Thursday, July 24, 2014

Season 1, Episode 3

Pennsylvania State University, State College PA #1


Airdate: April 20, 1963
Repeat: July 20, 1963
The Limeliters: "The Bear Chase" (Jack Linkletter intro)

Will Holt, the Limeliters' Lou Gottlieb, Maybelle & June Carter.
The Limeliters:"Western Wind"
The Carter Family: "Sun's Gonna Shine"
The Limeliters: "When I First Came to This Land"
The Phoenix Singers: "The Music Train"

The Limeliters: "Yerakina."
Will Holt: "Lemon Tree"

The Penn State shows were taped during the first week of April, and were probably the final TV work of the original Limeliters in their prime.  The group, only four years old, had been working unceasingly with concerts, recordings and television (including dozens of commercials), and now Glenn Yarbrough bought a schooner and planned to sail around the world.  Lou Gottlieb and Alex Hassilev would pursue their own interests, even though they continued recording (with Ernie Sheldon) as the Limeliters for another two years.

For all his professionalism, host Jack Linkletter was not immune to mistakes, and he made two in this show, both involving first names.  He referred to Maybelle Carter as "Marybelle" (or maybe "Mirabelle"), and when introducing the Phoenix Singers, he called Ned Wright "Nick."  Apart from that, it's a sprightly show with the added treat of hearing Will Holt sing his composition "Lemon Tree," which was already on its way to becoming a folk standard.

The Phoenix Singers.

No kinescopes are known to exist, but we have audio for nearly the entire program.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Season 1, Episode 2

Brown University, Providence RI #1

Airdate: April 13, 1963
Repeat: July 13, 1963
Theodore Bikel: "Two Brothers," "Dodi Lee," “Daddy Roll ‘Em” (with The Journeymen), “Mighty Day” (with The Journeymen).
The Journeymen: "500 Miles," "I May Be Right."
Ian & Sylvia: "Mary Ann," "Rocks and Gravel."
The Rooftop Singers: "Walk Right In," "Good Time."
FINALE: "Railroad Bill" (Everyone).

The Brown University episodes were taped the week of March 4, 1963, and a reporter from Newsweek was there:

The Folknik Show

On a small platform set up in Brown University's Sayles Hall, a trio of folk singers called the Journeymen lastg week were picking their hushed, melodic way through a plaintive song called "Five Hundred Miles" [as] some 600 Brown and Pembroke students watched in reverent silence.  Almost nobody watched a pretty blond student in their midst who, enraptured, sat nodding her head faintly and then, quietly and absent-mindedly, joined in.  Almost nobody, that is, except a few people near a TV monitor in a corner and an ABC-TV cameraman who was relaying her face onto tape from which, one Saturday night this spring, it will be watched by millions of Americans as part of an exciting new series called "Hootenanny"...
When Brown authorities passed out 600 free tickets to the taping of two half-hour shows, the line formed two and a half hours early.  "This is the greatest thing that ever happened to Pembroke," one young student said with conviction.  

Most important, the show's makers have had the sense to let folk music enter the mass medium on its own terms, which are strictly informal and spontaneous...  The result is a sprightly show in which TV's usually sluggish cameras come alive, move around, and actually use their eyes.

Dick Weissman, John Phillips and Scott McKenzie of The Journeymen.
This result has not been achieved without a lot of skepticism on all sides...  "The basis of folk music is honesty," said the Journeymen's John Phillips.  A harassed "Hootenanny" executive put it differently.  "It's a smear of music," he said...  "Some of these groups are so undisciplined musically that they never do the same number in the same amount of time twice."

These difficulties have been drowned by "Hootenanny's" twin assets- clean, compelling music and its contagiously enthusiastic reception...  The big question remaining is whether there will be enough enthusiastic home viewers to keep "Hootenanny" on the air.  "Even the people doing the show are afraid in their heart of hearts that there may not be enough [viewers]," [Theo] Bikel said, "so they try to do it fast and snappy to attract everybody."  (Newsweek, issue of March 18, 1963)

Bikel and the producers needn't have worried.  According to Variety, the premiere drew a 26% audience share in the Nielsen 30-market survey, increasing to 32% with this stanza, a ratings jump made "wholly at the expense of [CBS-TV's] The Defenders."  By the time these numbers came in, talk had begun about renewing HOOTENANNY for the fall and expanding it to an hour.  But behind the scenes a controversy was growing and about to explode.

No recordings or kinescopes are known to exist for this program.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Season 1, Episode 1

HOOTENANNY and its competition.
University of Michigan, Ann Arbor #1

Airdate: April 6, 1963 
Repeat: July 6, 1963

The Limeliters: "I Had a Mule," "Wake Up, Dunia," "The Riddle Song."

Bud & Travis: "Raspberries, Strawberries," "Delia's Gone."

Bob Gibson: "Good News," "Yes I See" (with the Limeliters).

Bonnie Dobson: "She's Like a Swallow," "Fare Thee Well" (with Bob Gibson).

