Article Details

Melton Luttrell March 22, 1997

Bob Brundage:Well, hi again, it’s Bob Brundage.  Today is March the 22nd; we’re attending the Callerlab Convention at Los Angeles International Airport, and, um, tonight we’ve made contact with Melton Luttrell from Texas and, uh, anxious to hear all about his square dance experience.  So, Melton, tell us about where you were born and brought up, and how you got into square dancing.

 

Melton Luttrell:All right, Bob.  Uh, I was born in Texas, a native Texan through and through. Proud of it, of course.  But I was actually born in a little town near Cisco, Texas, in 1928. And, uh, I grew up through my 15th year or 16th year in a very small community of probably only a couple of hundred people at the most

 

BB:  Um, hmmm.

 

ML:  Called Cato, Texas, and, uh, I attended high school there until my Junior year, and then the school became so small, they ended up closing that school and we were all shipped off to a larger school about 15 or 16 miles away in Breckenridge, and I graduated from high school in Breckenridge and attended, uh, college at John Paul.  At that time, it was not a university, just a Junior college, 2-year college, and, uh, after I finished the 2 years there, I just started working.  My first full-time job was with Texas Electric Utility Company, and that’s where I really got introduced to square dancing.  I was dating a girl who is now my wife, and she had some friends who had talked her into taking square dance lessons, and she asked me about it.  She had asked me about it, and I had really sort of rejected the idea because I had tried it in college and really didn’t think I would enjoy it that much.  So, uh, I told her I’d rather not, and then some time later, she told me that we were going out with some friends that night and be ready to go.  So, I was all ready, and it turned out that the friends that we were going out were people I did not know, but he was a local square dance caller.  He drove us to another town about 20 miles away where he, where he had just started a set of square dance lessons.  So my wife sort of conned me

 

BB:  Right.

 

ML:  Into taking square dance lessons.  Just like so many of us that have gotten into the activity, uh, it only took that one lesson, and I really enjoyed it so I became very gung ho after that.  I really begin to get around as a caller, if you want to call, however you want to term it, begin to travel.  We called it traveling caller. 

 

BB:  Yeah.

 

ML:  Some called it national caller, whatever you want to call it.  More than just staying at home and calling for the local thing.  I begin to, uh, do that.  I guess just because I attended several festivals. And, uh, I, I imagine it was the same in your area . . .

 

BB:  Um, hmmm.

 

ML:  As it was ours.  Uh, different associations, and regions, and so forth where you’re going - sometimes they were federations, sometimes they were associations, but whatever, they would have a festival once a year . . .

 

BB:  Um, hmmm.

 

ML:  Or so.  And, then they would invite callers to come and be part of the program.  Of course, there was no money involved . . .

 

BB:  Right.

 

ML:  Other than just, as you said, you got in free.

 

BB:  Right.

 

ML:  But, uh, and they might take you to dinner or something like that.  But, uh, the first thing I know, uh, through nothing that I knew that I did, I just begin to get invitations to come to places that were like 100 miles away, or 150 miles away, or something like that.

 

BB:  Right.

 

ML:  So, uh, it just sort of, word of mouth more than anything, and through the square dance community, it fed on itself, and then the first thing you know, I, I got my first offer to do what I call an out-of-town, I mean a way out out-of-town dance.  Out of town was always out of town to me, but . . .

 

BB:  Laughter.

 

ML:  That might just have been 20 miles away . . .

 

BB:  Sure.

 

ML:  Or 25 miles away.

 

BB:  Right, right.

 

ML:  But I got a chance to go a fairly large town, you know, for - and I didn’t even know to price it.  I was embarrassed when they asked me what they charged, and I said I, you know, when I got to thinking, I remembered that Ray Smith had charged $100, and well, I can’t do that, you know, I’m not Ray Smith so what’d I do.  So, I thought it over for a long time, and I finally wrote them back and said I’d do it for $35.  So, my first traveling, big time traveling dance was just $35.  I drove about 150 miles to get there.

 

BB:  Right.

