Kathy Shimberg Workshop 87:50 10/21/17
Note: A major participant in this workshop was Bob Moss, fiddler and square dance caller. At the time, he was 91. Sadly, he passed away in May of 2019.
0:00:35 Jim Haggerty
Welcome everyone to the Walton Library. [It's] really great to see all of you here. [W]e had a great dance last night--a lot of you were there, also. It was a wonderful time. We're really privileged today to have Kathy Shimberg to lead us in a participatory discussion. It's not going to be a lecture; it's going to be participatory [discussion] with your memories, and your stories, and a little bit about the history of [. . .] dance and music, and especially in this area, and how it's changed over time, and some of the great traditions of this music. [. . .] We have no better person to be able to present this than Kathy. Kathy is [not only] a dear friend and colleague who has a folklore degree in this area, but she's also a great musician. [M]ost [importantly] of all, she participates in so many community events, and is part of the community in so many areas of this region. So, we're really excited to have her. She's a close friend, too, and we've enjoyed the privilege of playing some music with her, too, so, we're really looking forward to today. So, I guess we'll just start, and thank you for everyone [for] coming here, and I hope you'll all participate and share your stories with Kathy.
Thank you, Jim, and thank you everyone for coming, and thank you to the library for having us here, and Music on the Delaware for sponsoring all of this. [I]'m also a square dancer, and [. . .] contra dancer. [Music on the Delaware] asked me if I would do a workshop on [. . .] Grant's part [in] traditional square dancing, and traditional square dancing here. [I] learned square dancing when I was in the third grade. Informally, not in school, and I love square dancing. [I] learned contra dancing, which is long-ways like the Virginia Reel, the year after I got out of college when I was in New England. [T]hat was all a long time ago. [I] did not grow up in a traditional family or traditional community. I grew up in Washington, DC, and Kansas City, Missouri, and Indiana. [T]here was a small town in Indiana that was about the size of Oneonta.
So, that was a little bit more rural because it was the county seat. I always wanted to grow up on a farm, but I didn't. [I] related to that culture. [S]ince I didn't grow up around here, and I didn't really meet Grant until after I'd been involved in this music, and dancing, and traditions, and learning about the history of it because I was interested, I thought I would call upon the people in this community, whoever's here that knew Grant and whoever's here that grew up in the tradition, because it would [. . .] make the conversation relevant to this area and to the Grant Rogers' project. So, I'm glad to host this, but I'm not going to lecture. [W]e have Bob Moss who brought his instruments, and is a fiddler, and guitar player, and longtime square dance caller, and I hope he'll call some dances, perhaps.
[. . .] Dane Scudder, [who is here], grew up in Fleischmanns [and] knew Grant a little bit. Dane is also a fiddler, and a banjo player, and does his own research, and restores banjos, makes new necks for them. [H]e grew up with Hilton Kelly, who was another old time fiddler and caller. So, I'm sure both of them will be able to add to the conversation. So, to start off, is there anybody here who [. . .] knew Grant? [I] knew Grant as a singer. [I] met him when he was doing a concert in Washington, DC. [I]'ve lived here for 45 years, so, I went and visited him before he died. [. . .] My husband and I were doing a research project trying to [record] traditional dance callers in Delaware and Otsego counties. [T]hen, I used those as the basis for calling square dances around here.
[. . .] We asked Grant if he would play something and [. . .] maybe call something. I didn't know of him as a caller at that point. I knew of him as a fiddler, and a singer, and a songwriter. [W]e might have hit him on a bad day [. . .]. He didn't feel like playing anything. He gave us a little homemade cassette. [I] had his folk legacy record, and later on heard a couple of his other records, but if there's anybody here who knew Grant personally...?
0:05:25 Neil Northrup
Yes, I did. [I]'m Neil Northrup. I moved here from Walton in 1942, and I personally knew Grant. He worked at S.J. Bailey and Son nights, [. . .] where I worked for 20 years. [I] met Grant in Roxbury, New York one time, and I was the only one in the crowd that he knew, and we had quite a visit. [I] knew he was a stonecutter. [I] liked Grant. He was a very good musician, and he [. . .] knew lots of songs, especially the one, "Bessie the Heifer." [I] remember that one that he would always do. [. . .] I do not know that much about him, even though I visited with him many times over the years that I knew him. [. . .]
Did you do square dancing with him?
I don't know if I ever square danced to him, but I did know him and I heard him play many different times in different places. [I] really don't know a lot more to tell you, except he was a very good musician and some of the songs that he had written, [. . .] we still have on records today. I have the 33rpm records that I should have brought down here, but I don't know just exactly where it is in my things home. [. . .] Grant was a good guy, that's all I can tell you, and if anybody wants to ask me any questions, if I can answer them, I'd be glad to do it. So, ok I don't know who's going to be next, but anyway, that's about all I can tell you, except I did know him. Ok, thank you.
Did you do square dancing, maybe not to Grant, but with other callers, other musicians?
Oh, yea. To go back, in 1976, my son and I, we started the square dance club in Delhi and Arkville, New York. [H]e's still calling today, after 40 years, but he calls throughout the southern, eastern United States.
What's his name?
Marvin Northrup, and they called him Marty Northrup. You go on the internet and punch in martynorthrup.com and his picture will come up and his history. He is now 58 years old, but he goes throughout the states. Night before last he was calling in Kentucky. [H]e just learned that from Kent Holder in Sidney, and Ray Taylor, and Ira Gardner. [T]hey were the western style square dance callers, and that's what my son does, but I have never forgotten the eastern style. [E]astern style is much different because in the western style that my son does, there's 69 different calls, and he puts them together all different ways, and to take them calls and put them in the center and have them get them back to where you started, it's quite a thing [. . .] when you do that. [Y]ou have to take a few lessons in order to do that. [. . .] I don't know what [. . .] else to tell you, except someday [. . .] I'll probably go down to see my son, stay with him maybe this winter, and [. . .] if there's anything else anybody wants to know, come ask me. I might be able to help them.
Just to note that I saw Neil really who went around real good on the dance floor last night. So, he's still doing it.
I know [. . .] how to dance, and not to brag or complain, but I can do eastern and western both.
