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Topic: DVD captures long-forgotten but potent 'Hootenanny' Return to archive
13th January 2007 08:47 AM
Ten Thousand Motels DVD captures long-forgotten but potent 'Hootenanny'
January 12, 2007
Chicago Sun Times

America has survived another folk scare. Long before last year's Seeger Sessions from Bruce Springsteen -- (ah, that was a time!) and even Billy Bragg and Wilco doing Woody Guthrie, there was "Hootenanny."

The weekly folk music concert show ran on ABC-TV between May 1963 and March 1964. The show was broadcast from college campuses across America and hosted by Jack Linkletter, the oldest son of legendary television show host Art Linkletter.

There was nothing scary about "Hootenanny."

The college students were preppy and chipper. The music was innocent, at least until The Chad Mitchell Trio sang "The John Birch Society."

"The Best of Hootenanny," a three-disc DVD box set featuring more than 80 performances, will be released Tuesday on Shout! Factory ($44.98). On first take, "The Best of Hootenanny" calls out for typical DVD extras like commentary and outtakes. There's none of that here. But after spending quality time with the "Hootenanny" gang, the innocence of the era stands on its own. Its a compelling project, and that's coming from someone who liked the Beatles more than beatniks.

Appearing in glorious black and white are Johnny Cash, late Chicagoan Bob Gibson, the Clara Ward Gospel singers and a jittery Woody Allen. Not appearing are Bob Dylan, Pete Seeger and Joan Baez.

Political folk singers were blacklisted from "Hootenanny" as the last vestige of McCarthyism. ABC-TV offered to drop the Seeger blacklist, providing he sign a "loyalty oath." Seeger seethed and began talking publically about the blacklist. Dylan, Phil Ochs and even the Kingston Trio took his cue.

In January 1964 Dylan was woodshedding at Broadside Magazine and he recorded for Broadside Records under the alias of Blind Boy Grunt. Broadside was to "Hootenanny" what Bloodshot Records is to "American Idol." Dylan wrote a prose-poem that in part addressed "Hootenanny": ...I don't understand the blacklist/I don't understand how people against it go along with it/I'm talkin' about the full thing/not just a few of us refusin' to be on the show.......not just the singers mind you/but the managers an agents an buyers an sellers....they are the dishonest ones..../the heroes of this battle are not me an Joan an the Kingston Trio nor Peter Paul an Mary for none of us need it to go on that show..."

But Dylan's future running partner Johnny Cash was on "Hootenanny." Cash showed up during a taping at the University of Florida in Gainesville. Most male "Hootenanny" performers wore sweaters, jackets and thin ties. Not Cash. He was dressed in black and did not wear a tie. He sweated profusely as he hoisted his guitar and sang Harlan Howard's "Busted," followed by "Five Feet High and Rising." The segment was also unusual in the "Hootenanny" motif in that Cash performed with a drummer and electric guitarist.

"Hootenanny" succumbed to fast times. By March 1964 the Beatles and Rolling Stones invaded America and "Hootenanny" was squaresville, daddy-o. "Hootenanny" quickly morphed into "Hullabaloo." The producers of "Hootenanny" threw away tapes under the assumption folk music was dead. Shout! Factory had to sort through kinescopes to create the DVDS, whose running time totals 270 minutes. (Pay attention to the segment on Disc One that was filmed at Southern Methodist University in Dallas. This "Hootenanny" took place two weeks before President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas. It is a freeze frame.)

The Journeymen covered the foreboding blues classic "Stakolee" (recently resurrected by Dylan). The trio included John Phillips, who achieved fame with the Mamas and Papas and Scott McKenzie, who had the 1967 solo hit "San Francisco (Be Sure To Wear Some Flowers In Your Hair)." Canadian folk singers Ian and Sylvia followed the Journeymen with a spritely rendition of "Jesus Met The Woman at the Well," which they learned from gospel legend Mahalia Jackson, and best of all, The Clara Ward Gospel Singers jumped up and down, sanctified and shook their tambourine to "Swing Low Sweet Chariot." This Dallas segment was more spiritual than typical "Hootenanny" fare, with strong winds of change in the air. Then, in a strange segue, Woody Allen appeared after Ian and Sylvia sang "Greenwood Sidie-O." Allen seemed to be in Dallas, but this segment was taped at Arizona State University in Tucson. (Would Woody ever play in Texas?) Allen was high-strung and he fiddled with his microphone as his monologue jetted from group analysis to "beatniks trying to make opium out of poppies given out by veterans on the street corner." After more than seven minutes on stage, a producer signaled that Allen's time was up. A slightly perturbed Allen made a quick exit, telling the audience he would wander around the campus to see if he could fall in love.

Because some of the most important folk singers of the era were blacklisted from "Hootenanny," there is also strange filler, such as jazz flautist Herbie Mann grooving through "Harlem Nocturne" and Theodore Bikel preceding Jimmy Buffett by a decade with "When I Go Down To Bimini." A young Bill Cosby looked like Sam Cooke and was also bothered by time constraints. He told his UCLA audience, "The folk singers are going to come and get me."

Life goes in cycles, as non-Hootenanny hipster Frank Sinatra once sang. The Rooftop Singers delivered "Froggie Went-A-Courtin'," on "Hootenanny," which Springsteen included in last year's Seeger Sessions. Last week President Bush gave the green light to inspect our mail. Can a blacklist be far behind? "Hootenanny" is back.
13th January 2007 09:13 AM
glencar Good Lord, can't these media idiots ever keep politics out of entertainment reportage? That was a somewhat interesting article up till the last paragraph. And call me when Hullabaloo comes out on DVD...
14th January 2007 01:05 PM
Kilroy I think I had a Hootenanny Guitar. Busted it when I saw Pete bust Tommy's guitar on the Smother's Brothers show. Cool.
[Edited by Kilroy]
15th January 2007 04:59 AM
corgi37 The article was right. This sounds very squares-ville.
15th January 2007 10:27 AM
Ten Thousand Motels wrote:
DVD captures long-forgotten but potent 'Hootenanny'
January 12, 2007
Chicago Sun Times

Then, in a strange segue, Woody Allen appeared after Ian and Sylvia sang "Greenwood Sidie-O." Allen seemed to be in Dallas, but this segment was taped at Arizona State University in Tucson.

Arizona State University in Tucson? WRONG. ASU would have nothing to do with Tucson. I wonder what other facts the moron got wrong.

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