 

ML:  And, uh, and, uh, but one nice thing about it, in that day and time, more than it is now, you never paid the motel room or hotel room.

 

BB:  Yeah, right.

 

ML:  You were always someone’s guest . . .

 

BB:  Yeah.

 

ML:  In someone’s home.

 

BB:  Right.

 

ML:  And that included meals and everything . . .

 

BB:  Right.

 

ML:  So the $35 was clear . . .

 

BB:  Clear.

 

ML:  Except for your gasoline . . .

 

BB:  Yes.

 

ML:  That took you to get there, your car expense . . .

 

BB:  You got it, yeah.

 

ML:  But, but that was all, I mean.  So, one just led to another, and, uh, the first thing you know it begin to click pretty good.

 

BB:  Yeah.  Have you attended many nationals?

 

ML:  No. 

 

BB:  Okay.  How about . . .

 

ML:  And the reason being, and I hope that no one takes offense of this, it’s just not something I enjoy doing.

 

BB:  Um, hmmm.

 

ML:  Other than, I will say, I really enjoy seeing the people, and being with the people, and if I could do something like you and I just sit and down and talk . . .

 

BB:  Hmmm.

 

ML:  Do more of that is great.  But I’ve always thought square dancing at a national type festival is, well, it’s just not my favorite type of dancing.

 

BB:  Yeah.

 

ML:  First time, I have yet to be to one where the conditions were what I call anything close to ideal for dancing . . .

 

BB:  That’s true.

 

ML:  It’s always concrete floor, it’s always bad sound . . .

 

BB:  That’s true.

 

ML:  And, uh, it’s, and as a caller.  And, and, you’re, I think you know where I’m coming from.  The satisfaction to me in being a caller is being a part of what’s going on at that time.

 

BB:  Um, hmmm.

 

ML:  And if you stick me on a stage that’s 8 foot up in the air and give me a microphone and the closest dancer to me is 25 feet away or 30 feet away, I just might as well be off in a studio calling to a record.

 

BB:  (. . .)

 

ML:  Because I could - they don’t care and I don’t care.  I get no feeling of being a part of it.

 

BB:  Yeah.  I see what you mean.

 

ML:  I have no rapport with the crowd.  I like to call when I am as close, and I often, I always buy long microphone cords, 30 and 35 foot, I’ve had them as long as you can make them.  I like to get out and walk in among the crowd when I’m calling.  I still do that.

 

BB:  Um, hmmm.

 

ML:  I, I, I may be out to the third square out there and letting them dodge my cord as they dance.

 

BB:  Right.

 

ML:  Because I like to be part of it.  Pat somebody on the back as they go by.  That’s, that’s what I enjoy.

 

BB:  Yeah.

 

ML:  Big festivals.  I’ve done at least my share of them I guess.  Uh, not as many as several, but I’ve done enough of them.

BB:  Um, hmmm.

 

ML:  And, uh, I enjoy the fact that my ego is boosted by the fact that they would hire me to do such a thing.  But, the enjoyment of calling the festival is never as much as calling to, a 10, 15, 20, 25 square dance where you are part of it.

 

BB:  Right.

 

ML:  That’s the fun of square dance calling to me.

 

BB:  Well, that’s certainly commendable.  Um, how about, uh, week-long dances and weekend affairs and so forth.

 

ML:  I do them.  (. . .)  I’ve been doing those forever.  I resisted for many years, and again, I, I hope this comes across as not being brass.  I had a lot of offers in my early years to do those things that I refused because, uh, I always worked.  I never was without a job in my entire life.

 

BB:  Um, hmmm.

 

ML:  And I would not give up my job solely for square dancing.  I had a good job.  I worked for General Dynamics for 37-1/2 years . . .

 

BB:  Okay.

 

ML:  Uh, as an electrical engineer. 

 

BB:  Uh, huh.

 

ML:  And, uh, I just wouldn’t forsake that job for square dancing.  So, to do a week-long thing, that meant taking vacation time.  And vacation time was really the one time that the wife, and the kids, and I got to go somewhere.

 

BB:  Um, hmmm.

