CAL GOLDEN INTERVIEW
December 4, 1997
Bob Brundage: Well, hi again, Bob Brundage. Today is December the 4th, 1997, and today we are in Hot Springs, Arkansas, talking to one of our Hall of Fame gentlemen, Mr. Cal Golden. Cal, I’ve been usually starting out asking people where were you born and brought up, and you came up with a good story.
I was born 20 miles out of town out of Hot Springs, and 40 foot under water right now. The reason I’m saying that, we have a damn out there called Washatow Damn, and it backed up over my old home place. It’s about 40 feet under right now. I’m a native Arkansan.
BB: All right. And so tell us, you come from a musical family?
CG: No, I, I did not. Well, I, I say I did not. Believe it or not, my Dad, after I got into square dancing several years, I remembered back as a kid that my Dad used to hold square dances at the house. But we were all little kids, and they’d take all the stuff out of one room and have one big room in there. And what I learned out of that after the years, ( ? ) what we do in square dancing called Grand Right and Left, we didn’t do a Grand Right and Left because Dad would say Grand Right and Left, you went all the way around the ring. And then you come back home and meet your partner and Promenade. So I remembered some of the things that
BB: Right. Okay. And so how did you, when did you first, outside of that experience, when did you first get into square dancing?
CG: I didn’t remember this until I’d been calling for several years, you know, it all comes back to memory. I joined the Air Force in 19, 4th of September 1946 here in Hot Springs, and I was sent to San Antonio, Texas, for training and from there I was sent to Roswell, New Mexico, and we were in the signal corps. And we were going, we were training so they shipped half of us out to a place called Colorado Springs, Colorado. And we were going to build a telephone line from Manitou Springs to the top of Pike’s Peak. Well, anyway, we got there; believe it or not, it was about 10 below zero. We were about to freeze to death. And somebody said, hey, the bus is going down to the USO downtown, Colorado Springs. I said, I’ll go. So I got on the bus and went down there. And I was standing in the doorway, and I see these people doing these things to a caller, and the caller’s name was Ray Hope. Anyway, this young lady come over to me, and she’s about 6’7″ tall, and she said, we’re going to square dance. And I said, lady, I don’t know how to square dance. Well, she pushed and pulled all night long through, I think I learned the 12 basics that night anyway. And she said there’s going to be another dance Thursday night down at the auditorium, she said, you ought to come. And I said, I ain’t coming back to this, you know. But I think I was the first one in the auditorium on Thursday night to square dance. But that was Ray Hope’s daughter, and we went together for a long time.
BB: All right. So did you go back to the other dance?
CG: Oh, yes, oh yes. I went back, and then, this was in January and then early in March, I believe it was, Pappy Shaw had a show. Pappy Shaw had a show at the auditorium. And man, that really got me interested in square dancing then. Then I tried to learn all I could about it. And then. they had a caller’s contest that Pappy Shaw was Emceeing.
So I went back to that in May, and then I really got interested in it. So I started calling then in August of 1947.
BB: All right. Then it must have been the Cheyenne Mountain Dancers.
CG: That was the Cheyenne Mountain Dancers.
BB: Right. So who were you calling for there? I mean, you were still in the service and
CG: Actually what went on in Colorado Springs was, now this has got to be funny because there were some wonderful people there, but there were three callers there that had daughters. Ray Hope, and Bill Wright, and Bob Cook. Well, when I wanted to call square dances, I just, they all knew that I wanted to call, and you’ve got to call in front of people to get some practice. So, I kind of watched when one of these guys were calling, and then I’d ask their daughter out and naturally, we’d wind up at the square dance, and they’d ask me to call. So that’s how I got my experience. Ha, ha.
BB: Okay. All right. Well, so then you spent many, many years in the service, so,
CG: Twenty-four years in the Air Force. We square danced and called all the time we was in there on the side.
BB: Yeah, well, you had other experiences beside that with your, the clubs that you conducted here and there. You want to tell us a little bit about that.
CG: Well, if I could, I’ve got a story here that I think is worth sharing with the people about this contest they had in Colorado Springs. Pappy Shaw was the Emcee, okay. I entered that in ’48. My first square dance class was a teenagers’ there in Colorado Springs, and I wound up with one outstanding set out of that. I entered them in that contest in ’48, and so did I get in that caller’s contest. Of course, I didn’t get any award, and the kids came in, I think, about third place that year. So after that year, I ate, slept, and drank square dancing for a solid year. And I went back and entered that contest in ’49, and I won it, and my kids came in second place. So there was a young man there who’d been calling a lot longer than I had, come up to me and he said, you know, he said, you won, he said, you got this, he said, you didn’t deserve it. It just about killed me. So I called Pappy Shaw up the next day, and I said, Pappy, I want to come out and talk to you. So I went out there. And, I said, Pappy, I said, did I win that contest? He said, yeah, you did. And I said, well, how did I win it. He says, you kept all the six squares dancing all the time. And that rang a bell with me. And I told him what happened. He says, Cal, he said, you know, he said, we shouldn’t have square dancing, or contests of square dancing. He said, that’s not what square dancing’s about. And we sat there and talked for about 3 or 4 hours. Then at the end of the program, I said, but Pappy, I said, if you believe this strongly that we shouldn’t have contests, I said, why are you Emceeing it? And he said, son, you got a good point there. You know, he never Emceed that any more. He quit after that. Because square dancing is suppose to be where people come and enjoy themselves and have fun.
BB: Well, we’re talking 1949. Now let’s go back to Pappy Shaw’s school.
CG: Ha, ha, ha. Oh, at that same conversation you had to be somebody or do something to be invited in his August class. So Pappy invited me to come to that August class. And in that class turned out to be some of our future national leaders in the square dance world. There was Ed Gilmore, and Dreucilla was there, there was Bob Osgood and Becky, there was Ralph Maxheimer and Eve, and then a big tall gentleman from Texas called Raymond Smith. And there was Frank Kaltman, and it goes on and on the people. Jim York, who turned out to be a fantastic caller. Bill Mooney who was a famous caller in California, and there was just a number ot people that was in that class that year, and another couple there
BB: Frank and Carol Hamilton.
CG: Frank and Carol Hamilton. And also, the Smiths were in that class that year.
BB: Okay. Manning and Nita.
CG: Right, so it turned out that we made a lot of friends that year. And then right after that, this was in August in ’49, I got transferred to California. And Terry Golden came out there at that same time. Ed Gilmore got him to come out there to help him, because Ed had so many classes and dances, he just couldn’t do it So Terry Golden and I arrived on the scene at the same time in Southern California. That was a lot of fun. Terry was a great guy.
BB: Yeah. I interviewed Terry out in Col- he’s still in Colorado Springs.
DB: Yeah. So you must have attended more than one of Shaw’s schools.
CG: No sir, I didn’t.
BB: Oh, you didn’t
CG: Because see that was in August
BB: Oh, you got transferred, yeah.
CG: And at the time, people have got to understand that there really wasn’t no place in these days for a caller to go and learn. It was a hit and a miss situation, you know. And I never did get back to one of Pappy’s schools, but I now he continued having these schools, and that was probably the most fantastic week of my life being there and hearing Pappy talk all week long. He, he was a wonderful man. And he, and I certainly looked up to him all through my career.
BB: Right And then you were in, got associated with Asilomar.
CG: Oh, well, Asilomar, we worked there with Les Gotcher. we hadn’t been there before Les started some weekends up there. You know, Bob and them had for years and years had successful weekends up there. And then Les started some, and Bill Castner and I worked with him, I think about 3 years there at Asilomar. Like the experience and that. And the last time I was there was for the square dance callers, 23 of us met that really got Callerlab off the ground so to speak.
BB: Right. Tell us a little more about that, if I remember rightly, 23 of you met
BB: And then there was a week, a year or so that you didn’t, nothing happened.
BB: Then there was another meeting.
CG: No, all this, there, there were some meetings prior to the one that I was invited to.
Joe Lewis and a lot of the other people, it was the guys that were in the Hall of Fame at that time, you know, had been meeting with Bob. And they had talked about this. So they set this meeting up. I can’t remember. I know I was back East and left my car at Indianapolis and flew to Asilomar, and all of the 23 guys there, I don’t have all their names right handy now, but this was when Callerlab was basically established, and we set the date for the first convention which was going to be in Kansas City. And Bob Osgood was going to be the Chairman of that, and that was when we all went out and invited five other callers to attend, and that was really the first one.
BB: Right, right. Okay. Well, you’ve been associated with a lot of square dance famous places like Kirkwood and, tell us about some of those Kirkwood, Fontana.
