Arthur presents HOOTENANNY HOOT tonight at Cinefamily

Tonight the Cinefamily/Silent Movie Theatre is screening the rare ’60s gem Hootenanny Hoot! See below, I contributed the description for the program and have included the longish version below. If you’re in the neighborhood and ready for a pre-psychedelic ride through the controversy filled birth of the 60s college folk movement, I couldn’t recommend this film with more enthusiasm.

Thought I would mention, this one is pretty rare…

Folk Americana Series:

Tonite (5/29) @ 8pm…

“We’ll be hootin’ it up, firin’ up the grill, swillin’ moonshine, and then watching the flick. One of our patrons has offered to cook up a whole batch of theme-appropriate food (potato salad, baked beans, chili and gumbo), so feel free to contribute to the potluck yourself as well. Dancing in the aisles is allowed, as long as you do “the pigeon”.

HOOTENANNY HOOT (1963, on 16mm)
Far away from the smoky boho coffee klatches of New York, the wild college kids of 1963 had their own fun. They loved country music, danced and sang down by the river in bikinis and short shorts. They called these gatherings Hootenannies and people took them seriously. So seriously that in 1963 B-movie mogul Sam Katzman capitalized on the phenomenon in the long lost, TCM favorite Hootenanny Hoot! Previously cashing in on fads and crazes and fads in Rock Around the Clock and Let’s Twist Again, these films are known for forgettable plots, but come par boiled with endearing nostalgia for the wild innocence of youth. Hootenanny Hoot a hip happening ride set at the tail end of Ike’s 1950s when kids lived life on the brink and rocked the night away in Kennedy’s Camelot.

In HH, two randy Madison Ave ad men travel up the Hudson River Valley in search of a pretty babe for a new soap commercial. They wind up chasing tail and end up staying all weekend at the Hootennany. The frivolity is fun and goes down easy, but the reason not to miss the Hoot are the performances. Johnny Cash pulls up in a station wagon and plunks down a version of “Frankie and Johnny”. Staples like Sheb Wooley, The Brothers Four and Joe and Eddie get the party started with semi-suggestive folk ballads that hint at the times and how they soon would be a-changin’.

But it’s Judy Henske, Queen of the Beatniks, whose signature “The Ballad of Little Romy” and “Wade in the Water” taps the root and awakens the beast that lies within Hootenanny Hoot! Long before Janis, Grace Slick or Stevie Nicks, her pipes made Chippewa Falls famous and routinely blew the house down. Completely out of place and over the top, her performance transports the audience to the wishing well of the early 60s when great songs, well sung (loudly) were enough to shake loose the soul. Rumor has it that Zappa was in part inspired by this film and years later signed Judy and her husband Jerry Yester to his Warner/Straight imprint yielding the seminal “Farewell Aldebaran” LP.

If you like early gentle folk rock, the circus and Hee Haw, you’ll love Hootenanny Hoot! If you hate that stuff and thought A Mighty Wind could have been funnier, you’ll love goofing on Hootenanny Hoot!

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About Jay Babcock

I am an independent writer and editor based in Tucson, Arizona. In 2023: I publish an email newsletter called LANDLINE = Previously: I co-founded and edited Arthur Magazine (2002-2008, 2012-13) and curated the three Arthur music festival events (Arthurfest, ArthurBall, and Arthur Nights) (2005-6). Prior to that I was a district office staffer for Congressman Henry A. Waxman, a DJ at Silver Lake pirate radio station KBLT, a copy editor at Larry Flynt Publications, an editor at Mean magazine, and a freelance journalist contributing work to LAWeekly, Mojo, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, Vibe, Rap Pages, Grand Royal and many other print and online outlets. An extended piece I wrote on Fela Kuti was selected for the Da Capo Best Music Writing 2000 anthology. In 2006, I was somehow listed in the Music section of Los Angeles Magazine's annual "Power" issue. In 2007-8, I produced a blog called "Nature Trumps," about the L.A. River. From 2010 to 2021, I lived in rural wilderness in Joshua Tree, Ca.

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