A Yodel Worth Millions


The name Wylie Gustafson might not ring any bells for you, but trust me, you know him.

Back in the mid ‘90s, Gustafson was just your average, everyday yodeler making a living in Los Angeles. He sang with his band, Wylie and the Wild West, and occasionally did some commercials to make a little cash on the side. If you were a frequent television watcher in the early-to-mid ‘90s, you might remember his distinctive voice in ads for Taco Bell, Miller Lite and even Porsche. Then, in 1996, he got a call from an ad agency looking for a guy with a decent yodel. Gustafson went in and recorded about 10 different yodel snippets in five minutes or so and was paid pretty handsomely for his 300 seconds - $590 (that’s nearly $7,100 an hour, if you’re keeping track). After being told the TV spot would air just once regionally, he happily took his check and went on his way.

You can imagine his shock when he tuned into the Super Bowl a couple of years later and heard himself crooning on one of the most expensive advertising spots in existence. Turns out Yahoo!, the little company that had commissioned the tune, ended up doing pretty well for themselves. Gustafson contacted the folks there to explain that their agreement had been for a single-use regional ad, and Yahoo! promptly compensated him with another $590. It wasn’t exactly what Gustafson had in mind. After unsuccessfully trying to reach them again through a series of phone calls and letters, he sued them for $5 million in residual royalties in 2002. Yahoo! came to an agreement with him a mere five days later. Though the sum was undisclosed, it’s pretty safe to assume the amount was definitely an improvement on $590. Gustafson, who also owns a ranch in Washington, went out and bought a new horse with part of his earnings. He named it Yahoo. ''That's the sound I made when the settlement came in,” he explained.

Here’s the yodeling rancher in action: