Dave Taylor Interview
June 28, 1997
Bob Brundage – Hi again. This is Bob Brundage again. The date is still June the 28th, 1997 and I’ve moved from the Nation Square Dance Convention in Orlando down to Clearwater, Florida and this evening we’re talking to Dave Taylor who used to live in the Detroit area and then moved into the Chicago area and, since he retired has moved down to Florida. So, we’re looking forward to a bit of an interview, so Dave let’s get started and tell us where you were born and brought up first of all.
Dave Taylor – Well, I was born and raised in Detroit, Michigan (long silence).
BB – That’s the end of that.
DT – That’s the end of that. Both laugh
BB – Nice interview Dave,
DT – Yeah – laughs. Want the dates or ….
BB – well, not necessarily but no, we’re interested in, you know, what were your, what you went through in school and where you went to school and
DT – Well, I was born and raised in Detroit, Michigan as I said and I actually did not finish high school. I decided to quit school and I went to work in the factories and then I went into the army. When I got out of the army, the army took me through school and I made enough credits that they gave me a high school diploma and they had the G I Bill of Rights and I used that to go to college. I got a Bachelors Degree in Education in 1950 and then got a Master’s Degree in Education in 1951.
BB – Right. Then you went into teaching.
DT – Yeah. I taught school from about 1951 until 1970.
BB – Then what was your introduction to square dancing?
DT – I wasn’t making enough money from teaching so I took a job in a recreation center and at this recreation center I saw all these people coming in and somebody said, “Do you want to make some money on Saturday night?” and I said, “Yes” so I started to work Saturday night. “All you’ve got to do is open up the place. The kids will take care of themselves” and I opened up and a bunch of square dancers came in and asked about the square dances. Then, oddly enough, on Tuesday night they had children’s square dancing there. The caller who was calling was a young man got drafted into the army so they asked me to move to records for them so I started to, the kids were very upset because I didn’t know much about it . They told me I’d better learn so I learned about one call a week.
BB – OK. About what time of year, what year was this?
DT – It was about 1951.
BB – So, how many weeks did it take you to learn what you know today?
DT – Laughs – No, I forgot everything I knew. No, oddly enough this kind of happened quickly because people would come over and watch their kids dance. The only advantage I had I think, Bob was that anybody that went into teaching square dancing before didn’t know how to control the kids. After I learned a little about square dancing and I could keep the kids under control, I taught them some real dances and they looked pretty good and the parents were proud of them. The parents began to get me in touch with church one night stands, calling for them, calling for adults and I started to get by and kind of went from there.
BB – then one thing led to another. So, how long were you in the Detroit area then?
DT – We’ve moved out of Detroit about 1971, took a job as (?), and kept calling in the Chicago area.
BB – OK. Now, when I visited you, you were in Grosse Point I think.
DT – Yeah, I was living in Grosse Point
BB – You had a very strong club program if I remember right. So, how busy were you along about that time? You were still teaching.
DT – I was still teaching and I was calling four or five nights a week. I was calling on the weekends, traveling, flying out and doing festivals and things like that.
BB – So then, when you pulled up roots and moved to Chicago you had to start all over again or what?
DT – Well primarily, I moved to Chicago because I was feeling a little differently about the school teaching job. It didn’t seem to go anywhere for me and I had an offer to make much more money in management and I thought, I’ll go to the Chicago area and, in order to keep the program going, I flew back and forth between Detroit and Chicago for my first six months and I turned my program over to a caller there, Dick Waibel, then I had to build a new program over in the Chicago area.
Bb – So, all this time you were traveling around, doing festivals around the country and things like that.
DT – Yeah, I was still flying out on weekends.
BB – How about summer camps and weekends like that.
DT – Well, about the time I moved into the Chicago area I did give up (?) In the Michigan area, eight weeks in the summer or something, but I did continue to do some work down at Kirkwood Lodge. I was there for like twenty-six years.
BB – Is that right? Who was the big star there?
