November 14, 1996
Bob Brundage – Well here we are again, today, this is Bob Brundage again. Today I am in Newtown Connecticut, right near Danbury and the date is November the 14th. Today were talking to Chip Hendrickson, a gentleman whose been around and involved in club dancing for awhile and then reverted back to his old love of folk dancing, and so forth. We’re anxious to hear from Chip. So Chip, tell us a little about what life was like before you got into square dancing, and then how you got in and who influenced you and one thing and another. Go ahead.
Chip Hendrickson – Ok. Well, I lived in the small town of Oceanside on Long Island. That’s where I grew up really, and I wound up out there because of World War II. I was living in Brooklyn and my mother and my brother, they were afraid the Brooklyn Navy Yard would be bombed so we went out to Oceanside, and I lived out there. And in 1945 I started dancing at a native American place, culture and dance, and in 1945, and I still dance … in fact, the day after tomorrow I’m teaching it at a thing with Cub Scouts. Well anyway … and I got involved as a teenager because I went dancing with various teen friends and their parents and one of them was a folk dance leader whose face I can see but I can’t remember her name. And I met a … I used to dance a lot and one of the callers was named Al Leahman. And Al did one night stands which we all went to because they were fun.
BB – Right.
CH – And I watched what he was doing and I got hooked. And he encouraged me and I bought a couple of 78’s because that’s all you could (unintelligible) And I started to learn to call and I talked to him. He was really very patient
BB – Yeah, I remember that name.
CH – Al Leahman, oh yeah, he was a wonderful man. But he …. he had it figured out and he had no truck with any of the organized dances which, by today’s standards were just almost like one night stands. You did Right and Left Thru’s and Chains and things. But he had nothing to do with that, all he did was church dances and things like that. Well one day we went, and I can see some of the people, it was Al, his little three piece band and there was one, two, other couples there and their names right this second I can’t remember, Elaine and I … there was exactly a square and nobody from the VFW came. It was in Lynbrook, but nobody came. So he said to me, “Would you like to call?” that dance. And it was “All ??? the line“, Paul Hunt’s “All ??? the line“. Yea, I was, I was petrified, but I did it. I went over and I told the band, and of course all the square dancers, four couples knew the dance and I’m standing there and nothing’s happening. And nothing’s happening. And Al walks over to the fiddler and comes back to me and I was supposed to say “Honor Your Partner” and “Honor Your Corner”. But on the record they just had da, da, da, da, da and I’m waiting for them to start. So that was the first time I called and I was petrified. And then he gave me a dance in the Catskills and I had an old ’38 Dodge that had no first gear. And I was down in a little hollow and there was some kind of band with hay all over the floor, it wasn’t a really a square dance band, but I got through it. And that was my first paid gig. And I don’t remember the date and that started it. And your brother Al gave me my first club dance, out of town club dance in the Hartford Club, but I don’t remember the year. But in the meantime I met a guy named Bill Castner, and he was actually the first one to point out phrase calling to me, believe it or not. And he was a master of it.
BB – He really was.
CH – And a lot of people didn’t realize it, but that was why he was so smooth. I watched his performing group in ’67 in Philadelphia and he … they would phrase a routine to a record and the record ran out and he put the record back, picked up the phrase and the dancers did a hop, skip and they were in phrase again and I was like, “Yeah, pro-fessional”. But the real mentor was Ed Gilmore.
BB – Sure.
CH – I met Ed and I sat up with him in the wee hours many, many times. He and Dru also were such a help. He was so giving. And he just like … I can remember I made a tape of myself calling patter calls and I played a little for him dreading what he was going to say. And he just matter-of- factly said, “It’s very boring“. And he was right. And then he showed me I was going (in a monotone) daa-di-daa-di-daa-di-daa and he says raise your voice and lower your voice. Because, you know he couldn’t sing. Listen to his singing calls, he never sang. But he was a musician and he recorded and I told this to somebody and he said, “What?”. I said, “Listen to him, he doesn’t sing”. He gets you to sing though. He was a master. And he taught me so much. But he actually taught me almost as much about life because he told me, when he heard I was being a caller, he said, “Be analytical”. And he says, “Don’t just analyze the good callers that you like, analyze what you don’t like so you won’t do it”. And I spent a long time watching different callers, and I’d steal a little from Bruce Johnson, I mean, that’s how you learn. You borrow from this and you borrow from that. But it was because Ed said, “Be analytical”.
BB – Yeah.
CH – And I watched him like a hawk, and he was a master. And he predicted the downfall, and he warned about the levels and he warned about it, he said, “Don’t categorize people”. But you know, and then he got seriously ill and died. And he didn’t write down enough. He should have written down more because he had so much wisdom. But again, he was a philosopher. I mean, he was looking at more than dance. And he’s the one that coined close order drill with women. (Bob chuckles) And I still have his and Dru’s Jiu-jitsu For Dancers. I have it somewhere. And I could, and if I find it I will send it to you. It always ended with smile sweetly. Especially for ladies. It was judo for the ladies because the women are always the ones getting yanked around as they are in contra dancing today. But I can remember the floating allemande, 1, 2, 3, kick.
BB – Yes right.
CH – He said if your getting your arms … there come backs that were ???? and then smile sweetly as you help him up off the floor. (Bob chuckles) You know it was things like that. And that was humor to teach. Somewhere I’ve got that.
BB – I don’t ever know if you ever heard … I don’t know as I ever put it on tape and it just occurred to me … and it’s a good time to put it in. He said …. he used to teach round dancing, and he said, “You know, we do a step close step and that’s a two step, and we do a step, step close and now we’ve got a waltz”. And then he says, “I’ve devised a new system”. He said, “You start with your feet apart and you go close, step, step.
CH – He did that? I think I heard that story somewhere. I didn’t know it was him. But it sounds like something he’d do. Because he was so, he was so impassive when he called. The only thing that moved was his toe….
BB – yeah.
CH – ….but his eyes sparkled. He loved what he did. He was way ahead on sound. He was ahead of his time, he was just marvelous … his records … do you remember when he came out with his boom chuck records? He turned the square dance world upside down.
BB – Sure, Boom Chuck Boys.
CH – But those were accompaniment records to make the recordings sound like there was a band there instead of him. And then he got into the Mel Henke jazz trio which was the latest series. And on one of the recordings you can hear a tink, tink, tink, in the background and I asked him what it was and he said the bass player took the monitor and turned it like that and it was the beep from the little speaker coming out and they decided to leave it in.
BB – I’ll be darned.
CH – But those recordings of the Mel Henke trio are done so many times through and then doubled because he said they couldn’t play that kind of music too long but he did that and they were true accompaniment records. I mean, and every time he came out with a singing call it was a hit. Because all the dancers were … hit, he is the one that taught me … I remember one time saying … a new record came out and I was looking at Sets In Order at the figures and everything and he would say, “This isn’t any good”. And I said, “Have you tried it?” And he said, “no, but it isn’t any good”. “How do you know”? and I get to laughing and he starts going down the figures he’s writing numbers, number of steps, he says “This comes out to 74”. He says, “That’s how many more beats than 64”. He says, “You’ve got 10 more steps you’ve got to fit in there and the dancers are going to be running”. He showed me another one and there’d be 62 or 66 and he says, “The couple will be too late”. And you know, it worked, and after awhile I used to do the same thing. I’d just say, “Well, I’m not going to use that one”. If the music’s good I’d buy it and get another dance to it … he taught me that. And he was so … he was positive and he was right because that’s all got lost. Now, it’s just run.
Well, remember when Grenn and Top they came out with so called phraseless records, which really weren’t, I mean you can’t do that and have Western Culture music, you know, but anyway. And so Ed was really my major force. Then, there was a guy named Bill Jeneck that taught me about sound and how to solder and things. He was a caller on Long Island. And that was a help because I did all my own re-phasing. That is where I learned about phasing of speakers which helps. Still does, although that is not so important any more because the halls are better. I belonged to the Long Island Callers Association eventually. Initially I was turned down because I didn’t…. I didn’t have enough experience even though I had one of the biggest dances in the area and they took somebody older than me. By the way, how you treat people, has a great effect on life. You’ve got to be real careful what you do because here I was, I was calling for this club once a month. I had a big crowd. I was popular. Here is another guy who was calling no longer than I was … and I was actually … always had been a better caller than him in a lot of ways but that’s neither here nor there, nice guy. We took him in cause he was older…. years older…. they wouldn’t take me. And I was so mad. I wore western clothes and I didn’t say, Do-si-do”, I said, “Do-sa-do” and that … I helped push club dancing into Long Island and crush the other, although that wasn’t my objective. My objective was to distance myself … but then eventually they were asking me to join when I was famous up and down the East coast. So be careful how you treat people. You may get the wrong reaction. I was just a pig-headed kid then but I was really ticked off and I still feel to this day I was right, because, you know, and I know who did it, but it’s all past but that’s what happens.
And so I came up here and joined the Connecticut Callers Association. I never got into Callerlab because you had to attend the convention. At the time I had to get out of work and I was raising five kids and I couldn’t afford it. And you know, I had four or five clubs and I was making records and I couldn’t go, and I resented it so, when I could afford it I wouldn’t go. I just resented THAT. This really bugged me, so I never bothered. I joined the American Callers Association though I didn’t this year, only for the insurance because I’m covered, and also for the BMI and ASCAP. Although I very rarely ever use it. I mean I do dance after dance Irish or Scottish all public domain and occasionally I want to do a singing call. And just to cover my tail I get it, you know, but they’re not really interested in little guys like me because I don’t do it that often. Never went to a training school really, though I spent a week out in Wisconsin with … Gilmore … I think your brother, and Nita and Manning Smith …
BB – Yeah, we did a lot of things together …
CH – On the lake out there we’d camp. But it was really … everybody who came was callers I think but maybe two or three oddballs so you had egos ….. and fun, it was funny, but that was a training school but I listened to ‘em when they were up at the Hotel Thayer. Ed any time I could get there, plus many at three or four in the morning … talking to him and picking his brains. And of course he loved coffee.
BB – (laughs) And cigarettes
CH – Unfortunately, cigarettes are what killed him. I knew this and when we went and danced to him I always brought a thermos along, you know. I’m not kidding you … and it’s about time, or something … and I made him … and when he stayed with us I made him a card, somewhere I might have a copy, NOOF, National Order of Freeloaders. And I made it up …. I only made one which was for him, and on the back it had a list of special requirements and one of them was plenty of hot coffee at all times. And I laminated it and gave it to him … because they used to stay with us on Long Island, and he told me some months later that he was at a … somewhere and there was no coffee, and he says, “I’m dying” and he says, “I’m too polite to ask”, so he says, “Oh, Chip Hendrickson made me this card” and he showed it around and all of a sudden the hostess went, “Oh!” and laughed and he said, “It got me my coffee”. So he thanked me for it. He said he used it. But somewhere I have it and it was all Leroy lettering then I didn’t have the type setter. My hobbies have always been reading. I used to do model railroading. I don’t consider Native American a hobby, it’s a lifestyle. I mean we’re, in fact right behind you is that dress she’ll be … right behind your head is that jingle dress that I made Fran, I mean ….
BB – Yeah I’ve seen you …
CH – Yes, and that’s hers. It’s right off the corner there. And if you brush into it you will hear it jingle. And, as I said, we will be teaching Saturday morning Cub Scouts and then there will be a pow wow in the afternoon, and I’ll dress up for the night for the dance and there’ll be Part Bloods, Half bloods, No bloods, and Cold bloods and my Lakota friend might be there. That’s…. I don’t call that a hobby, that’s just a way of living. And that is actually probably the only dance form that I’m in that is a dance for its own … it’s a dance for a getting together’s sake. It’s not, “Oh, let’s learn Indian dancing”. We dance because we meet and it’s … and this is a good thing to do which is what all the dancing used to be and this is what Western Square Dancing has lost and right now, Country Western has. They have this friendly community and in Square Dancing … friendship is Square Dancing’s greatest reward, you know that …
BB – Yes.
