Jim Kimball Lecture on the History of New York State Fiddling and Dance - interview

Jim Kimball Lecture on History of Dance and Fiddling in New York State, 6/20/19

0:05:43.7 K: I came to the Geneseo Faculty in 1976. The years before that, 3 or 4 years, I worked for the Smithsonian.  Part of my job was programming Polish music, and I've done fieldwork in Poland, mostly in the western Poland, old-time dance music.  That was fiddles and bagpipes, a very distinctive bagpipe.  I was very interested in what the fiddlers were doing, and I represented a group of the Smithsonian.  And (then) I got hired in western New York, and all my interests sort of shifted from Western Poland to Western New York.  Geneseo is solidly western NY, it's the last Finger Lake to the West if you like, the little finger.  I’d open up Pennysavers and there would be a little round and square dance at a Grange Hall, a fire hall, something like that.  I said, wow, I never thought of some [ ????] at Wesleyan University in Connecticut.  Something the academia had paid no attention to whatsoever.  Very few people paid much attention to it.  Unless you lived there of course, then this was an important thing to do, to go off to the dances.  I started bringing lots of things together.  One was going to the dances and time-videoing some of the dances, talking to people who were playing and dancing.  We have an archive full of stuff, mostly back to the eighties or so. That has just now come under a grant to get a lot of it digitized, the old video and cassette recordings.  Talking to people, listening to people, playing of course, that's one thing.  Talk to (people), what about the earlier generation, what did you grow up with?  When those people aren't around anymore to talk with, in some cases pulling up old manuscripts where people wrote out their tunes and their dance calls…from New York State.  I am not much looking at the southern Appalachians and totally ignoring bluegrass and a whole bunch of other things that had happened.  And reading old newspapers and diaries, I collected a couple hundred diaries, young people and old people, talking about going to dances. Or maybe never going to a dance.  They just plowed and did their work.  Especially young people socialized and old people that interacted with the young people, socializing, diaries from in rural New York.  There's a quote in New Orleans county pioneer history, that says, “Many an evening we had only a Jew’s harp to dance to.”  It's hard to imagine somebody going long through the night that way, certainly later in the 19th century, early in the 20th century.  I do have it in a diary I think from Stanley NY, of a young lady that talks about a young man that plays the harmonica for dancing at the schoolhouse informal dance. 
0:08:48.1  Mark Hamilton, a great old fiddler from Alleghany County, remembered his dad coming home from a dance. He'd go to a dance where he heard there was good music, he’d come home and would be playing the tunes on his mouth organ.  Little Mark upstairs was remembering these tunes 60-70 years later, but playing them on the fiddle that he had been given and learned from an uncle and a cousin and various others.  I also found a newspaper commenting, these things became very common from the hop dances from Otsego to Madison - Ontario County.  But how long can you keep a harmonica going?  Of course, you need someone else to call the dance, because you can't call it while you are playing the harmonica.  The fiddle can go all night long, no problem.
0:09:28.2  A good fiddler can call the dancing.  Or maybe the second fiddler calls the dancing while the first fiddler plays fancier tunes.  This started out… other than being a very small child when I was born in Binghamton and my parents came out to the Catskills for, (?) all I remember were stories about when it thundered and the guy that fell asleep and didn't wake up for a long time.  By the time I was 5 years old, we were living in Northern Ohio.  My dad grew up in Ithaca, so we are New Yorkers…?? …was coming out and introducing Hilt Kelly. For many years, many of you have known Hale Kelly, danced to Hilt Kelly, and there's a next generation over there picking up.  So I have some, and I did something like this program in Roxbury with a special of Hilt Kelly.  Just a little bit of video, you know where that hall is?
0:10:25.2  He (Hilt) drove from Geneseo over to Franklinville, I think that's Schoharie County, somewhere up that way.  We'll come back to that.  His wife Stella, whom he really taught to play keyboard; he had wonderful stories about the old piano that [they] pushed around, and so forth. [shows a photo] I am not sure who is that fellow on the left.  Hilt is the one we are looking at in the middle. The one on the right is one of the two guys that played guitar with him.  Mark Hamilton was another who could play the fiddle and call the dance, and Hilt had the voice that didn't need a microphone.  Microphones didn't exist at dances before the 1930's.
0:11:28.0  Floyd Woodhall makes a point in his paper, “We now have a P.A., you no longer need the megaphone or just a leather voice. Something to be heard through.”  Hilt Kelly, although he is actually calling through a little microphone on his violin.  In Hilt Kelly Hall over there. 
0:11:53.8  This picture is a William Sidney Mount painting from about 1839, makes a point.  It says “Bouncing after the sleigh ride.”  Many of the old quotes I find in the newspapers are mostly young people, sometimes not so young, enjoying a sleigh ride out to some other town.  That was what was special about it.  It might be a rather slow ride, it was a big box on a set of bobs, going through the snow, and the majority of the dances in those days were in the wintertime.  Maybe 4th of July, and a couple others in the summertime; lakeshore resorts became popular. The Catskills picked up a tourist summer trade for dances, but the old-line dancers were mostly in the winter, when there wasn't that much farm work to do.  How did you get there? In a sleigh.
0:12:40.9  Sometimes it was cold, and you'd wrap yourself in all these robes.  Clarence Meyer, a fiddler born in 1899 out our way who has spent a lot of time visiting and playing tunes, would start up playing a dance, either riding his horse with the violin on his back or the little horse and buggy going off and so [was asked] what it was [like] in the middle of the winter and his answer was "damned cold".  We got the diaries of Hud Case where he starts out the dance with his horse and buggy and the snow is so drifted, he puts the buggy in a barn and rides horseback for a while, then it's still so bad he fears for the horse, he puts the horse in another barn and walks the rest of the way.—l--
0:13:22.8  Here we have the fiddler, a black fiddler, there were black fiddlers all around the state. Some have said that nearly all the professional musicians in NY City were blacks in 1800. 
0:13:31.5 (woman): There's another musician on the far left, it looks like a mandolin maybe?
0:13:36.0  No that's a bellows.   Let me read a quote from the Delaware Republican 1870, March 1st:
This is a letter to the editor: "Competent judges assert that the finest farmhouse in Delaware County has been erected on the Little Delaware during the past season as a property of John Shaw” - any Shaws out here today? - it continues in construction talks about the house.  “On Friday evening of last week about 250 guests assembled there to participate in what is known by the old-fashioned term as a 'housewarming'.   The expert musicians, Messrs Belcher & Wood having made their appearance, gave the signal for a lively cotillion by tuning up."
