Darrell Huckaby - Having a Hootenanny at Huck's

Suppose you gave a Sunday school party and a hootenanny broke out? That's what happened at our house Saturday night. Well, maybe it was a gospel singing rather than a hootenanny, but we had a big time anyway.

I bet there are a lot of folks out there in newspaper land who don't remember that they know what a hootenanny is. Back in the '60s, before everybody who could carry a tune in a bucket (which I can't) dreamed of being the next American Idol, there were television shows that encouraged all of America to sing along - just for the fun of it.

Some of you probably remember Mitch Miller - he of the goatee and the bouncing ball - as in "Sing Along with Mitch." Mitch would lead his orchestra and song lyrics would flash across the screen and the audience at home was encouraged to sing right along with Mitch and his studio singers. Kind of a mass Karaoke if you will.

Hootenanny was another show in that same genre which featured folk singers, such as the New Christy Minstrels, and country acts, such as Johnny Cash, Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs. The singers would sing and college kids would sit around in a circle, singing along, clapping their hands and generally having a good old time.

I would have said "high old time," but this was the '60s, after all, and I don't want to confuse anybody by being too accurate. Anyway, the assumption was that the folks watching at home would be sitting around their living rooms, clapping and singing and having a good old time, too.

And we did. At least at our house.

Neither "Hootenanny" nor "Sing Along with Mitch" was very sophisticated, but sometimes sophisticated is way overrated. Both were a lot of fun - which brings us back to the original topic of the day - our Sunday school party.

Well, we had one Saturday night. First we gathered and watched Big Brown lose the horse race that he couldn't lose. Don't worry. We all made our picks but I promise, no money changed hands.

Then we ate. When I say we ate, I mean we did forevermore eat. We had a sort of Southern covered dish supper and as is usually the case we had way more food than you could say grace over. I won't go into the details, because it would just make everybody's mouths water and I don't know how far away from supper time it will be when you read this.

Finally, after everybody had eaten their fill, we retired to the living room and that's when the fun really began. You see, we have a guy in our class named Bruce Walker. Bruce looks almost exactly like Kenny Rogers used to look - before the plastic surgeon made him look like somebody else. Bruce also plays a guitar and sings. Come to think of it, he sounds a lot like Kenny Rogers, too - and if you know Bruce and ever get him off by himself, you might be able to coax him into telling you about the time he and Kenny almost came to blows in an Augusta nightspot - but that's a different story for a different day.

We were talking about Saturday night at my house - and Saturday night at my house Bruce took out his guitar and played, and we all sat around and sang; just like on Hootenanny. We could have used Mitch Miller's bouncing ball to tell you the truth, because whatever song we tried, most of us didn't know all of the words - although we did go five verses deep on Amazing Grace. We would sing with gusto those words we did know, however, and then sort of hum along when we came to the parts we had forgotten - and then we'd bust in strong on the chorus.

If a song has ever been sung at a camp meeting or an all-night gospel singing, we took a stab at it - and I mean everything from "Blessed Assurance" to "When we all get to Heaven." I think Bruce was raised up in the Baptist church in Sardis, and they must have done a lot of singing in Sardis, because we couldn't stump Bruce. Every song somebody shouted out Bruce could play.

We had another guitarist in our class, too - Laura Skelton. Her daddy was a preacher and she played right along with Bruce on a lot of the numbers.

The best part of the whole deal was that since I was hosting the party, I could sing at the top of my voice - very badly, I might add, and nobody asked me to tone it down - although Kathy Hope, who was sitting beside me when the night began, did get up and move to a seat on the couch as soon as one became available - safely out of earshot.

What a great evening. It was fun, it was cheap and we didn't use up any four-dollar-a-gallon gas driving to Atlanta for the evening.

My only regret was that we quit singing too soon and forgot to do "There is a Fountain Filled with Blood."

But, hey - there's always next time, right? Maybe I'll let y'all know when the next time is and everybody can come over for a real Hootenanny.

Darrell Huckaby is a local author and educator. He can be reached at dHuck08@bellsouth.net.