CH – That’s nice. Bowling, Country Western, ballroom, native American, any activity where people get together is the friendship so… throwing that out and feeling good about it is not going to get you more dancers. It is not going to solve the problem and I’m not knocking it, but any activity where humans come together is what brings people together. But then, the activity can’t be divisive and club dancing as I see it is very divisive, unfortunately. And it’s partly…. partly due to lack of leadership. And I got in trouble lots of time because I refused to raise the level, because I knew better, but they didn’t respect my opinion. But that’s what happens. When they hire me back … but the people who liked me voted by leaving. They’re never saying anything … and when I called up at … the club danced in a circular hall sort of and I had 10 1/2 squares outside of Boston at 9:30 the vice President … some of the officers weren’t there … the Vice President says, “This is remarkable” and I says, “What ?”. I’m looking around and there is two couples having refreshments … open refreshments … and I said, “So” and he says, “Two weeks ago when we had a big name” … and I knew who it was but I won’t say … he said, “We had 2 1/2 squares even” and they had the same size crowd, 10 1/2 squares so I was drawing. And it comes 10 o’clock and he says, “This is amazing” and I look around and I says, “What?” He says, “One couple went home, he is a milk man and he has to get up at 4 in the morning”. I said, “So? ” and he says, “Two weeks ago 2 and 1/2 squares were gone”. I was never hired back. Which means I pleased everybody
BB – But him.
CH – Or whoever. And what can we do. I’m not … you see there are callers who are clever enough to play both sides of the fence, I’m just not that way. I just…. I just am not that way. So, when they said, “I don’t enjoy this” and I’m looking at my watch…. I’m looking at my watch, and I quit. And I just walked away from it. And had some misgivings but it was … in the long run it was the smartest thing I ever did.
What I did in my life, I was always a graphic artist or technical illustrator. And that’s why the book I showed you, that’s all those years of training I finally got a chance to be expressive on my own. And, and, and people who know graphics say I’m doing a good job. You know. But anyway, you won’t think I did that if you looked at it. He’d say, “Oh, he paid somebody”. But that is a good open cover. I could tell you why but that is another story. But that is what my background did for me. And I’ve been a full time caller off and on and I’ve had as many as four or five clubs, you know, and clubs fold and things change and I had Ed Rutty, he called in Millington after I left, I just got tired of being pushed.
BB – He is still there.
CH – And he is still there and he does a good job, and we’re all happy. We weren’t happy at the time.
The first time I called, September 22, 1951, I told you, in Lynbrook. First paid dance in the Catskills. I’ve been a caller, sometimes paid and sometimes one that called … do you remember the Atlantic Conventions?
BB – Sure, sure.
CH – You remember the Mechanics Hall and the building rocked. And I remember Bruce Johnson standing there and watching that 800 people doing Alamo style almost in tears, and he told me he said, “We’ve lost that back in California” and that was back in the ‘50s. And he said, “Any time I’m in the East I call … that’s the one we used to do the balance, all the way and the room … Boom, Boom, Boom, oh yeah. And so I did them and that later became the New England Square Dance Festival which I did, calling off and on. And I was in Louisville, Kentucky which was one of the last times they had live music.
BB – Oh yeah.
CH – Because I remember one big heavy set guy from the Northwest coast of Seattle, Jack somebody, who had the band
BB – Jack Barbour.
CH – Jack Barbour, he was there and the string bands from Texas were there and Sleepy Marlin was there, Slim Sterling was there, oh yeah, you know, and I was at one of the last (live) music dances. It was a shame when that went. And I’m still amazed to this day that callers would use records and say I can’t call to live music. What do they think is on the records? It’s a band and for years when I was a NEFFA specialist (editors note: The New England Folk Festival Association), and this sort of faded out, Fran and I, she usually came, and I had one on How To Turn On A Band, and it was how to work with a band. Well Dave Hoscamp … which is why I’ve taken him to New York City to Lincoln Center where I do that big 2 hour beginner dance with 800 people and you’re on a stage thirty feet from the nearest dancer you have to teach verbally with a live band. And Dave was one of the few that can do it. Dick Leger came with me and did it once. But I haven’t used many in the Western field because there aren’t many around. If you were still around I could use you. Because you know what phrasing is and you also know how to keep it easy. And I don’t … an interesting thing … do you know Sleepy Marlins Sally Goodin?
BB – Yes.
CH – I’ve had the recording what, 40 years? I still use it … I’ve taped it now … I still use it at one night stands and I still get all excited and I get into that thing, and I’ve heard it …. 1000 times. But they’re advertising Carol Channing now. She is up at the Oakdale Theater, but she was interviewed some years ago on Broadway and she is doing her 1000th performance and they asked her if she got bored. And she says, “Heavens no”. She says, “When I do I quit ?”. And I can relate to her. See again, I’m beyond them, I can relate to her and still get turned on by that song and he’s probably dead and gone by now.
BB – I have no idea.
CH – A little guy. Big cigars. But there’s a life to that, and we get into the music. In fact, the one thing when I switched out of club dancing into traditional was, I came home far less tired because I didn’t have to emote…/ create excitement, I just let the music … you know that music, the English/Irish background to all the square dance and the people just … I just sit there and grin and cue and shut up when I can. You know, I get paid lots of money and I don’t have to … I can wear any clothes, and I don’t have to impress anybody. No notes, no preparation. If the floor gets … If I have a problem I write the dance on the spot. Al Brozek does the same…. exact same thing. He many times has got in a situation he just takes out his pen, writes a few notes, calls a phrase dance and he adds it to the lexicon. You know, I do singing calls but I use … I don’t use the old traditional tunes, like Darling Nellie Gray, I’ll call Uptown-Downtown with Golden Slippers. I might call it to a singing call, My Way that Grenn put out or something like that. I love Tom Paxton’s, The Last Thing on My Mind. I might do things like that. Which is one of the reasons I want to stay with BMI to be covered just in case some guy just walks in.
BB – I use Shindig in the Barn.
CH – I still use that, it’s on the back of my Sally … that’s on the back of the tape of Sally Goodin. I love that thing. Remember, that was a singing call everybody learned his own … it was a great piece of music. Beautiful.
BB – I think it was Ken Bower.
CH – Yeah. That’s right. I don’t even know what the dance was because I didn’t care. But the music was so good. They made good music. They made good dance music.
Another one of the highlights…. I just wrote down ‘friends’ … were all the new people we met over the years, traveling. Cause back in the earlier days you were always put up in somebody’s house. Then the callers … and this is what I was told … a lot of these callers would prefer to be alone in a motel and then the dancers lost that idea and then people got busy and pretty soon I had to pay so then you either had to charge more or not make as much money. You know what I mean.
One of my real highlights, ’67, was the Country Steppers exhibition team that I had out of Alliance Squares. And we went to Philadelphia and we did a six minute … because I had an LP of hoedown music, Windsor, when they made the 10 inch ones, six minutes. I think it was Ida Red but I don’t remember. But we did 6 minute routine with two squares … promenade in, two squares, went to a contra line, went back to two squares, went to a big square, went back to two squares and we did Venus and Mars in there and I have all the notes, and I may resurrect it. And then they went into a circle and then one couple at a time they spin the lady and then kneel. And we brought down the house. Sets In Order picked up on and wrote on it. We had been in existence nine months. Bill Castner’s group fifteen years and we were in the same line. Earl Johnston, Charlie Baldwin they didn’t know we had this, they didn’t know. And we went around. Well, the other day at NOMAD (editors note: Northeast Music and Dance Festival) I met Vic and Ellie Knoll. Vic is crew cut, you know, straight ramrod back marine … and I said, “Marine, once a Marine always a Marine” … I got a friend in the Native American circles who is an ex Marine (laughs) and he has got a crew cut, a marine flag hanging off his teepee pole . You know, I’m lost. Oh, yeah, Vic and Ellie were in that group, and now…. do you know what they do now? They don’t club dance, they don’t square dance at all. They are in a Country Western exhibition team. And I said I want to revive that someday at NOMAD and they said, “Were here”. And all I need is 16 phrase dancers and I have the routine again.
BB – You could get Dick Forcsher.
CH – Oh, good old Dick, yeah. But it would require renting a hall.
BB – Was he at NOMAD this year?
CH – I didn’t see him but that doesn’t mean anything.
BB – That was the last time that I saw him at your NOMAD Festival.
CH – I don’t know. I’d have to ask Fran. I mentioned all those highlights, all the long talks with Ed Gilmore, Bruce Johnson. Bruce Johnson and I in Richmond sat in a hotel room to God knows what hours talking about dancing. We were talking always about the problem and how do we head it off. But we, meaning him … cause I’m not the only one … we were a minority. And at the time all you needed was a record player and you get some people and you were a hero. I mean, there was that guy from Long Island who when he danced … Kopman, remember him?
BB – Sure.
CH – When he first came to dance to me he…. he couldn’t dance. I don’t know if he can dance but he certainly did well with what he did. I admire him for that, you know. But it just doesn’t interest me because I come from the school of dancing … is…. is not walking around on your heels, and that’s what it’s…. it’s not. Remember we used to have the shuffle …
BB – Sure.
CH – Shew, shew, shew, shew. I remember you and many other callers would turn the music down and you could hear it. Now you hear heel, heel, heel, you wouldn’t hear the shuffle anymore. And it’s all gone. But interesting. There was a caller over here in the next town over who said … we were talking about something and he said, “You know, I came in in the ‘70s and I didn’t see what you saw”. He didn’t see the 30 or 40 squares. He didn’t see the barn. He didn’t see the crowds that pulse because we worked phrase dancing, even if some of the callers didn’t know it and the dancers didn’t know it they just did it. And then when it got to be mish mash that was the great change and of course now they have to deal with it.
And then I was on TOP, recording records for awhile. And most of them I liked. There were just one or two that I wished … that I think any caller will tell you that, you know. I was … these are just some thoughts I wrote some of which I said. I think we (went) through a peak wave of public involvement in the activity and I, I think it’s social and economic has changed it. If you want to play the game you have to get out of being a dance teacher and study society. I stayed with a friend down in Maryland just outside of Virginia, I just did a 9:30 in the morning till 10:30 at night with a lunch and supper break, 18th century live music in the evening and he’s an anthropologist who studies … I found out that’s the study of human beings, etc. etc. and how they interact. Now I’m trying for Dick … and he is doing this for leadership for business and he was saying that the changes that are going on today and the fact that in order to survive today you have to be able to change … you know in the past my granddaddy lived this way and I’ll live this way and my kids will … that’s gone. Fran brought home a book, “What’s Coming in Business After the 60 Hour Workweek”. It’s already here. We have no more money, middle management is going and the 45 year job is gone. And I learned years ago in life there is no security, you know that there is no security. So what. Fine. Just get on with it and stop worrying about it. If your number is up and a 747 is coming through my house, there is nothing you can do about it. So don’t worry about it. I mean, be careful when you drive and all that, and you know.
