Red Warrick June 28, 1996
Bob Brundage (BB): Well, here we are at the 45th National Square Dance Convention in San Antonio. The date today is June the 28th (1996). And today we’re talking with Red Warrick, who will tell you all about life before square dancing and how he got involved, and who and what influenced him the most, and tell us about all his various travels. So, Red, how’s everything today?
Red Warrick (RW): Goin’ fine, thank you, Bob. I’ll go back with a little of my history as a youngster. I came from a rural family. Very poor folks. Lived in a very poor part of Oklahoma. The southeast part of Oklahoma in McCurtain County. Lived in the country. And growing up I knew square dancing. One of my granddads was a fiddle player and I had older brothers. My mother had 13 children which I was about in the middle of. I had seven brothers. So we grew up in a big family. We had a lot of fun together. And every Saturday night we had a square dance somewhere in the country area there. We didn’t necessarily call it square dancing. We had a party. Of course, a lot of the old square dances came from country party dances, circle mixers and ring games and things like that. So I knew a number of the dances that we did without music. Like “Jolly Was a Miller Boy”, I remember that was one we did quite often where we had an extra man in the center and the caller would say, “If you want a good cook, swing now.” And everybody would grab someone, to try to get a partner. And you promenaded. We did the promenade. And that was about all there was to it. Promenade and swing.
BB: That’s what we call Nine Pin now.
RW: Similar to Nine Pin, yeah. Only it had a little song. And everybody sang the song: (singing)
“Jolly was a miller boy who lived by the mill, The mill turned around by its own free will, One hand on the hopper and the other on the sack, The ladies keep goin’ and the men back track. Sail ’em eastward, sail ’em westward, Sail ’em all over the ocean, All you boys that want a good cook, swing, quick in the motion.” And that’s where they’d swing and get their partner and then promenade again.
BB: That’s great.
RW: Sing the little song. Well, I square danced until I left home when I finished high school and moved to Kilgore, Texas. I had a brother there that was in a garage business. And he invited me to come and stay with him and go to college there in Kilgore. At a junior college. And I moved to Kilgore. And I didn’t square dance then until after I got out of the service. I went into the service, got married in 1942, and went into the service in 1943, and served over in India, and Burma, China area. And I came back to the states in 1945, in September I got released, on points. And when we got home, there was a square dance program by the city recreation department. And my uncle who was living there, they all encouraged me to go, they knew I had square danced as a kid, and they said, “You’ll enjoy it.” So Gwen and I went and decided to go through and take lessons. And, of course, about that time they named it the modern western type of dancing. It took on a little different name. But they were still doing the old figures, Birdie in the Cage, and Two Little Sisters, and Arkansas Traveler, and, you know, the old numbers. Well, the guys who were teaching were not square dance callers. They were with the recreation department. And they had a book. And they were reading these calls out of this book.
BB: Do you remember the book?
RW: No, I don’t remember. I don’t know that I ever looked at the cover on it. But I don’t remember. It was a small, little handbook. And probably about the size of the one Betty Casey put out, and it may have been hers, but, I’m not sure. But, I asked ’em one night if I could see that book. Because I knew square dancing had a call and a beat and all this to it. And they were just talkin’ it, and trying to get us through figures. Well, I got hold of it, and I learned Birdie in the Cage, first call I ever called. Well, everybody just gave me such a round of applause, everybody that was takin’ lessons. That had to be the thing, next time I did that. Well I got a hold of that book and I learned another one or two, and so it went from there. And as soon as we went through the lessons, we organized a club. And we started dancing in a club. And that was in 1945 that we were taking lessons. And we graduated early in ’46 and I started calling in ’46. So, I’ve been at it 50 years. And we, at that time square dancing was booming. You know, every little town was teaching square dancing, seemed like. And I became pretty locally popular with the clubs. And I was calling for several clubs. Well, two of the clubs decided they wanted me to go to a caller’s school. So, they paid my way to a caller’s school and, I didn’t know anything about caller’s schools, or, really about calling, except what I’d heard in the olden days, and all this. Anyway, I think they tried to get into Doc Shaw’s school and his was full. They were a little late getting their registration in. And Herb Greggerson had one in Ruidoso, New Mexico, and still had an opening. So, I went to that caller’s school in 1949. And I had some local people who wanted me to start recording, so I recorded an album in 1949, on the old 78 RPMs. And then another one in 1950.
