DUDLEY LAUFMAN INTERVIEW
February 29, 2004
Bob Brundage – This is Bob Brundage and today is February 29th, Leap Year Day, 2004 and I have the pleasure of talking to Dudley Laufman up in New Hampshire by telephone and looking forward to an interesting interview finding out all about Dudley’s wide experience in the square dance field which is entirely different than the other interviews that I have been making with the Modern Western Square Dance people. So, Dudley, why don’t you tell me a little bit about where you were born and brought up and some of your early experiences before you got into square dancing.
Dudley Laufman – Well, I was born in Newton, Mass. and raised in Arlington, right outside of Boston and born in 1931 and went to the schools in Arlington until I got to the point that I was not happy with those schools. I was not a good student – I was not a troublemaker either I just wasn’t a good student. Then my parents saw that – sensed that and got me put into an agricultural high school not too far from Arlington in the town of Walpole. That’s where I really – I went right to the top of the class. At the same time, at the school they were offering square dancing – they called it ‘Squares’. We had no girls at the time – there were no girls there but – no takers so we had to bring the girls in from the local high schools from ?? and Medway and ?? and Sharon. We used to dance – I think it was every Wednesday night or Monday night I can’t remember which. The Astons were the ones who ran it – it was Maude and Elmore Asman, he was one of the teachers there at the school – he taught Pomology and Forestry. That’s where I learned the dancing. My first connection to dancing was a few years earlier than that when I went to work on a farm up in Freemont, New Hampshire. That was Mist Hill Farm. Jonathan played the fiddle and his wife, Betty called the dances. They used to have parties that they called a kitchen junket there in the kitchen on Sundays. We’d have – we’d do the chores first – we were milking about 40 Jerseys, I guess and after we got the chores done – the milk also had to be processed because we pasteurized it – bottled it and peddled it door to door. Then after we got all that done we’d clean up – we’d have a corn roast and after the corn roast we’d go in the kitchen – stand around the piano – sing some hymns. Then Jonathan would get his fiddle out – neighbors would come in and we’d have a dance. There was a fireplace there and a very low ceiling – it was an old house – maybe sixteen hundreds so it was a combination of the rousing sounds of the fiddle and the firelight gleaming on the girl’s hair and the smell of the wood smoke. I was about 15 I guess, 16 somewhere in that age. Well that was my first experience of – I sort just took like a duck to water with the dances there at the school. At the end of the first year – the first year there at the school I danced and I also played on the ice hockey team – so that took care of whatever need I had to perform in public but I noticed after the first year they had a festival at the end of the school year. Several of the boys – some of the students had been trained by the ??
to call a dance – it would be a singing square – Red River Valley or Comin’ Round the Mountain or something lie that. I notice that the boys got a lot of attention from the girls – the ones that called the dance – they became sort of heroes and I sort of tucked that away, you know. During the following year I really took up – became hooked on dancing and I taught myself to do the calling with the ?? help and the first dance I called was Crooked Stovepipe a la Ralph Page. In fact the Ashmans used to take me in to Ralph’s dances in Boston – he was calling every Tuesday night at the square – the YWCA – every Tuesday night. I’d go in to that every once in a while with them. Anyway, I learned to call it by teaching myself and by the end of that school year and the beginning of the next year I had formed a little band and was making some money so when it came time for the festival the next year I was already sort of a launched caller so I was the big hero and all the ladies paid attention to me and I thought that was pretty neat. Anyway, it went from there. Then I went up to Stockbridge and that’s where I met you. I got a band going up there – I earned some money to help pay my way through school and my career was sort of launched.
BB – What was the orchestration of your first band there?
DL – Well I guess the first one would be – probably – the ??’s – Mrs. ?? played the piano and there was a student there – he was a Swedish boy, he played the accordion. So that was the first one but I guess the one’s that I first started making money with were the Quimby’s – that would have been full time – Jonathan on the fiddle and Betty on piano and myself calling and I also played the harmonica. I couldn’t play harmonica and call at the same time – I tried but it didn’t work. Then when I was out at Stockbridge I used – there was a fellow – I think he ran the bookstore – I can’t remember his name – he ran the bookstore, the college bookstore – he was a pretty good fiddler and his wife played the piano so I used them. Occasionally I’d get Dick Richardson to come down from Marlboro, New Hampshire – he was Ralph Page’s fiddler – I brought him down a couple of times. Of course I was a student and at that time I was interested in a number of things, including farming and I also liked to dance so calling the dances was not as big a drive – I used to go to a lot of the dances – I went to the dances in – there were two of them – one was Ted Cromack – Ted ran a dance every Wednesday night he’d run one – well every Saturday night he ran one up in Leveret and the band consisted of 2 mandolins, a drum and piano and they played a lot of polkas. Ted was a singing caller except he did Hull’s Victory and he sang it – sang every note of it. That was the only contra he did. Most of the people who came were Poles and farmers – not too many students – a few and then on Wednesday nights he ran a dance down in Amherst at what was then called the Odd Fellows Building – it’s now been put into senior housing. It was a nice little hall there – Ted called and he had a drummer and a sax and a piano in his band. On the same night Corky Caulkins was holding forth down in south end. He had a bigger band – trumpet, banjo, drums and piano – that’s where most of the students went but I only went there once or twice. I was pretty faithful to Ted. After I graduated from school and about ten years went by I got to going to – somebody hired me to come down and run some dances at the Grace Church there in Amherst – it was sort of a folk club. So we ran dances there for a year or two but the rates went up. I remembered that hall down in South Amherst and I went down there and I couldn’t find it. I got home and then I remembered it was the library so I went back again and went down to the library and sure enough there was a Grange Hall attached to the library – the Munson Library and the Grange was in back of it so we were able to get it and that launched that series and it’s still going – everybody and his brother runs dances there now. For a long time we were the only ones. We ran them, I think it was on the 2nd Friday of the month – we did them that way for a couple of years – my kids who lived down there put out posters and we had the whole strong town for a couple of years.