So here we go, all this change going on and all that I see out of Callerlab … I don’t see much … or either one now is they keep changing the list. And one of the things I wrote in that piece that I’ll get you, I said, “You can change the lists all you want but you’ve got to get back to basics”. So what does that mean? That means gentle, get down. And like that thing in this folk dance thing here he said, “Make it easy for beginners to get in”. And, “Make it exciting so people aren’t bored”, quote unquote. Boredom is self induced. Bored is an attitude because what bores you might not bore me. And vice-versa. So therefore it isn’t the dance, it’s the way you look at it. And I think that the dance teachers train this. In Plus they pay homage to the hot shots who … and ???? are the only ones that tell them how great they are. You know what I mean? Plus, I think the callers get bored doing the same thing all the time. But see, I’m … you mentioned Terry Golden earlier as an entertainer … I consider myself as an entertainer when I go out and do a dance. And the…. and the dance is my genera to do it. But I’m entertaining people. I have fathers and daughters smiling. I get them to go forward and back. I teach them one, two and a cha cha cha. And I always tell them, “Don’t tell any other callers that I am using cha cha cha”. But you know, I’m telling ‘em … but two hours later when I call Forward and Back the old Virginia Reel at the end there they are going One, Two, Boom_Boom_Boom. Which you can’t get any … you can’t get your club dancers to go forward and back in eight beats. Contra dancers will, but they’ve got their own little steps. And I just, I just take the same handful of figures, circle, do-si-dos, promenades, Sicilian, right and left hand stars, maybe single file lead, chassez or sashay as they call them now. But that’s all I use in two hours and I just keep shuffling the figures and music around and you can fool a lot of people all the time … you couldn’t do it week after week you’d have to have an arrangement, but I’ve found some of my old square dance books, and I used to call certain dances, figure dances where Slim Sterling had one he called Looks Like L and there were dancers like this where you had eight in a line, or two lines of four facing the same way. You have to learn the dance, you can’t hash it. And there are millions of … they’re beautiful dances but the callers would rather, you know, just throw the stuff out. And I had written in the New England Caller, and in fact I published it, that’s not the name of it, the magazine.
BB – Northeastern Square Dance.
CH – Some guy from Callerlab he wrote about phrase calling and I had to write a letter to them. And the letter was to them to tell them that they had been printing three times … I had given three courses in their magazine in the seventies. I said, “Nobody paid any attention but I just wanted to let you know that you actually did this“. But in the course of it I called the present what callers are doing ‘humbug‘ because what they do when somebody comes up with a new basic, and you know the first thing is, “What does it equal”. It equals a right and left thru and a ladies chain. You can then plug that into a simple basic sequence, like heads to the right Circle to a Line, Right and Left Thru and back and Allemande Left. Well you can plug in Cast Offs and Wheels and Deals, Swing Thrus, and Slide Thrus, and you can go on for five minutes and you haven’t done a damn thing but run people around in a circle. And if there is no joy in it … who cares, you see. So actually I call it ‘humbug‘. You know, I say, “I bet you can take Burleson’s 5000 calls and boil it down to probably 500 and then throw the rest away. And then take the 500 and you probably could break them down into basics. Because if you look at a French Contra…. Contra Dance or Cotillion I got diagrams upstairs back from the 1760s. I mean, you think your diagramming is new and all … you ought to see the stuff those people were doing. Oh, I mean, complicated and every single dance is on the money just like a round dance and that’s how they danced it. They’re complicated. But they were upper class, they nothing better to do, and also stage dancing. But if you think this complication is new… they had almost 300 dances. Oh, I’d love to do them but I’d have to have an expert group of dancers and nothing better … it would take half an hour to do one dance you know, but anyway they did it. I think the activity … well, this phrase my wife uses all the time …
Tape clicks off abruptly, end of side one. )
BB – Let’s see, we wanted to turn the tape over and we were talking about one of Fran’s favorite expressions.
CH – Yeah, I thought that instead … I’ll just, I’ll just read this ‘cause I had written this when I was thinking about it. “We have been through the peak wave of public involvement in the activity. This because square dancing was relevant in our culture in years past. I don’t think it is now, unless some one… some one realizes the emperor has no clothes“. Fran is always saying that. The same all old platitudes and figure shuffling will continue. The activity needs to be approached from social and philosophical attitude and direction. Saying square dancing is fun is nice but so what. The definition of fun is far too vague. Taking drugs is fun for some. Beating people up is fun for others. Instead of wishing and hoping the Country Western fad would die (take) a look at what they’re doing and why it works should be the approach. Also, what’s not working with it. Besides, Cajun, or something else may attract the public. Be careful what you wish for. In Newtown approximately 400 people Country Western every Thursday night. The night before it’s ballroom dancing. There are 3.2 million people in Connecticut and less than 800 attended the last festival. Club callers I’ve talked to don’t think there are 3000 dancers in the whole state anymore. I don’t know but that’s what they told me. Is square dancing the folk dancing of Connecticut? Not really. Remember the Emperor’s clothes. This is true everywhere. The times they are a changing rapidly. Square dancing is back at the starting line now.
And I wrote a little line here but I’ll tell you a story. Years ago, Earl Johnston, Dave Haas and I rode up in Dave’s Mercedes, ‘cause I remember it was a Mercedes because it was the first time I had ever rode in one … and we went up to the Massachusetts line where there was a restaurant where callers and I used to meet, and I can’t remember the name of the town, but it begins with an A I think. It’s right on the Mass/Connecticut line. I met Dick Leger (and you might ask him about this) Dick Leger, and Jim Mayo and I think Dana Blood was the other caller, it was at least 20 years ago, at least. And we met and we had dinner on a Good Friday and we had dinner…. and I don’t know who proposed this or why…. we had dinner, and after dinner we went up in a little conference room and we sat around and talked and nobody taped it. We talked about phrasing and timing and the problems of dance, better and how to change it. And one of us said something about the establishment and Earl Johnston stopped us cold and he said, “Guys, we’re the establishment”. Dead silence. Dead silence for a minute, you know. He stunned us, you know, you go along and you don’t realize who you are, if you are, you know I’m just me. But anyway it was Earl that said either coming or going the best thing … and this was only a couple of years ago Earl said this, and you can check with him … he said to me basically, “The best thing that could happen to square dancing would be for it to die completely so that we could get it right the next time” or some words like that. And that was over 20 years ago, and I agreed with him, at the time because you could see where it was going. But it … when something is going well nobody wants to change it. It’s like with these … pollution and all the rest of it, “Oh, it’s all right”, but then one day when the clouds come in and the people are dying well then we better do something. And then all those people who were right, were right, but you know …
BB – It’s too late.
CH – Yeah, well it’s like around here with the building, right around … My daughter works in a school. Two years ago they built a wing on it and they run out of room there building houses in Sandy Hook (which is part of Newtown) like crazy. Who is going to pay for all of that? Not the tax from the houses. Ridgefield just bonded 20 something million dollars to block a golf course and ensuing homes because they figured out it would be cheaper to do that than have to add wings to schools and hire teachers in the long run. And now this is going to start, you’re going to start to see this around the country because you can’t … I mean you know the builders have to make a living … but who is going to pay for it? We’ve just got sewers here. We need them in this area. But I heard that the truck … the town plow drivers will not plow this road unless they pave it. So we know it is going to be paved before the freeze comes in. But I heard in other parts of town where they had 40 foot wide roads they’re cutting back 10 feet to make … because, you know, the road only has to be 30 feet wide with curbs. So they have less snow to push because of the money and the time, and, of course, because they keep building more roads. So it’s not just dance. But, I don’t know, Gilmore was a philosopher and I think you really have to look at the whole picture, not your own room and dance floor. I mean, that’s my own opinion of the whole thing. And the only reason I know anything about club dancing is ‘cause I have several friends who are still in it. And we get together and I used to just ask them, “What’s going on?” And when I talk to them, you know, none of them are wringing their hands and crying but they all tell you flat out, “It’s not what it was”. You know Alan Brozek, Als been calling 25 or 30 years by now and he is just my age but he was a musician. He was a New England champion drummer in high school. New England, not Connecticut, New England, and he still plays the bones and he uses live music. And he does ??? dances and he does one night stands and calls traditional and all that. So, he still has one club but he used to have several but they aren’t around any more. And you know Al is … he was always pragmatic about the whole thing and he has a place to go. And he enjoys them. He enjoys the one night stands as much as I do because the joy of dance is there. And remember, club dancers would say. “Oh, that’s not real dancing”. Sure in heck is. It’s realer than what they are doing. More real. You know what I mean. And there’s a real joy there. And there is joy in club dancing but it seems to depend on the caller. It’s like in the different areas around here, the different churches. The churches that are booming it will always turn out to be the pastor, be it a he or she. And if that person leaves, the church can fall back down. So definitely they’re callers like Ed Rutty, and some, they hold the club together because they’re nice people, you know, and then the ones that aren’t. I can think of whole bunches of names of so called hot shots, “Whatever happened to?”. They didn’t make it because of their arrogance you know, and of course now, people just won’t put up with it. So basically that’s it … where …. where I have been. And what I do miss is the ability to go out and do a dance and just call and not have to teach. And at NOMAD I had an hour of squares in the main hall and they put on ads ‘some experience required‘, and I was able to do just walk throughs, you know, Swanee River, Lady Around the Lady … just walk through that once or twice and then just call it. And that I like. And there were a couple of dances I said, “You can do this” and I just called it. And they could and … but on the phrase, and I was talking to two callers that were asking me about what I had done … one was from Pennsylvania and I forget where the other one was from … and I said, “What you heard was something that’s dying”. I said, “When I go … only a few of us do that”. And I said, ”You realize I was doing a pure Quadrille”. And they shook their heads yes, because I’m cueing … I’m saying, “All join hands and circle left” and then I sing on the phrase but those dancers would just push right into it. And I get higher than a kite because it’s going round and it’s that pulse, you know, and that was a joy because I got in eight dances in an hour and I didn’t have to teach anything, you know, I’d just say, “Right and Left Through” and they would Right and Left Through. You know that old Stepney Chain, I called that one, you know, and I called Swanee River ‘cause then they all sing.
BB – We did one the other night called Triple Duck. Have you ever done that.
CH – Oh yeah, I’ve occasionally done Triple Duck. Duck and then go on to the next. Oh yeah. I call that a figure dance. It’s a set pattern to itself. I can give you two more stories. One involves your brother and one involves Earl Johnston. But the point that was made, and I think I saw your brother do it first that I remember, it was done at a Come All Ye down at the barn, the Quonset hut, and he had all different callers and Earl was there and I was there, I had come up from Long Island, so it was a long … it was over 30 years ago. And it was an afternoon thing. He was doing a live music dance at night with the Pioneers and people were going to pay to come to that. Well, comes the last caller….. I won’t say who it is, I know who it was, and I remember what the caller did. Since there were only male callers there I will be able to say he. And I’m not tipping anything. He decides to do Wagon Wheel Spin and Travel On. Nobody does that, or were doing that then. And then he proceeded to badly teach and badly call two dances. And the crowd was like the teeth were grinding. And at this point I turned around and Al was dancing in the back and he was coming through, you know he’s always smiling, his face was dead serious, and I’m watching him, and he jumps up on the stage and he turns around with a big grin and he says, lets do one more dance before we go. Rrrrrrrrrrrrr. He puts on a record, Hurry Hurry Hurry. Well everybody knows the damn dance and he got the tempo down radiating charm and I could feel the room change because he knew that half those people would have gone home and he brought it around and he brought down the house and they screamed and they yelled and they forgot the other guy. And I saw that and I said Ah. But Ed’s telling me.
The other one was Earl Johnston some years later at the Connecticut Callers … main hall, 7 o’clock, the guy who was President of Connecticut Callers at the time was the programmer and he couldn’t call then, can’t call now, he doesn’t even live in Connecticut I don’t think but it doesn’t matter, he’s got 40 squares and he starts calling a patter call. Well he’s going ‘dive thru, pass thru, star thru’ and I was still married to my wife because this was over 20 years ago and she says, “What happened?” and I said, “We were three calls behind and were still losing ground”. Well, we got through that and the singing call ….singing call was worse and then there were two rounds, or one round and then he has another tip for his part of the half hour or whatever. But you couldn’t get in the bathroom I said, “I’ve got to go to the bathroom”. Well, everybody left. Well, some others came in, poor suckers, because they didn’t know, well he proceeds to destroy 30 sets and then all of a sudden the room is filled and Earl comes up. And remember the old Boots Randolph sound, Yakity Sax?
BB – Yes.
