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Post new topic Musical term "Hokum" ?
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Author Topic:  Musical term "Hokum" ?
Clyde Mattocks

Kinston, North Carolina, USA
Post  Posted 13 Dec 2018 5:04 pm    
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Don Helms, in talking about his recording work with Hank Williams says Fred Rose would say, "Don, give me some hokum on the turnaround." In another instance, a local player that I knew, in giving an opinion of a fellow musician, would say, "Aw, he can't play nuthin' but hokum." This set me to wondering was this a widely used piece of slang or was it a localism and were there similar terms to describe the same thing?
I assume it means jamming over the changes. I have heard other players refer to it as ad-libbing and oblagotta.
Was it maybe a derogatory term used by readers referring to non readers? I can't imagine Fred using it to Don unless it was in a humorous context. If it simply means staying off the melody and following the chords, would all of be-bop be hokum? Would even Buddy, Joaquin and a lot of our revered players be considered as playing hokum?
I'd be interested in hearing your thoughts and the terms you have encountered in playing around the melody.
LeGrande II, Nash. 112, Harlow Dobro

Last edited by Clyde Mattocks on 13 Dec 2018 6:53 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Don R Brown

Rochester, New York, USA
Post  Posted 13 Dec 2018 5:49 pm    
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If a steeler plays too much hokum
Someone might reach out and poke 'm
Altho if he's good
It's sure understood
He might land a gig with Dwight Yoakam

Many play better than I do. Nobody has more fun.
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Michael Maddex

Northern New Mexico, USA
Post  Posted 13 Dec 2018 7:14 pm    
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Good one Don.

Hokum means ┬┤pretentious nonsense┬┤.

See https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/hokum

My guess is that Fred probably meant something like play something simple that sounds cool.

Forever Hokum! Onward Into The Frog! Cool
"For every expert, there is an equal and opposite expert." -- Arthur C. Clarke
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Tom Keller

Greeneville, TN, USA
Post  Posted 13 Dec 2018 7:52 pm    
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I always thought that Hokum meant an overly dramatic often schmaltzy approach to an intro or break. YMMV.


Tom Keller
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Jerry Overstreet

Louisville Ky
Post  Posted 14 Dec 2018 12:32 pm    
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Some online research shows hokum in reference to a style of blues music that has raunchy, sexual overtones or inferences. Think Lucille Bogan Whoa!

Youtube lists a bunch of tunes, mostly from the late 20's, labeled hokum blues.

Caution urged if looking them up as some of them are pretty graphic

There is also a song titled Hokum Blues.

I have no idea whether any of this is relevant to the stage calls you asked about.
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Paul Arntson

Washington, USA
Post  Posted 14 Dec 2018 6:02 pm    
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In the 1960s I played with an old fiddle player from North Idaho named "Roy". He was purported to be a judge at the Weiser Idaho Festival.
He said when they evaluated a player they took points off for "hokum", which he demonstrated as a bunch of 16th notes that were repetitious.

"Orange Blossom Special" was the tune he demonstrated it with, as I recall from 50 years ago.
Excel D10 8&4, Supro 8, Regal resonator, Peavey Superslide, homemade lap 12(a work in progress)
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