0:14:19.0  Cotillion, the old New York word for 'Square dance'. New Yorkers liked that word up to the 1870's and 80's when it was gradually replaced with 'Quadrille'.  And then eventually, Square dance.  It was the Cotillions that came in as an informal Square dancing.  By the 1820's they required the use of a caller, frequently, starting in New England and moving out, and the caller could change things around on the floor. Before then, you memorized the dance, the old contradances you didn't need a caller for those things.  But the cotillions were these wonderful, more flexible… quadrille is a little more formal... in time it got mixed up and became the square dance. 
0:15:07.7  “This enlightened amusement was entered into with great eagerness by lovers of the giddy dance.  The refreshments consisted of an abundant supply of good things served in first class style.  The pleasures of the evening were so varied and so many happy faces brightened the scene that we were surprised to learn that we had reached the wee small hours ????????????  Robert Burns perhaps, they danced until the wee small hours.” We see that over and over.
0:15:32.7  “Bidding our hospitable host whose party had proved such a decided success a hasty adieu, we sought our home still leaving a crowd in attendance, the burden of whose song seemed to be, 'we won't go home till morning, till daylight doth appear.'”
0:15:47.8  Mr. Belcher -  I have the newspaper from 1889,The Delaware, “A large number from this vicinity will attend a private party at the Delhi Opera house next Friday evening, to hear Mister Belcher shout ‘Honors all’ for the last time in Delaware County".  He was born in 1819, so he is getting up there, but not an old-old man, but he was getting married for the second time and moving down with his new bride to Kingston.  Mr. Belcher, Simon Bronner talks about him in the Music Makers of Old Time NY, the newspaper loved him!  The dance, [at] the dance that next week when it happened, they presented him with a gold topped cane, and a gold engraved watch.  Mr. Belcher was a black man, African American, fine fiddler and caller. 
0:16:34.7  In this case they hired two musicians, Belcher and Wood. William J. Wood.  Belcher made his living primarily early on as a grocer, selling things.  Mr. Wood, African-American, was a barber.  A fair number of barbers across rural America were blacks.  And a fair number of them were also musicians.  I found this over and over, when I find a black man even in a town without many blacks, which is most of upstate NY, well the barber is black and he's got a band.  He plays the fiddle, not uncommon.  Two fiddles, that's what you would hire in those days.  Lots of accounts, could be something else, but probably two fiddles.  Geneseo's last great old-time fiddler, was Edward Gerard Peterson, born in a family of 20 kids out in the town of Leicester.  Served in the civil war, came back proudly, Geneseo's longest living Civil War veteran, when the veterans lined up as 5, 4, 3, 2 and then it was Edward Peterson. A fine fiddler, and three different people had something, he died in 1932.  He sang his calls, how many other, black or other fiddlers, sang their calls? Happy Bill Daniels, white guy out of ?? NY sang his calls way back then.
0:18:06.7  Right left, side sashay and locals call it the waltz quadrille.  The waltz ?? company, named after the pioneer fiddlers of Geneseo, NY.  Edward Peterson was written up in the papers with great praise, people loved him.  Played for the Catholic Hall, played at the Grange Hall, played dances all around through four counties.  Just to look, it happens to be from Ischua NY in Cattaraugus County, it could be anywhere. A party, a precious few pictures like this, back in those days.  Who took a picture of a party indoors?  It must have a flash, the one woman sort of holding, ... we see the fiddler, we know where the hall is in Ischua NY, it's still there.  This is Alleghany, NY, the woman in front facing us is the mother of a good friend of mine, lives on my street back in Geneseo.  This is an awesome amazing picture, it's not blurry, there they are.   They are even swinging a little bit the way they do out our way, with the left hand reaching across the middle. I’ve got a video showing people doing it. They don't do that over here much.
0:19:33.8  It's different from place to place. Nobody is dressed, .. there's a fiddler, we are trying to find out who the fiddler is, back in the center.  I've no idea where this picture is from, the photographer’s name is Eliza.  That's interesting in its own right, there is a date on here, 1883.  Two fiddlers. First and second, over and over we find that.  If there is a 3rd musician in some place, it's a cello, in some place it's a 5-string banjo by the 1870's and '80's.  They were very common, those were the three most common possibilities.  Sometimes a flute, sometimes a clarinet, sometimes two cornets, you could buy music for dance ensembles, like that.  But two fiddlers was your first choice.  One plays the melody, the other plays chords. 
0:20:25.7  We know from the diaries of Hud Case, the chord playing fiddler might well be the one doing most of the calling, much as the dances I was going to, there was often a rhythm player.  The drummer in two or three bands I went to did the calling, or the bass player, or guitar player.  Less commonly the fiddler.  Maybe an accordion player.  A book from about 1840, how to play the fiddle, how to play the violin, that was the usual word.  Let's see this.. in the book, Cotillion #5, it's got a first figure, second figure, third and fourth figure, fifth figure, six figures.  Modern square dancing, it's usually three figures and then you sit down. Up to six back then.  The last figure is almost always ladies balanced to right and swing.  All four ladies go to then, and you get to swing everybody around the center.  And the old-time callers that are good at that, the last figure in the dance is some version of that, first couple lead to the right, swing the opposite lady.  The jitterbug swing out our way, swing the opposite lady, push her away, .. but you get to do something with every other lady in the set.  Back there it was simple, they still do that to the call of Casey Jones,or Irish Washerwoman, all four ladies to the right, the ring and first you balance, and then you swing, you swing her up, you swing her down, you take that lady a promenade round.  Nobody balances anymore, you just go to the swing, they do it. The tunes, we got a title up there, there's no titles, no titles, it's a bunch of tunes.  There are all different tunes.  One notices the first tune is in 6/8 time, this is 2/4, still 2/4, 6/8. 6/8 is the most common time for the first figure in a set of cotillions or a set of quadrilles.