BB: Which label was that?
RW: It was on the Dude label, which became extinct pretty quick. They went bankrupt. Well, but then I started, a couple of boys in Houston, Texas, that were musicians, called themselves the Melody Cowhands. Lester Woytek was the leader and they had a radio show down there in Houston and I was beginning to get around, and being invited to Houston to call, and I called with them down there a couple of times and they asked me about calling and recording with them. They had just started a label called Longhorn. And they had recorded two tunes which were just western tunes. They weren’t square dancing. And so they wanted to make a square dance label. So that’s where the Longhorn square dance label got started. And a couple of years later I bought the label from them and I produced the Longhorn label for about four or five years. And then sold it to C. O. Guest in Dallas. C. O. and Billy Lewis at that time had another label, the Lore label I believe it was. Can’t recall for sure now. But, they bought the Longhorn label from me. And I kept recording for Longhorn for a few years. I was traveling pretty extensively in the 50s. That was my heyday years. I had a TV program an hour show, no, thirty minute show every Tuesday night for about four years in a little TV station there in Longview, Texas. And I was always trying to come up with something. I originated quite a few numbers just by being on that show, because I wanted to do something that all the dancers didn’t know. So that’s where I came up with the Jessie Polka Square.
BB: Oh, yeah.
R W: That’s the first time I did that. And I did a thing called Golden Slippers. Organized a little exhibition group called Golden Slippers back then. And I organized about three square dance bands. So I was real enthused about all types of square dancing, and had a ball just traveling. I traveled and called in 24 states. But I had a business at home that I was trying to run. So that kind of curled my traveling down a little bit. I also had a family. We had four daughters, four daughters in four years. So Mama was pretty busy with the daughters and she didn’t get to go with me on a whole lot of the trips, but she made quite a few trips with me and we traveled across the country and met lots of great folks. I guess the first convention I went to was the 3rd National in Dallas. Then I went to the one in Oklahoma City in 1954. I met Bill Hagadorn from Kirkwood Lodge and he hired me to work on his staff in Kirkwood and I started the next year at Kirkwood and worked there for 12 years. That’s where I met Flippo and a lot of the callers that I worked with there. Actually Flippo came there as a guest while I was a caller on the staff one year. We had a real good repertoire. We’ve known each other many years and really enjoy visiting together a lot. Up to this past about four years ago, I hadn’t been as active. I had some health problems and I’d slowed way down. About, well, I guess it’s been nearly six years ago, this group in Tyler wanted to organize an exhibition group. I said that was great. I really enjoy working with exhibition groups. So Jimmy Allred and his wife selected a group that they knew would be able to meet and devote the time to it. And we started about six years ago. We’ve been to three of the Nationals recently. This is our third one actually. But they’ve performed about sixty different square dance events in the past since they’ve been organized six years or five, something like that in six different states. We’ve traveled in six states and demonstrated the old-time dances. A lot of the old-time dances, you know, got dropped. And I’m partly responsible for that I suppose because I wanted to do new things. I was always creating something new. Actually, I contributed a few of the moves that are used in square dancing today. I was working with a group in Estes Park, Frankie Lane and T.J. Miller. I went by T.J.’s home and I said, “T. J., I’ve been thinking about a move that I think would be quick, fun, and be really a challenge.” I said, “You know how we do a California Twirl when you turn 180 degrees and face the other way.” I said, “If you were facing a girl and you did a California Twirl, similar to the California Twirl, except you stop facing each other and just turned a quarter of a turn”, I said, “I think that would be a challenge.” So, we worked this out in his living room, worked on it a little while and I called it Snapperoo. And Frankie Lane used it for a couple of years then in Des Moines at the National Convention Les Gotcher introduced it, same figure exactly, and called it Star Thru, So, we didn’t publicize it particularly, so, Star Thru became the name. But, I had been doing that for two years calling it Snapperoo, and it then came out as Star Thru. I also did Circulate, except, I didn’t call it Circulate; I called it Rotate. I did it way back in 1950. I had it on some syllabus stuff that I presented at Kirkwood Lodge back in the ’50s. It wasn’t in ’50 that I did it. It was about ’55, I guess. But anyway, I like all the new stuff. I’ve never gotten into the A and C and figured out which is A and which is C, and which is what. To me it’s all square dancing. But, if I want to do something, I teach it and do it, you know. But I like the way it’s progressed. You may have seen our exhibition and I call Cut a Shaw. You don’t hear Cut a Shaw called very much anymore.
