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Hokum - Definition or sources ?

Les Benedict 16 Jul 97 - 01:40 AM
Earl 16 Jul 97 - 03:53 PM
Jon W. 16 Jul 97 - 04:13 PM
ALison 17 Jul 97 - 01:28 AM
CWF 17 Jul 97 - 03:56 PM
CWF 17 Jul 97 - 03:59 PM
Bert Hansell 17 Jul 97 - 04:08 PM
CWF 17 Jul 97 - 04:19 PM
Earl 17 Jul 97 - 05:34 PM
LaMarca 17 Jul 97 - 05:41 PM
Les Benedict 17 Jul 97 - 09:41 PM
Alice 17 Jul 97 - 10:38 PM
Alice 17 Jul 97 - 10:38 PM
Earl 18 Jul 97 - 12:36 AM
TinDor 27 Nov 09 - 11:02 PM
GUEST,Phil d'Conch 22 Sep 18 - 03:56 AM
GUEST,Phil d'Conch 22 Sep 18 - 04:01 AM
GUEST,Phil d'Conch 22 Sep 18 - 04:03 AM
GUEST,Phil d'Conch 22 Sep 18 - 04:06 AM
GUEST,Phil d'Conch 22 Sep 18 - 04:10 AM
Joe_F 22 Sep 18 - 05:50 PM
GUEST,Phil d'Conch 23 Sep 18 - 07:12 AM
EBarnacle 23 Sep 18 - 02:25 PM
GUEST,Phil d'Conch 23 Sep 18 - 10:19 PM
GUEST,Phil d'Conch 23 Sep 18 - 10:22 PM
GUEST,Phil d'Conch 03 Oct 18 - 12:28 PM
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Subject: Hokum - Definition or sources ?
From: Les Benedict
Date: 16 Jul 97 - 01:40 AM

In the long and interesting thread on "What is Folk Music" there was a passing reference to Hokum as a music genre. While I have a vague idea what this might mean, can anyone supply a good definition or suggest resources to read/listen to ?? Does it come out of the minstrel or medicine show traditions ?


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Subject: RE: Hokum - Definition or sources ?
From: Earl
Date: 16 Jul 97 - 03:53 PM

I've tried 3 times today to respond to this so this time just the short answer. Check out the Yazoo album "Please Warm My Weiner" a good compliation of Hokum.


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Subject: RE: Hokum - Definition or sources ?
From: Jon W.
Date: 16 Jul 97 - 04:13 PM

There are also a few Hokum songs (including "The Hokum Stomp") on the Yazoo album "The Young Big Bill Broonzy". They feature guitar and piano with a female vocalist doing somewhat of a narration rather than singing. That's all I've heard.


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Subject: RE: Hokum - Definition or sources ?
From: ALison
Date: 17 Jul 97 - 01:28 AM

Hi

At the risk of looking stupid, (so what's new!), I'm going to refer you to a Gene Kelly movie called "Summer Stock", in which Gene explains to Judy Garland how "Hokum" came about......just before he stages a show in her barn........ (told you it was going to sound stupid!..........)

Anyway if I remember rightly they claimed it was something to do with medicine shows where they would do routines of the "I say, I say, I say" variety. Except instead of saying "I say........" they used to say "How come........." So these routines became known as "How come" or "Hokum" routines.

You'll have to make up your own mind if Gene (and the scriptwriters) were telling the truth. He's was one of my heroes though so I'll give him the benefit of the doubt.

Slainte

Alison


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Subject: RE: Hokum - Definition or sources ?
From: CWF
Date: 17 Jul 97 - 03:56 PM

Hokum as a term is generally thought to be related to Hocus-Pocus and other similar quasi-Latin terms which used to be used to pad and to obfuscate patter used in physic operas (medicine shows) to tout various Indian tonics and swamp elixirs. Currently the term is commonly used to refer to high-sounding set-speeches or definitions which don't have any real validity or significance.


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Subject: RE: Hokum - Definition or sources ?
From: CWF
Date: 17 Jul 97 - 03:59 PM

Hokum as a term is generally thought to be related to Hocus-Pocus and other similar quasi-Latin terms which used to be used to pad and to obfuscate patter used in physic operas (medicine shows) to tout various Indian tonics and swamp elixirs. Currently the term is commonly used to refer to high-sounding set-speeches or definitions which don't have any real validity or significance.