0:22:20.8  This is a set of, and often we see the word "set" as SETT, in the old diaries: “We danced every sett,” or “danced two setts with William so and so.” Meaning you did the 3, 4 maybe by the 1870's and '80's probably 4 was more common.  I got a couple of dance cards right there.  Here's one from Genesee County, I know the man that wrote this out, I have a violin made by him.  I didn't know him, it's 1870, Edward Hunt, whose cousins built Hammond Dulcimers and marketed them rather aggressively.  But he played violin, moved to Michigan, as so many Eastern New Yorkers moved to western New York, Western New Yorkers moved to Michigan.  Everything that happened in NY, happened in Michigan.  Same tunes, same dances, same everything, from Michigan someone made their way all the way to Washington State.  Not to Kentucky much, not to the South.  Divide the whole country sort of across the middle of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, and Missouri.  You got the northern tradition; you got the southern tradition as it moved west.  In any case, this fellow moved to Michigan, he made a violin out there that turned up back in Wyoming County, somehow.  This violin is from Oneonta by the way.  We got 4 figures, first 4 right and left, balance 4, ladies chain, half promenade.
0:24:05.0  Mark Hamilton said that was the first figure his parents always did. Clarence Meyer said, “Oh every dance started out with that. Starts right outward, right left thru and right left back.”  And to watch them do it today, they don't do anything the way they did back then. Back then you go through kind of neatly and you turn your partner and you come walking right back sort of thing. Out where we are, you make a wedding thing, you twirl around the middle, you come back out, it's great fun.  You can do it in 4 bars, not 8 bars.  There's a second figure, 1st couple, 2nd couple, so forth.  The numbering first two, first 4, first 4 ladies cross over and by the gentleman stands where the call goes.  The old numbering system was 1 - 2 -3 -4, the first 2 ladies we called the 2 head ladies. But it was still the first 2 ladies back then, then you get to the last tune, to the right, and what's the tune? McDonalds Reel.This fellow writing them out, took just a classic old fiddle tune.  One of the old reels, one of the old breakdowns.  It's a tune that morphed into Leather Britches.  These guys played that music we were talking about a little bit.
0:25:21.5  One of them was a school teacher.  We got his diaries. Edward didn't want to play too much because he was a schoolteacher, it meant staying up late or all night.  The manuscript has to include this tune, Money Musk.  That's one of the oldies.  Right out of Scotland in the 1700's.  Americans spelled it many different ways.  Here we have Edward Hunts' version: we have a harmonies dulcimer part.  This is kind of rare to see this, cause I said the family made Hammond Dulcimers out there and the dulcimer backed up the fiddle.  It didn't play the tune, but it's playing chords and rhythms.  He's got a violin second part, little fancier than some would do, and then down here he says, Money Musk, different from the above.  This has these little details, up bow and accent, this is copied exactly out of this book, George Saunders Violin Instruction, complete 1847, Providence RI.  He was a dance master in New England.  And published this book and it's the first book published in America that actually describes rather carefully how to call a square dance.  Stand up, don't drink coffee, let your voice out, all sorts of good advice for the square dance caller and gives a whole bunch of cotillions or quadrilles, he just sets sets.  I got two copies, one is quite neat, on the back is one that's all ripped up and torn, things are missing.  That's the one that his family actually owned.  The more beat up the book is, the more it tells you, it’s got a story.
0:26:55.1  This is copied exactly out of that, so, the old fiddlers, some don't read music.  Mark Hamilton said, “I know no more about reading music than a pig can whistle.” That's a lot of the old fiddlers, every rural block had a fiddler in those old days.  Many of them played by ear.  “One, Clarence, our old farmhand, he learned a few tunes, he played them over and over.  We didn't care, we were having fun.  Didn't read any music, this guy could read music, he'd write it out. Quite some of these people did, so we have the tune book.”  --
0:28:03.6  We have him playing this tune, Money Musk.  We have handouts.  I put Money Muskon the front, so you can sort of see it when I am playing this.  Grant Rogers playing Money Musk. 
0:29:14.3  Clarence Meyer called it old tangle fingers.  He was still playing in the 1920's and '30's for dancing at local house parties.  Your fingers get tangled up. Clarence died in 1996.  His funeral was 1997, I went up and played fiddle tunes. They asked if I'd play Devils Dreamat his funeral.  Clarence Meyer was from Stonechurch, NY, which people who live out this way have no more idea where that is.  People there don't know where Walton is, I think.  Small town, Bergen NY, up that way.
0:30:03.2  From way upstate NY.  I was teaching one summer in Potsdam, I really liked Potsdam, and the old fiddlers were meeting up there, halfway up to Malone.  And this one guy showed up, didn't bring a fiddle, he might have come for the homemade donuts.  The upstate fiddlers have taken to playing primarily old-time country-western tunes. One of them had his version of Waltz across Walmartwith You.  It was entertaining, and the donuts were great.   They asked me to play, I took my fiddle, and I played Opera Reel. And tapped my foot, this guy comes straight next to me and the next thing you know is I am visiting him up in North Burk, NY, Canadian border, it's right over there, like the other end of this room.  “You play Money Musk?”  “Sure. I can play Money Musk,” so he is sitting there with his lady friend playing an electric keyboard.  Plays it pretty differently. 
0:31:16.1  And if you turn to page 2 on your list, you'll see Henry Ford's version of Money Musk.  This is like one part of Henry Ford's version.  It's a more relaxing 8 by 8 bar version.  In the old-time oral tradition, there's no one way to play a tune, no one way whatsoever.  Just go back to Grant Rogers, his Opera Reel.  We are gonna see these tunes again.  You can find this in both manuscripts and book collections, Opera Reel.  Money Muskand Opera Reel, two of the most important of the old-time string dances, Clarence called them.  Long way dances, contra dances the modern world calls them.  Great dance.  New Englanders know the dance more or less asChorus Jig.  Western New Yorkers have never heard of Chorus Jig. It's Opera Reeland a great tune.
0:32:48.8  In the old sense, “Jig” meant dance.  To Mark Hamilton, the ideal jig was Turkey in the Straw.  He went to a fiddle contest down in Allegheny, NY, once, he wasn't a contest fiddler, he was an old-time house party fiddler, and they said “You got to play a jig.” He played Turkey in the Strawand they disqualified him.  Ran Monroe?, with the cowboy hat on his head, Oakfield firehall dances here radio program country things, he said, “Now the Jig figure,” by which he meant the last figure in the dance, by which all ??? swings everybody.  That was all he meant by jig.  Usually it is a hoedown kind of tune. 