BB: That’s true.
RW: Do you know where it came from?
BB: Not a bit.
RW: Doctor Shaw was doing a Do-si-do. Called it “Do-si-do”. And when they had the first convention in Riverside, California, Texas did a different kind. A lot of places did a Do-si-do with partner left and corner right. Well, Dr. Shaw saw that and he wanted to do that. So, he was at a dance in El Paso where Herb Greggerson and his group were there and Dr. Shaw and his group were there. And they called a Do-si-do and Dr. Shaw wanted to do it but he already had what he called a Do-ci-do, so he named it Do Paso. And that used to be Do-ci-do and now it’s Do Paso. So, Herb decided well, I’d like to use what Dr. Shaw is doing. And he had a little twist to it. It was still partner left, but first you spin the lady across and start with your corner right and then you partner left. We called that, at the time, Colorado Do-si-do.
BB: Colorado Do-si-do?
RW: Yeah, that was Colorado Do-si-do. So when it finally came down to the point that everybody was calling Do Paso, I decided we aught to call it Cut-A-Shaw. That was in reference to Dr. Shaw’s. Do a little Cut-A-Shaw. So, we do it Cut-A-Shaw. I have never heard anyone else call that in many, many years. I remember when Ricky Holden lived here in San Antonio many years ago he called the Cut-A-Shaw.
BB: Which is now the Do Paso.
RW: Which is now the Do Paso. No, it’s Dr. Shaw’s Colorado Do-si-do.
BB: The original, okay. Clear that up for myself as much as anything. Weren’t there other forms of Do-si-do like the mountain Do-si-do, and Texas Do-si-do.
RW: Well, there is, and we use Mountain Style Do-si-do. Yeah, Of course, they used to have a Do-sa-do and a Do-sigh-do. I’m kind of glad Callerlab came along and straightened a lot of those things out. Because it has helped our choreography across the country and people can dance anywhere a little easier. That’s been one of the good things about Callerlab that I’ve enjoyed. Because it was very confusing when you used to go one place and when you walk around your left hand lady, some placed the girl walked around behind the man, some places the man walked around behind the girl. Of course, we used to call it, “Sashay around the corner.” You don’t hear Sashay called very much anymore. That’s an old term that’s kind of been dropped. I think about a lot of the old terms. “Catch All Eight”, that’s another one that you hardly ever hear anymore.
BB: “Go Red Hot”
RW: “Go Red Hot”. They were all fun and people have enjoyed them and we just wanted to keep a few of the old ones in front of the dancers a little bit. That’s why Jimmy wanted to organize this Reflections. And he said, “Well, there may be another Reflections, seems to me like I’ve heard there’s another group called Reflections, so we’re going to call ours Red Warrick’s Reflections because it’s the things you remember. So that’s the reason they named the group after me.
BB: That’s wonderful.
RW: When we were in Colorado a couple of summers, we had the pleasure of working with Joe Lewis on our staff. There was Frankie Lane and T.J. Miller, and Joe Lewis, and myself. I’ll tell you, Joe was one of the greatest talents that I’ve ever worked with, entertainment wise, musician wise, and calling wise. Joe, back in the early days, soon after I had introduced Jessie Polka Square, he was sponsored by Neiman-Marcus to go to Australia to sell western wear. Cause, you know, everything was the western wear to go with the western dance. And he really spread the Jessie Polka Square around the country. He really internationalized it. And that particular call was recorded on I know at least seven different square dance labels.
BB: Is that right?
R W: Uh huh. One of them was in Australia. And the company over there sent me a couple of complimentary records which I appreciated very much. It was the Presto label.
BB: Still got ’em?
RW: No, they were the old 78s and I don’t know somewhere along the line I’ve lost them somewhere.
BB: Well, that’s too bad.
RW: Yeah, I’d like to still have them. But, I don’t have them any more.
BE: Well, you ought to tell us about his accordion.
RW: Oh, boy. I wish I knew enough to tell you about his accordion. You know, he developed what came to be this new instrument that’s so popular any more.
BB: They called it a Side Man originally
RW: Yeah. I don’t know what he did in that recording but he knew what he was doing. But I understand Wurlitzer bought the patent from him. Joe was an outstanding man.
