PATTY GREENE INTERVIEW
March 28, 2004
Bob Brundage – Well, hi again. This Bob Brundage and today is March the 28th, 2004 and tonight we’re talking with Patty Green back in New England. As a matter of fact, you know I’m not really sure where you’re living now Patty.
Patty Greene – We’re living in Salem, New Hampshire.
BB – Salem, New Hampshire, OK. Very good. So, I’m looking forward to an interesting interview with Patty. She’s a recently recording artist – recording with Tony Oxendine’s group and so we’re looking forward to hearing more about Patty’s life. So tell me a little bit about – first of all where you were born and brought up and a little bit about life before square dancing.
PG – Life before square dancing –
BB – Was there any?
PG – Oh Yes, I’ve had a very varied life, that’s for sure. I was – my parents lived in New York City and I was born in the Long Island Jewish Hospital. My mother worked for – I believe it was Jordan Marsh and my dad was in the army. He later ended up working for General Electric. I’m the oldest of 5 and I was supposed to be a boy hence my name is Patricia because I was supposed to be Patrick. Coming from an Irish Catholic family as my father did, you know the first born is a boy and has to have an Irish name. So we moved around quite a lot – my father ended up working for G E and we lived in Kansas, and in Pittsfield, Mass. and in the North Shore area and we eventually landed in Melrose, Massachusetts where I attended high school – junior high and high school. There’s 5 of us, like I said I’m the eldest and we’ve always been involved in music in some way or another – every since I can remember I’ve been singing – singing in a church choir, singing at high school, junior high. I believe it was my very first public performance. I was Brigitta in the ‘Sound of Music’. I was in 9th grade and me and my best friend Jimmy Oosterman got to waltz together. I kind of got the bug way back then – after –
BB – Was yours a musical family?
PG – Well, there was always music in the house but there was never – it wasn’t a musical family per se. We didn’t sit around and sing by the piano but when I started – when I was in junior high and all through high school I ended up going to a Congregational Summer Camp and had a major crush on a young man who played the guitar. So, I picked up the guitar because I knew if I learned how to play the guitar I could stand up and help lead singing and that’s kind of how I ended up – the musical end of it ended up happening. My mother sang. My father had no musical talent but he was a great fan , you know my sister performed in the Boston Light Opera Company and so on down the line. So we always had music around and music has always been my first love.
BB – Right, well. OK, well tell me when was your first experience with square dancing?
PG – My first experience with square dancing – my husband, Steve’s parents, John and Elaine Greene were very involved in square dancing in the Manchester, New Hampshire area. When I first started going out with Steve they decided they would renew their try to get Steve into square dancing. Steve didn’t want any part of it to start and I really didn’t know much about it except for you know an occasional Sunday night ice breaker at camp – you know, the traditional square dance thing. We ended up taking lessons at Allemande Eights with Ed Monte – graduated in 1991 and after the very first fun night Steve decided he was hooked and it was then the beginning of our end. Laughs
BB – Steve is your husband I take it.
PG – Yes.
BB – Right. Well then, how did you get into calling?
PG – Well, our graduation our teacher Ed Monte invited me to sing with him a couple of times which was fun but I never really gave it a second thought until a couple that we had been dancing with, Chris Pinkham had started calling and he called me in the winter of ’94 and told me that we were going to the New England Convention and we weren’t planning on going that year. He told me that we were going to the New England Convention because he signed me up to call with him in the Duet Hall. So, we frantically prepared and ended up singing in the Duet Hall and I had finally found a way to use my music major from Plymouth State College, which was great. But that was my first induction into calling with singing calls – singing call duets with Chris.
BB – OK, what was his last name?
PG – Pinkham
BB – Oh, Chris Pinkham, sure. So, Chris was one of your mentors then along the way?
PG – Yep. I’ve had actually quite a few mentors. We’re lucky in New England to have a lot of really great callers who are always willing to share their knowledge. I shadowed Norm Poisson for a season with Richfield Swingers. I attended school with Jim Mayo, which was very beneficial to me –
BB – That’s Caller’s School you mean.
