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Elmer Sheffield May 9, 2012

Elmer Sheffield - May 9, 2012

Bob Brundage - Well, hi again. This is Bob Brundage again. Today is May the 9th, 2012 and today we’re talking with Elmer Sheffield down in Tallahassee, Florida so we’re looking forward to a good interview talking about Elmer’s recording efforts and his efforts with the Callerlab Foundation. So Elmer, why don’t you give us a little background of where you were born and brought up.

Elmer Sheffield - Well Bob, I was born right here in Tallassee, Florida. I’ve lived here all my life. My family was in the auto and truck business and we had a, of course, a big shop where we actually sold International Trucks for years but we had a body shop and I kind of managed that body shop before I got into the square dance calling business. Of course, I met my wife, Margie, when we were just kids I guess, like fourteen, fifteen years old. We ended up ... I went to FSU College for two years and I gave that up, decided to get married and just run the body shop. So, we’ve been married now fifty-four years ... two children, got five grand children and I still own the body shop. I’m kind of away from it now because, you know, she had a stroke last year in February. Now I’m her primary care giver. So, that’s what I do with my days.

BB - Ah ha. Well, tell us about your family background. Were they into the music scene at all?

ES - Bob, nobody ... my mother could play the piano but my mother played the piano and a lot of people probably don’t even know what I’m talking about. She played by the shape of the notes. She didn’t read any music but she could play pretty good and that was the only connection with music in my family. I got ... I had two brothers and a sister. None of them got any further into music than playing the radio. My daddy never … so, you know, it was just … I guess it was something that attracted me. I just really liked music. I did play a trumpet.  I started playing the trumpet in the band when I was in the fifth grade and I played all the way up to two years of college.

BB - Well that’s great.

ES– That gave me, you know some musical background.

BB - Yeah. How about dancing? Was your family into dancing at all?

ES - Never danced. In fact, I was probably the most clumsy dancer you’ve ever seen. But, I had a cousin and his wife here in town there was a square dance club back about  ... oh, it must have been around sixty-nine probably and they convinced me and my wife to go to class and we went ... the first tine we went we didn’t really get hooked ... we said, “Nah, I don’t think so” but they kept after us and the next time we went we really just had a ball and we really got involved in the square dancing and that’s kinda where our square dancing started from.

BB - Yeah. So, well when did you start calling?

ES - I started calling in 1970. In fact, I was not even out of class when I got the bug to be a caller and, of course, I was talking to our caller and bending his ear and asking how this worked and how did that work and I wanted to do singing calls. Of course he encouraged me to learn a couple of singing calls, which I did and probably in the year ’69, before I even graduated out of class I did a singing call. That kind of launched me into the square dance calling business.

BB - Yeah. Well, speaking of singing, were you a singer younger, like in a choir or anything like that?

ES - I sang a little bit in the choir at church. I never did any solo singing until I became a square dance caller.

BB -Well, so when you started calling, who were some of your mentors?

ES - Oh I guess my greatest mentor in the square dance business I guess was Marshall Flippo. Now, Flippo was not my mentor as far as  being the greatest singer in the business, even though he was certainly adequate. I don’t know, I liked Arnie Kronenberger, Don Franklin, Bob VanAntwerp, some of those guys. They were the guys that I really admired their singing ability and, of course, nowadays we’ve got Ken Bower, Tony Oxendine and some others. The first of my career those were the guys that really impressed me.

BB - Which reminds me, who was the caller that you started to dance with?

ES - Johnny Everett. He’s passed on now but he was a fairly young, energetic guy and we went to class. He just made it so much fun and he was, you know, not the greatest singer but certainly above average. I don’t know but his name was Johnny Everett and what happened is, after we got into the club ... after oh, it must have been four or five years Bob ... he got transferred and the club had no caller. That’s when they came to me said, “Would you be our caller?” and I said, “Hey, I can do some singing calls but I can’t call”. I took it on anyway.