BB: Just to explain. His keyboard sounded like an accordion but he also had it wired so that you had what sounded like a bass fiddle and also a guitar.
BB: So actually that one accordion it sounded like a three piece band.
RW: That’s right. And that’s where this new keyboard thing I guess developed from.
BB: Yes, and that became the Wurlitzer. Because we used to ask him, “How in the world did you ever do that?” and he says, “Actually, I’ve got two little men they’re standing there playing.”
RW: Yeah, he never would tell you too much about it. I really liked Joe. He was temperamental. I guess, I’ve heard all great musicians are temperamental.
BB: I never knew that.
RW: Yeah, he really was. Sometimes he’d say things that he’d ought to kept his mouth shut to a crowd when it was bugging him.
BB: How ’bout Gotcher?
RW: Les? I met Les a number of times. I never did work with him. But, we crossed paths many times. And he came into our area of course when he was calling quite a few times and I danced to him. He could really sling the hash. I’ll tell you what. If people want to know what hash calling was, that was the place to go.
BB: He was the king.
R W: He was the king.
BB: But actually you’re still using, I danced with you last night. And you’re still using the rhyming phrases, and what we used to call patter. And you’re still using it today. And I know Les used to do that.
RW: Yes. Well, I guess I just grew up with that. And I just never did get away from it.
BB: Well, we in New England never got into that. It was a very unique experience when we started running into western calling.
RW: Most of yours were just a prompt queue.
RW: Where we were trying to do a little sing-a-long, I’d guess you’d call it. Where there’s something that rhymed, a little rhythm, pattern rhythm.
BB: Yeah. Well, your friend, Herb Greggerson, was the one that brought western style square dancing to New England.
RW: Is that right?
BB: Yeah. Way back in the early ’50s.
RW: Well, I had the pleasure of calling the first big dance in New Orleans. And Herb Greggerson assisted me down there. I had been calling in New Orleans for a while. And they asked me about having some, they were going to have a big dance, an opening of some big deal down there. And I said, “Why don’t we get Herb Greggerson?” Well, there was one or two people who had met Herb and heard him. So they got him to come down and we did a dance together. I enjoyed that very much. We are going to disband after we make the Louisiana State Convention next March. A group of our exhibition group have RVs and they’ve already made plans and made reservations along the route to go to Alaska next June. And they plan to be gone for about six months. So we don’t know where it will go after that. You know when you get into a group of our age you’ve always got problems with health. As a matter of fact, we have four squares in our group. But we were only able to have two here at the convention, due to health. It’s kind of a battle. When you get people in the age group like we are. I’m in my 70s and most of them are in their 60s. The old body just gets parts that have to be repaired. So, we’re going to make the state convention in Lafayette, Louisiana next year for the Louisiana State Convention. And after that we’re going to retire for a while. I doubt that I’ll ever retire until they kick me out. I still have a club that I call for in Henderson, Texas called the Red’s Rompers. And we have a camping group that we do some calling for. In east Texas, right in my particular area, there are 32 clubs. And I call for those occasionally. They bring in different callers. I’m active, but not as active as I should be to be a good caller. Because it takes more practice than I get. But I still enjoy doing what I do. And the people still come and support me. So I guess as long as that goes on, I’ll stay with it. Okay.
BB: So, we’ve just concluded our discussion with Red Warrick. And it’s certainly been a very interesting history, so to speak. It tells us a little bit about the southwest. And we appreciate you taking the time, Red. Thank you very, very much.
RW: You’re very welcome, thank you.
BB: Now we came up with another story that we wanted everybody to remember. So, Red, tell us about Pappy Shaw.
RW: Okay, I would like to get this on there. Because it’s the only time I ever had an opportunity to visit with Pappy Shaw. We were in St. Louis at the convention. We went to an after party together one night, rode up the elevator. We were in the same hotel and visited a little and went on over to the after party. And I sat and visited with him quite some time. I had read his book on Cowboy Dances and really had enjoyed it. We visited about dancing in general across the country. And I got up to do my tip and when I came back and sat down by Dr. Shaw, he said, “Red, where’s the fire?” And, he didn’t have to say any more. I knew exactly what the message was. Because we had taken the old 120 beats a minute and revved ’em up to about 152. And dancing so fast that you couldn’t put the gracefulness to it. And I knew exactly what he was talking about. It made a big impression on me.
BB: Where’s the fire?
(end of interview)