 

ML:  And we always took our vacation separate from square dancing.  I never did like to include square dancing as part of vacation because I was working 5, 6, or 7 nights a week square dancing anyway.

 

BB:  Right.

 

ML:  So when we vacationed, we got away from it.  And, uh, it was only in later years when I finally accumulated enough vacation time, or seniority, that I was getting 4 and 5 week vacations a year

BB:  Um, hmmm.

 

ML:  That I decided that I would give up a, a week of vacation and start taking week-long camps.  So we started working at Kirkwood and Fun Valley.  Like I said, about 27 some odd years ago.

 

BB:  Okay.

 

ML:  Uh, and I’ve done them regularly since then.

 

BB:  Okay.

 

ML:  But up until that time, I wouldn’t do one.

 

BB:  Yeah.

 

ML:  But that was - we’d do weekend stuff.

 

BB:  Yeah.

 

ML:  Where you could get out and get back.

 

BB:  Right.  Well, let’s talk about recording.

 

ML:  All right.

 

BB:  Uh, you’ve, you may, you had your own label so tell us about, um, how you got into that and . . .

 

ML:  Uh . . .

 

BB:  Some of the technical aspects or whatever.

 

ML:  Marshall Flippo and I were friends.

 

BB:  Yeah.

 

ML:  Uh, in fact, uh, uh, Flippo called his first-ever square dance on a microphone at my dance.

 

BB:  Okay.

 

ML:  Uh, I was calling - I had a square dance club in a little town called Cisco, Texas, 6,000, 7,000 population, and Flippo, Marshall and (. . .) lived in Abilene . . .

 

BB:  Um, hmmm.

 

ML:  Which was about, uh, 35 or 40 miles from there, 50 maybe.  And they drove down to our square dance, and the person who came with him, another couple, somewhere during the early part of the dance came up and asked me if, if it would, uh, if I would permit someone else to call on the program.  And I said, sure, what’s you got.  And he said, well, I’ve got a friend whose learned to square dance call.  And he’s been practicing at home, but he’s never called anywhere yet.  So it turned out to be Flippo, and I said sure, we’ll put him on and let him call.  And he called one. And, uh, I, I kid Flip about this.  He and I are very good friends.  I hope we are.  We still are. 

 

BB:  Laughter.

 

ML:  And, uh, I kid him about it often.  He was awful.

 

BB:  Laughter.

 

ML:  He was absolutely awful.

 

BB:  He mentioned that when I interviewed him.

 

ML:  Yeah.  He was awful.  By awful, I meant his timing was awful.  He actually could not come close to calling on the beat.  He . . .

 

BB:  Right.

 

ML:  Was just like you . . .

 

BB:  Yeah.

 

ML:  You tried to dance to it just like you were stumbling all the time.

 

BB:  He mentioned that.

 

ML:  But, the thing that was good about him - his voice was clear.

 

BB:  Right.

 

ML:  Really a beautiful voice.  Just listening to - I mean, I don’t mean it’s like a beautiful voice for singing but a beautiful voice to listen to because you could understand everything he said.

 

BB:  Right.

 

ML:  Very good enunciation and all.  And good, crisp delivery.

 

BB:  Right.

 

ML:  Everything that I thought was good about a square dance caller, except his timing was terrible.

 

BB:  Yeah, right.

 