BB – OK. That’s great. So then I saw by one of your bio’s that in 1965 I think it was – was that about right – you started the Canterbury Country Dance Band?
DL – Yeah, well I’d had a band right along from I’d would say probably 1957, 58, 59. I had a bunch of musicians, Bob McQuillen was one of them, Jack O’Connor – there was a bunch of them that played for me we just didn’t have a name – in those days they weren’t naming the bands anyway. There was Ralph Page and his Orchestra, Dudley Laufman and his Orchestra – there were no names for the band. They have some silly names now but they had no names then. When we went down to – we got discovered by Ralph Rinsler and got taken to the Newport Folk Festival and they said we had to have a name so, because I brought some dancers with me I called ourselves the New England Contra Dancers. When we came back from that Bob Beers who arranged for us to come over to his new festival called the Fox Hollow Festival and at the same time we were invited to perform at Club 47. They said you have to have something better than that so we named it the Canterbury Country Dance Orchestra. I wanted to call it the Nelson Square Dance Band but Newt Tolman said, “No, we’re going to call it the Canterbury Country Dance Orchestra”. I said, “But Newt, I’m the only one from Canterbury, the rest come from all over”. “How many people in the Budapest String Quartet come from Budapest?” So that’s how we got the name.
BB – Right. OK, well this is Canterbury what, Massachusetts?
DL – No, New Hampshire
BB – New Hampshire, right, yeah. I was going to ask you where you were living about that time.
DL – I moved to Canterbury – I got the land here in 1959 and I built the house and moved in.
BB – Yeah, Tell me about your affiliation with New England Folk Festival Association.
DL – Well, I used to go to that festival – the first time I went was when the school I went to – the Aggies – was invited to perform at the New England Folk Festival. In those days it was held on the 5th floor of the Boston YWCA. The regular Tuesday night dance was held on the 2nd floor in a room that I thought was much nicer. It had a balcony – it was very white – had chandeliers. I think it was as big as the room they used upstairs. I don’t know why they went up there. It was more of a gymnasium – it was dark wood – it was better than most gymnasiums by a long shot but still wasn’t as nice as the room downstairs. But that’s where they would hold the festival. In those days the only thing that was going on was the dance. They would dance and then there were demos then they’d dance some more and then have more demos. I think in the beginning it was only Saturday and Sunday – Saturday afternoon, Saturday night, Sunday afternoon and maybe a little bit on Sunday evening. They didn’t have food – they didn’t have the international food right off the bat. They didn’t even have the crafts. It was really a dance festival and they had people singing there like Jack Shirod who was an old sailor and lived in Nelson, New Hampshire – Ralph Page discovered him and brought him down to sing sea chanteys.
Then they had other people did folk singing but it was mostly dancing. So, I went to that but I think that the one I went to would have been in 19, let’s see, Oh Lord would have been in the 50’s – would have been ’52, ’53, ’52 I think, 1952. The festival wasn’t very old then. It could have been even ’51, 1951 I think it was the first one I went to. Oh no, it was even earlier than that it was ’49, 1949. Boy, I was hooked on that – that was a great festival. They ran it there for a couple of years and then they moved it to Tufts and they did it in the cage and in the main hall and by that time they had started doing the food – I remember that, I think one year the Red Sox did not go for spring training in the south because of the gas shortage or war – I guess it was a war or something and they didn’t go to Florida so they did their spring training right there at Tufts and they used the cage so they couldn’t do the festival there so they moved it over to MIT – the MIT cage and it didn’t have a wooden floor – it was horrible – it was the worst festival they ever had. Then they moved it around – they went to Wrentham and went way down to Bristol, Rhode Island and up to Exeter, New Hampshire a couple of times – Manchester one time and they moved it around and they finally settled on Natick. That’s where it’s been ever since and they still – they’ve outgrown it but they’re struggling with that. they haven’t been able to come up with something else. I think I’ve missed, out of the sixty odd festivals I think I’ve missed maybe – well, the first two or three and then three or four since then. We’re not going this year as a matter of fact. Ordinarily – we’d usually go down on Sunday.
BB – Right. Well, it’s unfortunate that it comes the same time as the New England Square Dance Convention – a lot of people would like to go to both, you know but it seems to have evolved that way. Right. Well, OK now at the Folk Festival were you playing or were you calling or both.