[. . .]
This is my dance partner here most of the time, Marian.
[H]e does really well. I mean, I want to be like him when I grow up. [J]ust keep moving at 90, or are you 110 or something?
110 years old? Well, not quite. I've got a few to go, but it won't be long. Boy, the years are slipping by.
[Y]ou'll still be dancing.
I probably will.
0:09:27 Lynda Preiser
Can you speak of the difference between eastern and western?
Yea. Actually, Bob Moss would say a little bit about that because he is a caller in the eastern style. [. . .]
0:09:43 Bob Moss
I was brought up in Bagley Brook, up in a farm up there. House dances were very common at that time, and I'm talking back in the mid-thirties. [M]y first dance that I called to, I didn't call all of it, but it was in a house dance up there. [. . .] I was 10 years old. [T]hey had musicians there, but they didn't have a caller, so I proceeded to call for that and got interested in [it]. So, I got [. . .] to calling more, and in later years I joined and started playing the guitar some, and then I switched over [and] played fiddle some. [T]hen, I played with a small group and called, but calling [. . .] is a knack. It's a sort of a profession. We go around to a lot of dances today, here and all over the state .
[T]he square dancing is gone out--real good square dancing--because there's about six calls that every band that we go to know, [. . .] and they all call them the same. Being a caller you have to ad lib a lot. When I joined a band out of Oneonta in 1947 I was told [. . .] that there's number one calls, number two calls, number three. Number one was just a fiddle tune, number two was a singing call, and number three is whatever they want to play. So, the band leader told me this is the way we do it. [S]o, he would play a number--I never knew for sure what he was going to do-- he just start[ed] playing, and I had to ad lib to it and made up my own as we went. The singing calls were common. They were "Darling xxx [Nellie?] Gray," "Spanish Cattle," "Red River Valley," which you hear all the time now. [. . .]
They call them off of memory, memorized them or something, but you have to, as a caller, have to ad lib. [Y]ou make it up as it goes. You fill in. You don't let the dancer dance ahead of [the calls], and as we go we see that all the time, that dancers, they know what's coming. Like, I say simple little things, "duck and dive," [and] they're half way through it before the caller starts it.
How do you stop them from getting ahead of the music?
They know that as a caller you put stuff into it. Then, they don't know what's coming. [T]he dancers have to be aware that you are that type of a caller, and they never know. So, it's a secret [to] the [. . .] and they have to listen. There's so many things that you can add to a square dance, and that's where I came in years ago. [I] traveled with a band for four or five years and then joined just a straight up country [band]. Switched to fiddle and got to playing fiddle, but still, the calling is a knack. [I]t's just not [. . .] "grand right and left," there's the do-si-do's and the many things you could put into it to make it a square dance, and you have to change that.
[. . .]
You can vary the elements.
[Y]ou do the basics and then just add to it, and that comes from practice. You have to think quick because the one that I was playing with, this one, two, three, and he was just, "We're ready to go," he would play a number one [and] you had to be ready. You didn't know it from one time to another what it was going to be, so you had to make it up as you went. So, that was the thing--people weren't dancing ahead of you because they hadn't heard [it]. So, it was a secret of calling. [I] got into [it at] ten years old [with]house dances [and] graduated into bigger stuff. [W]hen I left New York state, I went to Florida, and I played with a band down there. [Mostly] play[ed] country songs, but we done some square dances, [if] I got a call to do that. [U]p here, [. . .]several times, I got called by somebody that didn't have a caller,
[asking] if [I] would fill in, [and] so I did. [I]t's not necessarily memory. You make it up as you go, and that's [. . .] why you become a caller.
Do you fiddle and call at the same time? [. . .] (Bob: No.) That's harder to do.
Yes, it is. Now, I either called or played guitar. [. . .]
You play guitar and call at the same time?
[Y]ea. [A] fiddle player that I met in Florida [. . .] traveled all over the country, but was retired out of Nashville, Tennessee. [I] played with him, and we done some dance work, and he would fiddle, and I would call at that time, and then not being used to him, but we worked together. [T]hat's the thing about [. . .] square dance calling--square dancing has gone out, the fun of the square dance. [S]ome bands will advertise round and square dances, so maybe twice through the evening they'll play a square dance. [Y]ou go to this band, ok, they [. . .] call it, you go to that band, they call it, and [you] go to a lot [of bands] out there, [and] it's just the same basic five or six calls that everybody knows. [. . . ]
They either have a recording [. . .] or they sing it off a sheet of paper, and [. . .] doing that you can't add to it.
So, that's the opposite of the way it used to be. They used to do the three [. . .] dances and a set, and then they would take a break and do a round dance, which is like a waltz or a fox trot, or whatever the current song of the day was, slow dancing, or maybe a jitterbug when it was jitterbug. [S]ometimes a polka. [T]hey do something in Otsego County called Otsego County polka which is [. . .] their own style. I don't know if they do that in Delaware County, but it's interesting to watch.
It was three squares, three rounds, three squares, three rounds, but it was much longer than [a] couple of hours. [I]t'd start at seven o'clock [and] you'd play until one o'clock in the morning. You'd get one break in there, and just go back to it. [. . .]
0:17:18 Ginny Scheer
I used to hear Hilt Kelly talking to a veteran, an accomplished dancer, and they talked about changes. First change, second change, third change--is that your one, two, three? Is that the same thing?
Yea. The number one would be whatever the fiddle player wanted to play. It might be a singing type of call and it might not. The number two definitely was a singing call, "Darling xxx Gray," Spanish Cattle," all that stuff, but the last one was just a hoe down. A jig or something and you make a call for it as it goes.
The third change would be something fast and lively.
Yup. Something fast. [. . .]
[. . .]
Bob, [. . .]did you say you had played with Ed St. Onge, Wes St. Onge's father? (Bob: Yes.) Could you just talk about that? What did you play with him? [. . .]
I played with Wes St. Onge's father, [. . .] St. Onge's Orchestra out of Oneonta, and that was [after I] joined the Union [in] 1947. [. . .] I traveled with them for a long time. [. . .]