ML:  So when it was over, he asked to be critiqued, and, uh, I said, I tried to be nice.  I tried to point out all the good things and then I said, but you do have this one problem.  And he said, well what can I do for it.  I said, the only thing I know you can do for it, and I said, I’m not much as a teacher, because I haven’t been at it long enough, but it would seem to me that maybe you ought to try to dance and call at the same time.  And you could see where to put your foot down on the music, you know, and so, uh, he apparently took that advice.  He always said he did anyway.  But the next time I heard him, he was terrific.  He came back about 2 months after that, and he was already terrific.  So we became good friends.  And then Flip came to me, and I don’t recall the exact time, it was too long ago.  But, uh, in the - uh, we had already moved to, uh, Fort Worth, so that was in ’53, Sue and I moved from west Texas to Fort Worth.  And I went to work for General Dynamics.  And, uh, some time during that period of time after that, shortly, he came, and he had, uh, written a square dance.  And he wanted to know if I knew any way he could get it recorded.  And back it up from there a bit.  He and I used to, prior to that, we used to try to write square dances together.  He and I both fiddled around with the piano just enough to be dangerous, and we would be together, and we’d, uh, beat on the piano and think of things we could write square dances to.  And we’d probably written four or five just for fun, never done anything with them.  But then he came up with this one, and he said, he had one he thought was pretty good wanted to know if I could help him get it recorded.  And I told him I had absolutely no contacts with anybody to do any recording.  I didn’t know how to go about it.      The only thing that I had ever done, and this is backing up a little bit, but prior to that, in the early days of square dancing when it became popular, some of the major labels were looking for square dance callers. And I don’t know, by whoever put me on to this, but somebody, uh, had told a representative of Mercury Records, back in those days was a pretty big label . . .

 

BB:  Um, hmmm.

 

ML:  And, uh, they came and contacted me about auditioning for their label as a square dance caller. And that was before the little independent labels.  And I had gone to a studio and taken the entire band that I had, that I worked with, and we cut some audio tapes, I mean some, uh, uh, audition

 

BB:  Um, hmmm.

 

ML:  Well, they weren’t tapes in those days, they were disks.

 

BB:  Right.

 

ML:  We cut some on big platters.

 

BB:  Sure.

 

ML:  We cut some, uh, audition platters.  And I was so disappointed in them that I never even let them have them.  I just, I just wouldn’t do it.  I said, I wouldn’t let anybody listen to those.  They were, they were so much worse than I thought they’d be.  You know, I thought I sounded pretty good.

 

BB:  Um, hmmm.

ML:  But after I heard us on the record, I was really disappointed.  And that had been my only prior experience with recording.  So when Flip came to me about this, I said, that’s the only experience I got.  I don’t know anyone else.  So it turned out to be, it was Auctioneer . . .

 

BB:  Yeah.

 

ML:  And it turned out to be the one that he found Norm, Norman Merback in . . .

 

BB:  Right.

 

ML:  Houston that recorded for him.  Of course, that just went like wildfire . . .

 

BB:  Sure it did.

 

ML:  (. . .)  So then after that, in talking to Merback one time, he wanted me to record for their label. And, uh, I don’t know, uh, whatever reason, I just decided that I didn’t wanted to do it.  I decided if I was going to do it, I wanted to do my own thing.  So, I don’t remember the year, but some time in the late ‘50s, I decided I’d jump in.  I went down to the bank and talked the banker into letting me have $2,500 on good faith for me to start this record thing.  And so, we did, and we recorded some pretty nice things for a while, but, and I never lost money with it.  But it was, it was not profitable . . .

 

BB:  Um, hmmm.

 

ML:  Insofar as time spent . . .

 

BB:  Right.  I was going to say.

 

ML:  (. . .)  When I counted up how many hours I spent in the studio . . .

 

BB:  Right.

 

ML:  And the profit I was making for those hours, it was so meager that I decided, uh, I didn’t need that.

 

BB:  Right.

 

ML:  So, uh, I think we, I think we cut about 35 records or something like that before I decided I’d had enough of it.

 

BB:  Well, this is Blue. . .

 

ML:  And I haven’t done anything since then.

 

BB:  All right.  This is Blue Star you’re talking about.

 

ML:  No.

BB:  No.

 

ML:  My label was Square L.

 

BB:  Square L, right.  Okay.  Right.  Okay.  Uh, one of the things that I’ve asked people that I, in fact, you’ve already answered it really, is what is it you find appealing about calling square dances.  Is it an ego trip, or . . .

 

ML:  You know what I’ll do.  I’ve told this story several times. 

 

BB:  Okay.

 

ML:  But I, I think it’s worth telling again to you because it really points out what a square dance caller is.  I was calling, what at that time, was a very large festival.  I had, uh, in fact it was probably the second year that I had called it.  I called it a total of about four times.  It was one of those, like almost 200 square festivals . . .