DL – The first year that I went I went as a dancer. The next year I called for the festival group –
I went as a dancer but also I called my stint as a young caller and then Ralph asked me to call for the audience – you know, for the general dancing. I think Mrs. Ashman asked him to ask me and that was pretty nice. So that was probably the first biggest time that I ever called for anybody. That was a pretty heady experience. From then on I would get invited to call. Only once has the Canterbury Orchestra played there. We were invited to play there on a – I think it was a Sunday morning for whole hour – more than the usual time and in the main hall. But since that time what we usually do, Jacqueline and I go down and we’ll arrange for one other musician to help us and we do something in the auditorium – it’s more of a barn dance – more of a family oriented barn dance. We’ve done that every time but 2 years ago – maybe it was 3 years a go – it was 3 years a go – we put in – now you have to solicit – not solicit – sort of an audition unless they never heard you – you have to fill out an application. In the old days you had to say you wanted to be there but the ?? was a long process. You had to actually tie and we were tied for our usual barn dance on a Sunday and I think we arranged for Frances J. ?? to play piano for us and anybody else was welcome to sit in. Well, Jack Sloanaker who produced the records, the Farm and Wilderness Records and the Canterbury Orchestra records with my knowledge put in a stint for the Canterbury Orchestra to play in the main hall. They accepted his application but they gave the calling part to Tony Parkes. So Jack told me that and I got in touch with them and I said, “Look, you know, we love Tony but I’m the caller – it’s my dance for God’s sake. I should be calling” and they said, “But you already are calling. You can’t call twice” and I said, “Look, I’m just looking here at the program last year and one guy had 4 songs. I’ve had 2 or 3 slots at one time. You can’t tell me that.” They said, “ Well, the program is getting more and more full” and I said, “Well, you know, humor us. I mean that’s my dance – the band won’t play for anyone else even though they love Tony they won’t play for anyone else.” They said, “Well, we have to give him a band.” I said, “Well, there are plenty of other bands” and they said, “ Well, we’ve booked you at the same time” and I said, “Well that means I can’t even play and the here the 2 of us are up in the auditorium. How can I play with the Canterbury Orchestra, it’s my damn orchestra.” So, they wouldn’t bend so I said, “ Alright, you know, we won’t do it” and the orchestra pulled out and that was the last we heard of them. But they still expect us to play for the barn dances. This year we’re back in our position so we’ll do something else you know, it’s ?? to take a break – to go year after year after year.
BB – OK. Well tell me when did you meet Ted Sannella?
DL – About the time – well, I guess the first time I met him was at the Aggies because he came down to call. The Aggies had a little festival of their own called the Norfolk Aggie Folk Festival – Page would come – Sannella would come and that’s where I first met him. We lived close to each other – he lived in Revere – I lived in Arlington and we became sort of friends and got ?? to the music – Ted was not a musician but he loved the old French Canadian tunes. We both had access to some of those old recordings – we kept – I found a place out in Chicopee, Mass – go out there and pick up these old records and then I’’ play them for Ted over the phone – he didn’t like the triple tones – he couldn’t deal with the triple tones. I think it was around – it would have been around 1952 or ’53 that I first ??
BB – Yeah, how about some of the other people up there. How about Rod Linnell?
DL – You know, I really never knew him – I mean, I saw him at the dances – I used to talk to him but I was never really close to him.
BB – Yeah, but of course you knew Lawrence Loy.
DL – Oh yeah. I met him to same time I met you. I met Larry before because he used to come down to the school. That afternoon I talked to him was the same time I talked to you.
BB – Well, that’s interesting –
DL – Then there was Duncan Hey who was a caller and Joe Blunden –
BB – I remember Joe –
DL – and Dick Best –
BB – Yeah, I remember Dick –
DL – Yeah, those were the callers that were around during my formative time and then I found out about the French Canadian dances – when I was at the school at Stockbridge I used to listen to this program on Saturday morning – it was one of those Polish programs – polka programs – there was also a French program. They announced this dance to be held at the Union Canadian Ballroom in chicopee so I went down there one time and it was in a big ballroom – had a great big rotating chandelier – everybody there was dressed in suits and ties and the women had high heeled shoes on – the band was very big – a lot of trumpets and saxophones and clarinets and drums and stuff and there was fox trots and polkas and a pretty tough looking crew – there was drinking. Then the lights went out and this little guy got up on stage – his name was Ed Shirack and in French he called everybody onto the floor – the band whittled down a little bit to a couple of fiddles and drums and piano and maybe one of the saxes. This guy proceeded to put people through their paces on three French Quadrilles. He didn’t walk then through or anything – he just called the dance.
BB – Now did he call in French or English?
DL – Both French and English.
BB – Right. I ran into that in Holyoke one time.
DL – Yep. Same crowd, same bunch. So I invited them – I became friends with those folks down there and I took a tape recorder down there and recorded it and put out a little private recording of that dance on a cassette – anyway, I invited them up to the festival that they used to have there at Umass – it was a folk festival there – do you remember that?