0:33:44.1  Dance cards. There's a couple right here, we can pass these around. Part of my interest was to go back and start finding old dance cards where I could find them.  We got about 2000 of them now, mostly NY state, a few from New England, a few from Michigan and other places.  I've got one Frank Sinatra autographed, the junior prom at the University of Indiana, I think.  So I've got all kinds of dance cards.  But the best ones, are the programs, the dance program that actually lists what you are doing.  These start appearing a little bit in the 1840's; they come on strong in the late 1860's, '70's, '90's and so on.  Here's an example.  I don't have any specifically from around here, and I don't know if local historians can tell me if you have any from around here.  There are certain parts of the country that just didn't use these things much.  You got the invitation cards, it's a dance and so.  This one is from Westerville NY, another one of those towns.  Westerville is in Oneida County, Utica way, near Rome. 
0:34:59.8  And here is the program.  Here is the order of the dancing.  Quadrille, (by then quadrille).  That’s our cotillon, that's our set of squares.  At least three, probably four figures.  It's from 1870's something.  Contra dance, Money Musk, Quadrille, Schottische.  Quadrille, 9 pins, it's when you have an extra person in the middle, it's a fun novelty kind of quadrille.  Lancers, it's a formal almost military, it came to include the grand square kind of figure in time.  The Warsovienne, I've only seen that twice in old-time dances, they stopped doing it after the '40's and '50's.   But the Warsovienne.  Basket quadrille, a waltz, got to wait that long for a waltz with Emma Martin. Contradance Virginia Reel, that's the third one we'll come up against, a very common one, and the only of the contradances I've actually seen just once or twice in the old-time rural setting. Kenny Louw said, “I would never do a Virginia Reel for a paying crowd or square dance, it takes too long.  We do them for weddings, we do the easy Virginia reel, everybody in a big long line forward and back, and one of my band people said we did that for 14 and a half minutes, that one dance, while a square dance is 3 minutes pretty much.  Then there's a break at dinner.  And usually with that partner with Ida, you'd take her to wherever the dinner is, and maybe it's the neighboring hotel or somewhere.  By then it's probably close to midnight.”  I did go to a dance in the American Legion up in Scottsville, and they said, ladies please bring lunch, that was the language of some decades ago. And lunch appeared about midnight. Then they came back from lunch. Contradance, Opera Reel, waltz, quadrille right down there, this is a great dance, a lot of the old repertoire including some of the contra.  And there is any the contradances that one might find depending on where you are locally and the ones that people like, they seem to survive best in Western NY, even in Buffalo and Jamestown.  Up into the end of the 19th century a bit.  This is a 1928 Brunswick record of John McDurman from Cortland, NY.  A Virginia Reel.  He is using McCloud's Reel, then he comes back to where he uses a Fairy dance, which is what I remember, the fairy dance.  And when they march around, he goes to a march.
0:38:33.3  We are very happy he recorded that.  About 1928.  Another dance card, a little later, I think it's mid '80's, the orchestra is from Binghamton.  The dance is in Greene.  When I was looking amongst my 2000 cards I was trying to find one that was not too far from here, this is one of those.  Ball Masque, that's a fancy sort of dance, masked ball.  They come up sort of pre-lent, in old Europe and over here as well, costume parties.  And the costume - you would come to town a few days beforehand and you could rent your costumes.  I got a couple of old photographs of these people all dressed up.  Compliments of WH Shanks Dancing class. 
0:39:37.7  Dancing classes, this happened everywhere, and they tended to modernize the dancing.  It's not going to be a Virginia Reel.  You might find a couple of fancy dances on here.  We got quadrilles, lancers, teaching how to do it properly, centennial lancers, some fancy version.  Quadrille en Masque, so you don't know who you are dancing with.  Quadrille, gallop, lancers, waltz, Saratoga lancers, is that something kind of special.  The gavotte that's certainly something special.  That was a newly added dance, kind of woven in at that point.  Waltz Quadrille, square dance to waltz time, or at least in part to waltz time.  The glide lancers, Caledonian quadrille, to Scottish tunes like My Love She's but a Lassieyet.  We are moving up, this is 1898, I think it's the University of Rochester, Culver Hall, Professor Glenn, one of the committee, I got a couple old cards from my grandfather's part of the committee of Cornell because he taught there and he loved to dance.  Waltz 1898, waltz 2-step, lancers, waltz 2-step, and notice the 2-step and the Mississippi Rag.  One of the first published rags.  African American influence, it was written by a white guy named Crell, but Scott Joplin's Maple Leafis of almost the same year, the influences here of ragtime, maybe the influences of the Spanish American War.
0:41:14.2  Sousa Marches were often used for 2-steps, and the 2-step was easy, you didn't need the dancing master.  I've got a diary of a young man's sister is teaching him to dance to 2-step.  It was the polka without the hop, you could go any direction you wanted. 
0:41:29.9  This is the Geneseo Normal School in 1920.  Jazz had arrived.  One step, that's jazz.  For the normal school.  The x-es, now I once talked to somebody from the class of 1920-something at Geneseo, and he told (me?) the x-es, that's the person you went to the dance with.  On the other hand, it might have been all girls at this point, because the school was a great majority girls.  Teaching them the etiquette of being at a dance and a ball.  It's fun to find dance cards that are filled out, many are not.  This is a Junior Prom for Nunday High School, it didn't list any of them anymore, you danced to whatever the DJ or the band was playing.  
0:42:22.4  In-step, Henry Ford.  Who did like to dance.  He did not approve of ragtime, he did not approve of Jazz, he did not approve of influences of what he saw as black culture on American white culture.  He hired blacks, paid them very well.  He was very antisemitic in other ways.  He liked to dance, put a book out, normally they hired a guy from New England, actually to do the legwork on this thing. Good Morning. After sleeping 25 years, old fashioned dancing is being revived, get rid of jazz.  Get rid of these turkey trots and all the other stuff.  1925-1926, then it was redone with a lot of singing calls till about 1940.   Published in Deerborne.  And he is talking about a rather formal [dance], he liked his executives, he liked people in coat and tie.  I do [recall], when I first went to the dance at the Pembrook Grange out our way, there was a couple in their 80's.  The guy wore suit and tie and she wore a really nice go to meeting dress.  That was their generation.  The teenagers were wearing running shoes and T-shirts, and nobody cared at all.  That was the Grange Hall, each dressing for his or her generation.   No costumes.