BB - Well, you couldn’t have been doing all singing calls. You must have gotten into the hash …

ES - You know what happened Bob ... we were selling International Harvester Trucks at the time and we won a fishing trip to Miami through International and my daddy said, “Hey, I ain’t goin’ fishing. You take it”. So I thought and I said, “you know, I’m not a fisherman but I know Jack Lasry and he lives down there”. So I called Jack and I said “I got a chance to be in Miami for about four days expenses paid” and I said, “Hey, would you have time to work with me” and he said, “Absolutely”. So I went down there and I went over to Jack’s house every day and we sat at his coffee table and talked square dance and he showed me how to call patter … hash and really got me going and Bob, the funny thing is, of course,  I started recording around ’72 with Red Boot and, at that time I was a singing call caller. I could do a little bit of patter but, all of a sudden, that was in the days when square dancing was booming. I stared getting, you know, calls and letters from everywhere in the world, “Can you come and do our festival”.  And I’m saying to my wife, “I can’t do no festival. I can’t call hash” so that’s when I got really serious about calling.

BB - So, did you ever get to a caller’s school?

ES - I went to Frank Lanes caller’s school which was in Estes Park.

BB - Estes Park, yeah.

ES - Frank Lane, Jerry Haag, Earl Johnston and Beryl Main were there doing ...

BB - Well, I just interviewed Bob Riggs from Denver and I think he said he went to that school. Do you remember if he was there?

Es - You know I don’t … I do not remember. It’s very possible we could have been in the same school. Of course there were various ones during the years.

BB - Yes, Do you cue rounds too?

ES - I don’t cue rounds at all. We ... before my wife had her stroke we danced a few rounds. Not a high level, but I do not cue rounds at all.

BB - Yes. Your square dance club now, what is it, Capital Twirlers?

ES - Capital Twirlers, yes.

BB - And you have a couple that does the cueing for them I guess.

ES - Yes we do, we have a cuer we hire to do the rounds (Howard and Norma Smoyer. Ed.). We just graduated a class. In fact, Monday night we graduated four squares of new dancers and man, they’re doing so good and we had such a good dance Monday night. We had seven squares on the floor. They had a ball.

BB - Do you belong to any associations there in Florida?

ES - I belong to the Florida Caller’s Association and, of course, Callerlab but the only one here in Florida that I belong to is the Florida Caller’s Association.

BB - Yes. I understand you also called overseas at one time?

ES - Oh yes Bob. I’ve been … let’s see I’ve been to Japan four times. I’ve been in England, Sweden, Canada, Hawaii which, of course is part of the United States.

BB - Oh, that’s great. (Laughs)

ES - Maybe some other places that I can’t remember but Japan was really an experience because …..

BB - Well, it’s amazing what opportunities square dancing has brought to people …..

ES - Oh, absolutely.

BB - … (Laughs) So, I read somewhere something about a Panama City Beach Ball?

ES - Yeah, me and Darryl McMillan used to do one but now they have one that actually his record label used to put it on, him and Tony Oxendine, and Bill Terrell was on his staff and this is about the thirtieth year they’ve had it going. I did it last year with Daryl because Tony pre booked but that’s kind of his dance. We usually go over on Saturday night, if I’m not, you know,  busy somewhere, just the hang out, call a tip maybe.

BB - OK. Well, let’s get talking about Callerlab. (Coughs)  Excuse me ... I’ve had the opportunity to talk with some of the past chairmen of the Callerlab Committee or the Board of Directors and, as I remember, I don’t remember the exact year that Callerlab got officially started but Bob Osgood of course was the one that  ... he brought all of the people who had been awarded the Hall of Fame designation together and they did that up at Asilomar, California. I had a picture of some of those fellows. I remember there was Dave Taylor and Bob Page, Bruce Johnson I think, Bob VanAntwerp and there were others I’m sure. So, over the years there’s been several different Chairmen and I guess ... I started to say ‘sentence” (laughs) served a term of two years. Is that right?

ES - Actually, you get elected for a year but ninety percent of the time a guy gets re-elected to the second term.

BB - So it’s sort of automatic.

ES - Nothing is saying that you can’t be elected for a third term but most of us, after two years we’ve pretty well had enough of it and want to let somebody else enjoy it.

BB - I’ve always been curious. What are some of your duties as the Chairman?