 

BB:  Um, hmmm.

 

ML:  Which is pretty good size in anybody’s time.

 

BB:  Right.

 

ML:  And I’m not going to say where because somebody might say this time and hear it.  But, uh, it was the kind they really treated you royally.

 

BB:  Um, hmmm.

 

ML:  And, you remember, in the, uh, this has changed a lot over the time.

 

BB:  Right.

 

ML:  But in the early days of being a featured caller at a festival, it was almost like being a celebrity.

 

BB:  Right.

 

ML:  Because boy, they would pick you up, and take you dinner, and wine you and dine you . . .

 

BB:  Right.

 

ML:  And everything.

 

BB:  Yeah.

 

ML:  And, uh, it really boosted your ego.  It made you feel like you were somebody.  They put your name on billboards and things like this, you know.  And, uh, in the auditorium, or in the convention center that we were dancing in, they had a sign with my name all the way across the top of the stage, and the letters, alone, must have been 2 foot high letters.

 

BB:  Right.

 

ML:  And the total length of the sign was probably 30 or 40 feet. 

 

BB:  Okay.

 

ML:  With my name spread across it.

 

BB:  Yeah.

 

ML:  Well, boy, that looks pretty good when you walk in there and see that, you know.  You’re pretty much on cloud nine.  So, I called the first half of the festival, and the program called for an exhibition square to be in the very middle, to take like a 30-minute break, and the exhibition square and then the guy who called the exhibition square was going to call immediately after one, one tip

 

BB:  Um, hmmm.

 

ML:  And this was all prior arranged.  I called the entire dance with the exception of, uh, the middle 30 minutes there.

 

BB:  Right.

 

ML:  And those also were 3-hour dances in those days.

 

BB:  Yeah.

 

ML:  Eight to 11 or . . .

 

BB:  Right.

 

ML:  Whatever.  11:30 in many cases.  And so, I took the occasion while he was calling, I thought, well, I’ll just go down and dance.  So I went down to the floor, and it was a very high stage.  One of those things I hate.

 

BB:  Yeah.

 

ML:  Well, anyway, you go down a stairway to get to the floor, and I went down to the floor, and I asked probably three different women to dance before I found one who would even dance with me.  And then one lady was gracious enough to do so, and we were dancing in the square, and I’ll always remember I was the number three couple.  And we were saying our howdies and our handshakes prior to this dance starting, the tip starting.  And the lady who was the number two lady, my corner, leaned over to me and put her hand on my badge and looked at it.  She said, my gracious, you’re from Texas.  I said, yes, Ma’am.  She said, you came up here to dance all the way from Texas.  I said, yes, Ma’am.  She said, well, why did you do that.  I said, well, I just thought I might like . . .

 

BB:  Laughter.

 

ML:  To do that.  And she said, well, we’re sure happy you came to dance with us.  She didn’t have the faintest idea - I mean, that’ll, that’ll tell you how quick you are as a caller right there.  You, if you ever had, if you ever thought you were anything, that just - I, I felt like saying look on the sign lady. . .

 

BB:  Yeah, right.

 

ML:  There’s, there’s a 30-foot sign.  But she had no idea who the caller was.

 

BB:  Yeah. 

 

ML:  And since then, and all callers who have traveled have experienced this.  You are always running into people who, uh, who say, I think I danced to you down in, somewhere . . .

 

BB:  Yeah.

 

ML:  And you’ve never even been to that place.

 

BB:  Right.

 

ML:  You know, or, or even the reverse is true.  A lot of times, I mean, a similar situation, I had a lady just last week tell me, oh we went to so and so and had the best time dancing.  A great dance.  I said, who was the caller.  Oh, I don’t know, but he was pretty good.  I don’t know who he was …

 

BB:  Yeah, right.

 

ML:  Laughter.  You know.  So, so if you want any satisfaction out of calling, you’d better get it from enjoying the calling and the people, because if you’re looking for the name recognition, you’re in the wrong business.