0:43:56.2  One two three four, that got changed rather quickly by the 1920's -'30's with the rise of more visiting dances.  First couple lead to the right, it became 1-2-3-4 around the square.  First 2 forward, swing in the center. I've got a quote from the Jamestown Newspaper, of an old folks dance, about 1860 and they talk about Mr. Alvert and his partner, “whirling around like blazes.”  Clearly the swing had gone way beyond what the proper dance masters were teaching. Some would credit the immigration from eastern Europe with some of this.  When I was in Poland, this buzz-step swing was very prominent. Moving from New England elsewhere, but whatever happens, the swing among many people became much more energetic.   
0:44:47.2  Let me read another quote here, not too far away. This is reminiscences of Finch Hollow north of Binghamton.  “Dad Houghtaling was a fiddler in the neighborhood; Dad was a master handling these parties, he would call off as well as furnish the music. Everybody old and young joined in the old-fashioned cotillion.  In the large houses sometimes 3 or 4 sets would be on at the time in two adjoining rooms, the fiddler sitting on a stool in the connecting doorway.”  Clarence Meyer remembered that, playing between two rooms.  The sets formed and Houghtaling started a tune in 4-4 time, calls "honor, steer your partner".  The same thing Mr. Belcher was calling.  First 4 right and left, sides same, and so forth.  “After 3 or 4 changes, it would be danced with spirit, Dad would start up the Devil's Dreamto Soldiers' Joy.For the last change it would be ‘Join hands and circle to the left, ladies balanced to the right, swing.’" During this last change, all the young men would vie with each other and jumping the highest and spreading his legs over the greatest amount of space and making the most noise and generally showing his favorite steps.  Every movement would be in time to the music and before the dance would be over, every dancer would be in profuse perspiration. After 2 or 3 o'clock in the morning the dance would be over.   This is Henry Ford's description of one of his 20 or 30 plain quadrilles.  And this book is kind of nice because it's marked up. The man that owned this, his name is in the book. 
0:46:26.9  His figures of Money Muskare pretty long and we don't need to look at that.  His format for the Virginia Reel, and his was still the head lady, foot gent forward and back, the old version.  Henry Ford put old fiddlers and a couple of old hammered dulcimer players, because he had grown up with that sort of music in rural Michigan when he was young, before he became this important name.  Both industrially and politically, an American thought.  Melly Dunham, there he is, the little short guy over there playing the fiddle.  With a couple of Henry Ford's well-healed dancers.  Melly Dunham went into Vaudeville, imitating the old-time barn dance, and playing the tunes.
0:47:14.6  From Jeffersonville in Sullivan County, we have this little comment: “What Melly's Act lacks, Melly Dunham the main fiddler whom Henry Ford brought out, is now fiddling for a barn dance act in the vaudeville theaters.  Melly's Act would be greatly improved if he had our George Yaeger to call off the figures.” I didn't find anything about George Yaeger in the paper, a local caller.  Who didn't hit the big time, who wasn't known, wait a minute, our guy is as good as this guy.  And that could be all around NY State and all around Michigan and other places, there were callers that could do the same, make the dance happen, play the fiddle. This little notice, I think it's from Jamestown, it doesn't matter where it's from, “All friends of the LLOM may secure invitation tickets to the Henry Ford dance at the Oddfellows Hall.”  Oddfellows had many good halls, who built good halls? The Granges built good halls, some community centers had good halls, there are still a few around.  The Oddfellows had some of the best halls. There are also the skating rink, quasi dance halls on all the lakeshores around here in the old days, where one could dance on. Henry Ford danced, we are going to do all these sort of things, this is from Randolph, NY, I think, yes it is. “A well known selection of long and square dances such as the McDonald's Reel, MoneyMusk, Fireman's Dance, Tempestand Crooked-est –(?) (that was done in western NY.)  Every other selection of round dance until 12 o'clock when the floor will be given over to round dancing entirely.”  It's a bit like the modern wedding DJ that plays the old stuff, but now it's Frank Sinatra for the old folks, and when they go home, he's playing rap and other things. 
0:49:02.9  This quadrille, it's in this book, Gems of the Ballroom, E.T. Root, Chicago.  Son of George Root who wrote a lot of famous songs.  And taught singing schools across NY.  Gems of the Ballroom, you get 10 of these; then you have Beauties ofthe Ballroom1,2 and 3.  Published for 1st and 2nd violin, clarinet, cornets, bass, which could be cello as easily, trombone, if you don't have a trombone you have a bass.  They don't double.   Flute, piano, I think I got the piano part for this.  Here we have a tune, you've got it on your sheet, pull it out, I am going to play through a quadrille as played by Howard Pennfield of Randolph, NY, but he could be here.  He could be anywhere.  It's Cattaraugus County, not far from the Indian Reservation out there, Randolph NY. I was introduced to Buster Wheeler, the old time postmaster who knew the calls and he had known these guys a little bit, and a local historian found a wire recording that these two brothers, the one brother playing the fiddle, his wife playing the piano and his other brother calling the figures for dancing in Randolph, NY, in 1940.
0:50:38.5  This is very early for something like that.  This is the old-fashioned house party sound.  They are doing the first two figures of the FascinationQuadrille, then they go to their own choice for the 3rd tune, which is what fiddlers did. They take these books, pick the tunes they want, they don't give any title, there's no title for this.  NY fiddlers historically have a lot of tunes that don't have titles.  They frequently change keys from one part to another, turn the Key C, now we are in the key of F.  Back and forth.  Kelly's Oldtimers had dance tunes that they just called C and F.  No name for it, C&F.  Many of the old-time quadrille players don't repeat the 8 bar phrase, they play 8-8-8 or sometimes 8-8-8-8-8, 3 part tunes, that's the way it fit the dance back then.  Mark Hamilton said, “I remember, long time ago,” you know of any change keys, he thought of a couple, next time he thought of a couple more, almost to his deathbed: "I thought of another tune to change these keys".  All descended from these old quadrilles. 
