Edited by Azizi Powell
Revised September 8, 2018 [removed links to my now inactive cocojams.com website]
"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."
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
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."
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.
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".
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.
FEATURED SOUND FILES AND VIDEOS
Example #1: Chubby Checker Hooka Tooka
Marcello Felici, ploaded on Feb 27, 2012
Hooka Tooka 1963
Example #2: hookatooka
redheadedberry, Uploaded on Feb 22, 2009
Girls singing "Hooka Tooka" around a camp fire.
Example #3: Taj Mahal & André Christovam - Green Green Rocky Road
Annecysavoie | December 27, 2008
Heineken Concerts - Bourbon Street - São Paulo - 2000
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
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.
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