ES - Well, primarily Bob, a lot of callers have a misconception of being Chairman of the Board. I don’t make decisions by myself, or very many. I can appoint committees and stuff but mainly I chair the Board of Governors meetings. I chair the Executive Committee meetings. We have two Executive Committee meetings a year where there’s five of us. We usually have our first one at the site of next year’s convention and the second one at some designated spot but primarily, you just kind of oversee the workings of the of the committees and the meetings. Of course, I get correspondence from each committee and as far as me saying, “Yes, this is what we’re going to do” and “no”. I don’t do that. That’s done by vote - but mainly you’re just there running the meetings, keeping order and that kind of thing.

BB - Yes. The Board of Directors has how many members?

ES - Oh gosh. I think ….

BB - A dozen or so I guess.

ES - They’d kill me if I say the wrong number but in the twenties.

BB - Oh, in the twenties.
 
ES - On the executive committee there’s five of us.
 
BB - Yeah. What are some of the committees that …  I know you have …

ES - Well, we have the Mainstream Committee, the Advanced Committee, Oh gosh, abbreviations … just a lot of things to do with it.

BB - Well, it pretty well covers all of the facets of square dancing I would say.

ES - There’s a committee that works on each thing. Their decisions and things come before the Board of Governors  to be approved or disapproved or whatever. We have an Ethics Committee , just mainly stuff like that.

BB - Yeah, there’s a Partners Committee …
 
ES - Yes there’s a Partners, yes
 
BB - … it involves the ladies.

ES - … ladies that do … and some of the men who don’t call who have the responsibility of being the partner of a caller.

BB - So, your term expires then when you get to Raleigh is that it?

ES - Yes, my term ... I was Chairman of course this past year through Nashville and then after Nashville I started this year and my term will be up in … next year when we have our meeting in Raleigh. I think Barry Clasper was elected, the incoming Chairman of the Board after I move on.

BB - Who did you say?

ES - Barry Clasper

BB - Oh. OK. Alright. Any other thoughts you want to give us about Callerlab?

ES - Oh Bob. There’s not a whole lot I can pass on other than ... Callerlab is not always right and we’re not always wrong but basically the best thing we’ve got going because, you know, everything has got to have some direction if it’s going to succeed and, as we both know, square dancing is suffering a little bit right now. So, there’s things we’re doing and trying to do that we hope to improve the activity. Hope to help it to grow and continue to go in the right direction. Sometimes we make mistakes but we we’re there trying anyway. So, it’s a great organization. I’ve been a member ... I joined Callerlab the year after it was formed. Like you say, it was a group of Hall of Famers, or whatever, and then they, in turn, had the opportunity to invite, I don’t know how many, whether it was one or two or how many but anyway, the next year they had the chance to invite other people and, of course Don Williamson, who I was recording with at the time invited me in and that was around 1974 or five because I’m like you, I don’t remember the exact year but I’ve been a member of Callerlab ever since. I’ve served on the Board of Governors. I’ve served on the Executive committee and of course now, the Chairman of the Board.

BB - Yeah. How about National Conventions? Have you been ….

ES - I have attended probably fifteen National Conventions over the years. I haven’t been to all of them. Back when I was really traveling forty-eight to fifty weekends a year I hit just about every National Convention because it was kind of part of ... I don’t mean to say part of your job because I enjoyed it ... but, you know, people heard you there. You got a lot of bookings from it. In later years Bob, now that I’ve slowed down quite a bit, we don’t go every year. We went last year. Of course, now Marge is not able to go so I don’t know. We’ll still go back again even of I have to push her around but we just haven’t been lately.

BB - One thing about Callerlab ...  I noticed that they usually tried to have their convention in three different sections of the country each year like in the west and then the central and then the east. Now, this time it seems like they’re both the east. I mean. I guess Nashville must have been considered the central part.

ES - I don’t honestly know what’s necessarily created that situation, because next year I think we’re going to, I believe, it’s Reno. But anyway, you know, Nashville and then over to Raleigh, a lot of times it has to do with the availability of the facility, finding somebody who is willing to work with us and has the room to handle us, you know and all that, but that comes from the Executive Chairman, not from me.

BB - Yes and that’s also a set date each year too. It has to do with Easter.