0:51:50.5  Here we have [music] . Read the music if you care to read on the sheet, this is the first figure.  If we knew there were few of the older callers, happy Old Daniels and Peterson that mostly sang the calls, this fellow is not literally singing, but he's half singing.  He's following as the tune goes up and down, he's going up and down.  Second figure.  Bill Greg got this tune from an old-timer just over the Pennsylvania line. I played once up in Toronto and an older couple from Manitoba said "My dad used to play this".  And another person from the maritimes sold the book of course, and the book could go anywhere.  
0:53:29.9  Duck for the Oyster, Dive for the Clam.  E.T. also Root, also put out a little call book. Duck for the Oysteris not in there, that's a local figure, 1897 I think. I want to get to their 3rd tune, because they don't choose the other tunes on the list there, somebody will know what their 3rd tune is.  This is a good tune.  Those are playing in the key of F, this is a dandy turn.  Many fiddlers avoid F, guitar players avoid F, old time country guitar players, [for] piano playing it’s fine. It's not so bad as the B-flat.  I think this would have been a sound at house parties across the state.  From 1900 to 1940.  The war broke out, things like this became less common.  Clarence said, “The city moved out here.” 
0:55:03.1  3rd Figure, what do they play? We know it's Flopped-eared Mule, distantly descended from the Detroit Schottischethat was published back in the 1850's.  Two keys, actually three keys, back and forth.  Flopped-Eared Muleplayed all over the place.  And from one of the recordings on the [Grant Rogers] archives here of tunes, and this is Edwin St.Onge, Dick Tompkins calling, the same tune, different call.   A good example of the pattern calling that had come in, you are calling on the beat with the music as opposed to that Virginia reel that you holler out the call before people do it.  He's basically on one pitch, lots of times throwing in little rhymes. Kent Barnor was a master of this, upstate fiddler, caller.   He is half singing, not much.  He sings a little bit.  The bouquet waltz [they?] are doing.  Two, three, go around each other. 
0:57:00.1  A quadrille, I am calling it.  It's an old way of doing it. It's a group called the Tuxedo Kernels, based in Orange county, Tuxedo county, famous for rich people, but this is the Tuxedo Kernels.  The caller, Paul Conklin, was a caller with a group known as the Hudson Valley Rangers. He didn’t' need a microphone, this was put out on Victor Record about 1939-1940.  They put this one out too.  This is a little more complicated version of what is still a common figure, usually known as first 2 ladies. The first 2 gents here.  And there is an account of Warren, Pennsylvania, it's about the same as Jamestown, NY.   Same people both sides of the border.  There's many Swedes in both counties.  1887 of dancing on Life onthe Ocean Wave, that's this tune, an old Henry Russell song. That's the same band, a rough edge, wonderfully old fashioned Catskilly sound.  And one more.
0:58:21.2  A real Catskill call, Hilt Kelley could call this. This is Catskills.  In the published collection that Casden put out, he calls it the Delaware County reel.  Sashay by your partner, a couple side by side and the lady and the gent go the other way around.  Behind each other, come back, bow to your partner, bow to the opposite.  Hilt couldn't call it for his usual group because it was an old-fashioned dance that had vanished.  
0:59:29.1  That's them, they don't look like the sound at all. The only picture we have of the Kernels. Bill Dickenson, he's the leader of the band, I think he is the violinist over there, but they are pretty dressed up.  My father-in-law in Wyoming County indeed played saxophone with the Rounded Square Dance Band a little bit.  We are getting to the point where the fiddle isn't so necessary.  Sashay by your partner, that could be an accordion or saxophone player, could be a keyboard player, and the fiddle starts losing its centrality to the old-time square dance world.  Then the banjo became quite prominent replacing of course the 5-string banjo that had been here before.
1:00:14.0  This man, this is Woodhalls Oldtimers, it says here Rube Quartet of Musical Fools.  About 1935 Canisteo past Cornell, this is Floyd Woodhall with a fake beard.  That's his dad.  I'll find that quote that Floyd talked about when he was interviewed.   “Dad was an old-time fiddler, my mother played the guitar and did the calling.”  He is talking [about] 1920, something like that.  “There were no sound systems in those days and she had a sharp voice.  They used to play mostly at dances and farmers' houses during the winter months.  Played my first dance with my folks at Elmer Hans' farmhouse near Great Singer's Corner when I was 13.  I remember that night like it was yesterday.  I played chords on the piano, we started at 8 o'clock and they didn't stop dancing till 5 in the morning.  At 11 o'clock my little finger gave out and I finished up with my thumb. We played at the foot of an open stairway and they were dancing 3 rooms down and 3 up.  The furniture was all out in the snow. It got crowded and some huskies took the kitchen stove (?) with the woodfire in it out to the yard.  They swept up the soot and started dancing in the kitchen.”  Floyd Woodhall remembering those dances.  “There was a cowbell down there you would shake to get people out.”  The Fake Rube, he was interviewed by Simon Bronner.  Simon Bronner was neither a musician or dancer but he got some great interviews.  One of those, "Are you doing hillbilly stuff?"  "Not really, we are doing NY dances".  Rita Meriam born 1899, I interviewed over in Dryden, NY. She danced both the Happy Bill Daniels. Actually she helped him when she was a little girl, do dances: “Dad would buy a rundown farm, build a new barn, and have all summer dances that will pay for the barn.”  New barns are no good for square dancing anymore.  The old barns had a nice wood floor.
1:02:19.5  She remembered dancing both to Happy Bill and Floyd Woodhall, she said the dances were about the same but they got a lot faster. There they are, he played the piano and accordion while his dad was playing the violin.  By the time they recorded for Victor in 1941 his dad had retired, they brought in various fiddlers.  The fiddle wasn't really necessary. He was playing the accordion, ended up his life playing with just a drummer and the accordion.  His calls became widely standardized, across NY state a lot.