CH – Well, Kop was copying that quite well and I don’t remember the tune but I don’t know what he did but he puts on Randolph’s record and he slows the tempo down and calls Circle Left and he shuts up and it goes (making music noises) paa, pa, pa, paa, pa, and he did like Heads to the Right To a Line, Pass Through, Wheel and Deal, something simple. And (whispers and slows down) the whole place started to pulse and when he … this was his first number, not a hoedown …. it was a singing call, the place went off the wall, you know, and now he can walk on water and that was the legend. And I knew what he was doing the minute he started. I said, “I want to see what this guy is going to do”. And that’s exactly what he did. Earl knew what dancing really is! And turned somebody else’s blunder into a great boost for him, and not only that he saved the whole part of that evening, because a lot of people were pretty upset. And a lot of them didn’t know why. They had no idea why. In fact, now I remember, I used to come back there. One of the last classes I took Flying Squares, I used to teach two classes … one I used to do on Sunday nights and Monday nights. It got to be I didn’t want to do Sundays any more and be away from the family so you could take Monday and play it on Sunday. And then they would bring them together. I would come and do the last Sunday before graduation. The guy used to ask me, “How come you’re always talking to me”. And I said, “What do you mean?” He said, “I make these mistakes and you were talking to me” because the mistakes that are made are common. Always, like in square thru going the wrong way.
Well anyway what I did, I started to do, they told me that they were all going out and traveling to so-and-so caller, and I knew the caller. I don’t remember the name and even if I did I wouldn’t tell you, but this caller was a nice person that couldn’t call, you know, clip time. Well anyway…. and I started calling the standard Box 1-4, Right and Left Thru, Dive Thru, Pass Thru, Right and Left Thru, Dive Thru, you know, Allemande. And I did this both ways and all of a sudden I went into clip time (goes faster) Dive Thru, Pass Thru, Right and Left … and of course the whole floor, khhhhhhhhhhhhh, and got messed up. And they were all looking at me as though I went out of my mind. And then I stopped and I said, “Ok, now your going to go out dancing in the future and if that happens it might be the caller, not you”. And I never mentioned any names, and I knew what was coming ‘cause they showed me where they were going to be going and I said, “Why are you going there”? “Well, we got to go for club policy”. And I said, “You know …”. He said, “I know”. And the guy come back to me a month later and told me if I hadn’t of done that he would have quit dancing on the spot.
BB – Yeah.
CH – See, so I did save somebody ‘cause he told me he says, ” I was so mad at that person that I said wait a minute, Chip said it could be the caller”. And they stayed in dancing. So I was combating … that and I saw … do you remember Ernie Kinney? Is he still around?
BB – As far as I know.
CH – He was a master of it. I co-worked with Ernie … and we had to do the usual … you have to use a token advanced dance you had an hour of workshop … and Ernie … we had 10 squares. And I think what I did … I did some stuff with them, you know, I mean I threw some things … my heart was never really in that … but I did it…. I did ok because they liked me because the applause was good. Well, Ernie got up and I didn’t … and for some reason I was sitting on the sidelines and they didn’t need anybody, and he puts on a Dick Jones Top record the flip side … the music side of Running Bear. Do you remember that dance?
BB – Yeah.
Ch – And its (starts singing slow voice) Four Ladies, (back to regular speed voice) slow, but it’s Arky. And he gives no walk through. And he’s got 10 squares of hot shots and they’re raring to go. Well, when he got done with them they were so humbled that if he said boo they would have jumped. Well, I almost … the lady sitting next to me sitting there thought I was crazy. I almost fell of that chair when I heard that start I knew what was going to happen. And the only set that got it was a group of teenagers who do it as exhibition. Out of the whole … and then when he preceded to do his hoedown, patter stuff, they were … they were no longer cocky and arrogant. They were stunned. And then what he did, he got them … and I used to do this…. what he did he got them into dancing and he gets you back to Box 1-4 and he says something like, “Box the Gnat, Slam the Boat, Sink the Ship, Left Allemande” and there are no such calls. So everybody is just standing there and they do Allemande Left ‘cause there’s the corner. Well by God, their set got it but we didn’t get it. And every other set. And I looked at him and he was grinning from ear to ear. And I used to do that when I got pushed. I did that same trick and they come up an say, “Are you going to work shop that?” I say, “Gee, we don’t have time, go ask your caller”. And they go to their caller and the guy is in his book ….Chip Henderson called WHAT? They can’t find it. It was sort of psychological, not fair, but psychological.
I mean, I reached a point where I said, “I’ve had enough of this. I’m going to have fun with it”. So, “I don’t know what he called out there” He said, “Chip Hendrickson had this basic, I couldn’t find it, do you know it?” “No, I’ve never heard of it”. Well, it didn’t exist. I got that from Ernie. But you have to use it with care because if you use it too much they figure out what you’re doing. You know, you do it once every six months. You also, “You know, I’d love too but I haven’t got time now”, because you do it toward the end of the evening. So there is no time to workshop. So don’t ask me to call. I got to be a bad boy toward the end. But I guess I would never mention names. I would never knock them. I just did save a few dances and then gradually I dropped out of it. And I did miss it but it got to be where I didn’t enjoy it. And once you don’t enjoy something you’re not going to do a good job. And I didn’t want be remembered that way so I just stepped back and then let others take over. You know, I read a little about it.
BB – So now you’re very involved in folk dance here.
CH – Well, yeah. Actually this may sound academic but the 18th century dance that I do is not a folk dance. It definitely isn’t a folk dance. Folk is oral and this is all written down, from 1700 to 1800 in Great Britain they published dances with the music line usually and the first couple cross over and hey, whatever they did. And the count we estimate … well, back up a little. Well, the civil war…. Ken Burns Civil War series and the Baseball Series is piano player on … that’s Jacqueline Schwab. And Jacqueline lives out of Cambridge and she plays for the group there, ‘Bare Necessities‘ and she has played for me a number of times. An absolutely incredible pianist, I mean, she’s something else. For her doctorate, which she never got, she went to England for three years and she collected dance titles in what they call Oblong books. I have an original upstairs, 1784 I think. Anyway, they are about 4 by 7 roughly. She collected…. she wrote down where the book was, the date of the book, the page, the dance title, the signature it was written in like 6/4 3/8, 12/8, 9/8 whatever, and I think that was all. And she didn’t include vertical books, or other books or magazine articles. And she collected 24,700 dance titles….
BB – Wow.
CH – …. not counting the 5,500 in Playford and the other ones. And we estimated in 100 years in Great Britain they published 35,000 dances. This is not a folk activity. Now there is repeats of dances. You look in their data bases in America and you will see Soldiers Joy like eleven times. Soldiers Joy is an English tune, it is not an American … it’s got a set of bloody lyrics to it. But anyway, that’s what came here. They’re advertised in books for sale here. We know the dances in the books were here because this was England, New England. New York was English, Philadelphia. All of them English. Wherever the English settled they did English dance. And they were doing the same dances on both sides during the Revolutionary War. We don’t get into American Long Ways dances until the 1780s in Rhode Island and then in the ‘90s you see more American dances. We’re still doing English dances. So that is one big block of dance and music. It’s awesome. That is not a folk dance. It was middle and upper class people … that’s why it’s preserved. Folk dancing, well I figure, most of the folk dancing would really be the stuff out in the mountains in the little towns… would be the square dancing. That would be your folk dance. And that was the stuff that was passed on orally. And the stuff we were doing in the 1940s probably would be considered folk dancing. But prior to that it was the dance of the middle and upper class people. And then … it gradually … everybody got to do it and then as we went west, whoever could remember how to call would call, and of course, you know, it gets worse. Well, you know it gets worse. Well, it gets worse but it gets better. But you know it gets it’s own cultural style which you remember…. which you remember in the beginning there were all different ways of doing … you know the Abilene Lift, I never saw it, I would have loved to have seen that. I’ve heard the whole floor pulsed.
BB – Yes it did.
Ch – And now I’m sure that’s dead, gone and buried. Probably nobody even knows how to do it. I mean I couldn’t do it because I never saw it, but I …
BB – Red Warrick might know how to do it.
CH – Yeah, he would have seen it because he lived it. Even that vanished. And the interesting thing is that when Pappy Shaw did his square dance book, if you look in the front and he lists the favorite fiddle tunes of three or four fiddlers, Soldier’s Joy 1770 England, Collage Hornpipe was his ??? thing from 1750, England. Come Haste to the Wedding 1769 or so, English. English staged Come Haste to the Wedding You Friends and there’s one or two others in there that are from England and how they ever got all the way to Colorado, you know, they don’t sound quite the way they did in the original form, but you know, I can go upstairs and dig out Soldier’s Joy and I can show you the uh… the song sheet with the lyrics on that thing if you want. It’s the same tune, you’d recognize it. Of course Americans, the fiddlers, they change it. And look at what’s going on in Ireland. All the Irish bands are playing American Country Western music with an Irish touch. You know, they get the whistle in there. They get … somebody might get the Uillean pipes going. But at least you say, “By God, that’s Cotton Eyed Joe”, you know?
BB – Yeah.
CH – And I have a tape of the Chieftans, not a tape, a CD that one of my kids gave me, and when I was playing it they are singing all these different songs and all of a sudden I’m hearing … not Kenny Rogers … what’s that…. Willie Nelson …
BB – Um hmm.
CH – …. and he’s singing with them. And they’re mixing Irish and Country Americana and it’s absolutely incredible. There is one cut on there I wish I could get out and call a square dance too. My gosh, it’s like Wabash Cannon Ball, (woooo) and the pipes are going, the whistles are going, because there is a similarity until it’s bounced all the way back to Europe, you know. That kind of music… and some think this is horrible but if you analyze it, it’s what’s going on. And I’ve told … well I wrote this a long time ago, and the club dancers have a dress code, have lessons, and they dance to contemporary music and that is very traditional. Traditional dances haven’t got a dress code and dance to old fashioned music which in the past they didn’t do. All the music, all the books I’ve got, and I’ve got facsimiles of probably 10,000 or more dances in maybe a couple of hundred titles, it’s always the latest dances. The newest and most fashionable for the year 1767. They weren’t doing old stuff. It sounds old to our ears. So club dancing, even though it went in strange ways, to my way of looking at it … they got off dancing as you said earlier and the callers are not musicians and, and, and I think that’s the, the fatal blow. Because if you connect the two … have you ever watched a marching … you know, watch a half time when the bands march, you know. I talked to a guy who does this and they are using 8 steps per 5 yards, and 8 happens to fit the phrase. How else can all those people play music and march around if you don’t hear music? If you can teach high school kids you can teach anybody. But first you are going to have to find people who are going to teach it. And who could? You, you can teach it, Dick can teach it, I can teach it, Earl Johnston can teach it, Al Brozek can teach it, and after that I don’t know. I mean, I’m sure there are … well Jerry Helt, and Mac Letson, I talked to Mac Letson like I was talking to Tony Parks the Contra Dance teacher and Mac was talking phrasing, and he said, “Chip” and he mentioned another name and he says, “These young guys look at me with a blank stare”. He said, “I understand”. So he knows. And that’s all that I know who know, and I’m sure there are others. Castner knew, Tom, and Gilmore of course but that’s not what the leaders wanted to hear. And, of course, I think at this point, I think they would grasp at anything to get the people back. Do you remember Bob Dawson?
BB – Sure.
CH – I have upstairs a letter he wrote me in the sixties which I quoted in the article I wrote in the New England Square Dance magazine and in the sixties he started his program, ‘Square Dancing Is Fun‘. Six weeks of lessons and then you come to his Monday night dance and he starts another six week … do you realize how many people you can get down in Florida? At the time of this letter he had the six -weekers, then he had an intermediate group and then he had an advanced group. The advanced group got eight to ten squares, the intermediate group was getting from 15 to 25, and the Monday night and Tuesday nights were getting in excess of 40 squares. And he made curse marks about what the callers were doing to the activity and he says, “In the mean time, I am making a lot of money and having fun” or something like that. This was in the sixties. And instead of this Mainstream and all the rest of this nonsense, I bet you … and I won’t do it now because a hall will cost me $175. and I’m not sticking my neck out to try to get square dancing started, although I’ve been asked to. I’ll bet you if, if, if they did something like that you could turn it around. But how many callers would be capable of doing it. And, and, and be able to take just six weeks worth of stuff and keep people ….
