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Square Dance Calling, A Song--And A Movie?


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Following our square dance meeting tonight (which included a short practice dance with me as caller) and caller class last night, I was told I’m ready to perform at a real square dance, Friday Feb. 17. Guess I better be prepared.

I did get from instructor Daryl music for my preferred singing call, Woody Guthrie’s classic “Rubber Dolly.†Apparently, nobody’s ever used it in a square dance before, so there is no â€stock†choreography—I’ll have to invent my own. (I did get some suggestions.) I expect as I accumulate material, I’ll be concentrating on old bluegrass and country tunes—the same sort of stuff I perform (and write). And I still want to adapt—or write—and record some of my own, too.

Square dance callers’ equipment tends to fall into two types. There are the people who still use 45-rpm records, and there are those that use iPods. The 45s are still in use not because those guys are old (at least three of my caller classmates are way younger’n I am), but because that old equipment is both extremely expensive and extremely durable, and keeps getting passed on as callers die or retire.

My caller setup is different. Its “engine†is “Lazarus†the laptop computer, and it’s built out of audio stuff I mostly already had. I’m proud (as usual) that I managed to put it together for very little money. I do need to make sure I can plug “Lazarus†into other callers’ PA systems, for the times when I go to other clubs’ dances and get summoned up on stage as a “guest†caller; I believe Daryl’s got both types of setups (iPod and 45-rpm record player) in his basement practice room, and I’ll take Lazz to my next class to check.

For music, I can download stuff (there’s both a square dance callers’ record company and a bunch of firms that sell karaoke music), and I can convert to *.mp3 files stuff from old 45-rpm records that I absolutely have to have. I’m not there yet. Like Daryl said, I need to get real good at just a couple things first.

There is reportedly a filmmaker who is interested in one of my songs, “Dead Things in the Shower,†co-written with Bobbie Gallup (she’s the one who knows the filmmaker). Don’t know what to think about this—it’s never happened before, and I have no idea what the results might be. We’ll see what happens.

I might have the last verse done for the “one gas station†song. (It needs four verses in part because “Dr. Iced-T and the Lemon Tarts†is a 4-piece troupe, so I wanted one verse for each of ‘em.) To wrap up (and end on a positive note), the last verse talks about the acoustic music at the coffee shop every night when the power goes out. That was in fact how the Dodson Drifters got started, years ago: playing music down at the local restaurant, because the power went out every night in the winter. I can send the song to the Coventry songwriters group, since it mentions strings—and they wanted songs about strings this month.

That’ll be my experiment recording on the laptop, too, since the Tascam is having noise problems. To try it out on a live audience, I’ve got four opportunities: Thursday night (Wheeler), Friday night (Garibaldi), Sunday night (the Rapture Room), and the following Saturday (open mike at the Arts Center). I’m primarily satisfied that I’ve got it out of my head, and can go do something else.

Joe

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