I wanted to follow up on what Ginny [Scheer] was saying [. . .] about the changes, and what Bob was saying also about the first and second and third in a set. I think that term changes came from the old quadrilles ,and the quadrilles used to have maybe five changes instead of three changes. [. . .] I'll say a little bit more about quadrilles and square dances in the history later on, if we have time, but the way I understood it, or the way I learned it [. . .] was probably when I was in Boston, dancing. [T]hey did more squares and contras there with Ted Sonella and Ralph Page who were real old time callers. The first one would be something like [. . .] "Head Two Gents Cross Over." [. . .] The tune for "Head Two Gents Cross Over" is set, which is actually the [. . .] tune song, "Life on the Ocean Wave," but most people call it "Head Two Gents..."
...and then the promenade was the chorus figure, which sometimes had a do-si-do, allemande left, grand right, left. So, that would be the first change when you would be working with two couples across the set from each other, and then the second change like a visiting couple dance where one couple would do something. I mean, you could do different things, but one couple would do something going around visiting the other couples, the first couple, and then the second couple would do the same thing, third couple, then you would have the chorus figure in between--grand right and left, promenade, swing you partner, something like that. There were variations on that, too, because you'd have people, [an] individual couple going around the outside, and something in the middle, everybody circled around them, and there's some really good ones like that, "Listen to the Mockingbird," "Birdie in the Cage." [T]hen the third change would be something called "a whole set," where everybody would do something,
and like the first couple, would go out, pick up the second couple, go out and pick up in a chain, pick up the third, and the fourth couple, and they'd do kinds of things like snaking around, and spiraling around, and crack the whip, and so those were the distinctions that I had learned. [. . .]
They were pretty common and they still are, but you still don't just call them that way. You have to put something with it so that the people aren't standing and waiting, or [. . .] not dancing ahead of [the caller]. [. . .] I guess they have fun [going] ahead, but square dancing style has changed so much over the years.
[They're] supposed to be looking at the lead couple who's doing whatever they're doing, and appreciating what they're doing, and seeing what they're doing, so either they can do the same thing, [. . .] or so they can do their own little variation, which sometimes happened.
But, [. . .] with the bands that are playing today, they only do in the evening maybe half a dozen different calls [. . .] and they call it the same every time. [S]o, this couple knows what that one's doing and they do it ahead. [. . .] You have to call and put a stop to that.
So, where did you learn the calls [from] originally, even though you do your own versions, where did you learn?
House dances back [. . .] when I was just a kid. Square dances, house dances were very common and that's where I picked up all of it. [T]hen, once I went with [. . .] St. Onge, I had to change some of my style. I had to start adding to [it] and had to start thinking quick, too, because [. . .] he expected a lot out of you. [He] just start fiddling and you had to be ready. [I]t was more professional-like and I enjoyed that. [W]e did have our own bandstands, each one of us, and we done some round dance work, and polkas, and so on, [. . .] but pretty much all [. . .] squares. [. . .] I've enjoyed that life, and kind of got away from it as I got out of New York State, got south, and got into a lot of bluegrass.
So, that was a different life, too, yea.
I think we have another question.
0:23:19 Lynda Preiser
Well, I wondered if you could explain the difference between the eastern and western. [. . .]
Western style, [. . .] they have to learn it out of a book. [. . .] It's a set [. . .] thing, the western style of music. I have no idea how to call it. I know they [. . .] take lessons in order to call it and the people that dance take lessons. [S]o, that that style is [. . .] the western style, but the old style that we learnt is still around, and some [. . .] do it down south. We found [. . .] places down there where we'd get in, and one especially that we got to [. . .] go to up in the Ocala Forest, [. . .] and we got to go up there and those northern people up in the Catskills, they loved this old mountain music and square dancing the way we done it. That was [. . .] fun to get up there.
Yea, I was just down with my son in North Carolina and they still do the Virginia Reel down there, the real thing. [T]he difference [. . .] between eastern and western, in other words, one thing that's different, a do-si-do down there is called a seesaw. [L]ast night in [. . .] the set there, [. . .] I was waiting for a seesaw because that's what I'd been used to, and it's altogether different. [. . .] My son's been calling it for 40 years and he [. . .] learned the calls up in Kentucky. He was in Kentucky a couple nights ago, and then he'd go down to North Carolina, South Carolina, maybe be in Texas, and that's all they've been doing for 40 years.
[D]id they do it to recorded music or to live music?
Recorded. He picked it up off the internet. [. . .]
[T]hat was when I learned western. I went to a couple of western square dances, [. . .] and actually my [. . .] husband and I had to play at a western square dance. [. . .] They wanted us to play [. . .] the tune, which happened to be "Charmagne," and it happened to be in E flat or something we'd never played in.
Well, they do all different kinds of music.
What they had from the records, they wanted us to play exactly what's from the records.
All types of music, but one thing in a western they don't want anybody standing still like you do in an eastern. The first two ladies cross over, they want everybody moving all the time.
[I] noticed they don't look each other in the eye, and in eastern style it's more social. [W]e look each other in the eye and smile at each other. [. . .] So, my understanding is that the [. . .] eastern traditional style, which people learned in their families, moved west and moved west. [T]here was [. . .]the guy in Colorado. [H]e was a big caller out there, and from there it moved to California and western style started as club dancing in California in the fifties. [T]hen it was commercialized and spread around commercially, but not the way the eastern style is learned through family. [A]lso, eastern style in the Midwest.
There was certain calls [. . .] that went over big today that don't get enough people lined up, but we played [. . .] sometimes in a barn dance or a hall where they might have 40 couples out [. . .] and [. . .] they loved to do the grand march. [T]he grand march was real common, and you played some sort of a patriotic tune to it. You might have changed the tune two or three times [. . .], but that first couple get over and start. [T]hat was real common, people love[d] [it], and the grape vine twist, that was one that people were used to. You don't [. . .] see it anymore. We may do that some night over to Sidney, too.
[. . .]
So, anyway, those were things that went on with the country music, and in some of the places where you had a lot of people. [. . .]
What are some of the more interesting calls that you would like to see included in square dancing today, instead of those usual ones?