 

BB:  Or the money.  Right

 

ML:  Or the money.  Yes.

 

BB:  Right.  This reminds of my story about - the same thing way back when I was young, calling for the Worcester County, Worcester, Massachusetts, County Dairymen’s League.  And after the first tip, a fella, a big rawboned farmer came up, walked across the stage, and pumped my hand and says, you’re the best damn caller I ever heard in my life.  And I puffed up like a pigeon, you know, and as we talked - anyway, to make a long story short, I finally said to him, uh, you been square dancing long.  He said, never been to a square dance in my life.  (Laughter.)

 

ML:  Had to be the best one…  Yeah.  There’s, there’s a lot of stories like that.  It’s true, too. 

 

BB:  Yeah.

 

ML:  It’s uh - well, people are being nice. 

 

BB:  Yeah.

 

ML:  They just don’t, uh . . .

 

BB:  Yeah.

 

ML:  You know, uh, we, as callers, get our, ourselves built up that we’re something when we’re really just sort of a server of the people. 

 

BB:  Yeah.  Well, one of the other things I’ve been asking everybody is, um, in your humble opinion, what do you consider to be where square dancing has been, and where is it now, and where do you think it might be going?

 

ML:  I don’t know, Bob.  You hit me with a hard question there.  Uh, this is my, what is this, 49, this is going into my 48th year, and I know you’ve got, how many years do you have now.

 

BB:  Sixty-seven.

 

ML:  I know you’ve got a bunch of them, and Al’s got well over 50, I know.

 

BB:  Oh, yes, sure.

 

ML:  You folks started when you were kids in your . . .

 

BB:  Yeah . . .

 

ML:  When you were in with your Dad didn’t you

 

BB:  No, we, we started about 1935 . . .

 

ML:  It was a family-type thing.

 

BB:  1935.  It was a 4H Club project.

 

ML:  Yes.

 

BB:  Um, hmmm.

 

ML:  Gosh, this is, a bunch of years between all three of us.

 

BB:  Right.

 

ML:  I’ve seen the good times and the bad times.  I was lucky when I got in because it was booming.  It was in the late ‘40s, and in our area, and I suppose across the United States . . .

 

BB:  Sure.

 

ML:  To a large degree, it was booming.

 

BB:  Right.

 

ML:  Uh, and I was fortunate in meeting a lot of nice people in the activity who have since become legends, you know.  Of course, Osgood and Shaw and . . .

 

BB:  Um, hmmm.

 

ML:  And Dorothy Shaw and, as well as Pappy, and all those people I got to meet so, even back, Marvin Shilling, Poncho, and, uh, uh, gosh, just from all over.

 

BB:  Right.

 

ML:  That I was really fond of.  And, uh, I guess those were sort of the good old days as far as the fact that you didn’t have to do anything to get a crowd.  The crowd was there.

 

BB:  Yeah.

 

ML:  All you had to do was show up and call . . .

 

BB:  Laughter.

 

ML:  And people had a good time, and if you were a little better than average caller, well, uh, you did all right.  And also we talk about the money, you know, I don’t want to sound, uh, too silly about that too, but, uh, I made a living off of it.

 

BB:  Yeah.

 

ML:  You know, I, I can’t say that it was bad.  The only thing that happened to square dance callers as far as money is concerned, the money didn’t keep up with the times. 

 

BB:  Right.

 

ML:  Because what I said earlier, uh, $100 for calling a dance back in 1940 something was a good price.

 

BB:  Oh, yeah.

ML:  But, you know, callers don’t make a whole lot more than that right now, some of them.

 

BB:  Right.

 

ML:  So, and, and wages have gone up 20 times since then.

 

BB:  Sure.

 

ML:  So, if, if square dance wages had kept up with the normal rise in wages in the economy around the country, we’d all be making pretty good money now.

 

BB:  Right.