FINALE: "Mary Don't You Weep" (Everyone).

The first HOOTENANNY to air was actually the sixth one taped. The pilot, which became episode 13, took place in November 1962, while the performances at George Washington University (episodes 5 & 11) and Brown University (episodes 2 & 8) preceded this show.

In his review for the New York Times, Jack Gould called it "a thoroughly pleasant and enterprising departure from the staid programming norm.  Mark it down as the hit of the spring....  When the student body joined in, the ensemble effect had a delightful charm and warmth.  The Michigan undergraduates certainly put it all over Mitch Miller's creaky chorale."

UPI's Rick DuBrow, on the other hand, couldn't resist inserting a few snide comments about folk music in general and HOOTENANNY'S host in particular: "A folk-singing show hosted by Jack Linkletter is something akin to a symposium on Henry Miller presided over by Donna Reed.  Yet the weekend brought such a folk music program, a new weekly half-hour series called 'Hootenanny' on ABC-TV....  The University of Michigan was the setting for the premiere, with a packed audience providing good reaction shots as well as a singalong device....
"Happily, Linkletter kept almost entirely out of things, which was almost enough; and the result was that 'Hootenanny' had a number of pleasant things to recommend it....  (It) is good to see a show that is virtually 'live,' and pays attention to an intelligent group of college students.  I don't know how pure the folk singing was.  But it was nice again to hear the Limeliters singing something other than a commercial; and [Bob] Gibson picks a pretty mean, rollicking banjo.  I continue to maintain, however, that the lyrics of most folk songs are as purely idiotic as opera plots, and as childishly dramatic as college seniors passing on the gospel to awed freshmen by candlelight....  What's more, 'Hootenanny' has another unique attraction: The various college students should be inspired by Linkletter's example of how a young fellow of no particular talent can get ahead at such an early age."

No kinescope or complete recording of this show is known to exist.  A YouTube user named John Meyer has uploaded a brief excerpt consisting of two songs featuring the Limeliters: "Wake Up Dunia" and "Yes I See," the latter including Bob Gibson, who also wrote it.


Sunday, July 6, 2014

"Join us! You're just in time for the HOOTENANNY!"

It's called "The Folk Era"... or maybe you prefer "The Great Folk Scare."  However you term it, folk is the music that gave birth to the 1960s.  Without folk, popular music as we've known it for the last 50 years would not have existed.

Beginning in 1964, the British Invasion revitalized rock 'n' roll and forced folk out of the mass marketplace, but even the Beatles acknowledged Bob Dylan's influence as they made their journey from "Yeah, yeah, yeah!" to "All You Need is Love."  In America, members of such groups as The Byrds, The Mamas & the Papas and The Lovin' Spoonful had begun their careers in folk music... and as such appeared on a short-lived musical variety show on the ABC Network called HOOTENANNY.

Welcome to THE HOOTENANNY CHRONICLES, an audio-visual documentation of network television's first folk music series.  This program, simultaneously beloved and reviled, once thought completely lost, stands as an illustration of everything that was important and everything that was meaningless and trivial about the Folk Era.  It has a legacy of showcasing only the most vapid, commercial aspects of the music, while ignoring its traditions and especially its messages.  The truth, however, is not so cut-and-dried, and the purpose of this project is to present evidence, mostly in the form of audio recordings, that will give future musicologists and historians a chance to pass their own judgements.

I've written about this show before: at, at Wikipedia and for my blog Better Living Through Television.  The TV Party piece serves as a simple overview with a few audio clips; the Wikipedia entry (which I formatted and contributed about 90% of the content) is a nuts-and-bolts historical overview; the blog entry speaks mainly to the controversy surrounding the show and the decision not to include Pete Seeger or his former group, The Weavers.  In this forum, you'll learn exactly what this show was, not what it might've been had its critics had their way.

No matter what you've read elsewhere, HOOTENANNY was committed to videotape, not film, and the tapes were erased and re-used per network policy.  However, many ad agencies received kinescopes of the shows on which their commercials aired, and those who sponsored HOOTENANNY were not exempt.  Eighteen of the 43 total shows (originally 13 half-hours for season one and 30 hours for season two) exist whole or in part in this format, and most were used to assemble the BEST OF HOOTENANNY DVD set from Shout Factory.  All of the kinescopes are in archives or private collections.

Then there were home viewers who audio taped the show for their own repeated enjoyment.  My father was one of these, and it's from his collection, plus that of a gentleman with whom I have traded material, that the audio tracks posted here have originated.  In a few cases, I've combined material from both sources to get the shows as complete as possible.  (Any readers who have their own audio tapes of HOOTENANNY, whether on reel-to-reel or other formats, and would like to have digitized copies of them, please email me!)

In the months to come, we'll document all the episodes, post audio for a sizable percentage of them, and even embed a few video clips courtesy of HISTORIC FILMS' YouTube channel.  Stay tuned!