"The Red River Valley," I don't care to stay with those. [. . .] I got one [. . .], I don't know where I come up with it, really. It's the head two couple forward, they go and circle half, [and] here's where the [. . .] dancers have to listen because they circle half, and then they end up with the [. . .] outside four join[ing] hands with the inside four, and they all end up dancing. So, people have to listen because it says halfway around, and then you get to half back in the final part of the call, so they end up where they're supposed to end up. If [. . .] you give them, say, a half way round, they go all the way, they're going to be totally mixed up in the end.
Can we do a little demonstration? I'll play the fiddle and you can call something?
Probably could. I don't know if I could play or not.
Well, you call. You want to try that “Wreck of The Old 97"? I don't know if I can. I can't play it in E, [. . .]or it could be a different one, just give a little example of how you would throw in something to keep the dancers from [dancing ahead].
[. . .]
Well, you want to try "Red River Valley," or something like that?
Ok, yea, I guess. So, fiddle on time.
Ok, one that you'd rather.
"Put on Your Old Gray Bonnet."
Ok. Is G ok for that?
G I think. Probably.
There's some of them that [. . .] the first couple [. . .] go to the right, swing the opposite lady, and then they go back and swing them around, and allemande left, and they're going to end up with a new partner each time. So, that it always got a new partner. [A]gain, got to listen to know whether [. . .] to get the change of partners in or not, so that you can call to "Darling xxxxx Gray," or two or three different ones. [. . .]
So, did that [. . .] make clear the difference between eastern and western style for you [. . .]?
There's a lot of difference, I'll tell ya.
There is a lot of difference, yes. [. . .] I think of the western style as being, I mean, they're continually coming up with more complicated, more complicated dances, and the complication seems to be part of the object of it. You have to really remember everything.
One of the tunes that's real popular they all do now is "The Climbing up the Golden Stairs." [. . .] I had a fella I talked to, and [. . .] I said they're calling that wrong, and no, that's the way it's written. That's the way--elbow swing with the corner, and back with your partner, and then do-si-do. You do those four things, but you never call them alike. If they are used to them they go ahead and do [them], and they're ahead with the music. To keep them from dancing ahead of the music you mix that. You don't start with do-si-do, you start with allemande left, and if you do that and then each one, it changes.
Right. So, each chorus figure would be different from the previous one.
Yup, have to be. [T]he callers today [. . .] have memorized it, so that's [. . .] the only way they know how to call it, same old way every time.
That may be partly because [. . .] they learned them from books, they learned them from records, and they learned them from the internet, and they do them just [. . .] that set way. [S]ometimes, if they'd learned them from another caller, they might do them that caller's set way and then in order to be a little creative they would throw in their own thing in the variations. [S]o, in this project that my husband and I did, I think we interviewed about eight different callers from Otsego and Delaware Counties, and they all had basically the same repertoire of dances, a couple different ones . Hilton Hoyt had one I loved, called "There's a Star Spangled Banner Waving Somewhere," which was an old World War II song. [. . .] I had not known the song, [. . .] and then I heard it on the radio later on as a song, but it was a wonderful dance. He's the only one I [. . .] knew and know that had that particular dance. [. . .] Everybody else had mostly the standard dances, but they all had their own little variations in it like that.
Some of [. . .] their variations were the ones that they always did, so their dancers were used to doing them that way. [T]hey would go to that caller because they would want that caller's particular version.
I had a lot of people tell me that if you're going to call tonight, we can't dance ahead, we're going to have to wait for you. [. . .] I said, yes, you'll have to wait [. . .] 'cause I don't know what I'm going to call either.
Well, 50 years ago my mom and I went to a school gathering for square dancing, and halfway through she signed us up. [. . .] I [was] like, what'd you do that for? We had so much fun. We had 30 plus years, and the main thing is, listen to the caller, listen to the caller, listen to the caller. 'Cause if you don't, you're square breaks down. It's a fun dance, but some people take it real serious, and then you've got to, like, back off and listen to the caller.
Where was that?
Something that might be interesting to people here is the name of local square dances or bands. Remember the Fisher Brothers? The Hulse Brothers? The Woodhall Boys I remember played in Franklin one night. [T]hen there was the Lum Brothers that always played different places, and just so many different bands, but they would all play.
They're all gone.
They're all gone. I'm one of the few that's left of it.
[. . .] Grant was in a band called The Delaware Valley... [. . .]
0:35:54 Jean Withrow
Delaware Valley Ramblers, or something, or Delaware County Ramblers.
I never knew Grant. I never heard him. His style, [. . .] his music, was country style, but mountain style and those type[s] of music. I was brought up more with traditional [. . .] bluegrass and stuff like that. Bluegrass is different music. [. . .]
It grew out of the older style music.
Yea, yea, and got into country music. [. . .] It's beginning to come back. I see some stuff that we used to do down to Florida, that['s] some of the stuff that's beginning to come back around, yup.
Which is good. I play the [. . .] older style that bluegrass grew out of, and people don't always make the distinction. They say, is that bluegrass? Well, not quite true bluegrass.
Yea, [. . .] we went with a bluegrass band for awhile down there. Too much traveling, we gave that up, but their style was completely different. That's why were [. . .] with them, they [. . .] were strictly bluegrass. [W]e were country, so we went to these festivals and we would do the country stuff, they would play with us, but they didn't know the lyrics. [. . .] They were steady and didn't want to travel that much, but it was it was fun. It was a lesson to learn.
I read in an interview with Grant that he said he had started out playing the older style for dances. [T]hen, when he found that people wanted country [. . .] western, [. . .] he said, I don't know where the western is. [S]o, he would play more country [. . .] tunes and songs for the for the singing calls.
There's some great country songs coming out. [W]ell, I heard one the other night I hadn't heard in a long time. We used to do it. It's a [. . .] a love song almost, that "Come on Home to the Arms of a Fool." Now that's country, pure country. I heard it the other night for the first time up this way. [. . .]
They would do a round dance to that. Would you do a square dance to that too?
No, it's all a round dance, yup, yup, yup.
Anybody else have some questions or comments...?