CG: When I, I’ve been there as a guest there, and I was invitee to call there many years ago when I was out in California. But I only got 30 days leave a year, and I used to take those 30 days and tour around the country. People would see my itinerary, and it was really something, because I trying to work every night, you know. When you’re out on the road, you’ve got expenses. You need to call every night, you know. And early, when Les Gotcher was there, Les tried to get me to get out of the service and go in with him and do full-time calling. And that’s really what I wanted to do, but, I had four children, and I couldn’t work on a deal that maybe I’d make some money and maybe I wouldn’t And I that’s why I stayed in the military and thank God that I did. I stayed in 24 years, and I’m very thankful that I did this, and did the square dancing on the side. Then we went full time when I retired in 1970. We were on the road for 16 years.
BB: Right Well, let’s get back to your NCO clubs and so forth.
CG: Okay. like I say, I went in the service in 1946, and I was in the signal corps there for a while and then got transferred in March of 19 and 47. They came out with a deal and said, anybody that wants to go in the Air Force should fill out the forms and sign the papers to be transferred from the Army Air Corp over to the Air Force. And I signed the papers and got transferred over and went to33rd Communications Squadron. And I was in maintenance at that time, automobile maintenance. And in September, why Congress passed a bill for the Air Force. We just celebrated our 50U1 anniversary. So I was in the Air Force then. And I was in maintenance out in California, and then I got transferred to England, and then in 1955, what, being a square dance caller, I called a lot of bingo. People that heard me do that, and I guess they thought if you can call bingo and call square dances, why you knew entertainment and you could run clubs. They put me in an NCO club, in charge of the NCO club in Eastford, England, 1955, one day in January, and so that’s how I got into the club business.
BB: Okay. But you’ve entertained, or you had been associated, I’m sitting here looking at a wall full of pictures, and why don’t you mention a few of them.
CG: (? ) I’d like to mention the first person that I booked in the club. You people might know him by the name of Richard Dawson from Hogan’s Hero and Family Feud. And that was his first appearance, you see, he and I both were a little young. I had hair up there, and Richard was a real personable person, and I’ve seen him two or three times more there, but that was his first time he’d ever worked for an American audience.
And like I say, while we was in England, why we seen him several times at different places. He was, he was really a fine person. And, uh, that, that was about the big guy over there that we actually worked with there in England as far as this is concerned, except 1 day some people downtown London probably said, hey, said, you’re in the country western business, have you ever heard of the Grand Ole Opry, and I said, who hasn’t. I said, what’s you got? He said, well we have some entertainers from the Grand Ole Opry, one of them was Jim Reece, Hank Laughlin, the Browns, that’s Edward and his two sisters, and Del Reeves were over there on a USO tour, and they had a night off. So, I brought them out to West Straighten, and we wound up getting about 400 people, and I had about 3 or 4 hours to do this. I called all the other bases. We brought them out, and we fed them a chicken fried dinner, and I’ll tell you, those, those guys were hungry, so that was a first time meeting then, and we’ve, Hank has worked for us several times since, and so has Jim Ed Brown in the club business. And I came home, and was out at March Air Force Base, and I was their assistant for a while, and then I was the club manager, and that’s where I met Spade Cooley. Spade Cooley did, we did some square dancing together, and I was on his TV show, and then one time I had a big square dance there, and Spade was playing upstairs for me, and Merl Lindsey from the Ozark Jubilee Show, Red Foley Show, I had him downstairs, so we got acquainted with some of them. We had Tex Williams, who sang with Spade Cooley band for a long time and put out the big record, Smoke, Smoke that Cigarette. He worked for me several times there, and Jimmy Wakely worked for us there, him and Margaret Whitening had that big record, Slip Around, or something like that back in those years, back in the ’40,
’48 to ’49, I guess, or even before that. But we met a lot of the people that we’ve hired in the show business. The only picture that’s not up on that wall that worked for me was Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys. And I, Bob would never get to the club early enough to have a picture made. He’d come in at 8 o’clock when the show start, and then he left at 12, and he never got off of that stage during the 4 hours he was there. He worked all the time. Shep Willard from Rawhide, Roy Clark auditioned for a job one time from me down in Shreveport, Louisiana, when I was, 1961, and we, Roger Miller’s worked for us, Jimmy Dickens several times, and Frank Sinatra, Jr., Brenda Lee, Faron Young, Rex Allen, Slim Whitman, Tammy Wynett, Tommy Duncan, Dennis Day, Frankie Avalon, Helen O’Connell, Patti Page.
BB: Barbara Mandrel.
CG: Barbara Mandrel worked for me three times. And Johnny Ray, Pearl Bailey, and Charley Pride. Charley Pride was something. And Pee Wee King worked for me down Shreveport, Louisiana. We know him. And the big star was also Jane Mansfield. Jane Mansfield worked for me in Germany. We had 500,000 people turned out at the base that day for Armed Forces Day and to see her. And the other gentlemen that were really outstanding was Rocky Marsiano, and Tex Ritter. They were super people. And we had Johnny Cash and June Carter came to us in 1968 at Ramstein Air Force Base. And he brought along four guys that were just getting in the business. They called them the Stattler Brothers, and that’s their picture up on the wall there. And we had about 300 of them hanging up here at one time before we moved, and then we moved back. I haven’t got them all out of the, out of the thing. There’s Fats Domino. Fats was great And, ( ? ) many times. Hank Snow, Dottie West, Kitty Wells. And it goes on and on. And Hank Thompson and his band worked for us. So we had a lot of fun meeting these people over, over the years, and, uh, getting acquainted with them.
BB: I’m sure you did. So, and then you’re probably still in touch with some of them.
CG: Well, you know, it’s amazing. One of those guys that stayed in touch with me for the last 25 years, Charley Pride. We get a Christmas card from Charley Pride every year. And, we went up here, a year or so ago, before he built his new place. Haven’t been up there since he built his new one in Branson, but we found out he was going to be there, so we got advanced seats and went up and see him and talked to him, And, uh, it was really neat. He was just as nice as he was the first day I met him, I remember the first time that he worked for me, I, a gentleman walked in and said I have a colored man that’s a western country singer. He said what do you think about it. I said, I’ll book him, He said, how come, I said, if he’s got nerve enough to sing country songs, he’s got to be good, The guy showed up, and it was Charley Pride, so I paid him $375 for his first show. And I said, Charley, we want you back next year. How much. He said, probably $700, He came the second year, and I said, Charley, I want you back next year. He said, that will be $1,500. I said, okay. So he came back the third year, and I said, Charley, how much next year. He said, $5,000. I said, bye, Charley. So we laughed about that when, when we see him up there. We need to get back to square dancing here.
BB: Yeah, okay. How about national conventions. You (? )
CG: Well, I want to tell you something. When Ed Gilmore came up with, you know, everybody, a lot of people got credit for the national convention, but I would like to set the record straight. Ed Gilmore was the man that came up with the idea of the national convention. And I was in Riverside, California, when the first one was held. And I think we had over 6,000 people that came to this. Ed Gilmore was one of the persons we met in ’49. But Ed did a tremendous job organizing this and getting the people to work and do all the things. Some of the things like having street dances and doing this and that But it all worked out because he had me up on top of a mountain on Sunday morning which was the last day of the convention. We must have had 2,500 dancers dancing up there on the ground on top of a mountain that rises from San Bernardino. Wasn’t such a bad idea at all. I enjoyed it (laughter). But it, it started, and we attended as many as we could, and we think that it’s a good idea. It gives people a chance, new callers to a chance to call to a lot of people. It gives dancers to see a lot of other people. But you know you’re talking about the square dancing at convention. We had, we, there was a dance just prior to the national convention in Santa Monica, California, and that was the biggest single dance at that time, and it was only topped just recently out in Seattle. At that dance, there were 36 of us callers. Bob Osgood was handling it, the Governor of California was there, Governor Warren, and Lee ( ? ) was also there at this dance, and 15,750 dancers is the best I can remember and 85,000 spectators. The biggest gathering of square dancers in the history at that particular time. And, I tell you, that was really something. Those, Pappy Shaw introduced me and I said, Pappy, how, what do you do when you’re nervous. He said, son, I don’t know. I’ll never forget that But he introduced me, and I had gotten a call to come back to the base that night after the dance. And he told everybody that I was probably on my way to Korea, and that was the expected thing to do. And I know the photographers came around, and Terry Golden and I was the only two callers of all 36 that night that got their picture
on the front page of the Hollywood paper. And I, they did not call me, and I did not go to Korea, but I packed my suitcase about four times because they said we was going. But that was quite a dance, and the national convention kind of topped it all.
BB: I think we should mention that Carl and Varene Anderson were (? )
CG: They were chairmen.
BB: Yes, they were chairmen.
CG: They definitely were chairmen. I should have made that clear. Thank you for clearing that up. Because they were, and they worked hard on this thing. But the national convention was Ed Gilmore’s idea, and at that time, Carl and his wife was president of the Cow County square dancing and callers, and things, dancers and callers association, and Ed put them in as chairmen of this, and then they served on the committee for years, I know after that.