PG – Yep, yep – I attended the Ritucci/Page Caller’s School a couple of times at the Jim Mayo school Tony Oxendine and Jerry Junck were both pleasant and you know and kind of very helpful. I find that people have been very helpful to me because I’m kind of a novelty because I’m a woman in New England. I’ve been very open to anybody who wanted to kind of share their knowledge with me because I know that’s where my greatest growth is coming from – having people challenge me and share their knowledge with me.
BB – Right. So, you’ve been affiliated with Callerlab and so forth probably.
PG – Yep. I joined Callerlab in 1996. We attended our first convention – the Portland Minilab which, I’m not – I can’t remember what year that was and then attended the convention in Las Vegas 2 years ago and this will be our 3rd convention coming up here in Reno.
BB – What are you, a gambler or something?
PG – No, the one thing about calling is that it’s afforded us to travel places that we probably never would have stepped out and gone to and Vegas was one of those places I’d always wanted to go to – but I do like the slots.
BB – Well that’s true. Square dancing does that to people. Well, what about other local associations?
PG – I’ve been a member of the Tri-State Caller’s Association since 1996 – currently, actually since I joined I’ve been serving as Secretary – I’m still Secretary there. I’ve been actively involved in the New England Council of Caller’s Associations. I was Secretary for 2 years and I’m presently Vice-Chairman and I’ll be moving up to Chairman actually in June. That’s a regional caller’s organization that has representatives from local caller’s associations throughout New England and through NECCA I’ve been involved in the Co-op – Cooperation Committee which is a group that kind of unites dancers, cuers and callers in the New England area. So, I’ve been pretty involved and then, when we were dancing we served on the Board of Allemande Eights. So we’ve been pretty involved in leadership roles ever since the day we graduated.
BB – Well, that’s great. I know the NECCA job is a big job – I’m sure you’re looking forward to it.
PG – It’ll be interesting. I’ll be glad to not be Secretary. Laughs
BB – Well, the chairman of that is quite a prestigious job I know. Have you been to any local festivals? I know the New England Festival you certainly go to.
PG – Yep. – been calling at the New England Festival since ’94 I believe. We’ve gone to every single – all of them. We’ve attended the Canadian convention – we called up in St. John. We traveled to the Hawaiian convention but didn’t get the chance to officially call there but most of – and we also called in Oklahoma City last year at the National Convention.
BB – Oh, that was my next question – about Nationals, yeah.
PG – Yep, that was the first one we had attended. It was just that the timing had never really been correct for us to attend. It was our first year last year and we’ll be calling this – I’ll be calling this year too in Denver.
BB – Oh, will you? Great. Well that’s great. You’d better stop by Albuquerque on your way through – both laugh.
PG – You never know where we’re going to end up.
BB – True. How about square dance weekends. Have you been –
PG – I have done a square dance weekend in Vermont for 4 years. Mike PettitBon, Matt Auger and I did a square dance weekend with a local cuer Leo Boudreau and that’s been my only weekend experience. I do have one for the Montshire Camping Squares coming up in June of this year. We’ve danced at a lot of them but haven’t really called at very many local weekends. Currently percolating on a couple of local weekends – possibly get started.
BB – Well, that’s great. So, why don’t you tell me about recording now.
