Somewhere in his sprawling masterpiece, Moby Dick, one of Herman Melville’s characters muses that “It’s a mutual, joint-stock world, in all meridians”. We are all interlinked and intertwined and astonishing coincidence happens so often that we should cease to be astonished.
I was listening to an old LP, a compilation called Hootenanny Vol. 2. It is a bit of silly name, but Hootenanny was a TV program back in the early 1960s which showcased the emerging American folk scene, the Greenwich Village coffee-house crowd. It is a great LP, with a wide range of styles – gospel, blues, flamenco, bluegrass – consistently excellent performances. But one track stood out, sent shivers down my spine. It’s a nonsense song, “Hooka Tooka”, and it doesn’t mean anything, but somehow the singer’s voice makes it rich and poignant and sad and joyful, all at once.
So, I looked at the sleeve. Judy Henske? Never heard of her, but an amazing talent. What, I wondered, became of her?
Half an hour later, I picked up a music magazine I had bought earlier the same day, and flipped it open at random, and this is what I saw.
Henske, I learned, had married Jerry Yester, and together they made an album, Farewell Aldebaran, which flopped at the time but is now regarded as a classic and has been re-released. Might track it down.
Meantime, have a listen to “Hooka Tooka”. Nonsense about chewing tobacco, but maybe also saying that it’s a mutual, joint-stock world, in all meridians.
- Artist: Judy Henske
- LP Title: The Original Hootenanny Volume 2 (Various Artists)
- Track: Side 1 Track 6 “Hooka Tooka”
- Format: 12”, 33⅓ rpm
- Label: Crestview
- Catalogue number: CRV-807
- Manufactured in: United States
- Year: 1963
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