BB: Yeah. I know Varene told me that she says, when they started thinking about this idea they said how are we going to do this? Carl says, we’re just going to do it that’s all.
CG: It was amazing, though. Ed was traveling around a lot around the country Then, and we nail people come from all over. There were a lot of people from Arkansas .
Out there, and so forth and so on. I would like to get into an area, if I could. While I was in England, one of the things there that made it kind of cramps your style of what you can do as a square dance caller. Any time that I called in town or anywhere, I had to get permission from the OSI and from my base commander. So every time I made a personal appearance to a dance, I had to have written permission. But the funny part of it was, a lot of times over there that I would go places like Nottingham from East Krigby, they wrote a letter to the base commander, and they wanted me to come up there for a festival in Nottingham. And so they, I went TDY there as, as a relation deal. And that was really something calling in that ballroom up there. That was quite a deal.
So, we, we really enjoyed that. But I think along the line there, we, we got we got to get Europe involved in this.
CG: I read in the Stars and Stripes that they were having a big square dance get together in Germany over Labor Day in 1955. So I wrote to people and told them, you know, who I was and so forth and they wrote back and man, we’re glad to have you. You’ll be our Emcee and everything, so forth and so on, so we went over there. Nobody knew that there were any other square dancers anywhere else except right around Frankfurt there. There was a Colonel, was a caller, and another Colonel was the president of the club, and those two people were the ones who got this thing together. But actually, there was a gentleman before us there, he was a General. His name was Ganes, that got square dancing started over in another part of Europe over there. It didn’t do what this thing did at this time. But anyway, when we got (?), and that’s about 85 miles sort of northwest of Frankfurt, this was run by the military there, you know, it had been run since the war had been on, this beautiful retirement, or recreation, type thing Anyway, what happened was 400, I believe 485 square dancers showed up from all over Europe. And we really had a ball up there. And the German people had never seen American square dancing so to speak. So we sound up that two newsreel people came in and asked us to do some square dancing. If we have time, I’d like to show you that film. I’ve got it. And so they came in. Two newsreel people came in from Germany there, and they made this newsreel of this, and it was shown in over 1,500 theaters in American sectors of Germany.
BB: I’ll be darned.
CG: At this time. So the president of the club took me to one of the clubs, to one of the theaters. And when that hoe down music came on, we had a band over there that was there with us. There were a lot of bands in Germany, a lot of GI bands over there, and we had a good band. And when them Germans heard that music, they started clapping their hands, and they started stomping their feet. It was unbelievable. And the bases got all kinds of requests to be taught American square dancing.
BB: And that was the beginning of the Overseas Dancers.
CG: That was the beginning of the Overseas Dancers. And, and we went back over there many times on TDY, and to square dance and then we helped them get started with the square dance association there, and then the callers association, and both of them are still going to this day.
BB: All right You should mention what TDY stands for.
CG: Oh, TDY. What was it. temporary Duty Assignment, I think. That was like the World’s Fair. That was something, you know, TDY. Some of you GI’s out there will know what we’re talking about, I guess. But that was the beginning of that square dancing there, and then I came home in ’57 from England, and then in 1958, I walked into the National Convention in Louisville, Kentucky. I’d been on tour up in the Northwest in Washington, and Oregon, and Montana, and Idaho, and places; and I come into Louisville, Kentucky, and everybody hollered, call home, you’ve got to call home, so I called home, and my wife said, you need to call your squadron commander, so I called him and he said, you’re going to the World’s Fair. And I said, I can’t go, I’ve got 15 more dates on this tour I’ve got to do yet, and he said, Sarge, I don’t believe you understood me. Then I got the message, so I caught a plane and went home and then we got everything fixed up and got the orders cut, and that was quite a deal. The orders were cut for 24 days at the World’s Fair. To do square dancing and so forth. We flew into Germany and there we practiced for about 5 days with people who were just ordinary, ordinary people, you know, they, they’re not professional square dancers. They were people that enjoyed themselves. We had a good band, and we went over there, and we put on a show for a week, and they wanted to stay another week. We must have entertained, I’d say millions of people there. We was even on Russian TV. Had the mayor came to one of our performances there and was clapping his hands
with everybody else. It was really something. That was a real honor. It was really something to do that. There were about five other callers also from Germany that called on the program.
BB: Right. What about other places around the world you’ve been involved in calling.
CG: They, when I went to the callers school, I want to tell you one place that I called, it was unusual. One of the agents that we booked entertainment from over there, also I want to tell you about Rocky Marsiano. That guy was terrific. Anyway, this guy came to me 1 day and said, they would like you to come to Switzerland to call a square dance and bring a band and bring a square of dancers. And I said, man, I can’t get away. I had a big job at (? ), it was really hard to get away. But anyway, I quoted him a pretty high price, and the guy called me back in 15 minutes and said, they took it. So we went to the Palace Hotel in St. Moritz, Switzerland. Took a four-piece band, five-piece band. Joe Mayfis, that’s or Bob Mayfis and the boys from (? ), that’s Joe Mayfis’s brother. Anyway, we went over there, and they treated us, it was just out of this world. And after the dance was over, I worked for about an hour and the band played for a couple of hours for them, the guy came up that was the manager of the hotel, and he told me, he said, did you know that you had four ex King’s out there square dancing. Now there were 400 people there, and every one got up, and I taught them the simple basics of square dancing, and then they danced. And that was, I’m glad he told me after the dance was over. Because I can assure you, I was nervous enough that I’d really would have been scared with that. It was really something. And they had other hotels in Zurich, and some other places in Switzerland, and he said, man, I’d like to book this whole show for a week here and a week there, ’cause I didn’t have any time coming or anything else, and none of us could get away because we were all military people. And we couldn’t have gotten away for that long, you know. But that was very interesting, you know.
BB: Right. What about, I think we’re just about down to the end of this side of the tape. Let me just take a minute to turn this over. Let’ just turn the tape over directly.
Okay, did we finish with our trip to Switzerland, do you think?
CG: Yeah, that, you know when I called a dance at (? ) Air Force Base in 1956, and never, never thought anything about it, you know, that I would be back in that part of the country, and in 19 and 66, I was the NCO, I stayed at the Officers Club at (? ) Air Force Base. That’s the Non Commission Officer in charge. And that was very interesting. Then I moved over to the NCO club, and this is where we booked a lot of big name entertainers.
BB: Yeah. Which might be a good time to put in Rocky Marsiano.
CG: Okay. a guy came in 1 day to the club and said, Cal, he said, I’ve got a real deal for you, he said, we’ve got Rocky Marsiano coming. I said, hey, I can’t, I ain’t got no boxing ring. I can’t put a boxing ring out there. He said. you don’t understand. he said, he’s got a film of his, 35 minutes of his greatest fights. And he will show these and narrate them. I said, hey, that’s great, so I booked him. So he showed up, and Rocky and I had a chance to visit quite, quite a bit together, and that night about 10 minutes before he was to go on, he came in my office, and the sweat was just rolling off from him. I said, Rocky, I said, what’s the matter, are you sick? He said, no, I’m scared to death. I said, Rocky, you’re the world’s champion boxer; I said, why, why are you scared. He said, I just am. This is my first time I’ve ever done this. He had, that was his first show. I didn’t know that. But anyway, I, I tried to fill him with confidence that he didn’t need. He was the world’s champion boxer, but he went out on the stage then, and the people loved him. He knew where every boxer was, their financial condition, their family history, and everything else. And in his presentation there, he said, Jersey Joe Walcott had him whooped but Jersey didn’t know it, and he wasn’t going to tell him. But anyway, at the end of his show, he was supposed to do an hour show, and he did an hour and 45 minutes. The people wouldn’t let him off the stage. They just loved him. I had about 800 people there in that club that night. And just as the end of the show was corning, some lady got up and said, Mr. Marsiano, in your younger days, could you have Whooped Casiaus Clay? He said, now, Ma’am, I want to tell you. If I told you I could, I’d be bragging, but if I told you I couldn’t, I’d be lying. (Laughter.) But he was really a fine gentleman, and he got killed about 30 days after that in a plane out of Chicago.
BB: Is that right
CG: Now I (long pause)
BB: I don’t know where you’d ever find the time, but did you ever have any other hobbies?
CG: Well, yes, I did. I like to hunt, and I like to fish, but in most parts of the country, I did not and was not able to really get into it until we retired, and I got back here at home, and we did a lot up until 2 years ago. I deer hunted, and squirrel hunted, and things like that quite a bit. And I’ve really missed it the last 2 years, because when we moved out of our home into the retirement center, why, we, I sold all of my guns and then we moved, a year later, we moved back into our home here, and I don’t have any guns now. So I’m going to have to get me some guns if I’m going to hunt
BB: Well, you can go down to Tex Brownlee’s because he got a
CG: He’s got some, huh.