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Subject: RE: Hokum - Definition or sources ?
From: Bert Hansell
Date: 17 Jul 97 - 04:08 PM

If it were derived from Hocus-Pokus shouldn't it be Hokum-Pokum? :-)

Bert.


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Subject: RE: Hokum - Definition or sources ?
From: CWF
Date: 17 Jul 97 - 04:19 PM

Bert: I would have thought the same thing. But according to the two reference sources I checked, this is the only derivation that linguistic scholars can advance. By the way; it is an Americanism


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Subject: RE: Hokum - Definition or sources ?
From: Earl
Date: 17 Jul 97 - 05:34 PM

I think we should make it clear that the musical genre known as "hokum" was a sort of black vaudeville, full of sexual inuendo and racial stereotypes. Unlike the blues of the time, the audience was white as well as black.

Some of the performers associated with hokum, such as Tampa Red, Bo Carter, and Memphis Minnie are actually better know as blues performers.


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Subject: RE: Hokum - Definition or sources ?
From: LaMarca
Date: 17 Jul 97 - 05:41 PM

Getting back to defining hokum as a musical genré, rather than defining the word, hokum or "hokum blues" refers to a kind of music usually lumped in with blues music. The stuff I think of as hokum usually has a sense of humor to it, and can be pretty raunchy, what someone once referred to as "single entendré" songs (as in the numbers on "Please Warm My Weiner" mentioned above). Since "hokum" means B.S. or jivin', the songs usually describe ramblin', gamblin', drinking and womanizing (or mannizing?) in a humorous fashion. Some examples:
    "That'll Never Happen No More"-Blind Blake (see the thread on this one)
    "I Got Mine"-Pink Anderson
    "Next Day, Sometime, Not Right Now"-?
    "Travellin' Man"
    -lots of folks
Some of the classic blues guys (and gals) who did a lot of hokum numbers (as well as more serious blues) were Blind Blake, Pink Anderson, Bo Carter and the Mississippi Sheiks, Memphis Minnie, Ma Rainey and Blind Willie McTell. Modern bluesmen who do re-makes of these classics include Dave Van Ronk, Roy Bookbinder and my favorite D.C. locals, Rick Franklin and Neal Harpe.
There are probably lots of folks at Mudcat that know a hell of a lot more about blues than me and can give more detailed lists of examples and artists, but these are just some of my favorites. And that ain't no hokum!


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Subject: RE: Hokum - Definition or sources ?
From: Les Benedict
Date: 17 Jul 97 - 09:41 PM

Many thanks for the enlightening answers about Hokum. I can see I've got to start buying some records ! I especially liked the Gene Kelly explanation -- even if it's Hokum it makes sense.


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Subject: RE: Hokum - Definition or sources ?
From: Alice
Date: 17 Jul 97 - 10:38 PM

This reminds me of the Butter Beans and Suzy song, "I Want a Hot Dog For My Roll". It is on the old record, Stars of the Appollo Theater. Would that be considered Hokum? Is there a cross over between the medicine show Hokum music and vaudville?


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Subject: RE: Hokum - Definition or sources ?
From: Alice
Date: 17 Jul 97 - 10:38 PM

This reminds me of the Butter Beans and Suzy song, "I Want a Hot Dog For My Roll". It is on the old record, Stars of the Appollo Theater. Would that be considered Hokum? Is there a cross over between the medicine show Hokum music and vaudville?


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Subject: RE: Hokum - Definition or sources ?
From: Earl
Date: 18 Jul 97 - 12:36 AM

Alice,

Butterbeans & Susie were definately hokum and vaudeville. This thread has got me digging out old albums. Apparently Butterbeans & Susie were married on stage in Philedelphia in their teens and went on to have a 50 year career together doing songs and comedy. It's still fun to listen to.


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Subject: RE: Hokum - Definition or sources ?
From: TinDor
Date: 27 Nov 09 - 11:02 PM

Bo Carter has a ton of these type of songs


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Subject: RE: Hokum - Definition or sources ?
From: GUEST,Phil d'Conch
Date: 22 Sep 18 - 03:56 AM

Related song thread here: Hokum songs.