DT – Me. – laughs. No, not me there, everybody there. The people that I worked with were everybody from, let’s see, Ken Bower, Arnie Kronenberger, Gary Shoemake, John Hendron, Johnny Davis, Marshall Flippo of course was the big guy there. He was the one, you’re looking for that name. In fact, I had one distinction in life I guess in connection with Marshall Flippo. They tried to get him to go to Europe for a year and they could never get Marshall to go that far. I used to go to Europe at least once or twice a year. It’s a little irrelevant but one time I did him a big favor. He said, “If you ever need anything, I’ll really appreciate this”. In fact I called that favor in one day and I said, “Why don’t you go to Europe with me and we’ll make a tour together” and we did. Because of Marshall we broke the attendance records and I was known as the guy who finally got Marshall to go to Europe.
BB – And you took dancers along with you.
DT – No, not when Marshall went with me.
BB – Oh, I see. You just did your calling.
DT – Yeah, we made a calling tour. We went to Denmark, Sweden and England and we had a ball, always fun working with Marshall. He’s great.
BB – Did you get into Scotland on that trip?
DT – I did but he didn’t. He went on home and I was in Scotland a couple of times before to look up my heritage.
BB – I know you were talking about that earlier before we started taping. I was just wondering if there was another trip along the way there somewhere. All right, how about National Conventions.
DT – I attended quite a few of them. I had a great time at some of the conventions and enjoyed being part of the, although after I was doing business it kind of got a little bit old for me. I don’t mean there is anything wrong with the conventions. It was me. The newer dancers seemed to love them and there were some people that, I really liked the regional conventions, the weekend institutes and things like that, where you got a little more intimate with the people. The crowd was very, very large and they do a lots of square dancing but you can’t get (fades out.)
BB – I know you part of the formation of Callerlab. Why don’t you tell us about that?
DT – Well, one year Bob Osgood invited all the members of the Square Dance Hall of Fame to come out to Asilomar and have a meeting there and we could start talking. It was really nice to get together. It was really nice of Bob. He took care of all of us and I have a picture on the wall up there of all the people who attended that. Actually, it was the next year that he said, “Let’s get together again one more year” and we got together the second year and that’s when we started talking about we should have an organization. We invited more people to help us the third year. So, actually, you’ll find that Callerlab started that second year of the meeting of the Hall of Fame with the picture, a pretty good idea, I wouldn’t want to leave anybody out but Bob Osgood was there, Marshall Flippo, Bob Page, Bruce Johnson, Arnie Kronenberger, Ed Gilmore, Bob VanAntwerp, Joe Lewis, I don’t want to leave anybody out.
BB – Was Al there?
DT – No, he didn’t come until the third year. It was the year after that he was able to come.
BB – Well, that’s great. If I remember rightly you were on the Board for a while.
DT – Yeah, I was on the Board of Directors I guess about ten years.
BB – Oh really?
DT – Laughs.
BB – It’s kind of easy to lose track but then
DT – But then I became Chairman. I was Chairman for two years, Chairman of the Board. It was an interesting part of my life.
BB – I’m sure. So, looking back on you career Dave, who would you think would be some of the people that had an influence on your career, early on I’m talking about, like a mentor for example.
DT – Yeah, actually, I didn’t have what you would call a mentor from the standpoint of somebody close by that I could talk to. I was in the Detroit area and there was just nobody nearby. All the great callers were on the east coast or west coast and I was in the middle but I did have mentors from the standpoint of guys I thought were great. I’ll tell you, I took tapes like you wouldn’t believe and I studied those tapes. So, I guess you could say from that standpoint I had some great mentors and they would be, high on the list would be Bruce Johnson and Al Brundage. They were the two highest ones. You have everybody, everybody has somebody you look up to you know, these are the great guys in the business, Ed Gilmore of course. Ed Gilmore, I went to his institutes and studied the hearing and the three that I mentioned those would be the top ones that I would say were mentors in that same period.
BB – Good. Did you ever get involved in round dancing at all?