PG – Recording. Well, I love to sing – that’s my first love – that’s what I went to school for and I get the Hanhurst tape every month and I think to myself – I wish that I could do that – it was on my list of things to accomplish. A couple of years ago January Tony called me, which was a surprise because I’m a local caller and he’s a national caller and, although I know a lot of the heavy hitters I never expected to hear Tony’s voice on my answer machine which – it’s a good thing he wasn’t here because I was doing a happy dance and it wouldn’t have been very – it wasn’t very professional. He asked me, through a series of conversations if I would like to come down and make a record for Royal Records. I of course said yes because, like I said it was something I’ve always wanted to do. It meant a trip to Nashville because they do record in a studio with live musicians – which was kind of exciting. So Steve and I took our first trip down to Nashville. I was very nervous because it was kind of a moment of truth – vinyl either likes you or it doesn’t. I know that I have heard an awful lot of bad vinyl and I also know that, you know you’re reputation is who you associate yourself with and what people hear. So, we went down and they decided I would do ‘Timber’ – ‘Timber, I’m Falling In Love’ which I thought was a great song. So, we got to the studio and we were absolutely amazed at the quality of musicianship of the guys that were playing. Tony would play a song and they would instantly be able to tell a key and they would play it and it would sound exactly like the record. Cutting from my musical background I was amazed and dumbfounded. It was very exciting for me. So the next day they decide you know it’s time to lay down a vocal track. I’d never seen anybody do this. This is as close to anything like this that I had ever been and they decided I would go first which nearly made me very nervous because I hadn’t had a chance as an observer – I hadn’t had a chance to observe somebody else doing it to know what you could do and couldn’t do, you know what was kind of the standard. So they stuck me in a room all by myself and Tony put the headphones on my head. He put the headphones because you have one hand going over your ear and I have it on my bad ear, you know the one you don’t hold up to the phone that you don’t hear so well and I was so nervous I didn’t think that I could swap it to the ear that I can hear better. They started playing the music and I had to sing along to the music all by myself in this room. Tony said I was so nervous that he’d never seen anyone more nervous because I really wanted to succeed, you know it was something I really wanted to do well. I know that they took a big risk putting me on their label and I wanted to kind of rise to the occasion plus, like I said, you’re a product of the things that come put of you. I did it in one take which they were amazed at because I thought that was what you were supposed to do. I mean I hadn’t seen anyone else do it. I get all done and I’m beet red and I’m flushed and I’m just about ready to face and I’m just about ready to go do something and they asked me if I would – wanted like to listen to it -which of course I didn’t because it took me 3 years to listen to my senior year recital tape I don’t really want to listen to myself at this point. So they had – they had all been in the control room – smiling, you know, being very supportive and all this stuff – they stepped out of the control room – this was a Wednesday before the New England Convention. We were flying back right from this session from this April session. So, I sat down, I put my head in my hands and they started playing back what I had recorded. I was (long pause) screech your fingernails – screech your fingernails on a chalkboard flat which really was kind of funny and I’m thinking to myself, “Boy, I am horrible. There is no way – I can’t believe this – my husband has been telling me that I can sing”. So they’re laughing and I heard screech my fingernails on the chalkboard and I’m going, “Gee, does that really sound like me?” and he said, “ Yeah, it sounds like you to me” and I said, “ Oh, man” and in 2 seconds in my head I was trying to figure out how I can gracefully get out calling at the New England convention and sell all my equipment because I was never going to call again – ever. Tony and Larry Letson was there and Steve was there and all of a sudden I picked up my head and I said, “I stink. I stink. I’m not going to call ever again” and they started laughing and decided that they would let me hear the real thing. They had warped my voice down so it was kind of – it was kind of funny because you know, I didn’t expect that and I was – they were dying of laughter. So that was my introduction into their recording world.
PG – I was ready to quit calling and I was never going to call again.
BB – Well I know – that was the message that I got. I was at the New England Convention that year and it was all the story at the after-party afterward. I was with Jim Mayo and my brother Al and a few other people told me that story. I’m happy that you brought it out because it’s a winner.
PG – I was a – you know, I’m a perfectionist and my music is a gift that I was given and I really enjoy sharing that gift and I was hoping that it wouldn’t be as bad as I thought it was going to be and then when they ever played it I was convinced that everybody was just being nice to me. You know, it was a nice run – oh well. It ended up being a good selling record. I’ve since done 2 more for Tony and Jerry and I really have been grateful for the opportunity because it’s been a fun – you know, it has been a fun ride. It’s taken me places that I never, ever would have expected. You know, if someone is going to give me an opportunity in the calling field then I’m going to take it because I know that’s how you get – you know, you push yourself and you get better. So, that’s my big recording story that I’ll tell my grandchildren when I’m 90 years old.
BB – Well, what were the other 2 records that you’ve made since then?
PG – I’ve done ‘The Last Farewell’ – the Roger Whitaker song and last October I recorded ‘Holly, Jolly Christmas” which has not been released yet. That will be released hopefully this holiday season.