ES - It may back up or go forward a week or so but it’s pretty much the same time every year. It usually starts on … basically it starts on Sunday and goes through maybe Wednesday … we have our big meeting on Wednesday morning.

BB - Well, it’s rather unusual for somebody to start calling one year and start recording the next year.

ES - Oh, gosh Bob, I don’t know really how that happened except I was like most young callers, I guess and I loved singing so much and I happened to get an opportunity to get hooked up with Don Williamson on Red Boot Records and we did some stuff and I think the first ten or twelve tunes I recorded for him went to number one in the Sets In Order magazine and it kind of established me if you want to know the truth. I mean, nobody had heard of Elmer Sheffield until I started recording. As I told you, my career just kind of blossomed. It got bigger than me there for a while. Now ... I was figuring out the other day ...  I have recorded roughly 450 songs in my ... I’ve recorded for probably eight or ten other labels as a guest and, of course, now I own my own label, ESP which is Elmer Sheffield Productions. And it’s been the highlight of my career, to be honest with you, I love the music and the recording business. I just love making music.

BB - Well, you have your own studio, right?

ES -  I’ve got my own twenty-four track studio and I have my own ... I won’t say my own band ... I don’t own them but I have the same guys every ... they have recorded with me since day one and they’re still doing it. Now, one or two members have moved on or passed on or changed but basically, the Southern Satisfaction Band still does my music. There’s something we just really enjoy. I enjoy my studio. Of course, we do other stuff besides my stuff. We do demo’s and we do stuff for the Universities up here.  So I have an engineer (Fred Chester ... Ed.) ….

BB - Well, that’s almost a full time job then.

ES - It’s a pretty good hobby job, you know. I don’t have to be there. He runs it. He does his bookings. The only thing I do is book my square dance stuff on. When I want to do something I’ll tell him we need to record something on Thursday or Friday  or whatever then we do it.

BB - Do you have your own house band?

ES - Yes, I mean … as I say, it doesn’t really belong to me but it’s my guys. I’ve got five guys that have been recording for me since I started recording in the sixties with ESP, the same guys. They do my music. Bob, I’m really at the point with them ... have been this for a while ... if I want to do a song, I just call up my band leader and I say, “Hey. I heard this tune and I’ll send you a copy or iTune or whatever, listen to it and see what you think” and I don’t even have to be at the studio. I like to be there because I enjoy it but if I’m tied up with Margie or I’m tied up with something else they go into the studio, they cut the tune, he sends me an email and says, “Listen to it and see what you think. See if you want to change anything or whatever”. We have that kind of working relationship because they know, they know square dance music now and they know what I like and what’s my style and this kind of thing. So, it’s a good deal.

BB - Have they been independent musicians before they worked with you?

ES - They were a band ... they were the house band here in town for a big club for years. In fact, they won years ago ... I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of it ... but they had Wrangler Jeans contest and they won that contest over in Jacksonville and actually went to Nashville to compete against four other bands. They didn’t win up there but they were good enough to win. They’ve been together, they still play, they play for clubs and they play for weddings and dances.

BB - What’s the orchestration of that band. What do they have, piano, fiddle?

ES - We have piano, drums, guitar. We’ve got ... Bob, I actually have one guy, who’s the leader, who can play anything except brass. He doesn’t play any brass instruments but, I mean, if its guitar, steel guitar, harmonica, banjo, fiddle, whatever, He can play it all. Therefore he directs ... he tells the rest of the guys what to play, when to play and how to play. It started out as a country western band. Years ago when country western was the hottest thing going and, of course, as things changed, they had to change too. So now they do it all. They play country. They play rock. You know, whatever somebody wants that’s what they play and they’re very good, very good.

BB - Do you ever use synthetic music at all?

ES - Very, very little. I can’t say that we never have but very little. The main reason is  we just don’t need to. We’ve got … I’ve got the guys that can play and pick.

BB - Did you ever meet Joe Lewis and his accordion?

ES - I never met Joe Lewis. I knew if him. I’ve read stuff about him. I knew he played the accordion and called but I never met him ... sure didn’t.

BB - He was, of course, he was the one that developed that accordion that sounded like a three piece band.