Hokum-smokum was what my grandmother, the root lady, used to call my grandfather's “baseball westerns” and “jazz tonics.” The former is, weirdly, just what it sounds like. Think original recipe Coca-Cola, Koca-Nola &c for the latter.

What a long, strange trip it's been:

CWF: “...thought to be related to Hocus-Pocus and other similar quasi-Latin terms which used to be used to pad and to obfuscate patter used in physic operas (medicine shows) to tout various Indian tonics and swamp elixirs.

Bert: “If it were derived from Hocus-Pokus shouldn't it be Hokum-Pokum?

I've got a little bottle in my waistcoat pocket
Called Hokum, Smokum, Alecumpane [sic];
If I jest putts a little drop on this man's cheek,
He'll rise and boldly fight again.

[Long, W.H., A Dictionary of the Isle of Wight Dialect, (London: Reeves & Turner, 1886, p.104)]

Note: Elecampane (Inula helenium)(elfwort, horse heal)


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Subject: RE: Hokum - Definition or sources ?
From: GUEST,Phil d'Conch
Date: 22 Sep 18 - 04:01 AM

Hokum [altered < HOCUS(-POCUS)] [Slang] 1 trite or mawkish sentiment, crude humor, etc. used to get a quick emotional response from an audience 2 nonsense; humbug; claptrap
[Webster's New World, 4th ed.]

Slapstick is typical of the first; the aforementioned snake oil; medicine show and charlatan are the second type.

“...a seller of medicines who might advertise his presence with music and an outdoor stage show. The best known of the Parisian charlatans was Tabarin, who set up a stage in the Place Dauphine, Paris in 1618, and whose commedia dell'arte inspired skits and farces inspired Molière.” [charlatan wiki]

“Patent medicines that claimed to be a cure-all panacea were extremely common from the 18th until the 20th century, particularly among vendors masking addictive drugs such as cocaine, amphetamine, alcohol and opium-based concoctions and/or elixirs, to be sold as medication and/or products promoting health at medicine shows.” [snake oil wiki]

Hokum and Jasbo were stock minstrel/vaudeville character types. The original definition of “jazz” (up tempo) is very likely drawn from circus minstrel – medicine show hokum. (see following.)


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Subject: RE: Hokum - Definition or sources ?
From: GUEST,Phil d'Conch
Date: 22 Sep 18 - 04:03 AM

The earliest appearance of the word “jazz” (so far) is an obtuse 1912 reference to hokum in American West Coast baseball, nothing to do with music:

“I got a new curve this year," softly murmured Henderson yesterday, "and I'm goin' to pitch one or two of them tomorrow. I call it the Jazz ball because it wobbles and you simply can't do anything with it."[Jazz (word) wiki]

Note: Probably not a true “curve” but what the Yanks call a “knuckle ball” or “knuckler” today. Either way, erratic & unpredictable, ie: “cokey.”

Several more west coast popular sport references follow, all drawing on the “up tempo” usage of minstrelsy's “jasm” or “jasbo.”


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Subject: RE: Hokum - Definition or sources ?
From: GUEST,Phil d'Conch
Date: 22 Sep 18 - 04:06 AM

Three years after sports comes the earliest reference we have to “jazz” as music:

“Blues Is Jazz and Jazz Is Blues . . . The Worm had turned – turned to fox trotting. And the "blues" had done it. The "jazz" had put pep into the legs that had scrambled too long for the 5:15. . . . At the next place a young woman was keeping "Der Wacht Am Rhein" and "Tipperary Mary" apart when the interrogator entered. "What are the blues?" he asked gently. "Jazz!" The young woman's voice rose high to drown the piano. . . . The blues are never written into music, but are interpolated by the piano player or other players. They aren't new. They are just reborn into popularity. They started in the south half a century ago and are the interpolations of darkies originally. The trade name for them is "jazz." . . . Thereupon "Jazz" Marion sat down and showed the bluest streak of blues ever heard beneath the blue. Or, if you like this better: "Blue" Marion sat down and jazzed the jazziest streak of jazz ever. Saxophone players since the advent of the "jazz blues" have taken to wearing "jazz collars," neat decollate things that give the throat and windpipe full play, so that the notes that issue from the tubes may not suffer for want of blues – those wonderful blues.”
[Seagrove, Gordon, Chicago Tribune, 11 July 1915. Jazz (word) wiki copypasta]

