Hootenanny

Jackson Hole musicians LeeLee Robert and Rob Sidle laugh after finishing a rendition of Roy Orbison’s “Blue Bayou” last June during the Hootenanny at Dornan’s.

For nearly 30 years the Jackson Hole Hootenanny has circled up most every Monday at Dornan’s in Moose, except for a short spell when the acoustic songfest was held in the Snow King Sports and Events Center.

However, because of staffing issues at Dornan’s the Hoot has relocated to the Silver Dollar Showroom at The Wort Hotel, at least for the time being.

The Hootenanny is a beloved Jackson Hole tradition that started, legend has it, in the 1960s when auto-harping ski-mountaineering pioneer Bill Briggs gathered friends and guests to share tunes under the bridge at Moose, what became known as Teton Tea Parties.

After a hiatus for some decades, Bill and Dick Barker revived the concept in 1993 and rechristened it the Jackson Hole Hootenanny. They even found a roof to put over its head at Dornan’s Spur Bar, with the Teton Range just outside the north-facing wall of glass.

Over the years the Hoot developed a coterie of like-minded musicians and listeners, old hands and young guns, too. It also attracted many a guest, from summer residents and transient troubadours to the likes of John Denver, Ramblin’ Jack Elliot, Peter Rowan, Tom Rush and Chuck Pyle. More than a few artists germinated their musical careers on the two-mic stage, including Pete and Anne Sibley and Eric Stone.

In 2004 filmmaker Juliet Sonnenberg began filming the action, eventually combining onstage antics with interviews and interactions for the award-winning 90-minute documentary “Hoot in the Hole.” In September 2015 the crew celebrated the 1,000th Hootenanny, and it continues to go strong.

However, staffing challenges have become ubiquitous across the valley, and Hootenanny musician and board member Rob Sidle said Dornan’s was stretched too thin to accommodate the jam anymore.

Hootenanny supporters were far from ready to pack up shop for good.

“We thought about our options, and one of those was to go virtual and online again,” said Sidle, 32, who first played along with the other folk musicians when he was 7 years old.

Sidle, who is also a soundman in the Silver Dollar Showroom, then thought of a better option: Bring the Hoot back to town. The Silver Dollar took to the idea, and talent buyer Justin Smith has said he will use the occasion to crank up the Silver Dollar TV, the downtown venue’s YouTube channel.

Besides a view of the Tetons and a long drive home, nothing much else will change with the different venue, Sidle said. Sessions will start at 6 p.m. each Monday, many of the same folks will take the stage for a couple of tunes — some originals, some well-loved covers — and beer will be cold and food abundant. Progenitor Bill Briggs, still yodeling at 90, will even host the next few sessions. 

— Richard Anderson contributed to this article.

Contact Alexander Shur at 732-7066 or courts@jhnewsandguide.com.

Alexander has reported on courts and crime since June 2021. A fan of all things outdoors, he came to Teton County after studying journalism at Northwestern University.

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