ES – Yeah. Oh yeah. I’ve heard some of his recordings. I’ve got some of his old ... back when Bob Osgood closed up Sets In Order he called me up and asked me did I want a bunch of old records that he had. He sent me boxes Bob sent me old 78’s that are thick you now. Nowadays records are little thin things but those records were thick.  Some of Joe Lewis, Joel Pepper, people I’d never heard of  ... and I got his records.

BB – Yeah. I was just trying to think ... his accordion ... the base notes sounded like a base fiddle and, of course, the keyboard sounded like an accordion and the chord section sounded like a guitar so it was really like a three piece band. He was quite a musician. Well, tell me about some of the ... you recorded on different labels before you started ESP, right?

ES - Yep.

BB - What are some of the labels you ….

ES - Well, I basically recorded on Red Boot Records with Don Williamson for I guess ten or twelve years Bob. At that time that was the only label I recorded on other than I did ... you know, Bob Osgood used to put out Sets In Order albums and I did those albums,  a couple if them. It was after I started ESP, my own label, that I actually did guest spots for ... I mean, I’ve recorded on ... gosh, I can’t name them all ... Blue Star, Lou-Mac, Square Tunes, Riverboat … and on and on. I can’t tell you all … in fact, to be honest with you, I’ve got five tunes right now that the guys are waiting on me to do vocals for them and it’s not because I’m that great. I mean, they just ... they like my voice on a record and they know that my reputation has been pretty good. And I enjoy doing it, I mean what the heck it’s fun to do and it don’t cost me nothing to put my vocal on a piece of music that they cut so …

BB - After you got ESP going I understood you also started J-Pat?

ES - I bought, actually I didn’t buy Jo-Pat but Joe Porritt who owned Jo-Pat at the time called me one day and said he was going to close up Jo-Pat Records and would I be interested in it. I said, “Well Joe, I don’t know if I can afford it” and he said, “I’ll tell you what, I’ll give it to you. I’ve got all my tapes and if you’ll just let me record just one record a year maybe”. So that’s what we did. He sent me all his stuff. I started out doing it and Joe was doing it and he finally quit calling and I finally gave up and I still have the label. Bob. but I don’t use it any more because I don’t honestly have the time to do all the music for ESP that I would like to. Another thing to, in today’s market it’s kind of foolish to spend a lot of money. I mean I can’t ... I told the guys at Callerlab, and I’m a kind of guy you can believe when I tell you this, I came from the days when we would do a square dance record, a 45, it was not unusual at all to sell 10 to 12,000 copies of that one record.

BB - Is that right?

ES - Today Bob, today, if you can sell 100 copies of a single record you’re dong good, really good. So, it’s certainly not a money making thing any more. That’s why all the guys are searching for all these programs, you know, package deals, and exclusives because they know in the first place there is no such thing any more as vinyl, you know, vinyl’s just gone. It’s got to where it was too expensive to produce it and you couldn’t sell enough pieces of vinyl  to pay for it so now it’s, it’s either MP3’s or CD’s. Most callers you know all they use a Hilton for now is an amplifier for a computer.

BB - Right. Well, well things have changed over the years. I always think back to the first amplification that I had was an 8 watt. 8 watts ... (laughs) ... a tube, you know a vacuum tube affair. But anyway….

ES - I remember those old Newcombs, Audiofones and that kind of stuff. Of course, Hilton finally captured the market for many years because he had just the best one.

BB - I interviewed Jim Hilton at his apartment out in California. I was amazed at that time that he said,” You know the day is going to come when an amplifier will be about the size of a pack of cigarettes ... (laughs) ... so, you’ve had to keep up with the Mp3’s, etc.