BB: He’s got closets full of them. But, well, I know you’ve done a lot of traveling Cal, so tell us some of your fantastic experiences traveling around here and there.
CG: You know, I should have wrote some of these things down, and I can think of one off hand. Back in, this is the early’ 50s, a lot of things happened in the 50s that didn’t happen later on. I know I got a call to, I was on a tour and went to Deadwood City, North Dakota. And I told the man that I wouldn’t be able to bring my PA system. So when he met at the airport, I said, what kind of a PA system we got. He said, right now, none (laughter). And, they ran, rounded up a PA system, and these, the record player didn’t have no control on it, and it was faster than ordinary was. And that was bad enough, but there was a gentleman, if there is anything that will really get a caller off of what he’s trying to do is to get somebody dancing in front of him that can’t stay on the beat of the music, that walks around. Well, they had one there that night, and I’m telling you, he about drove me up the wall. So, I put a mixer on, Lily Marlene and I didn’t finish that one. I got him on the far side of the hall, I picked it up and said square your sets, and when I took the record off and looked back, he was standing right in front of me. (Laughter.) He danced there all night long, and this was something else. And that night we went to somebody’s house, the president’s, for a party, and they put some modern dance music on. And I seen that guy dancing, and I couldn’t believe it. He was dancing perfectly with the music, but with that square dance, he could not keep time. That’s the first time I met her. (Background noise and voice).
BB: Well, while we took a little bit of a break, why oh, Sharon came downstairs into their rec room, and, Sharon’s here to tell us about how you and Cal got together.
SG: Okay, be glad to. I was teaching school for the military at (? ) Germany, and I was square dancing with, it was mainly single people at that time, but there were married couples also, but the group of us that was single teachers and some single officers and so on, started square dancing just about a block from our BOQ, and I was at a square dance 1 night, and this lady that I knew who was married to a military person said, there’s a big hub bub over this guy that was there. And she said, oh, that’s a national square caller that just got transferred over here. And I didn’t even know what that meant (Laughter.) National square dance caller, ’cause I’d only danced, you know, in Minnesota before we got over there, to the caller there. But anyway, come to find out, and she said I understand he’s over here by himself with his four kids. Boy, who would want to take on that job. (Laughter. ) Or something to that affect. So anyway, that’s how we met, and we did meet at a square dance.
BB: There you go.
SG: Which seems rather apropos, I guess.
BB: Well, you’ve been together a couple of years.
SG: About 30.
BB: And you’ve had some wild experiences.
SG: We’ve had some very interesting experiences over the years. A lot of fun, and I’m sure Cal has already stated that the best experiences were the people that we met over the years, and friends that we will nver forget. Even though you get away from the square dancing itself, you, you’ll always remember the people.
CG: I’ve got to tell you something Ithink was funny. Wen she was gonna, you know, handle the bookings and stuff like that, you know, do the paperwork, this, that, and the other, and about one of the first things she booked, she booked me down in Florida at the Kissimmee big auditorium down there. And that was great, ‘cause I was looking forward to that, but the next thing that wasn’t too good that she booked me the second night, the next night, that was a Friday night, so on Saturday night, she booked in Chicago. And that’s quite a distance from Kissimmee, Florida. But anyway, we finally figured out what I was going to do.
SG: That was my first and only mistake as far as booking is concerned. (Laughter.)
CG: And anyway, she flew down to Florida and met me there. And after the dance, we drove all night long and got to Nashville, Tennessee, and she stayed there with friends, and I caught a plane to Chicago, and then the next day, well Sunday, on the way back, I bumped into my friend, Tex Ritter. We rode the plane back together.
BB: Is that a fact.
CG: And had a nice conversation.
BB: There you go.
CG: Dottie West was on the same plane, and that was the last time that I got to see Tex Ritter, and I tell you, Tex was just a wonderful man. And we also met his wife. She came out to the airport that day, and so did our friends that we’re staying with, and he was quite excited to get to meet Tex Ritter and his wife, you know. But Tex had worked for us three times over in Germany there at the club. And people just loved, he was like your brother or daddy or somebody showing up. He was so kind. And, you know, it to me like the bigger the stars were the nicer they were.
BB: Yeah. Well, Sharon, thank you very much,
SG: You’re very welcome,
BB: Getting the caller’s wife’s (laughter)
SG: Thank you for corning by.
BB: Well, thank you very much. Appreciate it.
SG: It was great, even after all these years.
BB: I appreciate your hospitality, too, So one of the things, in fact you might give us your thoughts on this, too. One of the big things about Cal Golden is, of course, the costumes. And I guess if Cal was known for one single thing, it’s got to be those fancy suits.
CG: I wan to answer your question. When I got into this square dancing, I always wanted to be an entertainer from a kid, I wanted to be an entertainer. I wanted to be a singer, And it didn’t take me too long to figure out that I didn’t want to be a singer in the honkey tonks and beer bottles being thrown around me. So when this square dancing came along, this, this was definitely for me, and I wanted to be an entertainer, but I realized, okay, who you were I felt you had to have some kind of a gimmick. To be nationally known or have people talk about you, And, I picked the clothes, because I liked the cowboys, the western clothes, and stuff like that. And I just started building on that, you know.
SG: And a lot of times, that would be what the people would remember. They may not remember his name or whatever, but they remembered the, oh yeah, you’re the one that, and over and over again we’d hear this. You’re the one that changed clothes four times during that dance. (Laughter.) Of course, he swears he didn’t change clothes that often (laughter), but they think he did.
CG: I did in the early days. I, you had 30 days a year to go around making an impression on the whole United States, and you had to do something they’d remember, so I used to change clothes about three times at some of the dances. Until I got to those big expensive suits, and one had to last (laughter) for (? ) after that
BB: Well, maybe you should have changed clothes on stage and then (? )
SG: And then you’d really have a show wouldn’t you (laughter).
CG: I was down in, someplace in Kentucky. I flew in to call a dance, and they had, I could change clothes behind the stage, and it was kind of an old feed deal, there was a bunch of feed in there. And I went in there to change clothes, and just as I putting one of my right legs in my pants, there was some wasps in there. I didn’t see them. One of the stung me, and all, and people heard me holler all the way out in the audience Laughter. So, there have been some funny things, you know, that’s happened like this. And you know, it’s funny that you would say that, because in Victoria, Canada, many years ago when I flew in there. I’ve been, I was in there twice. But this was way back there, years and years ago, in the early 50s. And I changed clothes three times that night, and they built me a deal on the stage that I could step in behind and change clothes. I never will forget that. But I, the greatest thing was, that I went back in there 25 years later to call another dance. And let me tell you something, 60% of the people on that floor was at that dance I called 25 years ago. Now that just about floored me.
That was, that was fantastic. I, the people there, they had good programs, they didn’t rush, didn’t overload the people. And, they all danced to the music, and they all round danced too.
BB: Right. I remember calling a 20th anniversary dance for one of the clubs that I called for back in Connecticut, and they had an anniversary dance, and 12 of the past presidents were present
CG: Man, oh, man, that’s fantastic. That’s hard to beat.
BB: Boggles your mind, right.
CG: Yes it does.
BB: Okay. Now let’s get into caller schools.
CG: Okay. I realized, early in the game of calling, that one of the things that we liked in our early stages, because, Bob, I got tell you, a lot of us people who didn’t have education in music, really didn’t know what, what we were doing. We were hitting and missing. When I first got into it, I got a band going there in Colorado Springs called the Flying Cowboys. This was in ’57. Andwe had some real, real good dances with the band. I’ll tell you about one in a minute. But let’s get back to the reason the caller schools and the reason I got started in it. I felt that there was a great need, and believe me, I didn’t feel like that I was competent in this. It took a lot of years, a lot of study, and a lot of hard work. But I felt that what I had learned from Pappy Shaw, Ray Smith, Herb Greggerson, and Bob Osgood, and then Ed Gilmore, and a lot of these people that, who had this knowledge, and they helped me out. And they talked to me, and I tried to pick it up. And then I felt like it, I Knew what a struggle I had when I got started in this. Because, really I had no help because in Colorado Springs, a lot of them callers didn’t speak to each other and that’s too bad, because they should. But they, nobody was getting paid for calling. And nobody needed a new caller to come along. And I tell you to this day, if it hadn’t been for them callers daughters, I don’t think I’d ever gotten into square dancing. God bless their hearts. I tell you, fantastic. But anyway, early in the game, I felt that we needed this. And, I was stationed in California, but I taught my first callers school right here in Hot Springs, Arkansas, in 19 and 51. I got started, and then, after that, everywhere I went, why, you know, we were helping callers. But I really didn’t get the schools going in a big way. But, I taught a lot of callers schools, weekends and did seminars around the country. But until I retired and really got full time in this, then I started a lot of schools here in Hot Springs. And I kept building these up, until finally, in the last year before I had to retire, I was doing about 12
to 15 callers colleges a year. Because I felt the backbone of our square dancing was with these new callers. Because if they had the bug to call, they’re going to call. And they need to have anything that we had to give them. And then Callerlab come along with all these things that all the callers got together and exchanged ideas, put them together, and this gave a book for us to follow by and things like this right here. And then, we got people from outside the callers field coming in to help us. Jim Mayo was the first person that I’m aware of that put anything about voice, and yet that’s the most important thing. And, I had a lot of voice problems in my earlier days because I wasn’t breathing correctly. And, man, this is a big part of the game. If you don’t breathe, your vocal cords, in fact, I had two operations before finally got this, before I finally got it straightened out. And I explained this to the new callers and how important it was to, to breathe. And, I think that the callers college, you take a guy on Sunday night when they come in, he can hardly hold that microphone. And the last place he wants to be is standing up there in front of people, yet he wants to be there, but he’s scared to death. And you’re able to build some confidence in him by letting him to do things that he can do. It’s kind of, you’re motivating him. And you do a little bit at a time. It’s like sitting down and writing up goals. You write up goals that you know you can accomplish. Well, my goal with these callers for that week was getting them to feel comfortable behind the microphone, in front of the people, and to do something that they felt confident in doing. And, we were able to do this in a lot of cases and helped a lot of callers. Then my second thing, after I did that, then, we did a lot of seminars. I guess I just about worked wherever square dancing, state callers thing that I could really think of that had one going almost around the country, you know. California to Massachusetts.