BB – Interested.
CH – … interested. It can be done as long as you don’t put the accent on the figure. Put the accent on the music and the people. Get them rocking. Ed Gilmore used to say if you play tempo fast people tend to chug and dance straight ahead and if you slow it down you get this sort of sway of the body sideways, and your whole body rocks. And I have seen this in folk dancing, and square dancing, and contra dancing and believe it or not Native American dancing. When the drum … singers get hot and they start going fast the only people that can dance are the fancy dancers and that’s almost athletics. I personally, myself, are dancing what they call traditional. All I can do is take very tiny steps. I can’t boogie, I can’t get my body into it or anything like that. Les Fourhorns who lives way over in Plainfield west of here, a full blood Dakota from Roosevelt reservation, has a voice, oh man, what a voice on that man, and he knows like 500 songs. He sings in a high pitched voice that comes down … well Les will start a song (bangs on table) boom, boom, boom like this and you’re dancing and its almost slow and the old people are saying, “Gee” (more, faster banging) its getting faster and he’ll only bring it up to a certain point, and he gets you going. And Native American dancing is the only dancing that is totally non phrased. There is no phrasing. Just, I mean I’ve talked phrase … “How can you enjoy that”? Well, you enjoy it in the context. Enjoy it because it’s different, it is a totally different culture. But the drum is one beat and in the Northern plains the song is on a different beat. Now, I could never sing that way. If they … “You kiddin’ me if you want to sing and make records?”. I said, “I couldn’t do that”. I said, “I’m a square dance caller I’ve been on phrase for 45 years. There is no way I’m ever going to sing off phrase”. It would be like having a drum beat and then singing Yankee Doodle at a different tempo. But then I found out that they do this in the Middle European and the Balkans and Turkish dancing is the same thing. The drum is doing one thing and the feet are doing something else.
BB – Is that right?
CH – Yeah. But the Mickmacs sing on phrase and their songs are more melodious. So it depends. It is not one thing. But I have noticed about balance and weight and if you go to fast you don’t dance well, you don’t…. you don’t get into it. So you find people … club dancers would find me painfully slow. And yet I’m probably going 120. And my … the 18th century dances are going 104 beats per minute. But we’re doing steps. You see the only two dance forms that I know of where people walk are square dancing and contra dancing. All the rest are dancing and it’s not walks. And this is something we’ve developed and they did Pas de Bourées, and also Contretemps de Gavotte. And in the English and Contra dancing of the 18th century long ways, the flow would rise 2, 3, sync, rise, 2, 3, … and the whole room just pulsed, right in time and sometimes there was a little hop and a Chasse or Sashay, but they danced, they didn’t walk, the figures until they got too old.
BB – Yeah.
CH – And then we went from … the steps in the 1830’s I understand in square dancing were so complicated they almost killed it. And then they … it became fashionable to slide (sliding noises) and that’s what we inherited was that slide. And Henry Ford’s dances, his book of which … I’ve got … 1940s original and 1920’s original, you know Benjamin Lovett. You know that story about what he did with Lovett?
BB – Sure.
CH – He … Lovett was working up at that place …
BB – Wayside Inn.
CH – Yeah, and he wanted him to work for him and Lovett wouldn’t leave and he bought the place. Well he gave him like $13,000 a year plus a Lincoln back in … that is a lot of … he was well paid.
BB – Lot of cabbage, right.
CH – Oh yeah, but the thing was on the cover of one of those books showed an 18th century couple bowing and curtsying. But what he was doing was a 19th century Lancers quadrille, that is what he revived. That was what he actually revived plus whatever the couple dances were. And of course there is another activity competing called Vintage Dancing … you’re aware of Vintage? Richard Powers?
BB – No.
CH – Oh. Richard started ten years ago to do historical dance only 19th century. He’s got a seat somewhere at Stanford University on the west coast. The Flying Cloud Vintage Assembly, he’s been all over the world. His Vintage Dancers were here, they go on … they do weekends, they go up to Rhode Island, they get on a train car and they go up the line and have dinner, they come back and they play croquet the guys wear the white straw hats they have a ball, blanc or white outfit, they have a ten piece orchestra playing 19th century. And one woman who does this who used to contra dance says, “I like being treated like a lady”. So he’s got this thing going, I mean it’s a new whole world, and these club callers that don’t realize Scottish dancing, English dancing, Contra dancing Vintage dancing and what’s left of Folk dancing, Country Western, Cajun, they’re all going after people. And most of them … now Vintage dancing is not easy,
BB – No, they had Vintage dancing at the National in San Antonio. Exhibition.
CH – But that’s a big movement. And there are people that do that. And I get the flyers and all kinds of stuff and workshops are going on all the time up in Hartford. And they’re getting people, and they’re getting young people, not just the gray hair, they’re getting all ages. Whereas you see a club dancing it’s mostly older people, and that’s partly because of the social change. I mean, the young people are working two jobs, and three jobs just to survive.
Tape clicks off – End of side 2
BB – So. now we’ve got a brand new tape so let’s go.
CH – Ok, well. I was going to mention, the last … you were talking about teaching … the last festival I went to, National, was in Baltimore and I was down in DC for a graphics seminar my company sent me to on this kind of stuff, see, and I’ve used it … that was quite a few years ago, and on the way back I had booked to call … I called a traditional dance on Friday night and then I got booked … and then I did something at the festival on Saturday, because, you know, up from Washington to Baltimore wasn’t that far. Well anyway, I went in and I did a traditional contra dance in a room, and they were piping the sound through ceiling speakers and it was the worst quality sound you could hear. And of course this was really bothering me because the essence of traditional dance is the music and when you got eee, sqwack, sqwack squeek it kind of bothered me.
Well anyway, I did my thing and as I was leaving I wanted to walk into the caller’s chat room or hospitality room which was just down around the corner. And as I walked by there was a room and there was two squares in there and they were in Box 1-4 and the teacher was teaching them the Hey-for-Four. And I watched for a minute and I went on and I went into the room and I got a cup of coffee and I shook hands with different people. And it was very interesting because one person whose name shall not be mentioned was milling around and I got the politicians hand shake and the phoniest grin you ever saw because I had walked out … and done weekends with this fellow … and I’d left the activity and I was a traitor. And I didn’t see it that way because everybody else was genial. Well anyway, I went through and I had a doughnut and came back out and they were still in the same position and the person was still teaching. And (sighs) I didn’t say anything, and I don’t know who it was and I don’t care, but the night before I was at a dance in … it was in a National Historic site, there was a big ballroom. Now, I forget then it was a National Recreational area or something, big room and they had sound set up and the guy had a snake and thing on the side because it was a little touchy and we had a 7 piece band, 6 or 7 piece up front about 7 more sitting in, about a 14 piece band, had about 30 or so squares, and I was calling this dance. Filling the room and I at that time, I would do squares and contras. Now there’s been a movement where the square dancers … contra dancers don’t want squares at all. Some say because it’s because they can’t think. But hey. it’s mostly because most traditional callers can’t call squares well. They don’t have any idea what they’re doing. I’ve heard tapes of them and I’ve seen it, they don’t know how to call them. And so the people are uncomfortable because they are not on the phrase.
But anyway, Ted Sannella always did them, and I stopped calling because I will not call all night contras. I want two squares, two contras and they don’t want that. But at the time it was ok. So I’m doing my thing and about 75 percent of those people, 50 percent at least were off the street. So here you got the band and well, I’m doing my thing, and I’m doing my thing, and I’m doing my thing. And I get about three quarters of the way through the evening and I made a decision to do something, and this I learned from Dick Jones. It put the ladies in the center back to back and I had them come out around the men star left around the ladies, star left, then swing. Then I did that awhile and then I had the men star left around the opposite lady, star left around your partner allemande left then swing. Then I put both parts together and you have Cross Heys. Well I’m doing this mostly talking over music and doing it and doing it, never told them what I was doing and I can remember because in the front where the ‘sharks’ were, that’s what they called all the hot shot dancers in traditional, ‘sharks’ in contra up in front around the caller. That’s the term. They have a problem, how to assimilate new dancers. How to keep the old dancers happy. They ran a convention or something out in the middle … out around the Great Lakes. Fran was reading me the subjects and I was teasing her to the point where she got annoyed at me because every single subject was exactly the same thing as what club dancing has done wrong. They were having all the same problems. Of course, because they are all doing the same thing. They are making it more complicated and losing the point. And it has dropped off a little, not a lot, but it is still far healthier …. but anyway, I heard this guy right in front of me say G D he is doing a Hey and he didn’t even know it. And then I got them and I let go hands and then they were doing it without hands, and then I had the head lady back to back and then they were doing a straight reel of four inside and … beginners, half of them were beginners…. and I learned this procedure from Dick Jones and then polished it more and I think Dick Leger was using the same form. But I attribute to the late Dick Jones. Anyway, and then here I am the next day and 10 minutes this caller is going on and on to teach them a Hey, and do this, and they haven’t moved. And here I had 30 sets mostly by what we call verbal teaching. I do a lot of teaching with a band where it is simple, like at Lincoln Center where I’ll just go like to this (makes a gesture) to the band and they keep playing soft I put a shush sign up and they’ll play soft and I’ll explain a figure. That does two things. Number one, it keeps the music going and number two, it makes them listen to voice over music. You know, you’re doing two things at once … I mean everything I do has a reason, even though I don’t always think about it at the time. I might be like teaching Forward and Back and then I say ok, now your ready, “Go Forward and Back” and I point to the band and of course they hit the downbeat of that next phrase and everybody goes, “YEA”.
But anyway, the point was that I taught Hey without ever telling them what I was doing. And hearing up the line as people were going on … I felt so sorry for those dancers, they are going to walk out of there and never come near traditional dance again. But you said right at the beginning, and I don’t think it will be in the tape, but the activity suffers from good teaching and musicianship. There is no reason to be afraid of music. Like I said, I don’t play any instrument. I can play any tune I know on the piano with one finger, that’s all, not necessarily in time. I’ve been able to do that since I was a kid, but I know my phrases. I know my A’s. I know my B’s, I can work on this music. I’m getting to the point where I type set music and I’m getting to really understand it. And I know the mathematics now down cold. If you’ve got 6/8 time you can’t put 7 eighth notes in the measure. First of all, the program dumps it to the next one, second of all I know. But you can put a dotted eighth and a sixteenth. I mean this is just mathematics. Any left brain person can learn that. And I’ve learned it but I can’t play music. Although I’m reaching a point where I might be able to. But the thing is with square dancing these callers can learn this and dancers … people can be taught to dance to phrase. It’s not something that’s out of our culture. And I and others can prove them wrong on that every time I do a one night stand. Half the … I get half the floor … I keep half the floor totally on the phrase for two hours and I’m including kids. The other half they miss a little … and without even telling them. Except occasionally saying, “Wait for me”, if they start to jump the call. Or else I’ll change the call. You know the old trick, call a trap, you know. (Bob chuckles) I call it keeping them honest. But the … and people will come back to it … Dick will tell you this … remember this. Dick was calling up at the former Brookfield Club near Bourne (??), another group called the Tomahawk Squares or something.
BB – That’s an Advanced group.
CH – Yeah. Well, I watched that and it’s, it’s … they’re having a good time but it is very sterile to me. I mean, you know, I grant…. I grant them what they do but I don’t call it dancing. I mean, they’re just doing and it’s great they’ve got a community going …like two squares. But anyway, Dick at that time was calling for the Trailblazers.
BB – One of our callers was saying, “Why do you use music?”
