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Square Dance Caller Takes The Stage (Briefly)...


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Did my first square dance calling with a real floor of dancers—we had five squares on the dance floor at City Hall tonight, most from out of town. It went okay, and a bunch of ‘em said they liked it (and some said they couldn’t believe this was my first time). Got compared to Willie Nelson (for which I thanked the complimenters profusely, but I’m no Willie Nelson—he can sing, and I can’t). The crowd got the two singing calls I have definitely mastered, “Gloom, Despair and Agony on Me†(the Hee-Haw theme) and “Valvoline†(which I wrote in 1980 and which became the Dodson Drifters’ first hit single). I’m not the first, or the only, square dance caller to use his own music in a square dance, but I am the only one I know who’s done it.

I may have managed to pull off what instructor Daryl was telling us student callers we should do with our “guest tips†at dances. Be interesting, he said. Be memorable, he said. Make them want to come to a dance you’re going to be at. I think I did those things. We’ll be having another square dance at City Hall in mid-August. Hopefully, all those visitors will come back.

(I also got to compare the dance flyers I’d done for our square dances with those from other clubs (there’s usually a table full of flyers at square dances). Mine are definitely more eye-catching. Haven’t lost my touch.)

Next step—more material. I probably have the Merle Haggard tune “Gone, Gone, Gone†down but I really would like to try it out on my guinea pigs before doing it in public. And I’m not sure what else I should work on next. I have three singing calls on the laptop from the old 45-rpm records I got, plus two more that I’d bought online (for seven bucks apiece) from Palomino, the square dance record company. I would—as noted previously—like to record some square dance music of my own, but first things first. I have already set myself quite a bit of studio work to do, and I don’t have that much time any more.

The foregoing ties into another “how to†article I ran across, this one advocating the idea of being different when you perform—whether it be in how you sing, what you sing, how you dress, and so forth—and claiming that was the key to success. I agree with the importance of being different; if you want people to remember you, you have to give them something to remember you by. Key to success? Not so much.

It is not enough to be memorable—one has to get out and maximize the opportunities to be memorable. That’s something I don’t do near enough myself. Becoming a household word (like toilet paper, say) has been one of the items on the Worklist for the past two years. On the plus side, the square dance calling schtick gives me an opportunity to be memorable to a whole ‘nother spectrum of people—who of course will get to know (1) that I’m a musician, (2) that I write country music, (3) that I play in a band and (4) that I have an album out, because they’ll ask and I will tell them. Another rule there: Never stop selling.

Saw “Doc†Wagner at the TAPA play Friday night, and he’s in for the Wheeler Summerfest, Garibaldi Days and Rocktoberfest gigs. Also saw Croix, who was the voice of Luke and Chewy in the last puppet show (he was being “backstage Ninja†for the TAPA play), and he’s in for the Jedi Pigs of Oz puppet show; just need to find time to practice now. Sent the Relay for Life chairman the bad news that the company that provided the sound system for free two years ago wants to charge this year (there’s been a lot of that going around). And I’ll get to practice marimba with the band (or most of them) for the first time in five weeks, right before I go to work for another five days straight.

Joe

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