 

ML:  But anyway, I did all right.  I got my kids through school with it, and put a little money aside, and had a nice retirement as a result of it.  But anyway, we saw the good times, uh, when it was easy to get dancers, and easy to make a little money, and please everybody.  Then in the early ‘50s, at home, I can’t speak nationwide, but in the early ‘50s at home, uh, somewhere around ’54, ’5, ’6, I get - mid ‘50s I should say, right in the middle . . .

 

BB:  Um, hmmm.

 

ML:  Early ‘50s, middle ‘50s, ’57, ’58, it really took a down drop at home.  And I always thought the down drop occurred because what we then called hot hash, that was the term that was given to more or less improvised calling.

 

BB:  Um, hmmm.

 

ML:  Without routine patterns being done.  You know, all the dances we did in the early days had names, you knew exactly . . .

 

BB:  Sure.

 

ML:  What you were going to do . . .

 

BB:  Yeah.

 

ML:  The whole thing all the way through.

 

BB:  Yeah.

 

ML:  You put a beginning to it, you had a figure, and you had an ending, and that was your square dance.  Much like we do a singing call now.

 

BB:  Yeah.

 

 

 

ML:  The patter call.  Then somebody, and I’ll never know who started all this, but I know Gotcher got at least some fame out of being a hot hash caller.

 

BB:  Um, hmmm.

 

ML:  Then a lot of people tried to pattern themselves after what he was doing and just butchered it terribly, because they completely forgot about timing.  They played - just strictly to see how fast they could call and how frequently they could stump the floor . . .

 

BB:  Yeah.

 

ML:  With choreography . . .

 

BB:  Um, hmmm.

 

ML:  Of their choosing.  And then, whether that’s what happened to cause the down turn or not, I don’t know, but I know it occurred during that time frame at home . . .

 

BB:  Um, hmmm.

 

ML:  And, uh, I begin to sense a sense of coming back to normality in around ’60, ’61.

 

BB:  Um, hmmm.

 

ML:  At home.  When things begin to level off, and we got into more singing calls and more sensible patter, and better timing, and simpler movements, and so forth.  And then we have this real nice boom period that from that point on, now I’m talking about my personal experiences, from 1960, ’61 all the way through to the late ‘80s, was nothing but better every year.

 

BB:  Um, hmmm.

 

ML:  Then in the late ‘80s, and again I’m not going to blame it on this, I don’t know, but it is coincidental, it’s the same time that at home, the advanced programs began hitting.

 

BB:  Um, hmmm.

 

ML:  Uh, I always resisted that a little bit because I felt there was a attitude about people who became “the best dancers”.

 

BB:  Um, hmmm.

 

ML:  I’m not - they were the same people.  They were beautiful people, but it seemed to be that you take them out of what we now call the Mainstream dance and put them into the Advance program, they just begin to change their attitude.

 

BB:  Um, hmmm.

 

ML:  They begin to make me feel they thought they were better than us other dancers.  Well, the unique thing about it was, I was calling Advanced then, had been calling for 30 years, just didn’t call it that.

 

BB:  Yeah.

 

ML:  Had a closed club.  Still have.  You know, I’ve had this one closed club for 30 some odd years that I always felt was the way Advanced dancing ought to be.  It ought to be for those people who belong to at least one other club.  That’s our rule.  You have to belong to at least one other club before you belong to this.  And you, we don’t advertise it.  We simply pass the word . .

 

BB:  Hmmm.

 

ML:  That if you’re pretty good dancer and you want to do a little extra, then this is where we do it.

 

BB:  Um, hmmm.

 

ML:  So, I’m not opposed to dancing like that.  I love a lot of the basics in the movements that we do in A1, A2, and in the C movement.  But I am opposed to the fact that we put it out there and people think that is the thing to do . . .

 

BB:  Right.

 

ML:  And the other is beneath them.

 

BB:  Right.

 

ML:  Now I’m not saying that happens with all the people.  It certainly doesn’t.  But it does happen in some of the square dance population.

 

BB:  Right.

 

ML:  And whether that caused some of our kick back or not, I don’t know, but I do know it was at that same time frame that our, our numbers begin to go down and have gone down gradually ever since then.

 

BB:  Um, hmmm.