BB – Yes, vaguely –
DL – Well, I invited them to come up and perform so, a lot of groups that performed would march onto the floor, parade or promenade onto the floor in their costumes – do their thing mostly to recorded music. I had a bunch of dancers that I had trained who were all students and we danced to live music – a couple of contras – anyway, these guys came and they were all dressed in their suits and ties and high heeled shoes and upsweep hairdos and jewelry and everything else and they just got there and they just sort of ambled onto the floor. There was a fiddler and an accordion player and these guys danced and so smooth and they just brought the house down. One of the things that happened before that when I used to listen to this program they apparently spent ?? you know on the recording – that was back when we were still on 78’s. They apparently spent ?? – all of them seemed to have this clicitky-clack going through it and I thought it was a broken record. But these guys get there and both of them were making their feet go a mile a minute – sort of like sounds of a galloping rhythm – duda dut, duda dut, duda dut – well, that was the broken record. So, I learned to do that and I taught Jacqueline how to do it – we use that a lot. The French call it, “Le Pied” – that was a very cue for me – I really loved that a lot.
BB – Right. Well, that’s interesting. So, when did you hook up with Jacqueline?
DL – About 20 years ago. She lived here in Canterbury, she was married to another fellow and I was still married to Patty at the time. Then Patty and I broke up – Jacqueline was actually in the process of breaking up with Kenny at that particular time anyway – but anyway, we didn’t get together for another year but the first time that she showed any interest in the music – we had this – at the Canterbury Fair we had Morris dancing at the Canterbury Fair and – that’s a one day fair held in July – we have these dances here in town and she just kept drifting back and watching that and got quite excited about the music and that’s when she joined the team – she played the accordion – her Dad had an accordion so we played she learned how to play some of those tunes. Then she went back to school and I didn’t see much of her for a few years and then she came back and she really wanted to do the music and by that time I was really going at it on the fiddle. She went out and bought a fiddle – taught herself how to fiddle and later on we got together.
BB – There you go. Well, that’s interesting. So, how long did it take to form this new group called the ‘Two Fiddles?”
DL – Well, about the time – let’s see – Jacqueline – we went to – when she got to the point where she could play the fiddle, you know for a dance – I guess – (Dudley talking with Jacqueline in the background) – it would have been around ’86 or ’87.
BB – OK. Well, I notice by this one bio I have been looking at you have done a considerable amount of traveling too. Do you want to tell me a little about that – some of the –
DL – Well, the first time I started traveling to go places – I can’t remember the first place or the exact place but there were a bunch of kids that used to go to Hampshire College down in South Hadley below South Amherst – it was the next town down below there – down where you used to live –
BB – South Hadley?
DL – Yeah. I think there was a ?? college down there – it might even have been – and they came to dances in droves and they were pretty good. You see, most of the people who came to contra dances when I first started calling down there were real old time dancers who had remembered dancing contras to Page who got tired of dancing the western square dancing so they either went to the local square dances or they just stopped. When we started doing it to live music again they came back and the kids came in on that scene. So, they graduate and they go back to wherever they came from – there was one particular instance there was a bunch of them that came from Cleveland – they went out there and they got ahold of a local bluegrass fiddler and tried to run a contra dance but the ones they remembered were the ones that – in those days you could – there wouldn’t be that many people at the dance and the kids were eager to learn and there were a lot people there who knew enough about – so you could get away with those Chorus Jigs, Patronella, Hull’s Victory. So those were the ones they would try to do with a bluegrass fiddler and it just didn’t work – and the crowd didn’t have enough ?? to know what they were talking about. So, I got the nod to go out – they’d fly me out so , of course I didn’t do those dances – they’d bring these people to the dance who never saw it before so I did what I usually do. So these kids who were having me out were sort of pissed off and I said, “You’ve got to pay attention – you’ve got to remember what it was like when you first got on the dance floor – when you have a whole hall full of people like that. Remember, put yourself on their place and it starts forward and pay attention to what you’re doing and in a couple of sessions here after I’ve left you can get these people to do those dances”. Well, they didn’t pay attention and they had me out again the next year. Well what happened the next year was that – I was married to Patty at the time and her brothers both came from Cleveland and they were Irish and they were drunk and they came to the dance. So, I always take out the lowest common denominator and build my dance around that – create a lot of energy – everything goes and you know, things catch on. Well. one more time I didn’t do Chorus Jig and they were pissed off again but I said, “Look, pay attention, pay attention” – I’m going to put this on the speaker phone , Bob my phone – hold on – will that work?
BB – Yes, well I was just about to say I think we ought to turn the tape over anyway.
DL – OK. I’m going to put this on the speaker phone.
BB – OK.
DL – Can you hear me alroght?
BB – Oh, that’s better yeah – (feed back sounds)
DL – That alright?
BB – You were down in South Hadley.
DL – Oh yeah, that’s right – off to Cleveland, right
BB – then you were off to Cleveland –
DL – They did – they finally got it together. I guess they had several successful dances out there now, you know they got a lot of callers to come out. So then I traveled to Fort Townsend, Washington to the Festival of American Fiddle Tunes – I went out there 4 years in a row and introduced the contra dance to that bunch of cowboys. Their dancing was done mostly to Sandy Bradley and she was doing old time cowboy dancing to the fiddle tunes that were played out there. Frank Ferrel and his wife Lisa had organized that festival and both Frank and Lisa thought that they ought to do some contra dancing – Lisa knew how to call Petronella and she got those guys up there well they didn’t have a clue and they just hopped and skipped around. So Frank said – Lisa said, “ Well, there’s one guy that can do this.” and we got to call – went out 4 years in a row. By the third year they knew more than I did. It took 2 years to get it really rolling but now there’s a very hot contra dance scene in the Seattle area but that was the result of my going out there.