And I enjoyed this. I put a lot into this. Had a lot of help, but I put a lot into this. And the main thing is I really worked hard at trying to do it right. This time to help these people. And, there has been times when I had never told a person that, that they could not call square dances. I never felt I had that thing. I always said, my recommendation would be that you improve in this area before you get started, and that’s not saying, gee you can’t do it. Because, I’ve seen in life, you know, you tell somebody they can’t do something, and that’s just the guy (laughter) who will wind up doing it. And I tried to encourage people, you know. I got to tell you something concerning this, this caller thing right now to bring a man into this, into this picture. When I was in England those 3 years and working out of Germany, all of a sudden, you know, I was their leader. I was teaching caller schools over there, and I was doing everything I could for the program. And we were having a ball because the people were having a ball. All of a sudden, Cal Golden’s going home. And then people, well what are we going to do. Who we going to get. And, so they come to me one time, and they said, Cal, what are we going to do. You’re going home, and we don’t have the leadership here to carry this thing on. What can we do? I said, well, my recommendation would be that you bring somebody in from the States. Well, who do you recommend? Now, I want to tell you this. If I’ve ever done anything honestly and truly, this was my decision to do this. I thought about all the callers in the United States that was outstanding. I thought about man, that this man is so strong here, this man is so strong over here. I’m not mentioning names, but I said I need somebody that will come in here and show these people a good time, and give them encouragement. They do not need discouragement.
In Europe at this time. So, the only one man, and I had a lot of friends out there now that thought I should have picked them. But I picked Bob Osgood. The reason being was, I knew Bob. I’d worked with Bob. Bob and I, the first time we met was Santa Fe, New Mexico, at Terry Golden’s big festival he had down there. And I knew that Bob would come there, encourage the people, give them the right instructions, and help them. And I guess Bob’s been going to Europe for years after that because he did, well, I knew he’d do a good job. Bob’s a professional person. And he did a super job. And that really was a big step in Europe to, every year they, Bob lined up somebody to come over there, and they’d do a callers deal, and they’d do a dance for them. And it worked great for years.
BB: Right. So okay. We haven’t talked about recording yet.
CG: Okay, in Colorado Springs, I’d heard Bill Mooney, and I’d heard Les Gotcher, and I’d heard Fenton Jones on records. Naturally, I don’t care who you are or what you are, when you get into something everybody wants to make a record. So, I got the band and things, I think we made about 15 tapes. Now, I want you to listen to this all you young folks out there. We didn’t have tape recorders back then like you got now. This was a wire tape recorder. And we made these tapes, and I just knew when they heard me call, and they heard this band, that man, we’d have people hollering. Never heard from a one of them. (Laughter.) Never heard from a one of them. So when I left Colorado, we went, or left Colorado Springs and went to California, then in 50, I went down to Phoenix, Arizona, to their big festival. And I’d heard Old Timer records because I was using some of these records because Old Timer and McGregor was the first ones that you know, that started putting out records, you know. And so I walked in their record place down there, and I introduced myself, and Floyd Ramsey said, or Clay Ramsey, the father, said, I heard of you. I said, well, I’d like to make a record. He says, okay, when do you want to make it. (Laughter.) And I about fell flat on my back, you know. And I said, okay, well I’ll get my band together in Riverside, and we’ll come down, and we’ll make it. And the first record I cut was Too Old To Cut The Mustard. That was one with the flip side calling on it. And, and I’ll tell you, the royalty check I got out of that was, I just knew I was going to be a millionaire. It was a big selling record, it was on a 78, and the thing that made it a big hit, everybody said you’re too old to cut the mustard. It was just one of those things that just hit, and it sold a lot of records, you know. But I never had another hit with the, like that one because in those days, man, you know, every caller in the country, I guess, had bought their record. Because there weren’t that many records coming out. Then I put out about, I guess, maybe 25 redords all together with Old Timer. And I, one of my records that done well for me over the years was “If You’ve Got the Money, I Got the Time” by Lefty Frizell which we had in Germany. It was a real thrill for me to meet him. I had seen him in California. I went to see a show and things when he was first starting in the early ’50s. But that was a good one for us. And then I, I got to want to do some things on my own. So then I started a record company. Old Timer knew it (? ). I just told them, I said, I want to do it closer to home, and I’d, I’d like to have control of it. And that, that wasn’t too smart to want to be in control of a record company (laughter). But anyway, I started recording, and the record company was Hoe Down Records. And, we did well. We didn’t set the world on fire, but we did good. And I had a couple, Jim and Ginny Brooks out of Seattle, Washington, handle the rounds, and we had a lot of good luck with those young kids handling the rounds. They did, and, well, I’m just getting this thing off the ground, and I had some hoe down music. I had an idea of what I wanted to do hoe down. I always wanted to use twin fiddles. I’d seen Bob Wills and Spade Cooley all use twin fiddles, so I wanted to use twin fiddles. And it was hard to get two people, you know, together like this. But I finally got a couple of fiddle players from California that could do this, and we started making records. And I thought we were doing real good with it. We started it in 90, or, er,’53, and all of a sudden, I’m calling a big festival in Fresno, California. (?) This was the second one that they had. And I got a call while I was there. I got orders to go to England. So, I should have just closed the record company down, but we kept it open. Some dear friends of mine who run it and worked themselves to death. And then when I came back home in ’50, ‘57,45 RPM. By the way, I would like to say this, that this was the first square dance record that was put out on flip side was Too Old To Cut The Mustard on Old Timer. I did have another big hit. Thanks to your brother. There was a, somebody gave me this, it was Barnacle Bill the Sailor. And, I got on this thing right away because it was a gimmick record, and while I’m getting mine organized and getting it ready to cut, AI Brundage came out with Barnacle Bill the Sailor on Folkraft, I guess it was. But anyway, what happened was, we’re pressing ours. I recorded it, and I’d like you to hear it before you leave. It’s unreaL Anyway, what happened was, there was something wrong with the record that Folkraft pressed. There was something wrong in the pressing within the master labeL And they had to call all those records back in. So while AI’s was coming back in, mine was going out (Iaughter), So, we had a real good record of It because It had a lot of advertising. And there was just something wrong with the master. This happens. And they had to call all the records back in, and while these were coming back in, Old Timer was going out, and it sold a lot of records for us.