ES - Yeah, well I’m not a real computer person Bob but I do have a computer now that I am slowly doing most of my calling from. I still carry records to my dance because, you know, I like records and I’ve still got a bunch of them but, unfortunately, if you want to get the new releases it’s got to be on MP3. You’re not going to get a piece of vinyl. I’m not a real computer savvy person but with the help of my friends I get the music in there and I’ve got a square dance program in the computer that plays them.  And, I mean, I’ll be honest with you it’s easier, even in our studio we still have a 24 track tape machine but it’s almost like an albatross. I mean, we didn’t go to the computer for a long time and we’d have people call up and say.” Hey, I’m thinking about doing a session. What kind of software do you use?” and we say.” Oh, we don’t use a computer. We still use a tape machine” and they say,” Oh well, I’ll call you back” and you never heard from them. That was old technology. Now I do have a Mac Pro computer and software and you know, Logic Pro that we record just about 90% of everything on the computer. We still can use the tape machine but Bob, it’s so much easier ... if you’ve got a little flaw you need to correct it’s just a matter taping a button and you fix it.

BB - You can change the key and ….

ES - Yes, had to sit there and turn the tapes back and forth, back and forth looking for that one little note you wanted and so it’s a lot of difference,

BB - Well, you certainly made your impact on the industry that’s for sure as far as square dancing is concerned.

ES - Well, I hope it’s been in the right direction, I certainly enjoyed it, I mean, there’s no question that I’m … I guess maybe what you’d … I’d hate to say over the hill … I’m not over the hill but  I’m kind of … I’m kind of coasting down the back side of my career, you know I’m still calling but I’m not that old … 25 or 30 year old kid that I used to be out there on that stage but I still enjoy it and I still get bookings and I still get …

BB - Well, I think we’ve covered recordings pretty well so. What’s your thoughts on square dancing in general? Where do you think square dancing is going?

ES - Bob it’s really ... that’s a difficult question because. as you and I both know, right now, it’s on the down side. I mean, our festivals are folding. Our clubs are folding and getting smaller. New classes are smaller. I don’t know ... I don’t think that square dancing is going to die. I mean, some people say it’s got to die before it can start again”, Well, I don’t think that’s going to happen. I definitely think that we’re going to have to make some changes. Now, what those changes are going to be I wished I had the answer because every year at Callerlab that’s our theme ... Change. We’re going to make changes but we never seem to make them. I don’t know. I don’t know if our programs are too long. You know, we’re fighting now with competition from the computer and video games from lots of things that just make people say, “Hey, I’d just as soon stay home tonight. I don’t have to get dressed and go to some square dance class” and we used to say. “OK, we’re going to have square dance lessons and they’re going to last 52 weeks”. And people now, they say, “I ain’t going to no class that’s going to take me a year to learn to dance”. I don’t know Bob. I think we can save it but I think it’s going to take some smart people and some smart ideas. We’ve got to offer something to the new people, new dancers that make them want to dance ... make them want to come out on whatever night you dance on.

BB - Well, maybe we need more pot luck suppers. (Laughs)

ES - I mean, I don’t know really. I can’t really give you an answer. We’re working on those things and we do have some ideas. You know, change Bob is always the same in anything. If you say, “Change”, one side says, “We don’t want no change. Things are great like they are” and the other side says, “Yeah, we want change” and it’s hard to ... and if you come up with an idea, if you say … well, well for instance I had the idea this year I said, “Why don’t we think about a shorter entry level”. Not a new program. Not a new level of dancing. Not doing away with Basics or Mainstream. Just a suggested teaching list of 35 or 40 calls that we can teach in 12 lessons and have people dancing and then go from there. Well, some people said,” Yeah, great idea”. Some people said, “No, we don’t want no changes. We don’t want nothing, no new levels”. So, I don’t know and I’m not saying that that’s one of the answers but it was just a thought. You know, my thinking, when I teach a class Bob, I want those people to be dancing just as soon as they can. I have my people dancing singing calls on the very first night. It may not be nothing but circle left, circle right and allemande ... you know what I mean and they’re dancing and they feel like they’ve accomplished something and as soon as you …  to me, as soon as you can throw one of them nice singing calls on there say, “OK folks, now some of these words are not going to mean nothing to you but you pay attention to the ones that tell you what to do in the square dance” and then you sing to them and they love it and when it’s over they feel like, ‘Man. We’ve danced. We’ve had a ball’. So, I don’t know Bob, going back to what you asked me. I don’t have the answer. I wish I did but I can tell you that we’re working hard at trying to come up with some ideas and solutions that we can hopefully, we can entice some people and let’s face it, me and you, me and you I’m not going to say are old people but we need some younger people and I’m not talking about necessarily teenagers ... it would be good to have some teenagers but we need some 30 year olds and some 40 year olds in our square dancing. The rest of us we’ve been there, done that and we’re kind of on the back side of 30 here. You know, it’s hard for a 70 year old guy to go out there and entice a young person to come square dancing. He says, “I don’t want to go dancing with Grandpa”. Anyway, we’re working at it. That’s all I can really tell you. Hopefully, some things will come out of our meetings and out of Callerlab that will help spur it back along. Will it ever be as big as what it was at one time Bob?  Maybe not. Maybe we’ve hit the crest when we see 30 or 40 thousand members at the conventions. I don’t know.