BB – Well, that’s great
DL – Yep and we had a bunch of other things like that – which we traveled – to North Carolina and Tennessee – been around quite a bit.
BB – Yeah. Did you bump into Bob Dalsemer down there?
DL – Oh yeah. I was also on the staff at Pine Woods for several years too – 4 or 5 years in a row. Took a break and then went on again – haven’t been back since.
BB – Did you ever get to Berea?
DL – No. I’ve been to Brasstown – went there once. Never been to Berea. My sister goes there but I haven’t been – like to go – we don’t solicit much and, as you probably read in those newsletters – those news groups – that I’m less accepted in the contra dance world now because I don’t do the new dances. So we don’t usually get the nod to go to places like that but every once in a while – that’s what happened this last summer we went out to Fort Townsend and I told the fellow that runs it, Warren Argo I said, “ You know, we don’t do any of the new dances” and he said, “ Good, I want these people to have a taste of the old”.
BB – Laughs – Well, that’s great. OK. Well, I couldn’t let you go without talking about your recordings.
DL – Well, the ah –
BB – Well, you’ve done a bunch of them.
DL – Yep. The ones that were the most popular – really another thing that helped launch it traveling was the ones that Jack Sloanaker put together for the Farm and the Wilderness using the Canterbury Orchestra. He put out 2 recordings with the Farm and the wilderness String Band then I suggested to him – wouldn’t it be fun to do it with the Canterbury Orchestra which we had sort of just put together by name at that time and he was part of that and he said, “Well, I thought about the same thing “ so we did. We got together and the first record came out and it was a huge success. We’ve put out – Canterbury Orchestra put out 2 other LP’s and then they put out a cassette. Just recently took the best of the music from all that, except the cassette – they took the best of the music from that from various recordings and put it out on a CD and that’s now available on a CD. But then I also made some – for a while there the Canterbury Orchestra broke up – for about 10 years they didn’t do anything – from approximately ’76, ’78 up until maybe almost ’86 they didn’t do anything. I formed another group called the Canterbury Folk which consisted of myself on the concertina and there was a banjo and a trumpet and drums. I thought that was going to last but that didn’t last more than a year. So then I free lanced it a lot but the Canterbury Folk made 2 recordings. Then Jacqueline and I have done a lot of documentary stuff and most recently did a nice recording using – we did 2 – one was done with Jacqueline’s fiddle students and my apprentices – they have an apprenticeship program here in the state so we got together one afternoon just up at the neighbors and the kids parents came and the parents brought along a lot of accordions and saxophones and whatever and joined in. Somebody had a tape recorder and it came out fine. So that’s called the way it really sounds at a barn dance. That sells well – it’s in it’s second printing. Then we put together this book called ‘White Mountain Reel’ and it’s mostly Jacqueline’s work. It’s a book of dances that can be – there’s 11 dances – that can be done mostly for kids but they can be done with anybody – enjoyed by anybody. The book has the directions on the left hand page – the calls and the directions and on the right hand page the music and some historical notes. There’s a CD that goes with it and on the CD it has the tunes with and without the calls. That works pretty good so now we’re working on a sequel which we haven’t named yet. In the meantime a musician down in – a fiddler down in Connecticut has been working with us has put the same tunes without the calls – the tunes arrangement for cello, viola and fiddle. That’s called a companion and that’s going to take off too.
BB – What’s that fiddlers name?
DL – Her name is – she’s a violin teacher and her name is Janet Royce.
BB – OK. Well, did you ever bump into the Gulyassy brothers ?
DL – You bet. I think they’re both dead now, I’m not sure. I know Bob died. I don’t know about – no, George died – I don’t know about Bob. There was also Phil Jamoulis – he was a bass player and my sister, Ann ran into him not too long ago. Of course, Walter Erickson is still around – they have a fiddler that fiddled with the Boston Boys. That music was a little bit too smooth for me – I loved it but they were a little bit too symphonic – I like Dick Richardson better – the New Hampshire Orchestra – I thought they were a little bit more on the rougher side and had a nicer feeling for it. That was those recordings of Money Musk and Fischer’s Hornpipe and Glise ‘A Sherbrook – remember those?
BB – Sure.
DL – Yep. Those were wonderful – in fact they haven’t been equaled. I think those are the best recordings of contra dance music I’ve ever heard.
BB – Right. Well. I think it was George – did he live down in Connecticut for a while?
DL – Yeah, I think so. Well, they were from Bridgeport.
BB – Yeah and they – he worked with me a few times and I used to love that triple fingering, you know?
DL – Yeah. They were really good.
BB – But they – he finally told me one time, “ Well, I can’t play with you anymore. I can’t drive at night”. So –
DL – He had some difficulties – it’s funny you know, his father wanted him to be – they were, I don’t know they were Romanian or what but his father wanted them to be a combination of violin and guitar and he wanted Bob – George who was the better fiddler to play the guitar and Bob play the violin. That’s the way the Dad wanted it so whenever George played the fiddle it was against his Dad’s wishes. He also drank a lot – he often got himself in trouble. Well, anyway that was quite a bunch.