DT – Yeah, I used to teach round dancing but I never got (?) Yeah, I used to teach round dancing but in fact where they had what they called the Redford Whirlaways Club I had a circle of about eighty couples on the floor. People didn’t know, because, you know, I wasn’t classified as a round dance teacher but I was actually reaching more people round dancing than some of the round dance teachers. They’d have clubs of maybe twenty couples but I had about eighty. But, I can’t take full credit. I’ve got to give credit to Jack and Na Stapleton. I’d rush over to his house and on a Tuesday and ask, “ What is a good dance” and Jack and Na would take me down in their basement and , “Here’s a great dance” and you know how good they were
BB – Oh, they were the greatest.
DT – And then I would go out and teach it. In fact, they gave me, what’s that dance? It was one of the famous ones, trying to think of it now, I introduced it. (?)
BB – Well, they wrote so many, some wonderful routines. Everything that they wrote would flow like crazy.
DT – They were terrific at that. But I’ll tell you, I got so busy that I couldn’t keep up. So I gave up round dance teaching and because they helped so much I just hired and paid cash for them to teach. They did a great job as you said.
BB – Yeah, well, that took the job off your shoulders too. It got to the point where round dancing was a full time job in itself.
DT – Oh yeah.
BB – Did you ever take dancers on tours around the world?
DT – I started out with your brother Al by taking some to Bermuda. Al and I took, he hired me, it kind of evolved that way. He asked me if I’d like to go to Bermuda and I signed up so many people he eventually said, “Let’s do it again” and then the next year I was part of the staff with him. Then Al and I went to Puerto Rico, took some people to Mexico and into Hawaii several times, went to Europe and things like that.
BB – OK, let’s talk about recording. I know you’ve done a couple records in your time.
DT – Chuckles. I think I’ve done fifty-one singles and eight LP’s which included one called the Eight Track. I had a couple of really good records, but I got stuck in re-recording records that had been done before quite often. Oddly enough, the first record I made was probably the one that sold the most, Joshua Fought the Battle of Jerico.
BB – And that was what, Windsor label?
DT – Windsor label, 1961. It probably sold more than any other.
BB – Did you ever record on any other labels?
DT – Yeah, I recorded on Blue Star and I had my own label for a while called B Sharp, did some instructional types of things with those. I had one where I instructed people how to do the Tea Cup Chain. I would say that become, became almost as popular as Joshua Fought the Battle of Jerico, because Tea Cup Chain in those days was very difficult move for people. It was difficult to teach but it went through a method of teaching it on there that people liked and I remember the day I left the B Sharp records, Norman Merrbach, who was in B Sharp with me, put me on Blue Star, said I could have every record that I ever recorded except the teaching of the Tea Cup Chain, it was still (?) and he gave me all my records and told me I could sell them to whoever I want.
BB – I’ve got to interject a personal story here. When Tea Cup Chain first came out I forget, you may remember when you made that instruction record, do you remember about when it was?
DT – That was back, it had to be in the 50’s, late 50’s. I didn’t record the record until the 50’s but it would have been in the 50’s. People were struggling with that one for years.
BB – Well, I remember that Al and I when we first got together trying to figure this out we were sitting on the living room floor where you stayed many times and it was near Halloween because we had orange and black jellybeans and we were trying to figure this out with eight jellybeans, (Dave laughs) and all of a sudden we looked down and there’s only seven. Our little dog came out from under the couch and grabbed one.
DT – And there goes the Te Cup Chain. You know, you could say the Tea Cup Chain went to the dogs. (both laugh)
BB – Right. It was funny. So we learned it.
DT – Well, we had so much trouble learning the Tea Cup Chain with different people. I watched Johnny Davis who had a great way of teaching it and I copied that and it worked out pretty good. In fact, we started a club in the Detroit area, it was very successful we called it the Tea Cup Chains. Then we changed it, the name, we called it the Chain Gang.
BB – Well, how about other hobbies Dave? You say you play golf about twice a year.
DT – (Garbled) I used to be pretty good at golf in those days but I changed it to tennis because tennis you could book a time and you could be done in an hour or two and you haven’t lost the whole day. I always kept it on the job as a full time caller you have the day off but tennis has been an interesting thing for me over the years and later on I got into computers. After that then you start making money.