BB - Well, over your career you’ve been very successful, do you have any regrets or anything you wish you had done differently?

ES - My only regret was … to be honest with you, I wish I had started younger. When I started calling I was already right at 30 years of age, which wasn’t old by any means but anyway, I should have started when I was about 20/25 because I’ve enjoyed it. I’d have liked to have added on another 10 years or so. But, as far as any real regrets, no, I can’t say that I’ve got any. We have enjoyed square dancing. It’s offered me and my family many opportunities. We’ve traveled to places that we would have never been to had I not been in it.  We’ve met people and made friends. I mean Bob, when Margie had her stroke you would not believe the emails, and cards we got from dancers and callers all over the world. Some of them, I didn’t even know who they were. I mean, just as friends and, I’ll be honest with you, it makes me feel real good when my dancers from here, let’s say they travel and they go out to Oklahoma or Texas, or California, anywhere and somebody there says, “Who do you dance with at home”? And they say “Oh, Elmer Sheffield”. And they say, “oh yeah, we know him. He recorded all these songs”. And that makes me feel good but I don’t have any real regrets. I have certainly enjoyed it and I still intend to call for a while yet. I’m certainly not fixing to hang up my records and quit. I’ll still travel a minimum. I’d go … I have a local club here I call for every week and then I travel 6 to maybe 10 times a year. That’s about it and I pick and choose, you know. If it’s something I really want to do I’ll say, “Yeah let’s go” and then in all honesty too, the economy has made a lot of difference in all of us guys who are so-called traveling callers, you know. The old days when ... I always relate to this Bob ... one night I was sitting at the house, this has been years ago, but a Caller’s Association called me from California and said, “We want to have a free dance in a couple of weeks for our dancers to pay them back for the times they … the money they spend with us, would you come out and call the dance?” and I said, “Just a Saturday night dance?” and he said, “Yeah”. I said, “do you realize I’m in Florida?”. “Yeah”. And basically they said, “We’ll pay you $350 to call the dance and your air fare an all”. Well, I went and did the dance. Today, they can’t afford that. They can’t do that. I mean, the money is just not in the clubs, just not in the treasury and those days are gone. I mean, these guys that are still out on the road, beating  the road for their living, they’re working hard at it now. They sure are.

BB - They sure are. Well, Elmer, golly, it’s been a lot of fun talking with you today…..

ES - Well, I appreciate it Bob and just as a kind of last minute thought, it was so great to see … you know you go to Callerlab and see, of course Marshal, he’s always there, Jerry Helt. I’ve never had the chance to call with Jerry but we know each other and we’re friends and a couple of days ago I got a DVD in the mail from Jerry. Some kind of waltz that somebody did. Anyway… it was such a nice note, “how good it was to see me and Margie and what a great time they had”. I just appreciated that. I said “You know, here’s a guy who I would throw into the group … with the legends. I don’t consider myself a legend but he takes the time out to send me a letter and say what a great time we had” So, those things are great and Flippo, he called 3 or 4 times to check on Margie.

BB - Well, I certainly appreciate your taking the time today to sit down and chat with me about all your activities. I know you’ve had a very, very successful career and are looking forward to it for several more years, and I certainly wish your wife good luck with her problems. So, if you’ll stay on the line I think we can call this the end of the tape and I’ll chat with you some more after I stop taping.

ES - OK Bob. I thank you very much.



End of tape - End of interview with Elmer Sheffield.

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Written By: Bob Brundage
Date Posted: 6/2/2012
Number of Views: 640

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