BB – Well. I’d be interested in what’s a typical week for you in your calling experiences?
DL – Well it varies but we do a lot of work with schools. Just to give you an example what’s coming up this next month. Tuesday and Wednesday nights are poetry readings – that’s another thing that I’m involved with , I’ve been writing poetry for a long, long time. When I go to these readings – sometimes I’m the featured reader and sometimes I just take part in the open mic. But on Friday we’re driving up to Burlington to take part in a Physical Education Conference – we have to do a presentation there and then we have to drive back to Nashua for a dance that night in an old mill building and then the next night we play at a private school over in Berwick, Maine. Then on the 10th we’re playing at a school down in Winchester, Mass all day and evening and then on the 12th we’re playing at a public dance down in Merrimac, Mass. and then on the 13th we’re playing at a festival over in – it’s the Down East Folk Festival in Topsham. Maine in the afternoon and then a dance in ?? that night. Then, starting in the 15th we have a residency in Epping, New Hampshire, also a poetry reading and that’s how it goes.
BB – Yes. Well I guess –
DL – We’re pretty busy. Most of the work is in schools – the dance in – the public dances we play for right now are in Tamworth – which is a real old time square dance because we can’t do them all and bring in other callers and unfortunately they’re bring in these callers who that doing these very difficult contras and it’s alienating the crowds. We get pretty good crowds there but sometimes it takes time for people to catch up. We do 5 or 6 a year there, maybe 7 and we have 4 dances a year at our house – we have dances right here in our house. Then we play 1 or 2 public dances in Concord and a few others around but mostly it’s party, party.
BB – Right. Well, that’s great.
DL – Yep. You know, close to 300 engagements a year – quite a lot.
BB – So, it keeps you busy anyway.
DL – I’m ready to slow down a little bit – the travel – the other day we played down in Emerson College in Boston – you know you have to right into downtown Boston and double park and unload and Jacqueline had to go find a parking place. It’s like – we’ve played for dances for the Appalachian Mountain Club up in the White Mountains and you have to hike up – you know, carry your stuff and hike up so it’s just the same as Emerson College – you know, you can’t drive to this gig you have to drive outside the building and unload then take an elevator up to the top floor – it was something but it was fun – it was a music class.
BB – Well, that’s great. Well, so you feel that your form of square dancing is healthy and due for a long life?
DL – What was the question – that question again?
BB – Do you feel that your future in square dancing is pretty firm?
DL – Yeah, yeah.
BB – I’m sure you realize that modern western square dancing is on the decline.
DL – Yeah, we’re aware of that. We see people every once in a while and talk to them and they say they’re either closing or are having a hard time getting people to come. What I’m – part of that my observation is that some of the dances are a little too difficult for people and don’t like to – I’m afraid I see something similar happening with the contra dance movement. A lot of the people who – young folks – say they don’t want to go to the western square dancing because they don’t like the costumes although there are some western groups that do not demand that but the contra dance people have a costume too, they just don’t admit it. I’m afraid that some of them are heading that same route. It all depends on where you go. If you get up in northern Maine, northern Vermont there are some dances that are really pretty grass roots and you don’t get quite that attitude. But the people who want to make money on it or have large crowds are attracting pretty much of an urban crowd. These are people who are working the computer program or are social workers or teachers and they don’t always stay with it. It’s usually a singles scene – to go the dance to find someone and once they’ve found them they get married and have kids and they stop dancing. They might not pick it up again for sometime if ever. So, the crowds that we get at – the public dances – the crowds that we get are a mixture of that hotshot crowd but also the people who like what we do. They go to the other dances with other callers but they enjoy coming to our dances and they really turn out. They like to do the old ones like Petronella and Chorus Jig and they know I’m going to call those. I think that most of the dances we play for, like when we’re playing over in Berwick on Saturday there will be a lot of kids running around. Fortunately over there most of the parents do take part so it’s not too much of a hectic show but it’s noisy, you know.
It doesn’t last too long, you know – hour and a half, hour and fifteen minutes. The on in Nashua is a church group and they’re mostly young married that wouldn’t go out to a contra dance – none of them go to contra dances. They do have 3 or 4 dances in the ?? building. They’re not interested in learning anything new – they’re not interested in learning anything – they want to get to the dance, stamp their feet, clap their hands, whistle, you know have a good old time and that’s what we do – that’s what we provide for them. It’s not the sort of thing, you know they’ve got to be progressing anywhere. They enjoy it the way it is.
BB – Right. Well, you certainly have had an interesting square dancing life – I’m sure you’re not retiring or anything like that – you have a lot of years left.
DL – That’s right. I hope so. I know it’s getting a little more difficult for me to play a lot of fancy stuff on the fiddle. I’m more apt to play tunes that have whole notes in them. Sometimes the traveling – the long distance traveling –
BB – It gets to you.
