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Hootenanny is an Appalachian colloquialism that was used in the early twentieth century U.S. 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". More recently[when?], 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.[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]

Origin of modern folk music usage[edit]

According to Pete Seeger he first heard the word hootenanny in Seattle, Washington in the late 1930s.[1] 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 hootenanny, which narrowly beat out 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 American folk music revival, 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 Bitter End at 147 Bleecker Street continued the folk music hootenanny tradition every Tuesday night.[6][7]

A weekly hootenanny has been held during the summers at Allegany State Park most years since 1972.[8]

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.[citation needed]

For years there have been online hootenannies. The most long-standing example is Small Talk At The Wall,[9] which originated in 1999.



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

Other uses[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Seeger, Pete (1992). Schwartz, Jo Metcalf (ed.). The Incompleat Folksinger. Lincoln, Nebraska: University of Nebraska Press. p. 327. ISBN 0803292163.
  2. ^ "Hugh DeLacy papers". Washington.edu. Special Collections, Libraries of University of Washington. Retrieved January 1, 2010.
  3. ^ a b Hendrickson, Stewart. "Hootenannies in Seattle". PNWFolklore.org. Retrieved December 31, 2009.
  4. ^ "Joan Baez: Biography". IMDB.com. Internet Movie Database. Retrieved December 31, 2009.
  5. ^ Woliver, Robbie (1986), Bringing It All Back Home, Pantheon/Random House, ISBN 9780394740683
  6. ^ "Gene Santoro, NY Times review, Beginning at the Bitter End.: SERIOUSLY FUNNY The Rebel Comedians of the 1950s and 1960s. By Gerald Nachman". NY Times. Retrieved 6 January 2015.
  7. ^ Nachman, Gerald (2003). Seriously Funny: The Rebel Comedians of the 1950s and 1960s. New York: Pantheon Books. p. 659. ISBN 9780375410307. OCLC 50339527.
  8. ^ Everts, Deb (May 22, 2021). "Senecas to host Sally Marsh's 50th year of Hootenannies". Salamanca Press. Retrieved July 24, 2021.
  9. ^ Petersen, Nils Holger, Music Practices around Bob Dylan, Medieval Rituals, and Modernity. Københavns. 2005. ISBN 978-87-635-0423-2. Retrieved 2011-03-24.
  10. ^ "HLAH". WildsideRecords.com. Wildside Records.
  11. ^ "Nonesuch Records Realism". Nonesuch Records Official Website.
  12. ^ "June 1964". Archived from the original on September 29, 2007. Retrieved September 27, 2016.

External links[edit]