Picture this: about two hundred 18-23 year olds sitting in a semi-circle on the floor, digging the latest tunes by artists who sing and play acoustic instruments, while cameras tape the whole shebang for home viewers.
"MTV Unplugged?" Nope, it's Hootenanny, the ABC-TV series that capitalized on the popularity of folk music during the early 1960's. If it's remembered at all today, it's as the show that blacklisted Pete Seeger, a last gasp of McCarthyism that led to a boycott by Bob Dylan; Joan Baez; Peter, Paul & Mary; The Kingston Trio - practically every folk act that meant anything to the masses.
But when Hootenanny appeared in March 1963, it held a lot of promise. Each segment was taped at a different college campus, the audience consisting of students. Shows ran for a half-hour on Saturday night, and featured four acts. The music was literally non-stop. Host Jack Linkletter (eldest son of Art) would quickly introduce each artist or group, and they all took turns after doing a song. During the thirty minutes a "headliner" act did three or four songs, two supporting acts did two songs apiece, a third act (usually a soloist) did one song, and everybody joined in for the closing number - usually something simple like Goodnight Irene or "Little Liza Jane."
Headliners generally consisted of those few "name" acts remaining after the boycott: The Limeliters, The Chad Mitchell Trio, Theodore Bikel, or The Brothers Four. Supporting artists included Judy Collins, Oscar Brand, The Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem, and The Smothers Brothers.
The show garnered acceptable ratings, and also broke some controversial ground. The Chad Mitchell Trio sang several protest songs, including John Birch Society, which had been banned from many radio stations. More importantly, "Hootenanny" presented network prime-time's first interracial group: The Tarriers, a male quartet - two white, two black. (Several all-black folk and blues acts appeared as well.) ABC, happy with the Nielsens, not only renewed "Hootenanny" for the fall, they expanded it to sixty minutes.
In the hopes of filling that hour with more stars, the network offered to drop the Seeger blacklist, provided he sign "a loyalty oath." After his temperature cooled to under 100, Seeger turned them down and his manager made the story public. The news caused even more artists to join the boycott and that, unfortunately, killed the show. To fill time, "Hootenanny" went beyond folk music to include stars of jazz and country, and each show featured a young stand-up comic such as Bill Cosby or Woody Allen.
But by 1964, with the Beatles bringing rock-and-roll back to America, folk music began to lose popularity. In a last-ditch effort to bolster "Hootenanny's" falling rating, the producers signed two groups that had recently scored pop chart success, The New Christy Minstrels ("Green, Green") and The Serendipity Singers ("Crooked Little Man") to alternate each week as the headline act. It didn't work, and by September 1964, "Hootenanny" was history.
Does anybody remember? If you watched and were psychic, perhaps you predicted future pop stardom for "Papa" John Phillips when he appeared with The Journeymen. Or "Mama" Cass Elliot when she came on with The Big Three. Or Jim "Roger" McGuinn as he played guitar for Judy Collins. Or maybe David Crosby when he showed up with The Modern Folk Quartet. Then again, maybe you just tapped your feet and sang along. Sadly, it appears to be no longer possible to enjoy these vintage rock icon performances; ABC wiped their "Hootenanny" tapes years ago.
Unless, like my dad, you audio taped the show each week.
Here's the theme song, which debuted in the fall of 1963, and was released as a 'B' side by The Brothers Four:
have a Hootenanny, Hootenanny Saturday night
throw a Hootenanny, Hootenanny Saturday night
- Michael J. Hayde
"My name is Jerre Haskew from Chattanooga, TN and I was a member of a folk group, The Cumberland Trio, that appeared on three segments of the ABC TV Hootenanny series.
"I have some black and white action pictures as well as pictures of jam sessions and some with the show's cast sitting on the chairs on stage, behind the act that was performing. I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for this site and the audio clips and pictures.
"The show was filmed not video taped. The stage managers's name was Mike, and the talent coordinator at one time was Fred Weintraub, who auditioned and picked us to appear, even though we were an unsigned act at the time. I have some shots of us doing a song that aired on the show broadcast in late Jan 1964 from the campus of our alma mater, The University of Tennessee in Knoxville.