DL – and then, if we’re working in a school for instance, we get there at 9 o’clock and we’ll have 2 classes in the morning and then we’ll have a lunch break and try to go for a walk during lunch time and then have 2 more classes in the afternoon. Then Jacqueline usually drives to the jobs and I drive home and sometimes it’s all I can do to make it home – I get pretty tired. In fact, by that 4th class sometimes I’m dragging. I used to think nothing of doing 7 classes a day – kids, you know. But we have to whittle it down to about 30 kids – make sure the teacher is there and have the class last about 45 minutes which is – that’s pretty par for the course. So anyway – are you doing any calling now?
BB – No, I retired several years ago. Yeah, I’m dancing anymore either – I’ve got a bad knee and a bad back.
DL – Yeah, I’ve got a bad back. I’m 73 with a bad back – getting some physical therapy work on it right now.
BB – Well, I’ll be 82 next week.
DL – What’s – is your brother Al still alive?
BB – Oh yes, he’s very – he’s retired – he dances 4 nights a week – modern western all – he –
DL – Does he call?
BB – No, he retired 2 years ago. No, he’s in good health.
DL – What about your Dad who was a caller?
BB – Oh yes, –
DL – His name was Hal wasn’t it?
BB – Yes, Harold, right.
DL – Did he play or did he just call?
BB – No, he just called and he didn’t start to call until the year that Al and I were both away to college the same year.
DL – He did singing calls mostly didn’t he?
BB – Well, he did a little bit of patter but basically he was just trying to fill in while we were gone and he wasn’t really that much interested in it he wanted to keep the band working while we were away to college so when we came home we’d have – the band was still available and not broken up or anything.
DL – Who was in the band?
BB – Oh, we had a lot of different people. We usually looked for somebody who could play banjo and either trumpet or sax. In those days of course the band was – would always play round – what we called round dancing –
DL – Fox Trots and Waltzes, yeah.
BB – Right. Then could switch off to play banjo for the squares.
DL – They didn’t do any contras down there did they?
BB – No, no. Once in a while the Virginia Reel and that’s about it.
DL – Yeah. Did your mother play?
BB – Oh yes. She was the backbone of the whole thing. Yeah, she was a pianist. She was a concert pianist – made her debut at age 14 in Hartford.
DL What part of Connecticut was that?
BB – Down in the southwest corner – Danbury.
DL – Oh, way down there. We’re going down there on March – 26th of March – no, the 27th we’re playing a another one of those music conferences in Danbury.
BB – In Danbury – I’ll be darned
Dl – You probably danced to Pop Smith.
BB – Sure, yeah.
DL – This new recording we’re doing we’re doing a dance that Pop used to do – I call it the Pop Smith Quadrille but it’s one of the figures from the Lancers. He used to sing it. He had a little ditty of a tune he used to sing it to – so I’m using that for one of the dances for the sequel we’re doing of White Mountain Reel. Some of the school teachers are asking for square dances. I usually don’t do them because – on a recording because – I mean, when we go to schools we always do Marching Through Georgia and maybe 1 or 2 other quadrilles but if there’s an extra couple we just tuck them in there – so there’s 5 couples. The grade school teachers – they don’t want to do that so we’re offering up a couple of regular standard quadrilles. For the most part I do dances where I don’t have to worry about that. Did you ever – you must have danced to – yeah, I think I called you one time about Sammy Spring?
BB – Sure, yeah.
BB – You danced to him – he used to play the fiddle and sing his calls.
BB – Yes, he did. One of my Dad’s favorite stories about Sammy was – he bumped into him down in Florida after my folks retired down there. So my Dad said to him, “ Sammy, are you still going out playing anymore?” and he said, “Well, I’ll tell you I won’t go out for less than $15”.
DL – Nobody ever recorded him. I was on the trail of someone thought they had recordings of him but that was too bad. I’d would have liked to have heard him call.
BB – Did you know Ralph Smith – Ralph Sweet?
DL – Oh yes. Ralph is a good friend. His son, Wally plays for us once in a while.
BB – Oh, does he?
DL – He plays pipe.
BB – How about Duke Miller?
DL – Oh yeah. I knew the Duke. I’ve got a lot of recordings of him. He was sort of the beginning of the change of some of the things that happened in the Manadnock Region. When Page got the nod to go out to California and travel around a lot of people made quite a ‘to do’ – I think what happened was the electricity went off one night and Duke volunteered to call and help Ralph – Duke had a boomer of a voice – Ralph always needed a mic because he didn’t have a very strong voice so, I guess they became friends but Duke introduced some dances that the crowd loved – Just Because – they just loved that – and Ralph wouldn’t be caught dead doing it – he did it later on in fact, I heard Ralph call a dance to Pistol Packin’ Moma. He ordinarily wouldn’t do that and I sort of grew up on his – dancing contras to Money Musk and Chorus Jig – but most of the New Hampshire people were doing it and they had a very full bodied way of dancing. There was nothing smooth about it – there was just a nice edge to it. But they did all those dances and the music was slow – a slight slower – more pulsating but every once in a while Ralph would fool you. He’d do a singing call to some tune that you would never think he’d sing a call – Tavern In The Town or something like that. Then when he made those records – he always used to start all those New Hampshire dances with Lady Walpoles Reel and he always did it to Firemans Reel. When he came out with those recordings I thought, Oh Boy. Now we’re going to get a good recording of Firemans Reel so what does he do it to, he does it to Climbing Up The Golden Stairs.