CH – Well, that’s the whole point. You just need a guy beating on a drum. Yeah, and up and down and …. But anyway. That’s ok except that’s not going to bring home the bread. I would have much more joy with intermediate or less dancers filling the room and the whole place with that lovely joy …. joy, it sounds corny but there was a joy to dancing and it’s gone. But anyway, Fran was with me at this dance, we come … we might have … I don’t know why she was with me … well I think maybe we’re getting … I know we used to … one of the Girl Scout groups they used to throw a pot luck … maybe she came from Danbury … well whatever. I looked at the watch and it was quarter to ten or something and Dick is calling at the Trailblazers at Huckleberry Hill School, and we drove in. Of course we’re dressed … I think I had a beret on, you know, nobody knew us hardly anyway, and Dick pulls over, “How you doin’ ” and everything, “Great”, you know. So we got into, “Should you gonna square dance?” you know. He told others who we were which didn’t mean much but that’s ok. I had my fifteen minutes of glory. But anyway, he said whatever the square was you can do it. I think it had a grand square. Well we did it and whatever … he did a contra, so I said we’ll do the contra. We get in the contra. And he does a club dance contra, you know, crossed over so we don’t get confused. And we’re dancing along and we’re just walking but were going … and we come down and we come to this couple and it was just like ….I think I know you, I think I know you. It was dancers, oh golly. I, it was just a joy, I mean we just went and we went, and it flowed and we met the next couple were walking again and it was one more and we were at the bottom and I’m, I’m, Fran is … and I’m staring at that couple. And all of a sudden it came back to me. And I said, “I know who they are. I don’t know their names”, I says … and I got real smug and I says, “Guess who taught them to dance”? And she looked at me and I went (blowing on fingers) I blew on my fingers and went like that (making gesture rubbing lapel), I taught them to dance and the minute they were with us in a set it came right back to them. Once you learn the dance, you will dance it, but we reward you. And it came right back to it.
And the same thing happened to me when the late Walter Warp over their in Milford, that club, Milford Square Dance Club, Walt something, a Polish type last name, a name I can never get right. Well anyway, he tried to get me back into club dancing and I actually filled in his classes for Alan Brozek a couple of times but I did it…. I did it as a favor, but I think he was hoping I would come back. But I told him I didn’t like it and I don’t want to. But I did it, and then I did the beginners dance and you know five or six squares or whatever, and I did, I do what I do and I’ve … I know that some of them didn’t understand what I was doing, as one said, “You’re different”. But I didn’t even … I wasn’t worried because I wasn’t going back. But when I did Grand Square, there was two sets in the back and they flowed because they were all ex Flying Squares that I had taught to dance. A couple of them dance A77 but the instant you have them … the thing they never jumped all the rest were running around, right. I was watching the ones in the back because I refuse to call Reverse until you’re supposed to, I don’t care what they’re doing. I mean, I am in charge and you will dance to me but I watched them and I scanned them and I said, “I taught every one of those people to dance”. Or they were people that knew you, they were all from the past when, when we phrased. And they will do it if you let them. By God, they will do it and they did it. And I remember all these …. these are things that go in and out and my own feeling on the present era is they have to go back to phrase dancing. I think that’s what they’ve got to do. But you see, I even got pushed here in NOMAD, when I was calling. And when I first started my first patter call I wound up doing Stepney Chain but they were pushing me, this one set to my left a little bit, the contra dancers, you see pushed and I refused to be pushed, and they backed right into the phrase. But if I had been a neophyte or started to clip a little bit to keep up with them I would have blown the whole thing. But I know better and that comes with age. (chuckle) And I just refused and they will…. they will fall right in. Earl will tell you, Dick will tell you. Hold your ground.
BB – Right. (chuckles)
CH – But, you know, so anyway, that’s where it’s gone and I’m…. I’m not in it. I mean, as far as I’m personally concerned, if the whole thing died it isn’t going to effect me but I still feel bad. Because it was a good activity and we had a great thing going and I blame a lot of the top leaders, people who were just making so much money …. I blame them for not being leaders, but on the other hand they are people, you know. And I only … the only reason I probably got where I was, I met Ed Gilmore who saw it coming before it started. But your voice crying in the wind when, when, when everyone is making a lot of money and everything is going well, you know, you’re nuts. I was called ‘old fashioned’ so many times and ‘out of touch’ and those clubs are gone, those people are gone, I’m still here. I’m still calling. You know what I mean, I can’t do a Club Dance anymore, but I can call wheel and deal and sweep a quarter, and things like that, but I don’t know from nothing any more. But I remember Ed Gilmore on the old Hotel Green. Box 1-4 to an ocean wave, everybody Promenade a quarter, men change places, ladies change places, he was calling Circulates and Trades before they were invented, and we…. we all did it and nobody thought abo … sure I can do that. And then a couple of years later it got invented and I can remember one of the people who invented it got very bent out of shape when somebody like me or somebody reminded then that other callers had been doing this for … oh oee aww (yells as if surprised) you know. I remember you and, and, and I think of your brother because he was one of the callers I went and danced to, one of the few I would dance to. When we would, you know, you’d be in an Allemande Thar and he’d say drop left hands do a Left Allemande and that later became Slip the Clutch. You know, but you can’t call it a name, it should be let go and do it, you know what I mean? And Frannie Heinz made a…. he’s passed on hasn’t he?
BB – Yes.
CH – Yeah, Frannie was you just did, or something … I never heard him do it I just heard about it. He would…..
BB – You just did Acey Deucey.
CH – Yeah right, and he would talk you through it. So anyway I don’t think they will ever turn it around unless they get on the music. Because I watch Country Western every night on one of the channels here. There are several programs and there is no Club Dancing coast to coast on anything. And one of the programs is called club dancing which I find very ironic. But you’ve got all ages and sizes and weights and shapes and costumes and outfits and they’re dancing to music. Some of those dances are oddly phrased but the Texas Swing is to me the Lindy. You know. Well, Greek dancing is out of phrase. But that’s the only … Greek dancing is definitely out of phrase but the music, but the figures, the steps are in time to the music at least and they are doing steps. But I mean, I see guys with moustaches in there doing heel and toe and shuffle, and they are having a great time. But I also hear rumors that the dances … that they are making up harder and harder dances and they will get in the same…. they will fall into the same box. And Cajun…. and Cajun….. have you ever danced Cajun?
BB – No, I saw it at the National. I couldn’t hack it.
CH – Well actually, if you look at it really carefully it uses this funny little step and the Cajun is a lot like the Lindy. It’s just another form of the other thing. You just get this little … I can’t even remember it but I can pick it up. They had a Cajun band over at the … right at the top of the hill it used to be a church opposite the flag pole, but now it is a meeting hall. And they use it, and they did Cajun, and people were dancin’ in the aisles. It’s just a silly little step but again you get into the music, you know. And then Zydeco is a form … Zydeco has got ‘50s rock mixed with Cajun. But the music would bring the dead. (Bob chuckles) I mean it. I mean you can’t help dancing. But if you listen to one of those club dance records, chunk, chunk, chunk, chunk, you know, as you said, “Why have music at all”? So that is my own opinion. I doubt if I will live to see anything happen, you know I mean, I’m not planning on leaving but I’m in my sixties.
BB – One of the things I wanted to ask you about … you, you’re one of the few callers that I know that use tapes instead of records.
CH – Well, as I said, with the kind of music I use, which is traditional music, the records come from England or Scotland and they’re LPs. And I used to be able to go into a local record and go under ‘Folk Dance’ and under ‘Scotland’ and ‘Jimmy Shand‘. They’ve gone. They’ve gone forever. So it’s either buy a CD which I don’t have any way of playing on the road, and how do you change the speed. Although I understand there are available, will be available more. So I know a number of … a lot of the eighteenth century people do what I do and the folk dance leaders … a lot of the folk dance leaders use tapes. International folk dancing. Yves
Moreau uses them, Sandy Starkman uses them. They are both from
Canada. George Fogg, the English dance teacher is still using records but I have watched him damage records because his needle bounces and then you’ve lost them. So, like I said, you can buy them a lot of places … I use a place called Polyline out of Illinois. You can buy 100 five, seven, ten minute a side tapes and they aren’t much at 15 or 20 cents apiece and then you buy the box and you tape one a side. You just flip it over … and that’s how I do it. It’s really … you get used to it. The only thing that’s a drawback to it … if you are a patter caller you can’t see the end coming. And it just stops. But then that will bring me back … Rickey Holden I understand is still around in Denmark or somewhere
BB – Belgium
CH – Belgium, ok, I was close. And Rickey said many years ago, “If you can’t call good, call fast”.
BB – (laughs) I remember that.
CH – Remember that. He said that and I didn’t understand it but later in my life I did. And it is the same thing with dancing. It is much harder to dance, physically, slow than fast. Because then the slower you go the more body control you’ve got to have. And I always remember Rickey, “If you can’t call good, call fast” and somebody else, and I don’t know who it was talking about a five minute hoedown record said, “If you can’t say it in five minutes you’ve got nothing to say”. And yet these people go on for twenty minutes. And their doing this with contras now. The contras will last twenty minutes and somebody said, “That’s wild”. And I said, “In my whole life I can’t remember when I’ve danced one dance for twenty minutes. Gimmie a break. But … so I have no … I don’t have much … I’ve had no problems with tapes really. And you can get tape recorders … I’ve just bought one and I didn’t know I was getting this … if I hit … if it’s tight, if it’s completely and I hit play and fast forward it stops at the tune and then starts to play. And if you are watching the indicator the instant, the instant that the numbers stop … if you hit stop you’re right on the money. Then, if you start playing and you want to go back you hit play and Reverse and it goes right back and starts to play again.
BB – I’ll be damned.
CH – It’s sort of like picking the needle up. It’s something you get used to.
BB – What kind of … do you remember the brand of that …
CH – Oh, that one I got out of Long Electronics in Atlanta Georgia. And it’s JVC brand because it has variable speed on one side. And that … I have to have variable speed. Although most of my tapes are within the range but occasionally there’s a tune that is recorded too fast and even though I’ve got an old record player I can’t slow it down enough. But I wanted the tone so I can … I get it as slow as I can. Or you get a slippery floor, you know, those are the kinds of things you are supposed to pay attention to, you know, … JVC and it was $280 which isn’t bad because a Marantz is going to cost you $400 in stereo and they’re tiny, and this is … you know it’s a standard 19 inch rack, about so big. I might be able to find it in the catalog and copy the page for you. But anyway, I just got that and I was surprised because it had the band search on it. I didn’t know I was getting that. Because my old one had 8 buttons and you could push 3 and it would go in number 3. But I’ve only got three tapes that have three tunes on them. I decided that was confusing and I went to one to one to one. I’m too busy to re-tape. But I know a number of … I can’t name but I can point to six or eight leaders that I am aware of that have been using tapes for years. I sort of had to.
BB – Tell us too about ….you have a studio here in your home and your wife Frannie is using … it’s not a synthesizer but something like that and you’re making tapes for your own personal use.
CH – Yeah, the eighteenth century. It’s called sampled sound. And that’s where a guy is playing a violin and they hold a microphone out and they record it and then somehow the computer does something and now you have that sound. And, and … that’s how they make the dogs sing on the radio commercial. They record one dog barking while you can and then you tell the computer and whatever note it is, it makes that sound. And then we have … that’s the black box. And then you have to have a computer program and a computer and you have got to have an electronic keyboard which is also sampled. And then there is a black box that has what most people call and echo chamber. But it’s really … there are rooms that have different depths and sounds and it’s very subtle and I asked a professional, “How do you use this thing” and he says, ”You try it and if you hear something you like you make a note”. You’ve got a studio. Well anyway … and it’s a semi professional model. We’ve got pretty decent stuff. And different songs depending on which she uses … the clarinet, see she can use the clarinet, and the hardest thing for her was to play stringed and wind instruments using fingers and how to make them sound legato and smooth, but she’s learned. And she lays down one track at a time and then she adds and does the harmony which she can multiply and add … you know this Jane Austin thing, that this movie Jane Austin they did, about Jane Austin?
