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Saturday, May 4, 2013

Debunking The Urban Myth About "Hooka Tooka Soda Cracka"

Edited by Azizi Powell

"Hooka Tooka Soda Craka" is a song that is most often associated with the Rhythm & Blues singer Chubby Checker or the Folk/Pop singer Judy Henske.

A number of places online I read a story about this song that fans attributed to Judy Henske. According to that story Judy Henske said that the lyrics to "Hooka Tooka Soda Cracker" come from Black American children* who would sing this song to warn their mothers who were prostitutes that the police were outside the building where the mothers were working. For example, read this YouTube sound file publisher's summary:

Hooka Tooka Two



Man06ful, Uploaded on Aug 22, 2009
"the main lyrics here came from a skip rope song by children of prostitutes playing outside the whore houses. Somehow Judy Henske found this song - svaed [sic] it. The kids were holding soda crackers and chewing tobacco to pass to their mothers if there was a bust."
-snip-
This video uploader expands on that story in his or her comments on that sound file's viewer comment thread:
"Henske made up the lyrics - Green Rocky Road - and had a law suit for years with Chubby Checker who - used her lyrics. Henske introduced the song - explaining the bit about kids in front of whore houses holding chewing tobbacco and soda crackers for their mothers if there was a bust - because in jail they werent allowed cigarettes and the bread was mouldy. The rythme - lyrics are exactly like other skip rope songs....
-Man06ful, 2010 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QsAt9hrrKh0
-snip-
The story that "Hooka Tooka Soda Cracka" comes from a "skip rope song by children of protitutes playing outside the whore houses" just doesn't seem credible to me.

It ssems probable to me that this story is an elaboration by fans of a joking comment that Judy Henske made during an introduction to that song, an elaboration which was not only accepted by some of her fans, but grew to include the "holding soda cracker and chewing tobacco" portion. According to a blogger with the screen name "old frat" on this 1996 discussion thread https://groups.google.com/forum/?fromgroups#!topic/rec.music.folk/SkUpw3iKaQs "Hooka Tooka My Soda Cracker"
"Judy Henske does a great version of this song ["Does your mama chaw tobacca?], and is probably the one you remember.

On the album, it starts with a humorous monologue intro where she asks the group to repeat the chorus. She then says, "You sound like a bunch of kids outside a Chicago whorehouse." The song itself doesn't really seem to be about this subject at all --or I've been mssing the true meaning of soda cracker all of my life."
-snip-
The question about which album this comment is found in was answered in 2003 by Joe Offer on this thread of the Mudcat Folk & Blues music forum http://mudcat.org/thread.cfm?threadid=59549 "Lyr Req: PLease help 'Hucka CHucka soda cracka'?":
"I found the Henske arrangement - it's on her self-titled album, released on Elektra in 1963 and recently reissued on CD. She calls it "Hooka Tooka," and says it's traditional, arranged by Henske."

If this story [about the children singing in front of a Chicago whore house] isn't an elaboration by her fans of a comment that Judy Henske made about the quality of her audience's singing that "Hooka Tooka" song, [and] if Judy Henske actually believed the story about the song being used by children to warn their mothers of a police bust story, I have these questions:

How did that singer learn that the jump rope rhyme/song "Hooka Tooka Soda Cracka" was used by those Black children* (in Chicago or elsewhere) as a means of warning their mothers or other women in that whore house that a police bust was imminent? Did she hear the children singing that song and then go up to them and ask them why they were singing it? If the children told her that story, did she believe it without checking it? And how would she check such a story? Isn't it possible that those Black children made up a fanciful story for that White woman?

Also, how did she know that they were "holding soda crackers and chewing tobacco to give to their mothers if there was a bust?" Where were these items placed while they were turning a jump rope and jumping rope? Furthermore, is it consistent with mothers' behaviors that they would force their children or encourage their children to play in front of the house where they are whoring so that their children would warn them in a pre-arranged manner of a possible police bust?

In my opinion, that this story has been accepted by so many people without questioning its crediblity speaks to [is a reflection of] Americans' negative stereotypes about Black women.

Even if Judy Henske somehow learned that "Hooka Tooka Soda Craker" was sung by some children in Chicago to warn their mothers of a police bust, that doesn't mean that this song was first sung for that reason. Nor does it mean that this song was always sung for that reason.

*[April 8, 2014] In response to a comment that is added to this post, I admit that I haven't read that Judy Henske attributed this song to Black children singing this song in front of Chicago whorehouses to warn their prostitute mothers that the police were coming, but just to children singing this song in front of a Chicago whorehouse. I've read that story several places including https://groups.google.com/forum/#!topic/rec.music.folk/SkUpw3iKaQs [Bill Schiers, 3/26/96 refers to children without any race given.] That said, although I've done no research to test that theory, I still believe that when most people besides me read that theory, they think that it refers to Black children/Black prostitutes. Read my full response to this commenter in the comment section below.