BB – Yeah well. OK, well, it’s really been nice talking with you Dudley and gosh, I wish I could up your way and bump into you someplace – go to one of your dances but –
DL – What’s the weather like down there?
BB – Well, it’s overcast here today but we have a big golf tournament tomorrow and I hope that it’s going to clear up – it’s supposed to be around 55 or 60 and so I’m looking forward to that
DL – Do you play?
BB – Pardon?
DL – Do you play golf?
BB – Oh yes. I’m President of one of the golf leagues here. I’m not a good golfer but maybe I’m a better administrator or something.
DL – What was – today, one of my kids came up, my daughter Heidi – She lives in Leeds which is right outside of Northampton – married – I’ve got 3 kids and they came up today and then my other daughter – another daughter of mine – lives up north of here – she came down with her 2 kids and we went for a walk up in the woods up to the local sugar house. Out neighbors were ?? for the first time today where we got some fresh syrup –
BB – Well that’s great. Well, life goes on –
DL – It sure does.
BB – and Dudley, I want to thank you very much for taking the time to talk with me tonight. I’ll probably – as a matter of fact I think I’ll turn the tape off and I’ll chat with you a little bit more.
DL – OK
BB – So – unless there’s something else you’d like to bring up –
DL – No, the only thing I wanted to say that the influence of Page had on me as a kid that I – I really wanted to call like him and, of course when you hear your own voice inside your head you hear the way audio comes into your ears and you try to modulate your voice the way – I used to try to modulate my voice the way I thought Ralph was calling and then I’d hear it on a recording and, I guess when I hear my voice talking it doesn’t sound anything like I thought it would but when I hear it calling I realize that I had somehow imitated Page. I know never thought that a little kid at a dance one time came in the door at the other end and she thought it was Page calling the dance. While I used to imitate him – we went our separate ways when I started doing more dances with kids. Ralph didn’t like kids. Of course, I guess he thought I was trying to do Money Musk with Kids and I said, “No Ralph. I do barn dances with them and it’s a different ball of wax”. So, we sort of went our separate ways and I’m not quite sure whether he likes me or not – he liked what I was doing – he loved those recordings – French Hall he just thought it was the best tune in the world but he didn’t have too much use for me. I’m not quite sure what was going on – I think it was – it may have been that I was pulling large, large crowds – I remember one night I played for a dance in Dublin and it was at the Marathon House and it was – some of them were contra dances but most of them were just what people wanted at dinner and so they danced for an hour and then they had an hour and a half break and Ralph was playing for a dance in the next town so we drove over. He was using records and he had 10 people there – I had 300 at my dance and I’m sure that must have been hard for him – very difficult. So he may have felt – you know, I love, I love – I remember one time I went to visit with Ted Sannella when he was dying. I went over there to – I forget the name of the place where he lived there – we were visiting – having a cup of coffee – a cup of tea and Ted said, “ What do you think of the dances that are being done these days?” and I said, “ Well, I’, not particularly enamored of it – I don’t call Petronella anymore because the way they do that with anybody dancing it instead of just the active couples going around to the right and balance everybody joins in.” and he said, “Well, you started it” and I said, “I beg your pardon, I did not”. And about that time Jean said, “ I agree with him”. I said, “ I can remember the night that it did start”. We were doing a dance in Fitzwilliam and I had taught the kids to dance Foxborough Castle which is an English dance which has everybody going around to the right to set. So, I had taught them that dance and Johnny Parker said, “Why don’t we do Petronella that way” and I said, “ Go ahead, but I’m not going to call Petronella I’m going to call Citronella”. So that’s how that got going.
BB – I’ll be darned.
DL – So I said, “I didn’t start it” and Ted said, “ so, why didn’t you stop it?” and I said, “Ted, if I stopped it you wouldn’t have gotten all these calling dates, I would have done them all”. I said, “ These kids were all anti Vietnam at that time – there were back in the ?? and you couldn’t tell them anything. You didn’t tell them what to wear” and he said, “Well, you should have made them wear shoes”. I said, “Well Ted, I always wore shoes – I always wore a shirt and long pants” and the unfortunate thing that happened was a photograph was taken for the Christian Science Monitor showing me dancing in black shoes, white pants but I had a tank top on. It was taken during the hottest night of summer and everybody was in tank tops. But, I said, “I did not teach that”. You know, I didn’t advocate it and so I said, “If I told the kids not to do it I would have lost them” and I wanted them to stay with me.
BB – Sure. That’s the way she goes. Well look, let’s call this the end of the tape –
DL – OK
BB – so just hold on for a minute.
END OF TAPE
Follow up commentary –
Dudley and I continued for some time reminiscing about Umass where we first met, the square dancing picture in the North of Boston area and contra versus modern western dancing in general. Dudley has 4 daughters, Heidi, Bronwen, Singwen and Windelyn and a son, Nathaniel.
Additional thoughts – Sammy Spring lived in western Massachusetts. He had a thin, high voice which was very penetrating so he never needed a microphone. His calls were truly prompted with no extraneous words. He held the fiddle in the crook of his arm as did many old time fiddlers (as against being held under the chin like a concert violinist). He was small in stature but huge in talent.