BB: I never knew it came out on Old Timer. I’m still using it today. I know they repressed it on Lloyd Shaw labeL
CG: I’ll be darned. I’ve got one. I don’t know who has Old Timer records any more. I’ve got a few of my records I recorded with them. Then when, what happened then, I went back and turned over some of my masters to Old Timer Records from Hoe Down, because at that time, there was no way I could afford to make 65 records and change them from a 78 to a 45. You’re talking bucks, a lot of bucks. So I just closed Hoe Down Records down. And did some stuff with Old Timer again. And it was funny. I was stationed in Shreveport, Louisiana, and I went and recorded a thing called Tijuana Rose. And what it was, it was a birthday present from a bunch, a bunch of people played in bands around town there. They got together, and made this record for me. And it was funny. When I was going in to record this Tijuana Rose, it was going to be put on a hoe down for Old Timer, Claude King was coming out of the same studio from recording Wolvertine Mountain. So then I went to Greenland, and we square danced in Greenland. We had a square dance club there, and then we had what they called a Goofey Noofey Badge, and what that Goofey Noofey badge was, when the lakes was froze over, we went out in the middle of that cotton picking lake, it was 10 below zero, and had a picnic and square dance. So that’s called the Goofey Noofey Badge, and it was. Then I got sent to Merced, California, and I was there 3 years, and then my kids all started calling with me. And so we called around in there. I, I didn’t do any records the 3 years that we were there. Never, I never fooled with them. I was kind of busy with the kids at that time. Then I went to Germany. And, while I was over there, we had a lot of outstanding bands play for us. And I got acquainted with a band leader there that spoke English well and could write music. So what we did, we got this, I got, I asked him to get a 10 piece band together. We had three violins, two cellos, the rhythm guitar, the piano, and all the stuff like this. And I think that I put out about six records with Folkraft. And I think in that particular case, these were the first ones we cut I really had too much music there. I really did. (?) But anyway, then our second session, I didn’t do any more for Folkraft then. I recorded about 25 records with this band in a studio in Heidelberg, Germany, up in the mountain. This guy had this studio in his home up there. ( ?) Oh in Germany, when you have musicians work for you, they work 45 minutes. Then when the 45 minutes, they get a l5 minute break, and they go next door to the pub. And whoever is producing the records takes care of the pub. Well, anyway, by the end of about an 8 hour session with these guys, we did a tune called Hallelujah I Saw the Light. And, I’m going to tell you something, you should have seen these German musicians swinging that tune. Well, the hit showed up on the record, and then they cut a hoe down record called Up Jumped the Devil. And man, the people, the callers. It was years after I called it before I released it, released that record. And then I remembered Jon Jones, Dick Jones, he said, you know, he said, in all of my life, he said, that was one of the best hoe downs that he had ever used in his life. And every caller used it. It, it was a good record for us. That good Gold Star Record. When I started the Gold Star Record Company when I came back home from Germany, we started on the road. And we sold a lot of records on the road. Sold a lot of other callers’ records. If I could do the tune that came up, why I ordered records from the people that had them available to the callers and the dancers. We enjoyed it. We were out there on the road16 years, and my health is, you can’t burn that candle.
BB: Well, I’m sorry. Our tape ran out there unexpectedly, and you were just in the middle of telling about a physical condition.
CG: Well, what, what happened, I had a doctor here in town who was telling me, you know, to slow down. The people, young callers listening today, it’s very easy to get caught up in this thing, and you work hard, and you want people to ask you, and all of a sudden, there’s a lot of people asking you, and your going in a lot of different directions. And you can hurt your health, and everybody kept telling me, you know, to slow down and make sure I got rest I thought I was getting rest. But I wasn’t You can’t drive all day, and then call half the night, and then visit with people the other half, and then get up and do this thing over and over. And I had been sick a couple of times, and my doctor here kept telling me to you know, slow down, and I asked him, I said, you want to get paid. He said, yeah. I said, then well, you keep me healthy so I can keep working.
CG: But in 1982, things, our schedule from ’78 to ’82 was just un-human if you want to really put it that way. But I enjoyed calling for the people, and the people to ask you. It’s funny, you know. You may want to go to California, but somebody wants you in North Dakota, that’s where you go. Because when I originally set up when I retired, I was going to Florida in Febru – January and February. You know where I was in January and February? I was up in North and South Dakota, in Minnesota, and up in that part of the country, Montana. And in July and August, they want me down in Florida to call. But it was a wonderful situation. I enjoyed it, and if I had it to do over, I’d certainly manage my health better. But in ’82, from January 1 until the 20th of June, I had not had a day off. I worked every day and sometimes two and three shifts on Sunday, callers session in the morning, afternoon and a dance that night, and then Saturday afternoon, and Saturday morning. In other words, you, I wouldn’t say that I was greedy. It was the fact that it cost you so much money to be on the road, and you had to work your talent in to do this. Then when I got sick in Chicago, I was on my way to the national convention in Detroit. And I thought I was going to die. So I came back home, and they put me in the hospital. And five doctors told me that I was just about two steps away from a heart attack, or a stroke. My nerves and things were just completely gone. So, Sharon and I agreed to quit for 8 months. And then 30 days after that I got worse.
And I went to a doctor in Little Rock, and he said, what do you do. And I showed him one of my schedules. He said, you’re crazy. That’s what he said. He said, nobody could keep up with a schedule like that, and I’m telling you right now, he said, you’ve got to quit now. So we did. We completely, I sold the business, and we quit. And I got to feeling better, and then I made this huge mistake. John Paul called. Talked me into coming back to Callerlab. And I went to Callerlab. And I got motivated, and there’s a club here in town, was you know, telling me to, we got to have you. Our club’s going to fold up if you don’t do this and do that. So, I got motivated, so I picked me up a Hilton while I was there, came back home and started calling. Then I went back to all of these people that I had canceled dates with of course, clinics and stuff and rescheduled them. And that was a mistake. If I had either stayed retired, my health would be a lot better, or if I would have just stayed locally. But you know, I thought about this before, and I told them I’d be there, and I couldn’t. And I went back and filled up all those dates that we had to cancel, and they were a bundle of them. And, 4 years later, why I was dead on the vine. There was just, I couldn’t go anymore. I had aching so bad. So I called my last dance, official dance in April of 1986, and I haven’t called since. I really missed it. I tried to dance. We went to dances, and people just wouldn’t hear to it, you know. You’ve just got to call one tip. And, you know, after a while, it just got you know, and I wanted to, and I knew that I couldn’t though. So we just finally just, just quit all together.
BB: Yeah, right. What did you find was the major appeal to calling square dances.
CG: The people. The, you know, a caller needs to be motivated. But first, he has to have the ability to motivate the people. So that the people are having a good time. That is the name of the game. Pappy Shaw told me one time, because at that contest, there were some fantastic callers there. And my good friend, Terry Golden, was in it. He had the people just laughing all, all the time, you know. But what Pappy said was, ’cause I asked him. I said, if I won the contest, how did I win it. He said, you kept all of the dancers dancing all the time. And he told me the session we had, I’d give anything if I’d tape that session. ‘Cause it would have been unbelievable. ‘Cause he gave out so much good advice to me, and I try to adhere to it. And he said, it’s the good caller that keeps everybody dancing. That’s what he said. And I’ve always believed that. And I’ve always tried to keep the people dancing. I realize that you might not be able to call things that some of the people wanted. Because you know, now, they can dance this and dance that. But, the person that don’t dance too well also paid to come to the dance. And I got to the point at some times that I would do different things, you know, that if you had really a split hall, and you know, that you just had to do a little above this over here, I’d do one time for one of the groups, and then something else for the next group right here. And that seemed to work from time to time, as far as this is concerned. You know you’ve got, you talk about fun. You asked me about some experience. This guy booked me one time, and back then, let me tell you, $125 a night back in 1951, ’52 that, that was the going rate for a traveling square dance caller. Anyway, I booked into this town, and I mean the hall, it was a roller skating rink, and there wasn’t just standing room on it. And I started calling, and there was nobody dancing. So, I backed up, and I taught them how to do a Left Allemande, a Right and Left Grand. I taught them how to do a two ladies chain. I taught them how to do a Do Si Do, and we finally got that floor going. And I still didn’t know what had happened. But anyway, the guy came up to me and he said, man that was terrific. I said, well how long have these people been dancing. Oh, about 3 hours. I said, what do you mean. He said, this was an open house tonight, he said, he said, these people never square danced before. I said, why didn’t you tell me. He said, well you called (?) So when the dance was over, he said, you know, he said, I went in the hole tonight. I said, with that crowd of people you went in the hole. He said, oh, yeah, he said, I only charged 25 cents a person. I think he went in the hole about $15. I gave him the $15 because I didn’t want any club to ever lose money on me when I was calling. You know. But, from then on, I, I tried to, I was calling a dance in another place one time, and it was a long ways from Hot Springs, Arkansas. And, he said, we’re going to have, the first night, he said, we’re going to have just 50 basics. And he said, the next night, now. But there weren’t any 50. They were so long in their classes and then they had a lot of dancers. And the next night would be Mainstream dancing. And, I’m, you know, I’m a mathematician when it comes to counting heads, you know, and I’m thinking that they’re charging, you know $1.50 a person to just dance. And they guaranteed me so much. At that time, it had gone up to $150 a night. But, I wasn’t looking at what I thought was about $700 a night with the crowd they had. So, he paid me, and I’m standing there with that money in my hand, and he said, is there anything wrong. I said, no, no. I still had that money in my hand because I was flabbergasted, you know. And on the way up, he said, well now listen, he said, we want you back next year for 2 days, and I, he said, are you open. I said, yeah, I can come, but, I said, we, we have to talk about the financial arrangement. I said, it’s a long ways from here to Hot Springs, Arkansas. He said, oh, didn’t we charge enough. I said, how much did you charge. He said, 50 cents a couple. After the hall rent and everything else, my salary was about what was left. That was really funny. So, after that, that was in the mid 70s. Then I had, I was traveling, and you had to get involved in the finance with the people, because a lot of people didn’t know what to do or what to expect out of things like that. So you, you had to talk to them and speak plainly about it. You weren’t going to get rich out of it, but you did have to make expenses out of this thing, you know.
