Tag Archives: Judy Henske

Hootenanny Wind

Hey!

You millennials!

Don’t trust anyone over 30.

That was the advice proffered by my generation in the sixties. That would be the 1960’s, though after a morning of pulling weeds, it feels like a hundred years before.

My friend, Jim Sherburne, wrote an interesting novel concerning that generational advice; RIVERS RUN TOGETHER. In it, he describes a 30-something writer in Chicago in the summer of 1968, during the Democratic presidential nominating convention. The protagonist’s heart was pining to be part of the protests happening behind police lines in the parks in Chicago, while his carbon-dated time on the planet consigned his bag-o-bones to the streets nearby. I recommend the book…especially now.

I’m over 30.

Dammit.

So…don’t trust me…but read this…it might help bridge the gap when next we meet.

In the early to mid-sixties, I was politically born.

On an August day (no school that day), Martin Luther King revealed his dream to the largest crowd I had ever seen, in Washington. It was on TV and I could not look away.

Earlier that year, a new music show had appeared on TV. It was called “Hootenanny” and it featured folk music.

That same year, radio station WBKY (now WUKY) had a late Saturday night show hosted by Ben Story featuring even more obscure folk music.

I was twelve.

What’s folk music?

Who’s Martin Luther King?

Why’s he black?

Does that mean something?

Is somebody doing something to him they shouldn’t?

What does Pete Seeger mean when he asks “Which side are you on?”

Sides? There are sides?

I was twelve.

Patrick Sky reached for a laugh in his now-forgotten classic “Talking Socialized Anti-Undertaker Blues”; “Formaldehyde and alcohol, we’ll pickle you, and that ain’t all; black or white, to us you’re all the same.” Where’s the laugh? It plumb evades me. What’s black or white got to do with it?

I was twelve. I had to look up “formaldehyde.”

Phil Ochs’ sad musician-turned-wino in “Chords of Fame” complains in an alley; “Reporters ask you questions. They write down what you say.” Why would they do that? Aren’t reporters supposed to be covering real news in 1963? The Cold War? Polio? Cuban missiles?

I was twelve and still eating sugar cubes and mastering the scary yoga of “duck and cover.”

Tom Paxton and Pete Seeger were asking “What did you learn in school today?”

Well… I really was taught things like;

“I learned that policemen are my friends
I learned that justice never ends
I learned that murderers die for their crimes
Even if we make a mistake sometimes.”

I was twelve. It had not yet occurred to me that might not be OK until Tom and Pete suggested I cipher on that a little more.

I listened as Judy Henske and Judy Collins and Joan Tolliver sang about the problems in the coal fields using the words of Billy Edd Wheeler. Mountains being stripped, towns abandoned, rivers poisoned? In Lexington, we didn’t have rivers or mountains.

But Mr. Wheeler’s words have stayed with me for over five decades.

All their words have. I learned much from these foreign-to-me teachers.

Mostly what I learned from these singers and preachers and yes, my Sunday school teachers was to always do the next right thing. Picking sides, recognizing colors and genders, knocking down mountains, fighting diseases, corrupt authorities……….just do the next right thing.

Mortgages, and insurance bills, and utility bills, and 401K’s have distracted me.

Stormy Daniels, and the Ukraine, and Confederate flags, and face masks are thrown at me now to continue to distract me.

I learned better in 1963 and what I learned still holds true.

Stay focused on Rev. King’s dream.

It’s the next right thing to do.

Trust me on this……no…wait……don’t trust me…go vote……do this yourself.

Tommy Hale – The Hawk

How do we just…lose people?

I’ve just learned tonight of the death of a high school friend, Thomas Hale.

Tommy was bright. Tommy was verbal and cheerful.

He knew more than I did about music in general and jazz in particular. By that, I mean he didn’t just love the music, but he knew why he loved it and he could share that knowledge.

Tommy DJ’d a Sunday afternoon jazz program on WLAP-FM.

This was in the late 60’s. At that time, FM radio was an afterthought. Most of the radios in the market didn’t even have FM reception and the owners of those that did were mostly uninterested. FM was where I went to hear Ben Story’s late Saturday night folk music broadcast (where I discovered Judy Henske, Phil Ochs, Patrick Sky, and the Limeliters – look ‘em up, — you can thank me later), or classical music and opera, or rhythm and blues (Gladys Knight, Ike Turner, Hank Ballard, and Carmen McRae – look ‘em up), and jazz…yes, indeed…jazz.

WLAP-FM’s format (this was before we knew what “format” was) was targeted to the African-American population of Lexington…enthusiastically so. I believe, at one time, it was rated #1 by Ebony Magazine.

It was trés cool.

<< “Well hello to you and salutation from the West Georgetown Street Blooooooz Association. Sink or swim, you’re in with them; WLAP…FM” >>

Totally exotic.

All the DJ’s had on-air nom-de-plumes. “Little Bee” assured that he was about to “put a little hep in your step, glide in your stride, and gut in your strut.” I was in my teens and needed every bit of that I could garner.

Tommy was “The Hawk”.

His Sunday program didn’t feature too many vocalists and it wasn’t “easy to dance to”. He tried to keep it lively but he was passionate about the music and he could tell you why.

A couple of Sundays he invited me to join him at the station for his show. I sat in the back, a goodly distance from the live mikes, and watched and listened. Tommy had to be his own engineer. He juggled tapes and lp’s and a myriad of dials and switches to deliver a seamless (to my worldly 16 year old ears) program of Brubeck, Tommy Hale, Miles, Tommy Hale, Prez, Tommy Hale, and Coltrane…and the Hawk.

Some of it all…

…not enough…

…but some…

…stuck.

To this day, I hear this music and recognize it and thrill to it instantly. But I can’t always tell you why.

Tommy could.

Tommy and I graduated from Bryan Station and went our separate ways. I have not seen him since.

And now he’s gone.

He gave me a treasure, a soundtrack for most of my life.

How do we just…lose people?

‘s not right.