"There is no audio as my Uncle shot this with Super 8 film off the TV, and later we converted it to VHS Video. Would you be interested in knowing more of what I know? Some acts I remember appearing with included The Simon Sisters (Carly & her Sis), The Christies, The Serendipities, Bill Monroe, Homer & Jethro, Eddy Arnold, Tom & Jerry (later Simon & Garfunkel), Doc Watson and Pete Fountain.
"Glen Campbell was the staff Bass player in case a folk group didn't have one, like The Journeymen. John Phillips and I later became good friends. The attached picture was made on the Hootenanny set and we used it as promo piece for personal appearances."
- Jerre Haskew, The Cumberland Trio
" I was one of the Midshipmen in the folk trio, The Anchormen, who were the only collegiate group to sing on that program in the fall of 1963. The others were Bob Lawrence (guitar), Connie Lautenbacher (banjo) with bass backup by Wayne Arny. I played a tenor guitar in the group.
became of them?
" Connie just retired in September in Washington, DC as Vice Admiral. After graduation, got a Master's and PhD at Harvard in applied mathematics, drove many surface ships around the oceans, ran the Navy's money for something close to 15 years. The Anchormen played again for our classmates.
"Wayne is a management consultant in Washington DC. He flew Navy fighters for many years, was a test pilot, acted as counsel to the Senate Armed Services Committee for several years, then Assistant Director of Office of Budget and Management, and now a "beltway bandit."
" Me (Larry Benson)? I drove destroyers around the Atlantic, Caribbean, Mediterranean; skippered a Swift boat in Vietnam, directed the Navy's Leadership School, and Special Consultant to the Surgeon General for 16 years as a Naval Reservist. I had several academic appointments at Duke, U of NC, U of MN, and Medical College of Ohio while running and consulting to hospitals, physician groups and health insurance companies. Now just consulting.
"Other groups on the shows were The Chad Mitchell Trio, Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs and the Foggy Mountain Boys, Judy Collins (who was an "item" with Mike Kubla at the time), Judy Henski, Glen Yarbough and probably some others I've forgotten in the intervening years."
- Best regards, Larry Benson
R.I.P. JACK LINKLETTER
Kevin S. Butler writes: "TV host Jack Linkletter, the son of radio and television personality Art Linkletter is dead. He died on December 10, 2007 having lost his battle with cancer.
"Jack Linkletter hosted such 1960's shows as Hootenanny, a folk music series on ABC Saturday nights, and talk shows like On The Go and Here's Hollywood on NBC.
"Among the many performers that he interviewed on Here's Hollywood were Bud Abbott and The Three Stooges (he also interviewed the Stooges for On The Go). He co-hosted Life With Linkletter with his famous father during the 1969-70 season. This is the second tragic loss for Mr. Art Linkletter, his daughter Diane died from a drug induced suicide in the 1970s."
HOOTENANNY NOW ON DVD!
This is the most exciting DVD product I've seen in a long time, maybe of all time. It's like a CD you want to play over and over.
If you're a folk/ country/ gospel/ jazz/ bluegrass/ world music lover - or just interested in the roots of American rock music - this is the ultimate early-sixties collection; an exciting, eclectic mix with heart-stopping performances from Trini Lopez, Mariam Makeba, The Chad Mitchell Trio, Johnny Cash, Hoyt Axton, The Dillards, Flatt & Scruggs, Ian & Sylvia, Marion Williams, Jimmie Rodgers, The Tarriers, Doc Watson and many others. Continuity is preserved and the performances are, every one, a gem. There are also some seriously genius comedy routines sprinkled throughout from Vaughn Meader, Louis Nye, Bill Cosby, Jackie Vernon and Woody Allen.
These shows were broadcast from various college campuses like UCLA, UVA-Charlottesville, Penn State, Salem College, University of Pittsburgh, Dartmouth, Arizona State just to name a few - so you may even see your alma mater represented. The picture and sound quality on the three discs is superb and the attractive package comes with a slim booklet with a concise history of the series. Bravo to the original producers of Hootenanny for one of the best music series ever attempted on TV - and to Shout! Factory for resurrecting it in the best possible fashion.
on home video, this title will be released on January 16, 2007. Order
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