BB – Yeah.
CH – Well she is hot right now for whatever reason. It’s the nostalgia thing. But anyway, there is a dance mentioned … she mentions a dance in her letters …. it’s not in the movie…. called Leboulanger. Well, we had the music to that and Fran has actually made me a tape of it. And it’s a dance she says went on for an hour. Well I figured out why it could go on for a hour. And actually the dance…. the dance could be done in a One Night Stand. Well Fran made me that tape, I haven’t tried it yet but I have it. I’m trying … I want to call ASCAP and BMI and find out what it would cost me … what royalties I would have to pay to make a set of tapes calling the way I call so that someday somebody might want to learn how to cue on a singing call, and make the dancers dance where they belong on the music. And I don’t think when I get done with them and they say, “How many tapes are you going to make”. I’ll say probably 200 and they’ll say, “Oh, forget it”, or, “Send us fifty bucks” and then she could make them and make them with the, you know, bumpy piano … instead she is always playing light, but bang them out. You know, In the Good Old Summer Time, and whatever, I have a whole set of favorites I like and I’d like to do that. But I don’t see any great market for it. It would just be a thing … and then at least it would have a style, because I wrote an article on how to do this for Ralph Page in the Northern Junket some years ago … somewhere I’ve got that too. And it’s just simply … and it’s the same with patter calling. Everybody knows Queens Quadrille ….. Jerry Helt’s Queens Quadrille…. and they all use Sweet Georgia Brown, and usually too fast but, (laughs) anyway, and those that know how to cue, you know, they say Heads Right and Left Through, Ladies Chain, and you prompt it just like a round dance teacher. Well, if you took that … you could do the same dance to a hoedown, you know, (dancing noises) chaa, cha-cha, chaa, cha-cha, and you say Heads Right and Left Through, (with more feeling) and Right and Left Through, (back to normal) and right between the prompts you throw patter, I call them Quadrilles with hype.
And being a Western caller I have the hype still in me. And so I get up there and I call these dances to folk dances and just think this is the greatest thing in the world because, because, well if you put on a nineteenth century jig and you prompt it “heads go right and left” or something they would be dancing with the same timing that I’ve got this Sally Goodin going or whatever and they’re boogieing around and they’re getting all excited but there still on the damn phrase and at the end of the night if they want a whole night. The first night I’d danced to Ed Gilmore was at Mary and Michael Herman’s and I’d heard about this guy and I wasn’t married to Elaine. We were in our late teens and we went down there just like cowboys and here’s this guy and we looked at him and we danced to him and when we left I remember saying, “I’m not tired”. And yeah, “I’m not tired”. And I wanted to know why because I had been calling a little bit and that’s how I started to follow him and he taught me why. Because he puts you on the phrase. He slowed the tempos down and he made it slow. And I can…. I can remember that, and it just came to me, and I can see the light, and I can even … I can’t think of his name, but, “I’m not tired”. And that was Gilmore. And…. and there was a host of others. There was, you know, anyone that worked with Gilmore. Anyone who was in direct contact, and like your brother because he would hold…. he would hold your brother down, because Al liked to get going. But Ed would hold him down. (pounding on table twice) because he was that way, and he did it nicely (more pounding) but he would always keep the pace. Do you remember what his signature dance was, Bye Bye Blues? (singing) Bye Bye Blues.
BB – Yeah.
CH – That was his, I call that his signature … when he put that on and it was over, you would know it was the end. And so, the last dance I did at NOMAD, my hour, Saturday night I told the people my mentor used this tune and I says, “I don’t know what he called to it, but he would make it up by the end” and I said, “So, for my mentor, Ed Gilmore”, and I had this whole, fast band, you know these all folkies, but they could sight read and I’d type set the music and Fran had checked it … we did (singing it) Bye Bye Blues, (back to regular voice) and everybody is singing away. And I said, “This is for you Ed”. But that is what he would do. But it was this massive use of music … remember the Firehouse Five Plus Two. Well he would call Alabama Jubilee to that. And that’s when I learned that the human ear can not hear less than a 3db elevation. This is very technical, but he told me this, you can’t hear less than a 3db change in volume which means if you increase the volume in increments less than 3 decibels the dancers aren’t aware you are raising the volume. And he would start that thing off, a simple dance, and he would keep moving it up and you had no way to compare and he had that thing pretty loud and he had these club dancers dancing like children, going around like crazy. I can remember somebody on Long Island, and this guy was pretty heavy and dignified, he was a foot off the floor. And when it was all done and they cheered and yelled and he says, “Is the music too loud”, “No, no”. And he’d play it and they’d say, “Yes”, “You just danced to that”. “No we didn’t” And I learned that. Again it’s a trick that you have to be real careful with. It’s like the guys with the button on the mic. Oh, do it. Oh Lord I find that … cause a band doesn’t play that way. Oh no I could tell you I shush a band on teaching, or you could, you can shush them for effect, but if you have decent musicians they are usually taking turns, and when they … and I’ll give them the signal one more time and if they’re playing soft when it comes to the last time in a singing call or something boy you’ve got all four or five or three pounding away and they just build it up … and it cranks the dancers up just like key changes do. I have, I have the range … musical range … I’ve done Just Because and they, and they start off, and they do that octave … half an octave up or whatever they do, you know, half a step not an octave half a step up and then drop back down again and you know it’s coming and you can crank up folk dancers just as easy as club dancers and yet what are you calling, nothing. Ladies Chain, chain back, you know the old Alabama Jubilee.
BB – Oh, sure.
CH – And that’s where I think it’s at and there are a lot of dedicated men and women out there and I don’t know what’s going to happen. Because I’m not … I’m only aware of what’s going on in Connecticut and basically, like I say, you get 781 dancers at a festival where we used to get … you remember how many we used to go to that thing, and you told me they got 1300 at the New England.
BB – 1700.
CH – 1700, I mean that’s…. it’s sad. And the problem is of course, that once something starts sliding its tough….. it’s tough to stop it, you know. I mean, it’s one thing if you had nothing and you’ve got to start ‘em, that’s a struggle, but when you’ve got something that did so well for so long and all of a sudden the thing is collapsing, people get frantic, you know, and it … I, I’m not in a … I’m too busy for one thing. The only thing I could tell them is to learn how to phrase call. Get rid of all figures that don’t phrase or at least get in and out of it which is what Gilmore did. I mean, not everything was phrased and not everything when I club called was phrased, but Forward and Back has got to take eight steps. I can tell you who it was, I was at the Connecticut Callers and I was doing my hour and I think I was doing a MacGregor record … oh I can’t remember … anyway I was calling, and between my first and second number a young man jumped up on top and says, “How do you do that”. I said, “How do I do what, my son” no I didn’t say that but I did ask him … I didn’t say, “My son” … say, “How do I do what” and it was a deliberate question because I wanted to make sure … and he says, “How do you keep the whole floor together”? And I said, “That’s what phrasing is” and of course, I had another number to do and I said, “Talk to me afterwards”. And he hopped down and I did my singing call and then I met him and I talked to him and I said, “If you want to learn, come to my house” and I spent three hours with him at my other house on the other side of town … because this was before my divorce, this was over 20 years ago. And I taught him the basics of phrasing. His name is Clint McLean. And Clint was a good caller. Clint I don’t think calls much anymore. Well, you see he’s got a …
BB – He’s starting to get back in …
CH – He’s a ….. he’s a doctor and he has an eye disease. Yeah, he….. He, I mean, he diagnoses lenses. And …..
(machine clicks off)
CH – ….. piping it direct in and I said, “You can’t do that. You have to have tone. Tone for the music and tone for the voice. They figured it out real quick but I happened to go by the guy and he says, “We had…. we had never done this”. Hotel, big hotel downtown Washington, well they ran several festivals there and it had a grand staircase with a red carpet that went down to a landing, and if you were on top before the landing you could see the dance floor but you couldn’t hear it because the speakers were in the ceiling coming down and I remember standing with Elaine and a bunch of people and somebody … they were fumbling for a program that was calling and I said, “Gilmore“. And they said, “How do you know, I can’t hear him”, and I said, “Look at the floor”, he says, “What do you mean”. And I said, “Watch the floor. Every set is starting and stopping in every direction, lines, circles. “Oh yeah”, I says, “You watch”. And he went, “It is”. I said, “I know it is” because that was Gilmore. And that’s the other point. If, if, if all the figures had timing that at least were in multiples or divisions of four, instead of these weird sixes…. if every figure had a thing like that, then if you taught beginners and experienced dancers no matter how much experienced dancers knew they never executed a figure in less time you could keep them together. But if the hot shots are going to go Forward and Back in four beats and the beginners aren’t, then all of a sudden your sets start to get ragged. And if certain … if a square through … like I think they’ve got Square Through down to eight steps. And how you do 4 sides and three corners in 8 is beyond my thinking. But it used to be like eleven or twelve at least, you know what I’m saying? But the thing is then you would have a glue that would hold them all together and that glue would be the timing. And the experienced dancers would simply have to just learn. We used to…. to hold off and stay on the music. And the beginners would be on that ragged edge, but at .. least .. everybody.. would .. be .. together, in the same place at the same time. And I also think they would like it more if they got into that music, you know. But, like I said, they call me old fashioned and I don’t really think so.
BB – Well I’ve thought for some time, and I’ve talked with Ed Rutty about this yesterday, that to try to do that I don’t think we’d ever be able to train our present day club dancers.
CH – No, somebody else said that exact same thing to me.
BB – You’d have to start all over.
CH – You’d have to start all over. You’re right. This came up at Connecticut callers. They said Chip we can’t change them. I said, “I agree. I agree but what are you going to do“. I think that Bob Bossin’s six week idea would work. But somebody … but you’d have to get a hall, you’d have to do the advertising and you’d have to stick to your guns. And I quite frankly am too busy.
BB – And that’s the basis of the CDP program of course.
CH – That’s Community Dance. They’re using some of that English stuff too or not?
BB – Have you got a copy of Dancing for Busy People.
CH – I’ve never even heard of it.
BB – Yeah, ok. You should get a copy of it.
CH – It’s probably what … like the English … they’ve that set of English books, The Community Dance books which have the four or five couples long ways and the simple squares. Couple face couple and things like that.
BB – Yeah.
CH – But it’s all phrased. All that English dancing is phrased.
BB – Well this book is too. It’s very well done. Done by Bob Howell, you know.
CH – Oh, yeah, yeah.
BB – Cal Campbell and Ken Kernan.
CH – I don’t know the other two but Howell I know and he’s been trying for years.
BB – Cal is, Cal is from Colorado and Ken Kernan happens to live in Albuquerque now and he used to work for Sets In Order. He did all the Sets In Order promotional records and so on.
CH – OK
BB – As a matter of fact he was one of the original Cheyenne Mountain Dancers.
CH – Oh, another one. Oh, wild.
BB – And uh, so you should get a copy then.
CH – I’ll have to look that … I’ll have to write that down, because I’d just like to know. Because I occasionally meet callers in the traditional field and they have their own problems, as I said when I called the other night, was I told a couple of these younger men … I mean they are in their late 30’s now, and I said, “What you heard me do is going to die” because there is only a hand full of us left that I know of because there is no interest in it. And I just did a … I’ve done a one night stand up at Trinity church here, and, you know, you go in and you’ve got teen-agers, you’ve got 40s, 50s, 60s, and I do records. I do what we used to do, you can do Right and Left Throughs and Chains with them and they’re all dancing and laughing and they say, “Hey, this is fun. We should do this more often”. And I keep saying, “Why don’t you”. Because I don’t want to run it. I want them to run it once a month and hire me. I’m too busy. They’ve got the hall. They’ve got the insurance, just run them once a month. And I’ll come and call and I’ll charge them less because it’s only a mile and half, three quarters come up… and I’d love it, and I bet in a couple of months we’d pack them in. And because I got enough brains, I’d never raise the level and I’ve got enough dances to keep them dancing for another thirty years. And I’d get Fran to make me Lady Around the Lady on tape, and make me this because you know you can’t buy it anymore. You know I think Pioneer had somebody ….
