Over the past years, we 've become very accustomed to the pristine digital sound and high-def images of the modern DVD. As such, the not-so-sharp black-and-white images and less-than-perfect sound quality of this DVD might turn off some audio/video purists. [The sound and picture are not bad by any means; they are just not up to modern-day standards.]
I am not such a purist, so I was easily transported back to Saturday nights in 1963 and 1964 watching "Hootenany" on the old black-and-white TV. Jack Linkletter was an affable enough host, who would give a brief plug for the college campus they were on and then introduce the folk acts. Most of the major folk acts were there and did two songs at a time: The Chad Mitchell Trio, the Limeliters, the Brothers Four, Judy Collins, Bob Gibson, Theodore Bikel, Joe and Eddie, Ian and Sylvia, the Travelers Three, the New Christy Minstrels, et al.
The Kingston Trio and Peter, Paul, and Mary were not on the show. The story I always heard was that it was in protest for Pete Seeger not being allowed on the show (because of his McCarthy-era blacklisting). Or maybe they just didn't need the exposure Hootenany gave the other acts. Given that the show did allow the Chad Mitchell Trio to do their famous broadside "The John Birch Society" (it's on the DVD), apparently the producers weren't that afraid of offending the right-wing nuts of the day.
It's fun to contrast the acts on the show with current acts that one sees on Saturday Night Live, Leno, Letterman, etc. Nowadays, the performers all sing and play into their own mikes, wear T-shirts and jeans, and have scruffy hair. Back then on the Hootenany show, almost all the performers in a group sang and played their guitars into a single mike; all the men wore white shirts, skinny ties, and sport coats (or Mr. Rogers-type sweaters), and the women all wore dresses; and they all have short hair. (I'm not passing judgement on either era; I was just amused by the contrast.)
The acts included a mix of mostly folk, with some bluegrass (e.g., Flatt and Scruggs and the Dillards), gospel (e.g., Clara Ward Singers), old-timey (e.g., the Carter Family), blues (e.g., Leon Bibb), and comedy (e.g., Woody Allen and Vaughn Meader doing his famous John Kennedy spoof -- pre-assassination, of course).
On many of the songs, the audience was invited to sing along (after all, it was billed as a hootenany). As a graying baby-boomer, it was a lot of fun for me to relive the innocence and optimism of the early 60's before the assassinations, the war, the riots, Watergate, the culture clashes, etc. It was just a lot fun.