How'd that get started?
There is no established genesis of yellow ribbons, which blossomed in January 1981 to welcome the American hostages home from Iran.Look at the latter verses to discover the ribald rest-of-the-story.
A 1981 Library of Congress report notes that in a 1981 CBS broadcast, Penelope Laingen, wife of the U.S. charge d'affaires in Tehran, Bruce Laingen, was shown outside her home in Bethesda, Md. "It just came to me," she said, "to give people something to do, rather than throw dog food at Iranians. I said, 'Why don't they tie a yellow ribbon around an old oak tree?'"
The Library of Congress further noted that a song, copyrighted in 1972 under the title "Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round the Ole Oak Tree," was recorded by 30 vocalists in the late 1970s. The hit version was done by the vocal group Dawn featuring Tony Orlando.
The song sketches the story of a convict riding the bus homeward after three years in prison who is hoping his sweetheart ties a yellow ribbon on a roadside oak tree if she will have him back -- and finds the tree is covered with yellow ribbons.
In 1949, the Library of Congress added, Argosy Pictures released a motion picture starring John Wayne and Joanne Dru, which was called "She Wore a Yellow Ribbon." The picture was popular, and the theme song, "Round Her Neck She Wore a Yellow Ribbon," was a hit.
But according to Gerald arsons, writing for the American Folklife Center News, various versions of the song have been around for about 400 years.
If you aren't familiar with the song "Around Her Neck She Wore a Yellow Ribbon"...you can find the lyrics here. This song is a traditionial "Jodie Call"...one of those songs sung by Soldiers marching in formation.
Meanwhile, here is another take on the yellow ribbon tradition going back to the Civil War.
Did you ever wonder where the Yellow Ribbon Tradition came from? Most Music Historians trace the Custom to a 19th Century Civil War Song. The tradition of wearing yellow ribbons may date back to the Civil War when the U.S. Cavalry was symbolized by yellow piping on their uniforms. Women who were married to or dating soldiers wore yellow ribbons as they waited for their sweethearts to return from battle. It served a dual purpose because of the reputation of the calvary soldier: it kept away unwanted suiters and also provided a threat of reprisal from a calvary soldier should any harm come to his girl. The early song was done for cadence as the soldier rode in formation.