BB – Yeah, John Launch (??).
CH – Did your brother do that one?
BB – John Launch (??).
CH – The way he did it now did he do it four times through?
BB – Yeah.
CH – Yeah, because it used to be only three times through on the Folkraft record and you had to put it back to do …. Barnacle Bill the Sailor, and I’m a Bum.
BB – That’s on Lloyd Shaw too.
CH – Oh, it is?. Oh, all that stuff.
BB – Of course, Barnacle Bill doesn’t work like it does with live music.
CH – Oh of course not, no, no, no, because you’ve got to drag it out. But I just think that something like that would go, but you’ve got to….. you’ve got to have a mind set that you’re going in to entertain and the object is not to show how much you know, or be complicated. Because I used to watch Tony Parkes, you know Tony, who he is …
BB – Sure.
Ch – And Ten Sannella, and when you watched them work, and Ed Gilmore, and all the names, all these big names. When they were calling they never looked like they were doing anything.
BB – Right.
CH – And so the new callers said, “Well, I can do that”. And you’re not … you’re watching years of experience and the easier you make it look I think the more successful you are.
BB – Did you ever know Rod Linell?
CH – Yes. Uh, no, no, no, I knew of him. And I heard he was one heck of a guy.
BB – He and Duke Miller
CH – Duke I knew. Oh yeah. Duke used to come when I did Western square dancing up at that Ponderosa … he’d show up chewing on his lollipop because he could club dance.
BB – Oh yeah, he could.
CH – And he’d make comments because now I’m calling down the middle of the road and hot shots are tripping over their feet trying to figure me out. In fact one set left early, off grumbling, you know, and Duke, he said, “They couldn’t dance”. Well, they were trying to anticipate me and you just don’t do that. But what he said was, … this is about folk dancing and this is from the editor of The Director, Ron Houston, whoever he is, “Make folk dancing simpler for new comers, reject the ridiculous choreography that pervades contemporary teaching and rely on basic figures that have emerged from our collective soul in lessons of decades and centuries in lessons of community.” Same thing.
BB – Same thing.
CH – Same thing, and then the other one was, “Hide your ability”. “You don’t impress newcomers with our personal excellence in dancing you just scare them away”. “Demonstrate instead your basic friendship and your underlying concern for the welfare for all those around you”. And he goes on … while that’s difficult, my own personal feeling when I teach is to get them dancing as soon as possible and then get out of the way. Just be there. And I naturally like people but I consider what I do as service and I’ll tell you as hokey as it sounds, every time I do one of these dances half way in I just say … you can call it a prayer, I just say, “Thank you for the privilege of doing what I do” and for a few minutes make joy, fun.
And at New York City at the Lincoln Center dances I’ve got 700 dancers dancing and about 3000 watching. Fran is leading a six piece band and I’m the M … I’m the producer which means …. which means I get the band and the other caller, MC and one of two callers. And I had Al Brozek this year. I’ve had Al about four or five times. But he always is reliable. I don’t have to worry about what he is going to do. I know he is not going to screw up the evening. I don’t even know what he calls anymore, or what he’ll be playing. I say, “I’m going to do this” “Alright, I’ll do that”. But while he’s calling I’m out walking around and I mean I’m so far away from him that he is about that high. I mean I’m almost a football field away from him. And I usually wear … he dresses conservatively, but I always wear something like … this time I wore a white shirt and a bright red vest open and I got one of those hats … I got a you know, Indiana Jones hat, no not the tri-cone but an Indiana Jones kinda hat. So when I’m down walking around the dancers, the people who are there know who I am because, if not, you wouldn’t be able to tell who I was. That way I can talk to people. And three times that night I think it was, three different … and these were men, and these were men over fifty, the New York cynical New Yorker saying, “You know, New York needs more of this”. He says, “People are looking at one another, they’re holding hands and their laughing”. And this is from the public. And that’s exactly what it’s all about. And to me, when I leave and people go out thanking me for the evening, I’ve done my job and, and, and what I do, in a way, is so easy, sometimes I feel guilty and on the other hand it isn’t easy at all working with beginners. But all I’m letting them do is phrase dance to good music.
We were talking about boom chuck. Well chuck is the up beat … uh the off beat, not up beat, that is not correct I discovered. Down beat is not correct. It is the foot fall. Down beat is what a conductor does. First … I have to know this because I write these books to academics and if I’m wrong they’ll call it folk dancing and dismiss it. But the off beat, or the chuck, is where the body gets the lift. See, Ed Gilmore analyzed exactly what your body does in motion, so all you’re giving club dancers is (makes sound) chugh. That’s all, but in, in, in traditional music (sings) di da del la da del la there getting (more singing) dee da lees dee da lees to lift. And the old records and that Shindig in the Barn that’s music, and their giving them music and you getting a lift out of the music. And in boom chuck these dumb (makes sound) chugh. So you know Gilmore did the boom chuck but he dropped it. He got away from that heavy beat after he used them awhile, because it was a novelty. But he still had a strong melody line over the top, he had a fiddle. But when you have these records where there is nothing but boom chuck, boom chuck, man that would drive me nuts dancing to it. There is nothing there. And the old music … that’s why I say you put on Scottish music, English music, French Canadian, or Southern Mountain, you’ve got them half beat already just playing the music. And then let them dance. And you don’t have to have complications. But if you’re going to go week after week you’re going to have to do something. But you could still get into your notes and stuff and find dances and things like that and as long as you keep changing your program, and don’t listen to the hot shots.
BB – This book that I was just talking about,
CH – Yeah I’ve got to write that down.
BB – Dancing For Busy People …
CH – That’s a great title.
BB – … and they operate with … their entire program is 24 basics.
CH – I love it. Dancing For
BB – Busy People.
CH – That’s a superb … do you know where I can get it?
BB – Sure, you can write to Bob Howell
CH – Bob Howell. I’m going to have to find him, somehow.
BB – I can get you an address. I don’t think I have it with me.
CH – That’s alright.
BB – I can get it for you.
CH – Yeah, if you could, I’d appreciate it. Because I love to have it because you can always learn. You never…. you never … there is always something. I’m 45 years and I’m always learning. I’ll see something Al Brozek does or somebody else and I say, “I like that” you know, and I’ll jump right in. I’ll just add to what I do.
BB – It goes in the book.
CH – You know, it goes in your head or whatever. But I know Al would be interested in something like that too. Plus the fact, you know, it might steer somebody somewhere. Because Western dancing or club dancing or whatever you want to call it in it’s present state is going nowhere. I mean, occasionally, Bob Paris still has a little group going and you said Brookfield got a couple of squares and you mentioned another club Danbury …
BB – Mad Hatters.
CH – …. but that is the caller and, and they’re lucky, I mean they’re lucky, because, I mean, the number of clubs that don’t exist is awesome. Oiy.
BB – Well, I talked with Ed Rutty yesterday and Dave Haas a couple of days ago and I said, you know, “People in New England compared to people in the rest of the country really don’t realize how lucky they are to have the talent of calling that they do have”. Well, we all conceded. There is a lot of non talent around too.
CH – Oh yeah. Oh yeah.
BB – Well, there is in any activity.
CH – Of course…. of course there is. My wife, Fran, used to dance Scottish dancing and she was in a performing group and they brought in a certified Scottish teacher to teach the advanced dancers upstairs while the beginners … and they went to the instructor and said either that teacher goes or we go the person was so bad. So, even if you’ve got your papers. That’s why I say, somebody’s going to say they are Callerlab certified I’ve got a set of questions about music and dance and 9 out of 10 couldn’t answer it. You could answer it, Dick Leger could answer it, Earl could … but most of them … it’s like getting a PhD or something, it doesn’t mean you have any wisdom. You know, you passed the course.
BB – I remember in a New England Folk Festival Sunday Workshop one time, Louise Winston who was very big in the CDS(Country Dance Society) – (Editor’s note: The lady in question was actually May Gadd, the Regional Director of CDS from NY.)
CH – I remember Louise, yeah.
BB – … she got up to teach a dance and she got us in three couple sets facing the … and she said, “You go up a double”. And everybody stood there. And she said. “You know, you go up a double”. But she….
CH – Couldn’t teach it.
BB – …. couldn’t teach it. Yeah.
CH – That’s a forward and back. Yeah,
BB – So, a couple of guys, you balance forward and balance back, balance forward, balance back. And she says, “Then you set and turn single” and nobody did anything. “You know, you set and turn single”. And you know, I thought golly … well she was an administrator more than a teacher.
CH – Well I see this in, in, in, Folk dancing, or English dancing or Contra dancing even in here, if, if, if you have a group of people who can dance then you look good. But the minute that you have to teach, that’s where it changes. And Dick Leger has been, and probably is … still is one of the best teachers that ever walked … and he always made it so much fun, but he is one of the superb teachers and most of the people on that list that I know were all good teachers. But again, when someone sees you working it’s like at that festival when I did what I did and Clint McClain said, “How do you do that”. Certain other callers that I will not mention will be writing down what I call. Not how I did it. And then they go out and bomb. But Clint was smart and he…. he was persistent and he used it in his calling techniques which made him smooth, you know, and I don’t know how far he went with it but he saw it. He could actually see it and was smart enough to write it down. You know, he was quite disappointed in the trend in square dancing the way it was going. And then I know he almost got out of it but he was busy with his business, I mean, you know. Did he get mar … he’s married isn’t he? I don’t remember. I haven’t seen him in awhile. But I used to get glasses from him and he gave a discount off if you were …
BB – Yeah, he did get married and settled down a little bit. And he wanted to get out of it for awhile and Ed Rutty said he’s starting to get back in again.
CH – And I saw his brother doing the Tomahawk thing.
BB – Oh yeah. They’re both good callers.
CH – It turns out his brother works for my daughter-in-law over in ….
BB – This is Rusty McLain.
Ch – …. yeah, Rusty. She got the job there and I don’t know, her name is Donna Hendrickson, it’s my younger son Rustle. And I guess Rusty said, “You know Chip Hendrickson?” and she says, “Yes, he’s my father-in-law”. And he says, “Really”? And she says, “Yes, really. I’m not kidding, you know“. And he was quite surprised, you know, and so forth and so on, you know, and then…. then I haven’t seen him in ages and the next time I saw him I was…. I was on a one night stand in the same school he was in, in Brookfield the Whisconier school and I had a huge gym full of fathers and daughters in the cafeteria and he had two squares … I figured they were an advanced level club because he was just going on and on and doing umpteen million things I’ve never heard of, you know, but they seemed to know what they were doing, and they were having a good time. But I don’t … I see dancing differently. Having seen complicated English dance and complicated French dance you can have complicated dances to master music absolutely, but it’s a concept … I don’t know, like I said, like several have said, training … changing the present dancers isn’t going to be possible. You’re going to have to start over and some of them will get into it and some of the old timers would come back if they knew about it. But, I mean, if I had a dollar for every ex club dancer I could buy a new house and retire.
BB – Right. Me too.
CH – You know. They’re…. they’re gone. It it’s the history of dance. Do you have that Dance Awhile book? That one they … that manual Dance Awhile, its gone through several ….
BB – Yeah.
CH – That’s a good book. That’s a real serious good book.
BB – So Chip, I’m going to head off for Rhode Island. And I appreciate your taking the time.
CH – I’m glad I could do it.
BB – It’s a very interesting conversation we’ve had. I’ll look forward to seeing you around here and there.
CH – I’ll be around.
BB – Very good.
Tape clicks off – End of Tape 2 –
End of interview with Chip Hendrickson