BB – Well, did you ever beat Frank Lane playing golf?
DT – No, I only played him, I think I could have beat him when I was, back in the early days but I played him one time when he drove by the house and I hadn’t played for two years and I got within three shots of him. (laughs)
BB – You did better than I did. I played with him up in Estes Park and I’ll never forget it because on one hole a herd of sixteen elk walked across the fairway and a ball that I hit went right between a big bull moose’s feet and he was looking down and I thought he was going to pick it up and eat it for a minute. I beat him one hole out of eighteen.
DT – Well, I’d just talk about that one hole that you beat him.
BB – All right, let’s talk about computers. I know you’ve been involved with that for quite some time. To try to tie this into square dancing, have you ever gotten into the square dance computer thing.
DT – Oh yeah. I had a couple of different copies of the different square dance programs. I began to use it for my choreography. You and I talked before this. Apparently with the square dance computer thing I think with some callers you can’t depend on your computer entirely because it might give you a maneuver that really doesn’t feel right fully. You’ve got to use your head this time but it can give you some great choreography. Toward the end I was putting together some really good choreography out of it. The difference was that some callers would take this program and say, “That does it”. He wouldn’t take it apart and say, “Wait a minute. This part doesn’t feel right” take it out and put in something that does and make sure the timing is right.
BB – Well, looking back Dave, is there anything you’d like to have changed? Anything you regret?
DT – Oh, how much time have you got. I mean, listen, I feel very, very fortunate, had a great life in square dancing, wonderful, but, I made so many mistakes I could never forgive. Yeah, there are a lot I wish I could change, things I did, things I said, things I wish I had put programs together or something but all in all it came out really well. I’m very satisfied with the results. Yeah, I made many mistakes like anybody else.
BB – Well, you’re like a lot of us I think felt like you were in the right place at the right time kind of a thing.
DT – Oh yeah. I was very lucky and of course, being in the Detroit area at that particular time we had a lot of people struggling and getting into square dancing. It seemed like square dancing burst on the east coast along about the same time. In the mid-west, where I was, came along a little bit earlier. I was fortunate enough to get in pretty close to the ground floor in the mid-west area. But it was a lot of work. I think the fact that I studied the tapes of all those great callers, studied their tapes and all. I listened to these callers and how they made everything flow together. It sure helped out.
BB – I know, we were talking about Ed Gilmore the other day, earlier today I should say. He gave me, I think it was nine different tapes and they’re labeled, “Ed Gilmore’s Callers College, 1959”. I haven’t been able to get them, because they’re on reel-to-reel and I don’t have reel-to-reel facility yet. We’ll get them transcribed. Oh yes, one specific function that I wanted to talk about, and that is the Cotillion you did at Lovett Hall.
DT – OK. Well, what had happened is I was on the Callerlab Executive Committee and they said we had to come up with somebody who was familiar with the Callerlab Milestone Award. It occurred to me because I was from the Detroit area and I knew Henry Ford did a lot of square dancing and he built a two million dollar square dance hall out
BB- It was that much, eh?
DT – The floor was India Teakwood. The chandeliers came from the old Waldorf Astoria Hotel. He bought them right out of the hotel and had them shipped by rail very carefully. Henry Ford decided he wanted to get involved in square dancing and he went out, he was on vacation, he was out in
BB – Massachusetts.
DT – Massachusetts at the Wayside Inn. They had a square dance caller there named of Benjamin Lovett and he decided that he liked square dancing so much he like to bring Lovett back to Detroit. He said, “I want to bring you back to Detroit to teach my employees how to square dance, start a little club there. I’ll build you a hall, everything. Benjamin Lovett said, “I can’t do that”. He said, “ Why not?” He said, “I’m under contract to the Wayside Inn”. So Henry Ford went out the next day and he bought the Wayside Inn and he said, “Now, I’ve got your contract and you’re going to (laughs). So, I guess he really wanted to square dance.
BB – So tell us about the Cotillion.