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CORRECTING THAT URBAN MYTH
I believe that the song "Hooka Tooka Soda Cracka" is an American (probably African American) adaptation of the United Kingdom children's counting out rhyme "Icka Backa Soda Cracker". I also believe that the United Kingdom children's singing game "Walking On The Green Grass" is another source of "Hooka Tooka Soda Cracker" song. The American song "Green Green Rocky Road" sometimes include a version of "Hooka Tooka Soda Cracka". Click this page of my Cocojams cultural website for text versions of these & other songs that I believe are related to "Hooka Tooka Soda Cracka": http://cocojams.com/content/text-analysis-hooka-tooka-soda-cracker.

By the way, the end word of "hooka tooka soda cracka" rhymes with the second line in that couplet -"does your mama chew tobacca". The "does your mama chew tobacco" line probably originated as a "dig" (an insult, rip, diss). That phrase definitely predates Judy Henske's 1963 song, "Hooka Tooka" song e.g. read the entry "Green Green Rocky Road" given below which "was collected [in 1955] from the children of Lilly Chapel School in York, Alabama and is found in "Negro Songs From Alabama" by Harold Courlander".

I'll let others debate whether Judy Henske or Ernest Evans (Chubby Checker) was the first to write the "Hooka Tooka" song.

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FEATURED SOUND FILES AND VIDEOS

Example #1: Chubby Checker Hooka Tooka



Marcello Felici, ploaded on Feb 27, 2012

Hooka Tooka 1963

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Example #2: hookatooka

.

redheadedberry, Uploaded on Feb 22, 2009
-snip-
Girls singing "Hooka Tooka" around a camp fire.

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Example #3: Taj Mahal & André Christovam - Green Green Rocky Road



Annecysavoie | December 27, 2008
Heineken Concerts - Bourbon Street - São Paulo - 2000

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Acka Backa Soda Cracker!



julietlovesjoe Published on Jun 12, 2012

They played a game at Luka's concert this morning. Check it out!! 6/12/2012

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OTHER RELATED LINKS
Click http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qtgno5szcH8 for an example of the children's singing game "Walking On The Green Grass".

Click http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KHpXS01tz4A for a choral version of the song "Walking On The Green Grass".

Click this page of my Cocojams website http://cocojams.com/content/choosing-it-rhymes for additional text versions of the counting out rhyme "Acka Backa Soda Cracka" and other counting out rhymes.

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ACKNOWLEDGEMENT AND THANKS
The content of this post is presented for folkloric, entertainment, and aesthetic purposes.

All copyrights remain with their owners.

Thanks to the composers of this song. Thanks also to those whose comments I quoted. Also, thanks to those featured in these videos, to the producers of these videos, and to the video's publishers on YouTube.

Thanks for visiting pancocojams.

Visitor comments are welcome.

14 comments:

  1. Dave Van Ronk discusses the (alleged?) writing of "Green Rocky Road" (before Henske's release of "Hooka Tooka", I believe): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ngFUyhuF31U

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The Mighty Louche,

      Thanks for your comment. My apology for just reading it so late.

      Delete
    2. I didn't mean to imply that Chubby Checker and Judy Henske are the only vocalists who have recorded the song "Hooka Tooka".

      If I were re-writing the first sentence to this post, I would change that sentence to read that those two vocalists currently appear to be most often associated with the song "Hooka Tooka".

      Delete
  2. Okay, so you have zero experience with folk music, anything that has been passed down as folk music, things people list as "traditional" (that's a big one) or basically anything about the whole genre? I thought so. When someone attributes a song as "traditional", that means they picked it up some where, learned it, it was passed down. From www.traditionalmusic.co.uk: "TRADITIONAL MUSIC DEFINITION: Songs and tunes which have been performed, by custom, over a long period (usually several generations). They are most often folk songs, country dance or similar types of folk music but they can also be pieces from known early composers and may have been the "pop music " of their time. Traditional music (or public domain) is also used as a copyright status covering music which is out of copyright. In Europe (EEC) music copyright does not expire till 70 years after the death of the composer." They claim no ownership over the lyrics, and no one else does either. She arranged the song, added portions of "Prominade in Green" (since you did NO research on this piece, I will let you know that is a completely different folk song), and made a bitchen song, with a bitchen story. You have done no debunking, no disection, only postulating with no research. Congratulations on writing one of the worst music articles I have ever read.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Gosh, and I forgot to ask why you think it's about black children, or black women??? PLEASE! You never even listened to the song did you? Or are you assuming that when she says the bordellos of Chicago were all black women at the time (who knows the time, the song is old as heck) racist much?

      Delete
    2. Thanks for your comments, J.C. Kelly.

      With regard to your first comment - Yes. I'm aware of definitions for "traditional music".