 

ML:  Uh, I hope that’s not the case, that that’s what it is.  But, uh, but I’m at a loss to explain completely.  Probably, probably the downslide in dancing has to do with a number of factors.

 

BB:  Um, hmmm.

 

 

ML:  That maybe being one.

 

BB:  Um, hmmm.

 

ML:  But I would imagine the, the popularity of home videos, and professional sports, and everything in the world, the competition for the entertainment dollar is so strong now . . .

 

BB:  Right.

 

ML:  That it’s probably a combination of several things.

 

BB:  Right.

 

ML:  That’s happened to us.

 

BB:  Right.

 

ML:  But, uh, uh, whatever, uh, I will say this.  As far as my personal enjoyment of calling a square dance with the material that is available to call, this is certainly the best times ever for it. 

 

BB:  Um, hmmm.

 

ML:  Because I love being able to use all the basics that we have available to us . . .

 

BB:  Um, hmmm.

 

ML:  And put them together in a dance.  But it’s also made it very demanding on people to become a square dancer.

 

BB:  Right.

 

ML:  Because now I have people who have been dancing with me who were excellent dancers who have danced with me for 15, 20, 25, even 30 years, and I see them slipping now, and it really saddens me . . .

 

BB:  Um, hmmm.

 

ML:  To know what to do with myself because when I’m sitting - I have five clubs at home that I call for, each one of those clubs for over 30 years.

 

BB:  Yeah.

 

ML:  And when I see those people that have danced and supported me for years and years unable to dance what I’m calling, it really saddens me, and then I’m faced with a dilemma, now what do I do . . .

 

BB:  Um, hmmm.

 

ML:  Do I call to the majority like you’re suppose to do, or do I go to my personal friends and drop down to what they are now able to do.  Just simply because of age and physical restraints.

 

BB:  Right.

 

ML:  That they have on ‘em - you know, they’re just not physically able to move . . .

 

BB:  Um, hmmm.

 

ML:  Fast enough or hear well enough . . .

 

BB:  Right.

 

ML:  To do the basics that we’re now . . .

 

BB:  Right.

 

ML:  Doing.  And they could have done them maybe 5 years ago.  So it - that’s just hard.

 

BB:  Yeah.  Um, before we get to the end of this tape, uh, one unique question I’ve been - do you have any regrets about your, uh, your career.  Anything you wished you had done differently.

 

ML:  Well, I’m sure I’ve said some things I wished I hadn’t said.

 

BB:  Laughter.  Okay.

 

ML:  Like maybe even on this tape.

 

BB:  Laughter.  Yeah.

 

ML:  I’m, I’m sure I’ve done that before, but insofar as, uh, what I’ve done with my square dancing, uh, uh, and calling and the places we’ve gone and done, it’s been a wonderful opportunity for me to meet a lot of people.

 

BB:  Um, hmmm.

 

ML:  And that’s the entire, that’s the most memorable thing you can take with you is the people that you’ve met . . .

 

BB:  Right.

 

ML:  And been associated with. 

 

BB:  Well, that’s great.

 

ML:  And, I would say, uh, I don’t know how most people feel - are we out of tape?  Uh, I know how most callers (banging), I can’t say how most callers feel.  I’ve enjoyed square dance callers.  I enjoy Callerlab and what we stand for and what we’re trying to do, although I’ve not been in total agreement with everything that we’ve done. 

 

BB:  Right.

 

ML:  I’ve always thought that we’re doing, as a group we’re doing what we think is the right thing to do.  I think everybody that’s associated with the organization has tried to do what they think is best for the activity.  So I credit them for that.  But I’ve always, probably, aligned myself more with dancers than I have callers.

 

BB:  Um, hmmm.

 

ML:  And I see that not being the case with all the callers.  I see a lot of callers who, they go to a dance, and you see the callers all sticking together.

 

BB:  Um, hmmm.

 

ML:  And if I go to a dance,

 

End of Tape

 

 

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Written By: Bob Brundage
Date Posted: 8/14/2007
Number of Views: 1495

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