BB – Yeah, sure. Well that’s great. Yeah and I’ve heard you call at the convention and I go along with everybody else. I think you’re doing just great.
PG – Oh, thank you very much. I do appreciate that.
BB – Well, let’s get away from recording a little bit. Do you ever cue round dances?
PG – I do not cue round dances. We’re now taking round dance lessons but I don’t cue.
BB – Ah ha, OK. How about – do you ever do contra dancing.
PG – Not really. The only contra I do is at a fun night – Virginia No Reel but I’m not really a contra prompter at all.
BB – Right, OK. That was the following question. What about one night stands? Do you do several of those?
PG – I do a lot of one night stands. They’re my favorite thing to do because it’s fun to see people who have never square danced before light up and just walk away with a bounce in their step. I care very much about new dancers and new – and you know, people being exposed. I do fun nights for – everywhere from little kids up to adults – to high school. I’ve been at a local high school 3 years in a row and they have a waiting list of kids that want to come square dance which I just think is hysterical.
BB – Yes, that’s great.
PG – So I do a lot of fun nights.
BB – That’s great. Well, I know fun nights are great in the fact that very often you get repeat business year after year you know.
PG – Right. Exactly.
BB- I know that when I moved to Albuquerque – I was still calling at the time and I suddenly realized – Hey, I lost all my one night stand contacts – both laugh – but -. I wanted to ask you one kind of serious question.
PG – OK
BB – What do you think is the appeal to calling square dances? What do you – what do you get a charge out of?
PG – Well, I really enjoy watching people from all different walks of life come together at an activity where they can laugh and kind of forget about whatever their problems are or whatever life is and really enjoy company and the fellowship and the socialization and the exercise and I love to sing. It’s an outlet for me to share that gift but the best thing is to just see people laughing and walking away singing for me.
BB – Well that’s great. That’s great. Well, with your vast experience in our field – laughs – do you have any regrets – anything you wish you’d done differently?
PG – I wish that when I first started calling I had had somebody tell me – this is going to sound very strange – but I wish that I had had somebody tell me that the Chicken Plucker was a great choreographic tool and that I should use it. I also wish – the first year of calling I was very much concerned about choreography and you know being perfect. I almost – I almost quit calling and the second caller’s school we went to Johnny Preston was there and had a different tact – he didn’t kind of stress technical for new callers. He stressed more use whatever tools you have in the box to give the dancers a good time – entertain the dancers. I think that is all the 2 things I wish I had done different. I wish I – somebody had told me that the Chicken Plucker wasn’t an apologetic choreography management tool to use until you get good because it’s not – you know, I see that now and now I’m trying to backtrack and break some bad habits and relearn how to call. I wish that somebody up front told me not to so much worry that the technical would come but instead do your best to give people a good time and don’t apologize for it.
BB – Right, right. Well, do you consider yourself a sight caller?
PG – I – I would say that I am starting to get comfortable with sight calling. I – the first part of my career – and actually I still do sometimes – I am a speed reader and I have had a lot of sequences written down on index cards that I would use and I will – I’ll admit it that I still do that because I would rather give somebody a good dance than call, you know dive through, pass through, dive through, pass through , bend the lone, wheel and deal, pass through searching for somebody. I’m just now starting to get comfortable with kind of flying, flying solo.
BB – Flying blind, as they say.
PG – Right, flying blind but I know – but I try and use a bunch with the two of them. I’m not real good at memorization so it’s hard for me to be a modular caller although some of them are starting to come to me now just because of the repetition. So I would say I’m probably 50-50 now.
BB – Well good. So, but you consider yourself just a part-time caller at the moment though.
PG – At the moment part-time, yep. I teach 2 classes who I call to throughout the year. It’s my kind of my second career as it were. If it’s in the cards for me to be full time great you know but that comes with time. I’m lucky enough that I work at home so that it affords me the ability to take time off you know to do, to do things that come along my way.
BB – Right. Do you have any other hobbies or don’t have time for them?