BB: True, true. One of the things I’ve been asking everybody, you’ve had a long and illustrious career. Any regrets. Anything you wish you’d done differently.
CG: Well, except I think I would have tried harder to find this knowledge that I needed to be a good square dance caller, you know. And, but at that time, there wasn’t no one around that I knew to help me except Ed Gilmore and I’d sit up until 2 o’clock in the morning, and the unfortunate thing about this, Ed was talking about stuff that was way over my head at that time. And then I’ve looked back years, and I’ve quoted him many, many times the things that he taught me that I hadn’t had enough experience to really understand it. What I was doing those years, I was calling square dancing. I was having a ball. And probably didn’t know what I was doing. But I don’t have any, and the dancers was having a ball. Because they were hooping up and having a real good time, you know. Another thing happened in Colorado Springs that was interesting to me. And maybe this was before hash was really born. In Colorado Springs, we were dancing on Thursday night 50 squares in the auditorium, No charge. Callers didn’t get paid. The city was paying the band. And 1 night, you know, you’d have one caller that was the caller, but any other caller showed up that was accepted in Colorado Springs as a caller, that took a couple of years. And they’d ask you to call a tip, you know. So Pappy was Emceeing 1 night, so he asked me to call. So I got up, and I don’t know, I did my patter call, tried to keep everybody dancing, then we were doing My Little Girl. Now in Colorado Springs, it’s always first couple Promenade around the inside, around the inside of the ring. Well, that night, basically I think I forgot the call, and I said first couple Promenade around the outside. The whole floor fell apart. And they, Pappy said, Calvin, he said, call it right. So I called it the way that they danced it, and then after it was over, I went to him, I said, Pappy, excuse me, I said, we’re suppose to be square dance callers, aren’t we. He said, yes. I said, aren’t we suppose to be telling the dancers what to do. He said, yes. I said, how come them people didn’t Promenade around the outside. He said, they hadn’t been taught that. And then I said, well, shouldn’t they wait and hear what we’re going to do because, basically, I’m telling you, back then in those days, them dancers knew what we were going to call. Two gents swing with the elbow swing, and this stuff and that. I got to tell you one more story, you talk about in the earlier days. One of my first jobs out of town from Colorado Springs was in October of’ 48. Some people came to Colorado Springs and heard me call, and they booked me to come to Dodge City. I’m not sure what they paid, but you guys listen to this. I believe I got $15, and that’s about 250 miles from Colorado Springs there. And then I checked out a PA system from the signal corp that weighed about yeah many pounds. But anyway, I got there. And the guy said, we should have about four squares. And when we had the Grand March, there were 28 squares on the floor. I looked at him, and he looked at me, and I said, where these people coming from. He said, I don’t know. But those were the days when they were dancing in somebody’s kitchen. And I started calling, and them people started dancing. Well, I’d listened to Les Gotcher’s records, you know, and I’m going to do a little hash here, you know, so they went, the first call I said was first couple bow, and the first couple swing, down the center, split the ring, the lady go Gee and the gent go Haw. And right up the middle of the floor came this guy with his pants legs in his boots and (?) all over his boots, and he goes to me and he says, hey, boy, he said, I tell my jackass to go Gee and Haw right and left will be just fine. (Laughter.) This really happened in Dodge City in October 1940. Then I got my composure back, and I heard what that man said. So, I’m getting confidence up, so first couple after couple on the right, round the couple take a little peek, back to center, back to center and swing your sweet. On to the next couple. Two gents swing with the elbow swing. Here come this guy again. He goes up there and he said, boy, make up your mind. Are we going to peek or elbow swing. What’s it going to be. (Laughter.) ‘Cause, you know, in those days, you did first couple out, and you went
all the way around the second couple. But, that, that was a very unique thing (? ).
BB: I tell you there are a million stories around.
CG: There is, you know. I’m very sorry that over the years that I didn’t keep, keep more stuff than I did. About 29 albums in here full of stuff, but there’s so many little things that happened like that, you know, that you forget about and they come to you once in a while.
BB: Right, right. Like the story I just told you about Winnie Gotcher.
CG: Oh, yes, yes, that.
BB: You can’t repeat that.
CG: I got to tell you something. Fenton Jones. Old, old Jonesy, you know, he was a terrific caller, and a terrific person, you know. Anyway, he had a record out. And I want you to listen to a piece of patter. And I never figured out how to put it down in writing. Because I wrote a book one time with 500 changes of patter, and Bob, back in those days, I did have a memory. They used to call me the patter king. I could put more words in four beats of music than any other caller in the country. But, here’s this thing that Fenton Jones had on one of his records. He’d say, Allemande Left, Right and Left Grand, and Promenade. You know, people doing that, and he’d start out with this thing, well, sugary jack (sounds like yodeling) and Promenade. Old Jonesy would say that. It took, oh, around three records to learn to say that. And you got to squeeze that in if you’re going to get that in a Promenade, unless you say Allemande Left, Right and Left Grand, and meet your partner, Promenade, and then you start ahead of time.
BB: Yeah. That’s funny.
CG: Well, that, that is.
BB: I had a great time talking with Jonesy. That, Yeah, a year or so ago.
CG: Did you hear what happened to him? You know, he never flew a plane until he come to Calleriab ( ?) Well, Dick Jones, you know, the cartoonist, man, we’d been seeing a lot of him lately, you know. We knew him early in the
BB: Oh, Chuck Jones.
CG: Yeah, in the early, in the 40s, late 40s and early 50s. They used to fly around the country and Emcee square dance festivals. He’s a tremendously talented person. But, anyway, he, Jones wanted to get Fenton to fly. He took him out to the Los Angeles Airport. Now this is the Lord’s truth. And they’re sitting there, and he said, see, Fenton, there’s nothing to flying. So help me to goodness, there was a plane cracked up there, and Jonesy said, that’s why I ain’t flying. Laughter. It really happened. They said it really happened.
BB: I’ll be darned.
CG: And the first time he flew was when he come to Callerlab to receive the Milestone Award.
BB: I’ll be darned. No. Yeah. You’re talking about Chuck Jones. the cartoonist.
CG: Yeah, that’s right, uh, huh.
BB: No, there is a Dick Jones, he
CG: Yeah, Dick Jones from back East.
BB: He was a caller from Long Island, right.
CG: Yeah. Chuck Jones. But now that guy is talented. He was something else.
BB: I’ve tried to interview him twice, and haven’t been successful yet, but
CG: I hope you can, I hope you can. Because he’s got a lot to share with people, because he was in the late, well, I’d say the middle 40s, with Osgood and all them, you know, and they’d (? )
BB: (? ) Asilomar? And I just found out on this very trip, as a matter of fact, that the big convention they had in Denver, when they had Dorothy Shaw put on a huge, big, pageant, Chuck Jones was co-chairman.
CG: Oh, I’ll be darned. No, it was really terrific. You know the one in Denver, when they announced, there must have been 10 thousand dancers on the floor in Louisville, Kentucky, in that big hall. And I don’t know who was Emceeing that night, but I had just bought one of them, one of them new suits, one of them rhinestone suits, and they got up and they introduced me. Les Gotcher introduced me. Yes, he did. And then he announced that I was going to the World’s Fair and call square dancing. And that was, I’d love to have those applause on there, but I had a record then. I had just recorded for the convention in Denver, Colorado, “Take Me Back to Colorado”. And that was what it was for. That sold a few because it was, but they were announcing, you know, at that time, they didn’t announce too far ahead of time, but they announced it that where that award was going, so I guess they knew ahead of time, but anyway, I cut that record “Take Me Back to Colorado”.
:BB: Right. Before we get too far along, I want you to tell me the story about God Bless America.