DT – Well what had happened, to make this presentation posthumously to Benjamin Lovett I decided to go there and get the story, etc. They allowed me into Greenfield Village, which is the historical place that Henry Ford started in Dearborn, Michigan and told them what I wanted to do. They allowed me the privilege of going into the archive which they don’t allow a lot of people. It was very nice of them. It contained all the records and all the articles written by some of his former employees who were asked to volunteer to go to take square dance lessons. One guy said, “Well we had our own choice”. He said, “We could go if we wanted to” and the other guy said, “Yeah, when Henry Ford asked you to volunteer it was like an order from the King of England”. But anyhow, we found out that story there and while I was there they took me through and showed this hall. You can’t go into that hall these days. They closed it up.
BB – Oh, did they\? I didn’t realize that.
DT – Now, you can rent it but it’s not that part of the tour of the educational
BB – Oh, I see what you mean.
DT – So, I saw the hall and took the mean, I knew that Dick Moore, because I lived in the area and I knew he was still alive, and I called him and he came over and they gave me a grand tour of that, where do you get more information and the other stuff was provided to me and it struck me, we should have a really, revive this old place and put it back and do some of the Henry Ford dancing. Dick Moore bought it and he got all excited and the people there said, yes, they’d be happy to have it. It would be wonderful. So, that year at Callerlab, which was in Miami, I told your brother. I said, ’I’ve got an idea of what we should try and do and he just about went insane he wanted to do it so badly. We put a lot of work into it. In fact, we flew to Detroit about six months ahead of time, went in, looked over the floor, got some of the old dances and locked ourselves into a room for two or three days and practiced. It was something and we did it for two years. People came from California and all over, Minnesota, they came from everywhere. They got dressed up in the old costumes.
BB – I was going to say, this was full costumes.
DT – Yeah, but Al and I and Dick Moore we dressed up like Henry Ford people did. In other words, like tuxedos and the tails, it was a very formal ball.
BB – You had a packed house.
DT – Yeah.
BB – How big a hall is that Dave?
DT – It’s what we would call today probably a twenty-five-square hall.
BB – It was a very impressive. I didn’t realize you did two years.
DT – Yeah, we did it two years in a row and
BB – And that was approximately what year? Do you remember?
DT – Laughs – now let me see – that’s got to be in the ‘70’s. Do you remember what year we went to the Miami Convention?
BB – Was it there just once or twice? I thought, well, you’re talking about the second Miami convention. When I first met you it was
DT – Yeah, the second Miami Convention, it think it was right around the late ‘70’s or early ’80, right in that time. I’ve got it upstairs. I can remember the days but the years I can’t.
BB – Right. I hear you. Well, would you like to expound on the, where do you think square dancing has been, where do you think it might be going. Of course I realize that you haven’t been involved
DT – I haven’t been involved now for three or four years but I can see that, now people don’t like to hear this but, I think that square dancing, it seems to me, that the numbers have been going down instead of up. I don’t think it’s through any fault of anything, some say it was Callerlab’s fault but I don’t believe that. Some say it’s the callers fault and I don’t believe that or it’s the dancers fault. I think really what has happened is we’ve hit too much competition. We got competition when television came in. In fact, I remember, not everybody had a television when we first started square dancing and even if you had a television the programs were really bad. We had some great television programs. We had movies and videos things and we’d get together. We had rent a couple movies and six couples would get together and it would cost a few bucks. We used to say this was the cheapest form of the activity. You know what? It still is in many ways but we’ve got too much competition with the fast-track world we’re living in now. People don’t have the training they used to, television and video things going on, better television is coming and I think it’s meant a lot of competition. The entire family structure has changed in as much as people always used to take their vacation all together with the whole family and go to the same place for a week. It’s been now like they go to a motel somewhere and they have a swimming pool. Everything has changed quite a bit.
BB – No Disney World, right?
DT – We didn’t have those things in those days. We’d take the kids. But competitively we’ve found that we can’t compete with all this stuff. It is true that, I think to a large extent, we’ve made it too difficult to learn to square dance. Some people may take issue with that but I thinking back to when we learned to square dance in fifteen lessons then put them in a club and make them full term. We’ve got some pretty (tape cuts off).