0:38:21 Dane Scudder
Well, maybe I should say something about Grant, my two cents worth [. . .]. I was able to play music with him when I was basically a kid, a few times in Oneonta. He used to perform at coffeehouses up there, and I was going to college. [H]e taught me a very valuable lesson. He says, never volunteer for anything. [. . .]
What was that related to?
[. . .] I was sitting in the audience in a coffeehouse, and I didn't know who he was, and he was singing his really sweet [. . .] songs about Delaware County, and I'm from Delaware County, so, I thought that was really great. [A]ll of a sudden, he gets out his fiddle, and he asks is there anybody in the audience that can play a little guitar and back me up while I fiddle? [S]o, I raised my hand, and it was like raising my hand in the auction, and you bought a hundred dollar bathtub. [H]e gets me up on stage, and I could play, and the music was fine, but all of a sudden I was up there for awhile with him, and all of a sudden he stops and he starts asking me questions. [. . .] I don't remember [what kind of questions]. [H]e starts asking me questions, and he was setting me up as a straight man in a comedy act, and that's what he did [. . .], and bang, he [. . .] hit that punch line, and I'd be turning red, and I was never ready for him. He must have done that three times with me.
[. . .] I guess, maybe the last time, I was wondering, well how bad was it going to be when he sets me up? [. . .] I regret that I never got to know him any better, that I never visited him in his home. [I] was interested in other kinds of [music], more the old time music, and so I kind of missed that, but I appreciated him. [. . .] He had a real charisma. He was a sweet guy, and [. . .] that was interesting that he was able to perform in college coffeehouses, so there was a real interest in him. [. . .]
I didn't know he played in Oneonta.
Yea, at the SUCO coffeehouse in Hartwick.
What year was this?
Oh, '74, '75.
I wasn’t here, didn't know about it . [. . .] I lived in Washington, DC.
One thing about square dances, too, is that [a] lot of them are different time. People don't pick up the [time]. Some of it 6-8, some of its regular time, and if you have to [. . .] get used to that and dance to it, and if you're going to play fiddle, then it's a different thing to try to learn to play the 6-8 time. Yup. It's different.
So, maybe we should hear a little bit of Grant himself playing. This is on the website. They have a website, grantrogers.org, which has a lot of stuff on it, including an interview with Bob Moss.
A lot of the things that you're going to see is that people do not dance with the beat of the music. [. . .] Square dancing, if you dance with the beat of the music you'd probably be where you ought to be at the right time.
Just like life.
I see that all the time.
So, Mary Carlson[. . .], why don't you try “Rogers' Hornpipe” which apparently Grant composed as well as played. [. . .]
0:41:43 Jean Withrow
Which is a jig.
It's really a jig. He called it a hornpipe. Technically it's a jig, but I think hornpipe is a term that generally has gotten used because it's just a [. . .] xxxx hornpipe, which I learned [. . .] is all over the country, and down south, and all over the place. [T]hey played that like a reel, which they call a xxxxx down [. . .] south. So, the terminology kind of warps.
0:42:08 Mary Carlson
[. . .] “Rogers' Hornpipe,” or jig.
So, that's a pretty standard ending on the first part of the tune. A lot of people, when they play, they play it through, and through, and through, and through, and they end up at the end, but if you're calling and you want people to swing at the end, it's handy to end on the first part of the tune. So, a lot of fiddlers get used to doing that. So, how about "The Little Red Barn," in whichever version is handy there which has a good dance to it.
Now, one [. . .] reason, I think, that this cut is interesting [is that] on one of the recordings, it's on a couple different recordings, which are on the website, on one of them he says very softly at the beginning, you [. . .] can hardly hear it, you probably wouldn't hear it on there, but he was asked, where do you learn your tunes?, and he said, oh, sometimes out of books and sometimes I just fiddle them, I don't know where they come from. So, I have back there a bunch of books as examples and some records which people have used, but he also just picked them up by listening to them, both the dances and the tunes. [A]nother thing that I think is interesting about this tune is that it has a third part. So, I learned it as "The Old Red Wagon," and I learned it from a fiddler who had traveled all around who had come from Missouri originally, Bob Christenson.
I think that's where I learned it. [I]t had a third part, and I was listening to a different recording, that's also on the website, of Grant and he puts a third part in, but it's on a different recording. So, the third part, usually you'd play it twice through the first two parts.
Back to the first part. [H]e does play a fifth part that's a little bit different from the third part that I play, but it's recognizably the same third part, which I found really interesting. There was another tune on there, "The Canadian Rose," which I know as "The Silver and Gold Two Step." [. . .]
Keep it going.
So, he was asked where he got that, [and] he said, Don Messer and his Islanders, who were on the radio from Canada. [They] were very popular and picked up by a lot of the northern fiddlers. So, that was one of his sources, and I don't know how many tunes he himself composed and how many he got from other people, listening to other people. [. . .] Then, apparently, he taught himself to read later on, read notation, and, so, he [. . .] probably got some from books. I didn't have a chance to talk to him personally about his [. . .] dance music which I wish I had. [Y]ou probably noticed there's a piano accompaniment in the background doing backup. That was really traditional, a fiddler and a piano player. Sometimes two fiddlers, although I've heard people say, well, oh, no, just one fiddler, one fiddler, and then the other instrument's in the back, but I know in the [. . .] older times there might be one fiddler.
[T]hat fiddler might be at a house dance sitting in the little passageway between two rooms, and they'd take the furniture out of the rooms. The fiddler would sit up on the stool, or a table, or something like that, in the middle and dance, and the people would be square dancing in each of the rooms. [. . .] I talked with Bob Christenson about the tradition in Missouri where he came from, which was in the Ozarks in southern Missouri, and he said [. . .] each square had its own caller. So, a fiddler would be playing, or band would be playing, and each caller would be calling their own particular dance for their own set. Just, you know, standing in the middle of the set and calling, and sometimes dancing. Bob Nickelson, who is a caller in Syracuse, often calls while he's dancing [. . .].
Bob Christenson said the caller would usually be in the middle of the set. If they [. . .] needed somebody to do the dance, then he would do it. [. . .] "He" [. . .] because it was almost always a "he". [. . .] Not anymore. There are a few women callers now, more and more.
Kathy, do you know where the caller idea came from?