Note how the 1915 author uses the blues and jazz genre labels indiscriminately, as hokum is/was defined:

“...In the days before ragtime, jazz and even hillbilly music and the blues were clearly identified as specific genres, hokum was a component of all-around performing, entertainment that seamlessly mixed monologues, dialogues, dances, music, and humor.” [Hokum wiki]


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Subject: RE: Hokum - Definition or sources ?
From: GUEST,Phil d'Conch
Date: 22 Sep 18 - 04:10 AM

I'd like to teach the world to sing...”*

Earl: “I think we should make it clear that the musical genre known as "hokum" was a sort of black vaudeville, full of sexual inuendo and racial stereotypes. Unlike the blues of the time, the audience was white as well as black.”

Black vaudeville performers in a Kickapoo Show? Nah! Wade Mainer, “Grandfather of Bluegrass,” did hokum for Crazy Water Crystals. Could have sworn the Guthrie family did radio-X hokum on XELO-AM(?) but can't find a mention of it close to hand.

At any rate, it's not just sex, giggles & sex. Not that there's anything wrong with that!

*Jingle, jingle! ;)


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Subject: RE: Hokum - Definition or sources ?
From: Joe_F
Date: 22 Sep 18 - 05:50 PM

The OED guesses that the word is a blend of "hocus-pocus" & "bunkum".


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Subject: RE: Hokum - Definition or sources ?
From: GUEST,Phil d'Conch
Date: 23 Sep 18 - 07:12 AM

Woody Guthrie hokum:

“In mid-January (1938,) a representative of the Consolidated Drug Company named Hal Horton* called KFVD and asked Woody if he and Lefty Lou would like to sing on station XELO in Tijuana, Mexico, for seventy-five dollars per week. More important than money to Woody, though, was that Horton wanted him to assemble a troupe of hillbilly performers to broadcast for three hours each night. It meant woody could hire the whole family, and still have room for more….

...The “X” stations also were known, though, for a steady stream of awful commercials hawking products of a less than savory sort, especially quack cures too raunchy to make it past American censors and Better Business Bureaus. In fact, it was Dr. J.R. Brinkly, inventor of a goat-gland cure for sexual impotence, who started the “X” stations when he bought XERA in Villa Acuña, Mexico, in order to advertise his product after his Kansas broadcasting license was revoked in 1930. The Consolidated Drug Company, which Hal Horton represented, was a cut above the worst of the border advertising … but not by much more.** Woody, Lefty Lou, and the gang were hired to perform between loud, pushy, obnoxious ads for Peruna Tonic, which was Consolidated's cure-all, plus Colorback [sic] hair dye*** and other questionable items.”
[Klein, Joe, Woody Guthrie: A Life, (New York: Knopf, 1980, pp.102-103)]


*Could this be “Hall” Horton (Cantor Harry Horwitz) the co-writer, with Eddy Arnold & Tommy Dilbeck, of I'll Hold You In My Arms?

Thomas Christopher Dilbeck (1905-1983) – Eventually Dilbeck Realty, Los Angeles. Yet another “Hollywood” story but, nevermind.

** By 1938... maybe. Long before Woody's day, Peruna Tonic was invented by Doctor Samuel B. Hartman and then exposed as hokum by none other than journalist Samuel Hopkins Adams. The fallout was the U.S. Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906.

***Kolor-Back Hair Dye. Southern Methodist U's school mascot (& a fight song) has been named Peruna since way back in the day.


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Subject: RE: Hokum - Definition or sources ?
From: EBarnacle
Date: 23 Sep 18 - 02:25 PM

There is a definition of Hokum which comes from an area in North Carolina. It relates to buncombe and hokum. I posted this a year or two ago on another site.

I was reading this morning and spotted this article. From "The North Carolina Miscellany," edited by Richard Walser, 1962, pp 150-151, University of North Carolina Press. [I am not sure whether this is our friend Dick Walser.]




"Buncombe"

A word whose meaning is known to everyone is buncombe. It is a respectable word although the average person would probably think it slang. It does not, however, become slang until it is shortened to bunk.




If one greeted a friend with some such statement as "This morning is deleterious to my health , for these miasmic atmospheric conditions cause my olfactory organs to scent odors which disturb my psyche"--well, we would just know he was putting on airs without really trying to say anything. The friend probably would rely, "Uh, that's just bunk." and he would be right.




