Jody call

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A drill sergeant drills recruits in the U.S. Army.

In the armed services, a jody call (in the United States) (also known as a cadence call elsewhere) is a chant that is sung by military personnel while running or marching. Requiring no instruments to play, they are counterparts in oral military folklore of the military march.


The word "cadence" was applied to these chants because of an earlier meaning, in which it meant the number of steps a marcher or runner took per minute. The cadence was set by a drummer or sergeant, and discipline was extremely important as keeping the cadence directly affected the travel speed of infantry. There were other purposes: the close-order drill was a particular cadence count for the complex sequence of loading and firing a musket. In the Revolutionary War, Baron von Steuben notably imported European battlefield techniques which persist, greatly modified, to this day. Cadences also instill teamwork and camaraderie.

Oral tradition credits the origin of the modern cadence tradition within the United States Army to Private Willie Duckworth; according to this story, in May of 1944, while returning to base with his exhausted unit, he began singing or chanting the first cadence, "Sound Off:"

Sound-off; 1 - 2; Sound-off; 3 - 4; Count cadence; 1 - 2 - 3 - 4; 1 - 2 — 3 - 4.

This cadence, known as the "Duckworth Chant," exists with some variations in many different branches of the U.S. military. Duckworth's simple chant soon was elaborated by folk tradition among drill sergeants and the soldiers under their command, and the tradition of creating elaborate marching chants or songs spread to other branches of the military. Police personnel who train in para-military fashion also have acquired the tradition from the military itself.

As soon as 1952, the U.S. Army adopted The Army Goes Rolling Along as its service theme song, with the lyric "count off the cadence loud and strong" a reference to Duckworth's cadence. Its melody and lyrics derive from the traditional When the Caissons Go Rolling Along.

A common United States Marine Corps cadence goes:

Way back when at the dawn of time.
In the heart of death valley where the sun don't shine.
The roughest toughest fighter ever known was made.
From an M-16 and a live grenade.
He was a lean mean green fighting machine.
He proudly bore the title of US Marine.

"Jody calls"

The songs get the name jody call or jody (also, jodie) from a recurring character, a civilian named "Jody" whose luxurious lifestyle is contrasted with military deprivations in a number of traditional calls. Jody is the person who stays at home, drives the soldier's car, and gets the soldier's sweetheart while the soldier is in recruit training or in country. (Serendipitously, the name works just as well for female soldiers.)

Common themes in jodies include:

  • homesickness
  • quotidian complaints about military life
  • boasts (of one's own unit) and insults (of one's competitor, which may be another unit, another service branch, or the enemy)
  • humorous and topical references.

Obscene, scatological, and offensively violent jody calls exist; their official use in formal training is now discouraged by the U.S. military, with an emphasis on "clean" versions of traditional jodies. The flexibility of jodies is nearly unlimited, and old jodies have always been retired or rewritten as times and wars change.

Jody calls are a subset of work songs, and share in their rhythmic properties. Most jody calls have a call and response structure; one soldier initiates a line, and the remaining soldiers complete it.

External link

  • The Cadence Page ( compiles military cadences.

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