1:02:58.8  We do this at our dances, Ken Rolloff did this, can do it fast.  Whose dances here? The tune of course is Suzanna, and his are mostly singing calls.  Four  2-disks 78's in 1941, another set of 3 disks in '47, and a whole bunch of folk craft disks later on.  This is from a Binghamton paper, I believe, “Five square dance teams afforded free trips to Atlantic City.”  It's hard to see in the old paper, but Lloyd Shot in Colorado got a bunch of college kids together, dressed them in sort of pioneer garb, and put them out doing concerts, touring.  It started a lot, the idea of costumed square dances, doing well rehearsed dancing. There were competitions at the state fair, people going out, in this case it was the Granges, 4H or granges. The youth groups would come out and do these things. Dressing up in sort of quasi pioneer plaid shirts and things like that.  These of course evolved and became the modern square dance world.  Sometimes called western, it left live music behind, [they said] “We are not interested.”  It went to recorded music and included a lot of newer things, rumba rhythm, country and western hits, all sorts of things, a whole network of very good personality callers who toured the world, because they do this in Tokyo and Berlin and other places, so they have done it.  It's started to age out in a lot of places.  The Gates Club danced for 50 years and called it quits.  No new people were coming in.  Very formal. 
1:05:01.7  It needs a year’s worth of lessons, you learn 150 specific figures; go to a rural dance, 12 figures will do you.  That's it.  There is no distinction between a righthand or left-hand Do Si Do, or anything else in the rural dance.  Here [in Western square dancing] there is a very great distinction and if you can't do it, they don't want you.  In common with modern contra dancing, everybody is moving all the time.  That's a whole different thing from the old-time dance.  This is back in Franklin, these people are pretty good, they are the followers of Hilt Kelley, Kelley-ites, what do you call them?  You do see a single western kind of skirt there, she likes wearing that. That's the old right-left, back, the proper way.  Mark Hamilton said the proper way.  They speeded it up during the war.  GI's came back. 
1:06:39.8  The band is an electric accordion, electric guitar, drum set, string bass, standup bass.  The tune, My Little Girl.  It's a steel guitar.   You see some people raising their hand doing various things, if this is from East Pembrook Grange in Genesee County, the call... Floyd Woodhall credited call, who lived out this way in Harpursville.  I went to visit his widow down there, she had old recordings of her husband calling.  He called a lot into Binghamton and this area round this way.  My Little Girl, fun dance, relaxed, but you notice a lot of people standing watching other people do things.  Here is the ultimate for that; this is from the Lansingville Grange, I think that's up near Baldwinsville.  I went all around the state filming dances, where I could.  The dance here is the one known as Lady Round the Lady. 
1:08:04.8  And indeed you'll find many dancers on the floor singing right along with it.  That's the swing we have in more Western NY and little bit upstate.  It's a good safety swing, some of them old-timers out there, they whirl around like blazers.  At least half the dancers are standing watching the other half.  And half of course are being watched by the other half.   They don't do it in the modern contra dance, the old contra dances did, and this of course when you are a little kid, this was part of the fun, being watched as you went down the middle or chased around the outside.  It's equally fun watching.  My point is, this is an important part of the old-time square dance and the old-time contra dance.  In addition to that, having fun with the dances.  Switching yourself around, the gent going the wrong way, twirling the lady, even going into the neighboring set.  Circling somebody out, this is part of the old-time grange dance.  Not permitted in the modern club dancing. Not much appreciated in the contra dance world.
1:09:51.8  Grant Rogers' orchestra, 1943 I think, at Katos' Spaghetti house.  Legal beverages, underneath it says Italian food service - dancing starts at 9, round and square dancing.  Let me read the quote, this is from the diary from Milo West.  I had a question when we were eating at a place along West Street, which of course doesn't go west, but there was a West family that was rather prominent in Masonville. In this case, Milo West, age 72, had moved to Tiner and then over to Oxford, not that far from here.  It's with his granddaughter, Clara, age 16.  She is spending a lot of time with grandpa.  It says, “I am at home at Ella’s this morning.” It's one of his daughters.  “It's a quiet nice morning, not cold or blustery, it's a December night, I am going up to Oxford after breakfast after some feed. I've got 301 Sacks of brand gluten feed, paid Mr. Fletcher Ford.  I want to take Clara West home with me, so I stayed at Will Tell's after school was out.  She came with me, she and Sam and Ella - that's her uncle and his wife - and myself are agoing to Tiner to dance at the Grange Hall tonight. We left Skinners about 8 o'clock, I went up to Eugene (it's his other son), stayed there till 12 o'clock (there dancing of course) then went down to the dance and got my supper.  We stayed till after 3 in the morning.  Clara West got very angry at her uncle because he wouldn't stay longer.  But neither him nor me cared for that.  We went with my bobs and Flora (Flora being the horse).  Next morning: I am at Sam's and Ella's this morning but I will hitch up old Bella horse on my bobs and take Clara up home.  She wants to get to school at 9 o'clock, but it will be doubtful because we overslept this morning.” 
1:12:15.1  I've got wonderful quotes from teenagers talking about going to the dances as well, it's great fun.  Gala Dance, Wednesday night, Slim Skillet.  We start to get all these names, Slim, Curley, Cowboy sorts of names, but the music isn't necessarily cowboy.  And Saturday and Sunday, Grant Rogers and his Delaware Valley Ramblers, the hottest round and square dance orchestra in the state of NY.  Antlers Hotel, North Grange. 
1:12:59.0  This is Kelly's old-timers out of Perry, NY.  I found a piece in the Perry newspaper. Perry is in Wyoming County.  The Kelly Family orchestra are playing a round and square dance in 1915.  Part of my string band went to play a dance with them this last April.  They've been playing square dances more than a century. 3rd, 4rd Generation, each new generation continues out of Perry NY. Here they are, Kelley's Old-timers, it's a few years ago.  Rogers passed away.  He was the old-timers' brother, Woody was the town supervisor.  In Livingston County I've known 3 town supervisors who were square dance callers.  This is another side of being a fiddler or caller, you are that person out in front and [if] they get to like you, it works.  Listen to them.
1:13:55.6  The swingy bounce, some people were doing this while they dance.  They can do swing, they can do jazz, they can do Hank Williams, their program is a wonderful mix.  No fiddle; two fiddlers they had, they both died.  Guitar, keyboard.  I know dancers who say we don't like Kelley's, we don't like that style, we'd rather have the country band, and those include some people, ... Walkingthe Floor With You, '40's country song.  This was last year at the Birdsall Grange, even people in Alleghany county don't always know where Birdsall is.  They got great liver and onions on Tuesday nights in the Birdsall diner, and of course the fish fry and steaks on Thursdays.  This is the grange hall. Old Jim Shaughnessy, Irish guy lived in the next town over. Said he was surrounded by conservative Germans, they wouldn't dance.  His name is Shaughnessy, he is Irish, he'd go to the Birdsall, talking 1930's, Birdsall you just get in the parking lot and get your feet going.  Outside the grange hall.  What used to be two stories, they took the top story down, moved it across the street and added a kitchen, and the back, ladies out there serving hotdogs, they charged about $5 - $10 something like that.  They put most of the money to cancer.  The band has a fiddler, he is out here dancing with the ladies. His fiddle case is up on the top.  He plays one set, he tried his son to do all the calls so he could dance.  And they don't need the fiddler. 
