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!

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