he’d locked down the basics, from the “slow, ethereal Northern Plains yodels” to the “fancy cowboy yodels derived from Northern Europe.”


In 1986, at the age of 25, Gustafson mosied to the congested pastures of Los Angeles to try his hand at music.

LA, he soon realized, was a land of shticks: He needed some kind of distinguishing factor to set his band, Wylie and the Wild West Show, apart from the masses.

“One night in a bar, I went up on stage and just cranked out a yodel — and everyone stopped, put down their drinks, and listened,” he says. “It was then that I realized the true power of the yodel.”

In short order, Gustafson became known around town as the “yodeling guy.”


In the early 1990s, commercial advertisements were going for quirkiness. “Believe it or not, the two hottest trends in advertising were surf music and yodeling,” says Gustafson. “I became the go-to-yodeler for those ads.”

Gustafson was courted by Elias & Associates, an audio production facility which, throughout the decade, got his yodels featured in more than a dozen ad campaigns with brands like Bud Light, Sprint, Mitsubishi, Porsche, and Taco Bell.


By 1996, Gustafson had migrated to his wife’s pastoral farm in Washington, where he spent his days wrangling cattle and touring with his band. One day, the ad agency phoned him with an offer.

“They said they had this little internet startup by the name of ‘Yahoo’ that was looking for a yodel,” he recalls.


For national campaigns, Gustafson received union-scale pay, which meant lucrative residuals every time a commercial aired. But since the Yahoo spot was supposedly a regional commercial, he accepted a one-time payment of $590.38.


Since Gustafson had recorded his yodel, Yahoo had grown into a tech behemoth. The company’s market cap had grown from less than $1B to $115B, and its stock price had skyrocketed 600%.

The yodel, it turned out, had come along for the ride.


Gustafson felt cheated. He’d been told, in clear terms, that what he’d recorded was for a one-time regional commercial. Now, it was the signature audio slogan of one of America’s fastest-growing tech companies.

Shortly after the Super Bowl, Gustafson wrote a letter to Elias & Associates, the ad agency who’d set him up with the Yahoo gig.

They sent him a check for an additional $590.38 and considered the issue resolved.



In 2002, with the help of LA-based attorney, Larry Russ, Gustafson filed a copyright on his yodel (Registration No. SRU 455-556, appropriately dubbed “Wylie’s Yahoo Yodel”), then filed a copyright claim against Yahoo. [The full complaint, shared for the first time with The Hustle, can be read in full here.]


Within days, an assistant general counsel for Yahoo was on a plane to meet with Russ; the matter was settled over breakfast.

Neither Gustafson nor Russ could confirm the settlement amount (both parties signed a non-disclosure), but Gustafson says it was a “life-changing amount of money.”

“Originally, we had asked for $5 million,” says Gustafson. “The final amount wasn’t quite there, but it was a pretty good fraction of that.”


“As a songwriter, I always dreamed of getting that one 3-minute hit,” he says. “Turns out, mine was 3 notes.”

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marble falls Apr 2019 OP
Ptah Apr 2019 #1
marble falls Apr 2019 #2

Response to marble falls (Original post)

Tue Apr 23, 2019, 08:30 AM

1. He's from my hometown.

His father was our livestock veterinarian.

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Response to Ptah (Reply #1)

Tue Apr 23, 2019, 09:17 AM

2. He seems like a pretty good dude. From his discription of his dad, he came from good stock ...

Large animal veterinarians must be a pretty decent group of folks, another one I know about is

Baxter Black (born January 10, 1945) is an American cowboy, poet, philosopher and former large-animal veterinarian. He is also a radio and television commentator.

Black grew up in Las Cruces, New Mexico. He was trained as a large-animal veterinarian at New Mexico State University and Colorado State University, but began writing and speaking in the early 1980s. Black left his veterinary career and later published more than a dozen books of fiction, poetry and commentary. He is a regular commentator for National Public Radio's Morning Edition and also hosts a syndicated weekly radio program, Baxter Black on Monday. He writes a syndicated weekly newspaper column, "On the Edge of Common Sense."

He currently resides in Benson, Arizona.


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