BB – And Dave hadn’t finished his point so let’s go back to that. Go ahead Dave,
DT – Well, I was just going to say, repeating myself, I remember the days we used to teach, well the first time it was ten and we used to get frustrated. We had ten lessons and then we had five lessons of what we called “advanced” and then you could go into the club. Nowadays, well, you could tell your neighbor, if you take a lesson with me, you know, about ten lessons but nowadays it’s more like forty-one weeks, advanced and then you still can’t go to the club. Then you can take, I don’t know how many weeks they recommend for tough movements now but whatever that is it adds up to a whole, more than a year. You’ve gone to lessons for more than a year and you still can’t go to the club. You need more of it. A lot of people like argue that point, but that is true where we are. It’s true everywhere. You just can’t, it takes more than a year to learn how to dance. You can’t say to your neighbor, “Come learn to dance with me”, “Oh, where can I dance with you?” “Well, you take those lessons and by God you’ll be dancing with me about a year hence”. That doesn’t make sense either so we’ve got a problem.
BB – Well, what do you think is the answer? A lot of people are saying to me that, a couple of guys said, at least one of them said, “ Well, the last one out, turn out the lights”. I don’t think it’s quite that bad yet.
DT – I hope not. I hope not. I really don’t know what the answer is. I don’t know how you can turn time backwards because we’ve got it all set up now. We’ve got lists made. We’ve got everything you’ve got to do and there’s no way to go back that I can think of. I think we’ve going to have to start over. I think it will still go but I don’t think we’ll ever get to the numbers that we did before under the present system.
BB – Right. Well, a lot of people are thinking you might take some kind of a CDP type of program in order to get a resurrection going. You remember way back when you first started you taught circle mixers and you taught simple round dances and you probably stuck in a contra dance once in a while and this was all part of the learning, whereas today, it’s right down the line, you’ve got to shoot for the
DT – You’ve got the bring them up.
BB – You’ve got to get through that graduation at the Plus level and you’ve got to learn how to do Spin Chain the Gears or you aren’t with it. As you know, you can call and interesting program without getting that far. So, well, we’ll have to see what’s going to happen I guess. One of my philosophy’s is, “You know, a hundred years from now I won’t particularly care”.
DT – If I’m there I’ll ask him. Both laugh.
BB – So, well, do you think we’re pretty well down the line Dave? Shall we just say, “Thank you very much?” It’s been an interesting experience. I know you’ve had an interesting career, certainly made your contribution to the activity and I’m sure everybody appreciates it. So, looking forward to who ever listens to this tape sometime fifty years from now saying, “God, that sounds like fun”.
DT – I think the greatest ting though is the fact that I get to meet guys like you and your brother, Al back in the east and Earl Johnston, guys like that and out on the west coast, down south and out in the middle west. It seemed like everywhere you went in square dancing you had some friends, all over the country and that’s not true of a lot of activities that you get into. I spoke with a guy one time, I was calling a festival in Oklahoma, this guy was into engineering things. He said that if it hadn’t been for square dancing his marriage was on the rocks. He was an Engineer and his trips took him to a new location for about three or four months and when his wife didn’t go with him there was a problem in the marriage or if she did go with him she didn’t know anybody, he didn’t know anybody, they had no friends, he says they took up square dancing and every time moved to a new town I’d pick up the thing and I’ve got a hundred friends. As a matter of fact is a great story about square dancing.
BB – It is. That’s right. Well Dave, it’s getting around close to midnight here, well, not really, it’s still light out. It’s been very interesting Dave and I appreciate your taking the time. I appreciate your hospitality, having me overnight, I hope. You haven’t kicked me out the door yet. We had a delicious Italian dinner tonight and I want to thank you for that and I’ve got to be on my way in the morning heading for Texas to talk to Nita Smith.
DT – Give her my regards.
BB – I sure will. OK. So, thanks again Dave very much and we’ll call this the end of the tape.
DT – OK