Yea, originally [. . . ] there were dancing masters, itinerant dancing masters. This was, like, in colonial times, and a little bit later. There were itinerant dancing masters who would go around in cities and in urban areas who would teach the latest dances. [. . .] I think, later on when [. . .] dancing masters kind of fell out of the picture, people wanted to still do the dances. [. . .] I imagine callers just arose as somebody who remembered the dance and [. . .] could tell people the figures. I haven't done research on that. That would be interesting.
'Cause I was thinking about the [. . .] Irish music, more, and they don't have callers. I mean, they have, like, they'll say "The Caledonia Set," and they'll [dance].
Well, they do the same dance all the time to that tune. That set to that tune.
So, there wasn't this idea of listening and having variations like that, or, I don't know if they did variations some other way, but they didn't have a caller that I have experienced. [T]hey did have dancing masters going around Ireland, too, so I was wondering about that.
But, they learned those dances and stuck to them perhaps.
That type of music they had there, we referred to it as mountain music. [. . .] It's played different, fiddled different, and then you get into what we done [. . .] up here. [T]hen, when you start getting into bluegrass, they fiddle different [. . .] times, then there's so many of the stuff that with your different times, there's a lot of people that can't adjust their playing to the different times. [. . .] I never got into [the mountain music]. I never knew Grant, and I never got into it, and I started on the fiddle [. . .] way back.
Did you grow up here in the Catskills?
0:53:17 Bob Moss
[Y]ea, I was born [. . .] just a brook up here a ways. [I] lived around here and I went [. . .] to Florida in '58 [. . .] and changed a lot. I got into the bluegrass [. . .] music. I mean, I'm not overly fond of [it] because there's no tune. It's just a lot of [. . .] fiddling. [E]verybody thinks a fiddle player ought to learn to play "The Orange Blossom Special." I never did. [. . .] Yea, I play it so it's [. . .] just a fiddle [. . .], and don't make any music, and then all of a sudden in the middle you've got a little roll to it, a little music [. . .]...
[A]s the music changes, it influences how the dancing changes and vice versa, yes?
0:54:22 Mary Carlson
I have a question. Sometimes, if I watch an English costume drama like Jane Austen, or something, there will be these dances that look like it could be a square dance, but we'd do it with, like, work boots on and it's rougher, and it's much more refined. Is there history--did it come from that?
Yea, yea, it came from that, and in fact, [. . .] if you're looking at [. . .]the costume dramas doing long ways, those were what contra dances grew out of. [I]n all the colonies contra dancing came over from England. [M]y understanding is how square dancing evolved, was after the war of 1812 the people in the [. . .] still fairly new United States didn't want to have anything to do with England. [S]o, they thought they were importing French quadrilles from France, and little did they know that the French quadrilles came to France from England, and the English country dancing came [. . .] to England from the French courts, and there was an intermingling. [S]o, they went to quadrilles, which were in the square formation quadrille; qua, four couples. [S]quare dancing grew out of the quadrilles, which were done more formally in a more formal stately style. [T]he long ways
were still done in little [. . .] isolated pockets like New England and survived. [T]hen there was a revival of contra dancing. Long ways "Virginia Reel" was about the only one that had survived all over the country. [T]hey call it long ways in New England. [I]n the 1970s a man named Dudley Laughman, who was a young sprout then, very enterprising, who knew Ralph Page who was one of the main people who had kept it going in [. . .] New Hampshire, specifically a little bit [. . .] north of Keen, New Hampshire, Dudley learned from Ralph Page. As I did. Dudley was very dynamic and he took it [to] various communities, starting in New England, starting in Vermont, New Hampshire, [. . .]and then it spread, and it spread, and it spread all around the country.
[I]n a way, my husband and I [. . .] and four other friends started a dance in Oneonta in 1977. [I]t was after we had done this project collecting a lot of square dances from local people because we played that music. We wanted people to be able to dance to it, so we played and taught people how to do contra dancing. [O]ur idea was to have half contras, half squares. [. . .] The local community people [. . .] used to do these things, and people would come down from the colleges, and people would come from all around. Most of the local community didn't come, but some did and some remembered it. [P]eople wanted to do contra dancing; they didn't want to do the squares. So, it sort of morphed into contra dancing, and that moved and that spread. I would really like to see the traditional squares come back in, and they do sometimes. In Syracuse they do a mixture of contras and squares, and various other places they do festivals [that] now have contra and square dancing.
Not the western square festivals, but the general folk music and dance festivals.
One of the local square dances I remember was Pepacton, New York, which is now under water. There was Emmet Bryden's Bar and Grille and Aunt Elwood's, and they were dance halls. [W]e'd go up there. We bought the groceries on Saturday nights, and my dad and mother would go up, and us kids would go, and we'd hear Ken call. [T]hat was before equipment. He would call and you'd see him dance, but he didn't have any mics or anything. [H]e'd play the fiddle and call. I remember that, and that was quite a thing to see back then because we didn't even have a radio back then or anything like that, you know.
The radio really supplanted a lot of the live stuff [. . .] and community home entertainment. What I was going to say before was, because there was no amplification there'd be one fiddler and sometimes two fiddlers. If they could have two fiddlers it would be better, and they might just all be playing the same thing, not necessarily harmony. But, then, there's something called seconding on the fiddle, which while a lead fiddler's playing a tune somebody else will play.
They won't play what's called a countermelody like some do now, but they would just play...
They would play the chords on the fiddle. That would change as the chords [did], but [. . .]if you had a piano around, and a lot of people had parlor pianos [it]would be a real treat. [T]hen they also would dance in Grange halls, and usually there was a piano in Grange halls, so, they could sing things in the Grange. So, they had dances in Grange halls. [T]hen other instruments came in later, like guitars, and banjos, and accordions. Woody Woodhall played accordion and he was very popular. Woodhall's [an] old time master. [A] lot of a lot of callers, I think, learned calls from listening to Woody Woodhall's records and maybe going to his dances.
I remember one night they played in Franklin and I was there. The Woodhall Boys, yup, years ago.
Did you dance to it?
No, I didn't, but I should have.
