When you look up the word “Hootenanny,” the synonym is “thingamajig,” and that’s no help at all. All we know is that the word was invented at some point in the 1920s and that it’s defined as “an informal gathering with folk music and sometimes dancing.” Wikipedia says it’s a “whatchamacallit,” and comes from the Scottish word meaning “celebration.” Folksinger Pete Seeger said it meant “rent party” when his group, The Almanac Singers, would meet in their New York City apartments to help raise funds for that night’s bed.
Whatever its origins, it’s coming to Jacksonville on January 21 and 22 as the Playhouse on the Square presents “Hootenanny!” It’s a concert of folk music and sing-along with nationally known singer/musician Barry Cloyd, joined by local musicians Ken Bradbury and Mike Post. “Barry and I have played together for about eight years,” said Bradbury, “and we’re getting to where we can read each other’s eyebrows.” Post, on the standup bass, is a former student of Bradbury’s and a veteran solo performer in the Brown County area.
The evening will feature a program of traditional American folk music and some of our nation’s most endearing sing-along numbers. “We want it to be a free and friendly evening,” said Cloyd. “When Ken and I play together, our program often changes according to the smiles on the faces of our audience. In fact, sometimes the audience decides what we’ll play next.” According to Bradbury, “I always know what I’m doing. It’s Barry who keeps changing keys in the middle of a song.”
Barry Cloyd is based in Peoria, but his musical journeys have taken him all over the world. He’s shared the stage with many of Chicago’s greatest blue masters, and recently picked up an endorsement from Recording King Guitars, appearing in their promotional demos. His original music is now being played internationally on a host of internet stations. A teenage friend of Dan Fogelberg, he annually takes part in Fogelberg tributes across the nation. Cloyd said that his association with Bradbury goes back a decade ago when Bradbury was a passenger on the Spirit of Peoria riverboat and someone asked the Jacksonville pianist to come up and play a tune. “We sort of clicked,” said Cloyd. “Now we spend the summer cruising up and down the Midwest rivers banging out tunes.”
Mike Post, formerly of Chapin, is an executive with DOT Foods in Mt. Sterling, and a frequent performer on local stages as a solo artist. “I’m not too much on following sheet music,” said Post, “but since Ken and Barry sort of make it up as they go along, it makes it more fun for me.” Post performs on his father’s standup bass and is a former member of the gospel group Shiloh.
Bradbury warns that more than just the $10 price of admission might be required of the “Hootenanny” audience. “It’s a sing-along, so singing along will be encouraged.” Bradbury adds, “Besides, we don’t know all the words to some of the songs so we’ll need the help of the audience.” His partner, Cloyd, has traveled the Midwest with his one-man show portraying the life and works of Carl Sandburg who had a passion for keeping folk music alive. Said Cloyd, “Sandburg would travel the roads as a hobo, writing down the songs he’d hear from his fellow travelers. The result was ‘The Great American Song Bag.’” The Peoria singer said that “Hootenanny” carries on that tradition. “There’s a whole generation of kids out there with their thumbs in their phones and ear buds in their ears. The ‘Hootenanny’ is great way to introduce America’s singing tradition to a new generation.”
Tickets for “Hootenanny” may be purchased at Our Town Books or by calling 217-491-3977. The Saturday, January 21 show will begin at 7 p.m. with a 2 p.m. matinee on Sunday the 22nd.