Hootenanny is a Scottish word meaning "celebration" and / or "party", most closely associated with Hogmanay—the Scots New Year celebration which, traditionally, is the biggest celebration on the Scottish calendar.
With the Scots being one of the biggest groups of settlers in the Appalachian region of North America (bringing with them their whisky-making tradition and methods, leading to the area's "moonshining" tradition) it is not surprising that hootenanny became an Appalachian colloquialism, although it became used in early 20th-century America as a placeholder name to refer to things whose names were forgotten or unknown. In this usage it was synonymous with thingamajig or whatchamacallit, as in: "Hand me that hootenanny." Hootenanny was also an old country word for "party". Nowadays the word most commonly refers to a folk music party with an open mic, at which different performers are welcome to get up and play in front of an audience.
"Hootenanny" was also used by the leadership of early firefighting battalions to describe a "meeting of the minds" of higher ups or various department heads. The term has trickled down to working companies and is now used, with some frequency, at working incidents and other circumstances that require a focused discussion between key individuals. Most recently it was adopted for use during the annual Fire Department Instructors Conference. Logistics professionals for the conference employ the word to call together the required personnel needed to accomplish the prodigious assignments placed on them.
According to Pete Seeger, in various interviews, he first heard the word hootenanny in Seattle, Washington in the late 1930s. It was used by Hugh DeLacy’s New Deal political club  to describe their monthly music fund raisers. After some debate the club voted in the word hootenanny, which narrowly beat out the word wingding. Seeger, Woody Guthrie and other members of the Almanac Singers later used the word in New York City to describe their weekly rent parties, which featured many notable folksingers of the time. In a 1962 interview in Time, Joan Baez made the analogy that a hootenanny is to folk singing what a jam session is to jazz.
During the early 1960s at the height of the Folk Music era, the club Gerdes Folk City at 11 West 4th Street in Greenwich Village started the folk music hootenanny tradition every Monday night, that featured an open mic and welcomed performers known and unknown, young and old.
The Hootenanny is an annual one-day rockabilly music festival held at the Oak Canyon Ranch in Irvine, California, which also incorporates a vintage car show.
- "Surfin' Hootenanny" is a surf pop/rock song written by Lee Hazlewood (tune) and Al Casey, and performed by Al Casey with The K-C-Ettes (aka The Blossoms). It opens Casey's 1963 album Surfin' Hootenanny (issued as LP record by Sundazed Music Inc.). The song re-appeared in 1996. (in remastered version) as track 15 of Cowabunga! Set 2: Big Waves (1963) compilation. Cowabunga! Set 2: Big Waves (1963) is a second disc from Rhino Records' Cowabunga! The Surf Box 4-CD set compilation that contains most famous songs from the four-decade long history of surf music.
- The Glencoves had a hit single with their release "Hootenanny", which peaked at No. 38 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1963.
- Eels released an album titled Shootenanny!
- The rock and roll band The Replacements released their second album in 1983, entitled Hootenanny on Twin/Tone Records.
- The band Weezer had a Hootenanny tour in 2008 which allowed fans to play songs with the band.
- The New Zealand rock band HLAH released a single entitled "Hootenanny" (which also appears on their 1996 album Double Your Strength, Improve Your Health, & Lengthen Your Life on the Wildside Records label) in 1997.
- A song called "We Are Having a Hootenanny" appears on The Magnetic Fields's 2010 album Realism.
- The album The Repercussions of Angelic Behavior by Rieflin, Gunn and Fripp contains a track entitled "Hootenanny At The Pink Pussycat Cafe".
- Reggae legends The Wailers recorded a song called "Hoot Nanny Hoot", sung by Peter Tosh, available on Peter Tosh's CD The Toughest.
- Swedish 1960s folk band "Hootenanny Singers" included Björn Ulvaeus, who later was a member of ABBA.
- Belgian band Too Much and the White Nots released an album called Hootenanny in 2011.
- In 1964 George Jones and Melba Montgomery released a country/bluegrass album titled 'Bluegrass Hootenanny'.
Several different television shows are named and styled after it, including:
- Hootenanny, an early 1960s musical variety show broadcast on ABC in the United States. In 2007 a set of three DVDs called The Best of Hootenanny was issued, culled from the 1963-64 ABC-TV series. It contained clips of performances by The Chad Mitchell Trio, The Limeliters and The New Christy Minstrels, and even Woody Allen as a stand-up comedian.
- In 1963 and 1964 there was a BBC 1 show called The Hoot'nanny Show, recorded in Edinburgh. Two albums with the same title were released, with contributions from Archie Fisher, Barney McKenna (before he joined The Dubliners), and The Corries.
- In the United Kingdom, Jools' Annual Hootenanny, a special New Year's Eve edition of Later... with Jools Holland featuring a wide selection of musicians, has been broadcast every year since 1993.
- In The Simpsons, season 20 episode 6 "Homer and Lisa exchange cross words", it is a word that has disappeared from the dictionary according to the organizers of the crossword tournament.
- In Buffy the Vampire Slayer, season 3, the scoobies decide to throw Buffy a hootenanny.
- In one of the cartoons starring Tex Avery as the narrator (farm of the future) near the end he describes that they crossed an owl and a goat, therefore a hoot-nanny (nanny being one term for a goat).
- In the Family Guy episode "To Love and Die in Dixie" (Season 3, Episode 12), two people argue over whether the event they are attending is a hootenanny or a hoedown.
- Hugh DeLacy papers, University of Washington libraries. Retrieved January 1, 2010.
- Hootenannies in Seattle, Stewart Hendrickson, Retrieved December 31, 2009
- IMDB. Retrieved December 31, 2009.
- Bringing It All Back Home, by Robbie Woliver, Pantheon/Random House
- Petersen, Nils Holger, Music Practices around Bob Dylan, Medieval Rituals, and Modernity. Københavns. 2005. ISBN 978-87-635-0423-2. Retrieved 2011-03-24.
- Wildside Records HLAH pages
- Realism at Nonesuch Records
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