I think [. . .] the big change that I see...I played with a lot of different bands, filled in for a lot of places. [T]hey never had a drummer. As far as I'm concerned, and this is my own opinion, a drum don't belong in a square dance band. [. . .] A good bass player, the old stand up bass; [. . .] Ben Shackleton was probably one of the best around. [I] played [. . .] many times with him, [he] was a terrific. Standup bass. [H]e liked his big, old, stand up bass. One of the best. [W]e'd go out now, and there'd be three pieces. There'd be a guy playing a guitar, and a bass, and a set of drums. [I]t kills dances, as far as square dancing. Drummers belong in a [. . .] band, not in a square dance band.
How about for round dancing?
No, [. . .] not if you got a good [. . .] bass player, you don't [. . .] need the drums. [J]ust a good bass player. [T]here's four boys that come down out of up north, Ballimy Brothers, I think. They're pure country. I've seen them twice. [. . .] They have no music, they have no bandstand, they have nothing. The guy gets up there and sings country, mostly country, but he can sing for four hours and never stop. Right from one tune to another. [T]hey have a bass player, and the drummer is very soft, you can hardly know he's there. [. . .] They are terrific, and I'll be seeing them again on the twelfth of November in Cortland.
What instruments do they have?
They have a steel player, just a plain guitar playing, and you're watching and every two or three different chords, G, D, C, but never gets out of them. [T]he bass player, and very soft drums, and [. . .] he goes on constantly. I've seen them different times. [. . .]
[D]o people dance to that?
Oh, yea, they dance all the time. Everybody gets up. If you get on the floor, you'd better be ready to dance because he'll do [one song] right into a next one and they change time--[it]speeds up.
Round dancing, not square dancing.
Yea, they don't do square dance. [. . .]
Call a dance with them.
Just pure, pure country. If [you] ever get a chance, they're from up north. They are going to be in Cortland in November.
Well, as a backup piano player, I think just a fiddle and piano can carry a dance as a dance band. [T]hat was one of the old style ways of doing it. Two fiddles, nice, but if you had a piano also [even better].
...always had a piano player
Yea, [. . .] just play the chords on the piano and it gives a solid beat. [. . .] I think [. . .] a stand up bass in a band substitutes for when there isn't a piano there playing the chords down low.
Al Signet was one of the best around, and I played a lot with Al Signet for years. [We] always had Art Jamieson. [T]he three of us would be setting on fiddle, and Art with the piano. We done quite a lot of work together, but never [a] set of drums, and I just can't get used to it. It's just some of them are so loud.
Could I say something about Hilton? 'Cause [. . .] Ginny is sitting over there and we've got two people that knew him real well. Yea, and of course you knew him. [S]o, [. . .] I was lucky in my life that I was able to grow up on a dairy farm in the Catskill Mountains, Fleischmanns, a fifth generation dairy farm. [. . .] I was lucky to live just a stone's throw away from one of the best fiddlers in Delaware County, and [he]eventually became state champion. Old time fiddler, [. . .] and caller, too, and he was my father's best friend. They were best men at each other's weddings. So, from the time I was this high, I was dancing to Hilton Kelly's calls, and by osmosis they came into me. All the singing calls I'm talking about, primarily. [M]y parents would drag me to these dances and I didn't want to go. I had to dance with girls, [. . .] I even had to dance with my mother. [W]hen I was out there, I enjoyed it, which makes me want to talk about the bigger picture about square dancing.
Why did we go to square dances? What's so [. . .] great about square dancing in an agricultural situation? Before TV. You know, I'm talking about after World War II and before television was invented. [. . .] When Hilton died two years ago, some of his old friends were doing a dance in Halcott at the Grange hall where I grew up and where I first played music. [I]t just struck me that you would go to a square dance--my grandparents went to square dances every Saturday night, without fail--and it was a way to see your friends. There's no TV, so you're not sitting in your house wasting time watching TV. If you're lonely, isolated two miles off the main road on your farm, it's a great thing to do. [. . .] Hilton was calling. He told me they were playing the Melody Boys [. . .]. Right after World War II [they] were playing five to six nights a week, and it's hard to believe.
St. Onge Orchestra did, too.
Ok, yea. [I]t's amazing the demand for square dancing. My father told me the other day that there was, even in Halcottsville, there was a place by the mill, by the dam, where they [had a dance]. [T]here'd be so many cars on the road you'd have to walk half a mile, park your car, to get to the place. [T]hen, what would happen at a square dance when you were there, I mean, you'd hear good music, obviously, and of course dancing, these are the obvious things, but [. . .]you might meet your [. . .] wife there. That's where my father met my mother, and this was, you know, this was really important. There might be some whiskey in the back, there might even be a fight, and it was entertaining. [T]he caller might be able to tell some jokes, so it was like a complete entertainment, you know, it was like a variety show. If a caller was able to tell jokes, and, now, Hilton was a big man, and [. . .] he was a third generation square dance caller, too, and fiddler, and my father was dancing to Carson Kelly when he was younger, when my father was younger,
but anyway, Hilton was a big man, and if a [. . .] fight broke loose, anything happened at the dance, he would just stop the dance and say, we're done unless you guys, you know, stop doing this, we're done with the dance.
Did that stop them from fighting, [. . .] or did that stop the dance?
Sure. Everybody would stop because everybody wanted to dance, and yea, you know, you dance until two o'clock in the morning and then go home and milk cows. Everybody was pretty much associated with a dairy farm then. [Y]ou need to go to church, go to the grange, and go to the square dance. That was the way in the community that we interacted, and even as a kid I remember that[. . .]I was about to say the importance of the singing calls, and we were talking about it at one point, even as simple as some of the singing calls can be, and everybody does know them, the beauty of that is that when you're in a set, dancing, you can sing along with the caller as you're dancing around. [I]t's really nice music. [I]t's a [. . .]really [. . .] great experience. Hilton could not play and sing at the same time. So, every time that the call came around he'd have to put the fiddle down, and the others [would play]. Bud Barnes played saxophone with him and that was a weird collection of instruments, sometimes.
Yea, Erv Thompson played trombone with Billy Boys. [. . .]