      As to the song "Promenade In Green" (Also given as "Green Green Rocky Road", I am aware that that is an independent song that is sometimes combined with "Hooka Tooka Soda Cracker".

      My post doesn't include the lyrics to any version of this song, but two versions of those lyrics can be found at https://groups.google.com/forum/#!topic/rec.music.folk/SkUpw3iKaQs comment by Duke Wilson & Ranger Rita 4/2/96

      Here's the lyrics that Duke Wilson posted:

      Green Green Rock Road

      When I go by Baltimore, got no carpets on my floor.
      Got no carpets on my floor, when I go by Baltimore.
      ch.
      Green green, rocky road
      Promenade and green,
      Tell me who you love,
      Tell me who you love.

      When you see me coming fast, sweep the floor and mow the grass.
      Sweep the floor and mow the grass, when you see me coming fast.
      ch.
      bridge:Tell me who you love,
      tell me who you love,
      won't you tell me who you love.

      Hooka Duka soda cracker, does you mother chew tobacca.
      Does your mother chew tobacco, hooka duka soda cracker.
      ch.
      See that crow up in the sky, he can't walk but he can fly.
      He can't walk but he can fly, can't be free like you and I.
      ch.
      bridge:

      Delete
    3. [continuation]

      J.C. Kelly,
      I appreciate your comments because it has motivated me to return to this post and add to it these words:
      "In response to a comment that is added to this post, I admit that I haven't read that Judy Henske attributed this song to Black children singing this song in front of Chicago whorehouses to warn their prostitute mothers that the police were coming, but just to children singing this song in front of a Chicago whorehouse. I've read that story several places including https://groups.google.com/forum/#!topic/rec.music.folk/SkUpw3iKaQs [Bill Schiers, 3/26/96] refers to children without any race given. That said, although I've done no research to test this theory, I still believe that when most people besides me read that theory about Hooka Tooka Soda Cracker, they think that theory refers to Black children/Black prostitutes."...
      -snip-

      If I were writing this post now I would add those lyrics given above by Duke Wilson (with a note that "Hooka Duka" may be a typo). And I would share my opinion that the lyrics to that song reflect African American Vernacular English as does other lyric versions of that song that are combined with "Green Green Rocky Road" lyrics. For example, the words "When I go by Baltimore, got no carpets on my floor." are part of or similar to floating verses that are found in a number of late 19th century or early 20th century "folk songs" that are attributed to African Americans (For instance, the song "Driving In A Buggy Miss Mary Jane".)

      Delete
    4. J.C.Kelly: Clearly, you are an idiot. The woman who wrote this is african-american. Your ridiculous comment "racist much" would not have been necessary had you taken a moment to read that on the right of the article rather than hop on the defensive train without a ticket.

      Delete
    5. Thanks, Cassy.

      I appreciate your support.

      Delete
  3. I am a little confused by this discussion - as for "fans attributing" the story, Henske herself outlines it in full (taking almost 2 minutes to do so) on this version http://open.spotify.com/track/6fq1evgojrQUh4C5w2ZHEY

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for your comments tricktd.

      I appreciate the link you provided to Judy Henske's introduction to and performance of "Hooka Tooka". That hyperlink is http://open.spotify.com/track/6fq1evgojrQUh4C5w2ZHEY

      In that introduction, Henske speaks of children standing in front of Chicago bordellos (i.e. brothels, whorehouses) to act as spies, warning those inside that the police were coming by singing "Hooka Tooka Soda Cracka". In this post I express my doubt that this story is true or if it was true for a particular group of children in Chicago or elsewhere, that was likely an isolated incident, and not the real purpose of the song.

      With regard to the race of the children who Henske referred to, please read my April 8, 2014 comment and my note referring to that comment that I added to this post. In that comment and in that post I acknowledge that Judy Henske didn't mention the children's race. In that comment I indicated that I jumped to that conclusion because some lyrics to that song are found in songs that have definitely been attributed to Black people.(ie. the lines that are also found in "Riding In A Buggy Miss Mary Jane" and other songs.)

      As to contacting Judy Henske to find out where she got that story from, that's a good idea. If you have her contact information, and would share it with me (via my email address given in the About us section of this blog), I will contact her. Or if you prefer to contact her yourself, please let us know the results of your query.

      Delete
    2. Thanks for the correct link. She has a web site- maybe contact her via that? It would be interesting to find out where she got the story from.

      Delete
    3. There is an address given on her site if you wish to write a letter. Judy Henske
      P.O. Box 326 Plaza Station
      Pasadena, CA 91102

      Delete
  4. ...In that elaboration, she refers only to the children of prostitutes, making no reference to race. It would, I feel, be quite surprising if there were no white sex workers around in Chicago at the relevant time. As for where Henske got the story from, she is happily still with us, so perhaps someone could ask her?

    ReplyDelete