PG – Any other hobbies. Well, let’s see, we have 2 grandchildren –
BB – Yeah, that’s a hobby.
PG – and a 4 year old nephew so the 3 of them are just like a light. I do a lot of crafts. I play the guitar. I would like to travel. I love to read you know just that kind of general – I don’t really have time for – to take up golf or – laughs – or something like that although I do own a set of clubs.
BB – There you go.
PG – So I pretty much have a lot of things up my sleeve that keep me occupied.
BB – OK. One more serious question. PG – OK.
BB – Now, we all know that square dancing is suffering a little bit. Where do you think square dancing is going in the future – and I’m talking now in general.
PG – I think that – I think that probably there’s going to be 2 camps of square dancing. Right now we’ve bred a bunch of dancers who need to be challenged and I think that they – quite a few of them have forgotten about the socialization aspect of square dancing – kind of the fellowship and, you know just have a good time. I think that a workshop is a place where I can be – stretch my dancers and a dance is a place where they just want to come and be entertained. I think they’re going forward – clubs who understand the social fellowship aspect of the activity and don’t make demands and require people to take office or allow their people to have a life – those clubs are probably going to survive. I’ve noticed in the last few months that the people who have been to fun nights – people are really interested in dancing but they don’t want to make the commitment of a whole year’s worth before they can dance. You know, I think there are probably going to be 2 – I really think that if we don’t stop being so technical and demanding of our dancers that they’re eventually going to go to where they can just go and have fun. You know, and that’s not a very popular opinion because a lot of my peers think technical. I would rather sing them songs all night and have them have had a good time all night and go away feeling good about themselves.
BB – Well, I happen to agree with you 100%.
PG – There’s 2 areas and the 2 areas have to be respectful of each other and understand that – in the words of the famous gospel song, “ All God’s Chil’un Got A Place In The Choir”
BB – Yeah, OK. Well, so I think we’ve just about exhausted everything I had in mind. Unless you think of something else I see we’re getting down near the end of one side of this tape. Do you have anything else you wanted to tell me about.
PG – NO, I think we’ve really enjoyed this square dance adventure. I know that I very much enjoy calling – I love teaching – I love the dancers and I enjoy the entertainment factor and I will be open – I don’t know what the future is going to hold. I’ve been fortunate enough to do 2 special dances at the 2 Callerlab conventions I’m at, you know – I called with the Ghost Riders Band at National last year, my first National which was absolutely amazing and I think that for me, you know I just hope that I can keep my attitude in a good spot and keep the opportunities that come up and rise to the competency that some of my peers are expecting me to go to. There are a lot of people that think very highly of me and, you know – if they only knew the real side. But they stretch me to be better and I think that that is the most important thing. I have to remember that all these dancers are people. If you can make that personal connection with somebody I think it’s more important than impressing them with your choreography. They will remember that you treated them as a person and not just as a $5 entrance fee. So, that’s kind of my goal to kind of keep that level headed opinion of myself – laughs.
BB – Yes. Now –
PG – My husband Steve helps me.
BB – Good, good. Well, then from what I’m hearing I guess what you’re saying is you’re going to keep on doing what you’re doing.
PG – Yeah, I’ll keep on doing what I’m doing – I have to keep on doing what I’m doing for a couple of more years because I’m now on the Board of Governors so until I get kicked off of the Board of Governors I guess I’ll keep on doing what I’m doing.
BB – All right. Well, I’m sure you’ll make a great contribution to the Board –
PG – Oh, thank you very much.
BB – and I think you have a great attitude –
PG – Thank you
BB – and so I think we’re just about down to the end of the tape. I wish you’d just hang on a second – I’ll turn the tape off and I’d like to chat with you a couple minutes before we go.
PG – OK. Sure.
BB – Hang on.
END OF TAPE – END OF INTERVIEW WITH PATTY GREEN
Additional comment –
Following our formal interview Patty and I talked at some length about the future of square dancing and her role in the scheme of things. We were not able to solve any of the myriad of problems confronting our beloved activity but It’s nice to know she is part of the solution and not part of the problem – in my humble opinion. I wished her every success and good luck in her endeavors.