CG: Okay. You know, I released a lot of records on Gold Star Records. I started the company. And I wanted, it was time to, I’d used up that, all those musicians from Germany. I’d used up about all of my records that I had released on the company. And I, there was a lot of records that Red Boot had that I liked. So I went to Don Williams, and I said, Don, I said, I would like to make a deal with you where you will cut my music. He said, fine. I said, also distribute the records. And we made a deal. And it was funny. I’ll tell you about the first record I cut for him. I’d left home. I was heading out on a trip, and in those day, we didn’t have phones in the car, you know. And here was the Stattler Brothers singing Shirley Jean Berell. I turned that car around. I got back home, I called Don Williams. I said, I got the first record for you. And it just came out. Don didn’t even have it. I think that’s the first time I heard it. So, he recorded that. And man, oh, man. That was, that was really, that was a big record. And then that was the first time that real harmony had been put on a record. And they sang harmony on Sirley Jean Birell and I got to kidding people on the road, and I said, I want you all to listen real close here. I said, you’re going to hear the Stattler Brothers singing in behind me. I was just kidding. And here these people come up hollering, hey, I want that record with the Stattler Brothers. I said, wait a minute, hold on. That’s Don Williams and the Red Boot Boys. I had to quit (?) to people about that. But we went on, and we cut a lot of them. He made a lot of good music for me, and another one that he cut for me he had a woman sing harmony behind me. It was My Heart Skips a Beat. That is, he made some fantastic music for me. See his son had a doctors degree in music, and his son was directing the band. Okay. So, we were picking and choosing what we were going to do and so forth and so on, and I was looking for a record. When Sharon and I got married, we both belonged to a record club. You know, there was 33 and a third. And back in this hallway, there, I had a rack in there. We had 850 albums in there. Because she had a bunch, and we were still getting them. And I was looking for something. And I don’t know what you can say about this, but this is the God’s truth. And I still got the album. It’s in the room you’re sleeping in tonight. And I’m shuffling around these things, and this album fell out of that stack of records. And it was Kate Smith’s God Bless America. I stood there, and I looked at that thing for a while, and I go upstairs and I talked to Sharon. I said what do you think. She said, I think it would be a great one. So, I went a little further. I called my minister. And I said, I talked to him earlier before when I did that Hallelujah I Saw the Light. I asked him about that one time if we were wrong in doing this. He told me, he said, heck no, he said, that maybe as close as some of you guys get to Heaven. So, I took the album over, and we sit down, and we had a long talk with my minister. He said, no, Cal, he said, I think, any time that you can mention the Lord’s name, he said this is fantastic. And, so I called, I didn’t call Don, I called Mildred. I called Mildred. Mildred, I said, what do you think. She says, Cal, she said, that’s the greatest thing that’s come down the pike. And they started on the music. And let me tell you. The band in that. I don’t whether you listened to that music or not, but that was the University National, or Tennessee University Band playing in that thing. And I heard that music, and I’ll tell you what I spent 100 hours writing that dance song. Because you had to say. You, writing, people think it’s simple just to throw words into a singing call. It, if you do a good job of it’s not because the words it’s got to match that music. And they’ve got to flow together. And I, in fact, Don was hollering for it because I introduced it at the National Convention, and people wanted the record. And we were late getting it out, but he had a bundle sold before we ever released that record. But I took my time, and I wanted it to be good, and it was. I think the thing that was just unbelievable. The first time I heard it used, (?) was at the Cotton Bowl Parade in Dallas. Then the next day, that was on Friday, I guess, or Saturday. And then the next day it was used in the Rose Bowl Parade. And then they used it in the Florida Parade. And then some caller called it when Jimmy Carter came home to Plains, They had a square dance to welcome him home. You know, he and his wife square danced.
BB: Oh, is that right.
CG: Oh, yeah. And that’s the story, and it you know, I’ll tell you. I’ll never forget this. You know, Lee Kopman, you know, folks we’re talking straight here. You know, when you’re following an outstanding caller, it’s always nice. It’s not an easy job, you know. And I was following Lee at the National Convention in one of the rooms. And, you know, he had all of his dancers in there. And they were his dancers. I mean, they tore the house down he finished. I thought, oh well, Cal, you know, good old country boy, get up there and see what you can do. And I got up and started God Bless America. And there was about 10 callers standing around there. And I got them on the stage with me, Dale McCleary was running the thing, and they got a microphone to him, and them guys started singing behind me. And I tell you, them people brought the roof down. And some guy walked up to Bill Peters, and said, Bill, he said, where would you use that record at. Bill said, anywhere you want to. (Laughter.) But, I closed a lot of dances with it. That got to be my theme song, and I closed a lot of, mainly I closed dances with it.
BB: Well, that was the story I was looking for when you closed the festival.
CG: Yeah, it was the, what happened in that, was up in one, just one of the halls. But, at the convention, I was the Emcee for the last hour in the main arena over at Memphis, and when we ended up, I had 5 minutes to 11, and one of the directors was down in front, and I reached down, and I said, I’ve got 5 minutes, can I do something. He said, do anything you want to. So I got Marshall Flippo, Pat Barber, Wade Driver, and Tex Brownlee was up front there. I said, guys come on up. They said, what are we going to do. I said, believe me, you’ll fall into it. And then they got, they got to harmonize behind me in God Bless America, and I’m telling you, I’ve never, I’d love to have a motion picture of that because everybody was on the same beat of music. That music is so definite where that beat is. And they were Just into it. I’m telling you. It was a sight to be seen. That was the introduction really to a big thing. There was a lot of callers there, and a lot of dancers was in from every where, you know, in the last, for the last hour in that big hall. But that was really something. I really appreciated the opportunity to do it.
BB: Well, we’ve spent a very interesting conversation. I, we really should spend some time getting your thoughts on where do you think square dancing is going.
CG: Before I answer that question, I want to say two things. Number one, I want to say that all callers organizations are important to their city, their town, and things, but we needed a national organization like Callerlab. There has been a lot of good people put a lot of time into Callerlab, and I believed in it, I still believe in it, and I just want to thank all the people out there that had a part in Callerlab in earlier days when I had the pleasure of being on the board for 13 years and 1 year as its chairman. I want to tell you, the, well, I knew I was going to get the Gold Record for God Bless America, but I can assure you that the Milestone Award was just something in it, I had no idea. My wife knew about it, and what was really funny about that, Flippo, and Frank and I were sitting at the same table because we had been the hosts for the door that night. And the wives, all three of the wives, knew this, and none of the wives were coming until John Kaltenthaller told them what was happening. And, of course, they came. And, I’ll tell you, that was a highlight in my life that I will never forget. And then the honor of having a lifetime Gold Card from Callerlab. I just want to let all the people in Callerlab, and all the people that has anything to do with it, how grateful that I am. And what a pleasure it was to serve in Callerlab. And, I really believed in it.
BB: So, where do you think square dancing is going to wind up.
CG: Bob, I, to tell you the truth, I honestly don’t know. We made some mistakes in Callerlab, and I don’t know if we could have done them any different because there was a lot of pressure on getting these different programs going ’cause different callers wanted different things and different dancers wanted, the only thing that I can really say right now, the, in the square dancing, we never had that many people in the program that we could split in five different categories. And this is definitely been a real big hindrance to the activity. I think some where along the line, and I blame me as much as I would anybody else, that we lost something along the way. Because Pappy Shaw said one thing, and I’ll never forget, and I’ll always love him and Dorothy, he said, keep it simple, keep it fun, let everybody dance. And I, when I came home from Germany in 1970, Bob, I went into sawmill out there. I had no idea what I was getting into, because here we were in Germany, we’re dancing basics over there, and we’re all having a good time. And we’re all enjoying each other’s company, we enjoyed people you know. What we danced was not the key thing. The key thing was, we were doing it together. And having a good time. And when I come home, it seemed to me like some of this in the 4 years I was gone, had disappeared, and people were more concerned of what they were dancing than why they were dancing. The music, and the fellowship, and the calling, it all goes hand in hand. If I had to say this to be honest about it, I think what you dance is less important than how you dance, and having fellowship, and having fun, and the caller will have fun, too. Our square dancing, as we know it today, may go way down. May go way down. If it does, I hope the people who get square dancing going again like Pappy Shaw did and Herb Greggerson, don’t forget Herb Greggerson in there. Herb was one of the people I built foundations on because he was a tremendous caller. I really liked him. And old Raymond Smith. Raymond had the fun he put into it. He still wanted people to dance right, you know. He said, he used to tell me, he said, I can always tell when one of your dancers come to town. They always dance to the music. But Pappy said, let’s keep it so anybody can get into it. If people can walk, count to eight, put their foot down to the beat of the music. See, we completely lost the music. And the music is the thing. The music is the thing that bonds the caller and the dancers together. And, I just think that we need to get a program going that I know Callerlab is working on called Square Dancing. I’d have to say if somebody asked me and said, what would it take you to get back into calling again. You may not like my answer. And I’ll say, well, if I could call in a city that never heard of square dancing before, and they weren’t going to go any where, and they weren’t going to dance 5 nights a week, I said, I would go back to calling, because in my earlier days in calling, it was a lot of fun. It was fun. A lot more fun than I had in the last part, because the latter part of my calling I had to work. Because you had so many levels on the floor, and they all wanted to be entertained. It’s almost impossible for a caller to do this. A very good friend of mine was Les Gotcher. Les and I did a lot of dances together. And it seemed like it worked out real good because he’d call a lot of Advanced stuff and hash, and a lot of people