1:16:01.8  2, 3, 4 ladies, a beautiful dance.  Beautiful relaxing dance, no lessons, no walk throughs, no nothing.  No costumes. There was a girl at this dance wearing a Cornell sweatshirt. I was at Cornell, they had square dances.  Roger Knox used to call down in the basement of the college union and down on the tennis courts in the summertime.  He went out to Dryden, he taught them what to him was the right way because he went to square dance camps.  And he taught all these farmers to change what they were doing.  That's sad, but he was doing dances at Cornell.  In any case, the young lady from Franklinville, she was wearing a Cornell sweatshirt, I talked to her, I went to Cornell.  She said I just love the square dancing.  She was all of 19 years old.  The ag-school at Cornell made a lot of difference, that stuff was happening. The old-time dairy farm set, some of those kids still enjoy this dancing.  She was pushing her boyfriend around all over the place.  This is up to the last tune.  At the bottom of this sheet, this happens to be an immigrant tune book, got it out of Stafford NY.  Had come from England, a man emigrated from England in 1822 and brought 4, 5 of these little longways tune books with him.  At the bottom of the page is a tune called "Come Haste to the Wedding".  We play it for weddings when the couple comes out all the time.  Scottish, Irish, 1700's tune.   Tunes were all copied out in England.  Between 1807 and 1815.  We used this for war 1812 re-enactments until the Jane Austin people took over and redefined to what Jane Austin would have danced.  They are wrong.  King George III Minuet, what was wrong, he left the measure out.  Only 7 measures, so 2 pages later it's in there. It's a nice tune.  Nice waltz. Over TheWater Charlie, this version is of that in America. 
1:18:18.1  Many of these old English, Irish, Scottish tunes of course came to America and they are still here, joined by ragtime, jazz and swing and a bunch of other things.  Here we have Hilt Kelley calling his version of Virginia Reel, for which he goes through an old set of jigs, including Haste to the Wedding.  For the most part, the contra dance world doesn't want anything to do with the Virginia Reel.  [There are] exceptions but not many.  The civil war re-enactors love it, they'll do it over and over.  It's great for weddings.  Everybody watches couples go down the middle and back. 
1:19:25.5  These people have a little trouble getting up there cause how do you start this right? Well, there's Stella down there telling them where to go.  Go to the back page on your sheets.  Hilt Kelley put out this wonderful collection on CD of tunes his father played and he had no names for them. 
1:20:46.4 [woman advertising upcoming dances]
1:21:31.1  Listen to this, Hilt Kelley CD, I copied out the music for my string band in Geneseo; we played these.  The name of my string band is Geneseo String Band. We belong to the college loosely.  When the semester is in progress, this last year, we had like 20 people in there playing. 4, 5, 6, 7 of them are local folks, some of them older, the others are students.  For 3 or 4 of them we got to get them, can you tap your foot, can you do that.  In my string band many years ago was Hope Greitzer, who was playing classical very well.  I said, “Try string band.”  She of course went with it.  We've had a lot of very good students who have gone into fiddling.  We always have a flute, got a piccolo, occasionally a saxophone.  We got an accordion player this last year.  Fiddles, banjo, mandolin, piano, string bass, they can get a credit for it. Sort of like jazz band.  In the summertime I rely more on either the handful that live nearby. One of my key players last year lives in Sullivan County. 2 or 3 of them live down this way. I draw these folks of the class of '80, folks of the class of '85, with the Geneseo String Band.  Lots of pictures, going back to the late '70's and a lot of tunes.  My students have been taking the tunes and digitizing them.  We are up to sheet 689 something like that with 3 or 4 tunes per page. Like this one, while sheet 612 has these 3 tunes from Hilt Kelley... I’m just gonna play one, because what do we call this?  There's a tune very much like it, the Grant Rogers Hornpipe.  Two keys, 6/8 time.  Someone said it's a jig.  These are not jigs, they don't sound like Irish jigs.  They don't sound like Haste to the Wedding.  They change keys, that's the old quadrille tunes.  He's writing something in that style.  He's not playing an old quadrille, but it's very much in the same style as these tunes that Hilt learned from his dad.   If I don't play it exactly the same, it's because my ring finger doesn't work very well.  Fiddlers adapt, as you age, as your neck becomes a problem, which mine is a little bit.  But mostly I learned this in Poland.  Everybody played like this in Poland, they gave me a fiddle and okay there I am. And I never went back.  You can talk and call and do that stuff.  Marty O'Keefe, the great Irish fiddler, lost the ends of his fingers in a lawnmower.  He kept playing, the tunes were a little scratchy but the rhythm was great.  And once you figured out the tune, then somebody gave him a really nice concertina, and suddenly you get to hear the tunes clear as a bell. 
1:24:22.1  His mom had played concertina.  He died at a 103, he was still playing at 102, drinking 2 pints of Guinness and smoking a bunch of cigarettes at every session.  There's something healthy about getting cigarettes and Irish tunes.  Let me try this tune.
1:25:15.7  That's an old fashioned quadrille, it fit right in Fascination and others.  Maybe we'll find one of these tunes in those old books.  They are great tunes.  Thank you all. You got some tunes, go home and play them. 
1:25:58.8  Gonna try my Oneonta fiddle. Eldrid, his name was Eldrid, 1897.  Said #5. I like it.  I found him in the census, but nothing about being a musician or a fiddle maker.  It's a nice fiddle, in a rather European [type]; most of the old American fiddles, they lack the performing, this is nicely made.  For my fiddly stuff I’ve really gotten to like this more.  My students had 50 fiddles when they moved me out of one place to another place.  I collect New York fiddles.  The Jaw Harp by the way is from Rensselaer NY.  Or the Jew's Harp.  They market them as Jaw Harps now.