How did that fancy language get to be buncombe?




The word is one of the few in the English language to have a definite North Carolina origin.




Today, down highway 64 beyond Plymouth in Washington County is the little town of Roper. Nearby an official highway marker informs the motorist that Buncombe Hall once stood one mile North. During Revolutionary times, the estate was the home of Edward Buncombe, Colonel of the 5th North Carolina Regiment of the Continental Line. In 1778 the colonel was captured at the Battle of Germantown and shortly thereafter died a prisoner of the British. He was one of North Carolina's heroes of the Revolution.




When a new county in the western part of the state was created in 1797, it was named Buncombe County to honor the memory of the gallant Colonel. Asheville is the county seat of this beautiful mountain region.




So far, so good. Buncombe is an eminently proud name. But several decades later, in the 16th Congress (1819--1821), a local politician from Buncombe County was representative of North Carolina in Washington, D.C.. He was a glib and garrulous talker, and doubtless it was his very trivial and high-sounding verbiage which found favor with the word-loving mountain voters of the day. One morning heroes to his feet in the Congress and spoke on a political matter in s manner dear to himself and to his Buncombe County folk back home. As soon as he began, his meaningless language flowed mellifluously. The mountain voters would have been thrilled with his twaddling oratory. Not so his Congressional colleagues in the House of Representatives. Soon the members began to leave the hall and eventually the speaker found himself with few listeners. He was not downcast. He finished what he had to say.




Later. when he was asked his reason for displaying such a torrent of palaver, he replied, "I was not speaking to the House, but to Buncombe."




Then came the comment: "And buncombe your talk certainly was."




The word stuck.




First buncombe was used to mean "any insincere speechmaking intended merely to please political constituents." Then it was identified with any hokum--any nonsensical and meaningless language. And finally the work was shortened to bunk.




So is this story all bunk? Not at all. It is quite true. With his chatter, Congressman Felix Walker brought disrespect to the Old Colonel and the great county named for him, but he had added a new and useful noun to the English language.

________________________________________________________________________________________




Considering how many public utterances we see from our various politicians which are meant to be believed b their "base." I felt this was a bit of useful trivia. Eric


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Subject: RE: Hokum - Definition or sources ?
From: GUEST,Phil d'Conch
Date: 23 Sep 18 - 10:19 PM

Eric: “Considering how many public utterances we see from our various politicians which are meant to be believed by their "base." I felt this was a bit of useful trivia.

Lyr Add: Get Out of the Way!
Lyr Add: Clay and Frelinghuysen
Lyr Add: DEMOCRATIC ODE
Lyr Add: Tip and Ty

It's bull's eye trivia if it is. The pol is, no doubt, hoping to inspire a bandwagon effect.

Politics & religion are dead center hokum unless you're a believer... and even then for some. Both had hokum style traveling shows. Bread & circus.

I should add the 1886 Isle of Wight dictionary cited above is subtitled: “A Treasury of Insular Manners and Customs of Fifty Years Ago.” or c.1836.


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Subject: RE: Hokum - Definition or sources ?
From: GUEST,Phil d'Conch
Date: 23 Sep 18 - 10:22 PM

“...hokum was a component of all-around performing, entertainment that seamlessly mixed monologues, dialogues, dances, music, and humor.” [hokum wiki revisted]

Subject: RE: Help: What is a bulgine?
From: GUEST,Phil d'Conch
Date: 04 Jul 16 - 02:13 AM

“...The full 'bulgine' routine: stand up comedy skit; song, with lyrics; and the dance; made up about about half the entire show. An 1840-50s minstrel troupe could hardly get on stage without one. Or a least a parody of the other guy's act.”
RE: Help: What is a bulgine?

The History Ob De World lectures, same deal:
Lyr Req/Add: Sunday School


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Subject: RE: Hokum - Definition or sources ?
From: GUEST,Phil d'Conch
Date: 03 Oct 18 - 12:28 PM

Been rereading all the Guthrie bios. Before 1938's XELO-Tijuana and Peruna there was Pampa, TX; Shorty's Drug Store and "jake."

Jake Walk

Lots of songs & prohibition snake oil hokum references there. Nasty business that.


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