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For other uses, see Hootenanny (disambiguation).

Hootenanny is a successful American linguistic export. Many people throughout the English-speaking world are familiar with it as a term for what one dictionary on my shelves describes as “an informal gathering with folk music”. There is no clear idea of its ultimate origin.

The very earliest uses of hootenanny was as an indefinite expression, along the lines of doohickey, thingumajig, or whatchamacallit. (Dozens of such words have peppered regional American English: in 1931, Louise Pound collected more than a hundred for the journal American Speech.) I found an example from 1906, in a historical novel by Richard T. Wiley, Sim Greene: A Narrative of the Whisky Insurrection, which purports to tell a narrative from the Whiskey Rebellion of the 1790s in western Pennsylvania. Here's an exchange in which the title character Sim Greene uses hootenanny along with other colorful indefinite terms, conniplicon, majigger, and kerdoodlement: [1]

"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.[citation needed] Logistics professionals for the conference employ the word to call together the required personnel needed to accomplish the prodigious assignments placed on them.[citation needed]


See also: Almanac Singers

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 [2] to describe their monthly music fund raisers.[3] 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.[3] 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.[4]


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.[5]

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.

For years there have been online hootenannys. The most long-standing example is Small Talk At The Wall,[6] which has been going since 1999.



Several different television shows are named and styled after it, including:

Other uses[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ https://www.visualthesaurus.com/cm/wordroutes/the-hootin-hollerin-origins-of-hootenanny/
  2. ^ Hugh DeLacy papers, University of Washington libraries. Retrieved January 1, 2010.
  3. ^ a b Hootenannies in Seattle, Stewart Hendrickson, Retrieved December 31, 2009
  4. ^ IMDB. Retrieved December 31, 2009.
  5. ^ Bringing It All Back Home, by Robbie Woliver, Pantheon/Random House
  6. ^ Petersen, Nils Holger, Music Practices around Bob Dylan, Medieval Rituals, and Modernity. Københavns. 2005. ISBN 978-87-635-0423-2. Retrieved 2011-03-24. 
  7. ^ Wildside Records HLAH pages
  8. ^ Realism at Nonesuch Records
  9. ^ http://tonyreespopdiaries4.mysite.wanadoo-members.co.uk/page1.html

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