[. . .] I think that was pretty standard, actually. I was talking to Glen Tilly, who, when I moved into Mount Vision in '72, was probably in his seventies or something, sixties, seventies, and he had a general store that was also an undertaker's parlor, and also a barber shop, and on the second floor he had a dance hall, [. . .] and he said they always had trombones and trumpets and all kinds of things as part of their dances. [T]hat was in the twenties. So, I think [. . .] it was more common then, at least for a while.
I think this idea of square dancing come back. In my days, the house dances, there was not much of a way to get there, so here comes a great big cardboard box full of tin cans, cups, and they'd pile some coffee into it, and boy, it was enough, and they'd dance for awhile, and then everybody'd pass something around, ok, where we going next week? So, this neighbor'd say, well, come to my house next week. Next week we'd go to somebody else's, and that's when square dancing and [. . .] friendship...like you said, you met partners there. This was a common thing back in [. . .] the thirties [. . .] and forties. [I]t did happen and they got away from that. [. . .]
That was before TV came in.
[I]t's gone into a different trend completely.
[. . .] Hilton Hoyt said TV killed square dancing.
1:09:51 Neil Northrup
I have something else to add to it. I don't know how many of you people remember, but in the forties we used to block the street off between the two red lights on a Thursday night and have a square dance there. They'd just block it off for two hours and everybody would square dance right between the two red lights.
I think that the library has a picture. Annie Sulger showed me [. . .]one of those dances. I think Hilton was playing that local dance right here in Walton.
To pick up on something they said about five or six nights a week in the fifties, one phenomenon that I learned from Hilton, and then found out that other people did it, I think that he kind of got burned out at that time. He was trying to work full time (Audience: You should have been back then.), raise a family, and [. . .] play all of those gigs. [H]e quit for awhile. [T]hat's why Carol Eaglefeather was actually instrumental in getting him started again. She took him to Cooperstown because during that sort of prime of life when your kids are growing up, it's often a time when a traditional storyteller, musician, whoever, will stop. [T]hen, as they get older, revive [. . .] their art. [. . .] I'm wondering now how many people we missed [in] helping them revive their art. Think of people in your families you know.
Did you tell me, or did somebody tell me, that Hilt's daughter, Linda, is calling using some of [his calls]? (Audience: A little bit.) [She] was going to [call], using some of his calls, which are unusual calls, or not the same common calls that [. . .] were passed down. I mean, he did call a lot of the same calls [that] everybody knew, but also some that were passed down from his father and grandfather and tunes [. . .], also, that you don't hear elsewhere.
1:11:38 Ginny Scheer
Shameless advertisement. Catskills Folk Connection's produced a CD, if you haven't seen it already. Some people already have it. [It's] called Tunes that I Learned from my Dad, and it's Hilton Kelly playing tunes that he learned from Carson Kelly. I didn't bring them with me, but I will have them at future events. If I can announce those later, I'll tell you, or you can just tell me tonight or today, and we'll make a deal, but it includes some of those quadrille tunes with no names and many of them have not been recorded by Hilton before, so it'll be a lot of fun.
[S]ome of them had names, but he just didn't remember them.
Well, that, or because Jim Kimball said when a tune got stripped out of one of those changes, a quadrille often, if it wasn't the first tune, it wouldn't have a name, anyway. So, he'd say, well, I'm going to play a tune my dad taught me. [. . .] I don't know the name of it, and my dad didn't either, and then sometimes there would be a dance that he didn't know the name to that his dad [had taught him].
I wonder if his grandfather knew the name, though.
[. . .]
1:12:51 Jean Withrow
I'd like to hear the three of you, Dane, and Bob, and you play something.
Yea, that would be really, really nice.
Jessica: use music plus comments below as you think appropriate, interspersed throughout video/s?
I know you prepared for this, right?
Well. We have never played together, the three of us, but I'm sure we have some tunes in common.
I don't know some of the fiddle tunes. I have no idea what the name of them are. I used to set on Saturday night listening to the Grand Ole Opry down to Nashville, and if I heard a fiddle tune that sounded good to me, I shut the radio off in a hurry, go pick up my fiddle, long as I could remember, I could play it. [P]robably the next day I didn't [. . .] remember it, but some of the stuff I have no idea what the name of them are. [. . .]
Well, play a tune that is running around in your mind and tell us what key you want to play in.
"Double Eagle Polka."
Used to [play it] for a final hoe down.
Now, that's the oldest style. That's sometimes called "Raggedy Ann," "Ragtime Annie," and then the [. . .] bluegrassers put a third part in.
What name do you know that tune by?
I don't know.
I've heard about four different names. "My Loving Little Lassie." There's a song Robert Burns wrote, [. . .] "I Love You Little Lassie," and it came from that, maybe originally, but it might have been traditional back then. I learned it as "Sweet Sixteen" from a fiddler in Indiana. He called it "Sweet Sixteen." There are a couple of other names for it too, so.
Then you've got to have a waltz once in awhile.
That's a different tune, but...
[. . .] "Kentucky Waltz."
"Wabash Cannonball," and then I think the library wants [us]to get out of here. [T]hank you all for coming [. . .].
[Y]ou asked about Linda Kelly Armor, Hilt's daughter. [She] said to me, I slept. They took me to all of those dances that lasted real late. I slept on the chairs while they played music and called. She said, of course I absorbed all of those dances. [O]ften, what is another phenomenon with traditional artists is the next generation will stand back while the current generation is still performing. [S]ometimes you only find out that the tradition didn't die. It's after the passing of the original artists, then the next generation steps forward. They're basically standing back out of respect. So, we're hoping to encourage Linda to do some more calling.
Great, that would be great. Do you want to do "Wabash Cannonball" as a closer here?
There's an awful difference, if somebody who knows how to read music and so on [plays the tunes]. Us fiddle players, we don't pay any attention to music, which way, whatever we feel, we'll put stuff into it that is not written, but [. . .] it sounds like it in the end.
[I]t's still music. In fact, it was basically music before anybody ever wrote it down, so, when somebody says, oh, I can't play because I can't read music, I say, it's [. . .] in there, it's here, just play.
That's a great way to end this, and we thank you so much, all of you, for all of this participatory discussion.