He has been calling for more than 54 years. Rhythm Records has been issuing his recordings since the year 1975. Three years ago he called in Stockholm, but otherwise he hasn´t been to Europe in the past 15 years. From the 3rd to the 5th of May 2013, he will be calling our 22nd Star Majovka in Bratislava. His name is Wade Driver.
Why has it been so long since you were in Europe?
A number of reasons: 1) While calling in Mesa during the winter, I really did not have the time to get away 2) When I moved back to Texas, I lost my wife to a stroke and kind of lost my will to do much of anything 3) Once I started calling again, I really did not care for traveling abroad as much because the cost of travel was too high to make it profitable.
Are you looking forward to it?
Absolutely! My wife and I have never been to Vienna or Slovakia so we are very excited about the trip.
Will you use some new singing call recorded by Rhythm Records when you come to Bratislava? Or maybe something which hasn´t been released yet?
Probably. I will have just released three new tunes in April and will be using those for sure.
What are your future plans with Rhythm Records?
My intention is to continue making quality music for callers for as long as I am able and the product is still desired.
Do you decide in advance how many singing calls to record per year?
I record at least three new singing calls every three months. Sometimes it is four or five.
Where do you find inspiration for new compositions? Do you buy CDs, listen to the radio or surf YouTube?
Either on the radio in the car (satellite radio), in a restaurant, or suggestions from callers. Normally, only one out of ten will work for what we need.
You have produced over 300 records. Has it ever happened to you that, at the moment a singing call was finished, that you were dissatisfied with it and didn´t want to release it?
Yes! Yes! Yes! I would say that there are at least 6 to 8 completed tunes that I refused to release and destroyed the tape. Some things that sound like a good idea, are not always that. Many times, I will begin an arrangement on a song and then realize it just won't work.
How long does it take on average to create a new singing call record?
From inspiration to a complete arrangement, about 3-4 hours. Then I go to the studio and the time there will vary depending upon how quickly the musicians understand what I want. The recording is the easy part. Tune selection and arrangement are everything.
I know that you unfortunately lost some original recordings of your creations years ago and then you didn´t produce anything new for awhile. Now it is possible to acquire everything from Rhythm Records in MP3 format. How did you manage to ensure the sufficient quality of these recordings?
I took unused vinyl and reproduced the music digitally. The real time was about 1 - 2 hours per song. While I have the original mix, the songs can never be remixed due to deterioration of the tape.
What kind of technical equipment do you use, Hilton, Yak Stack, Electro-Voice?
I use a Hilton MA-150 or a Hilton AC 500 and one or more yaks, depending upon the size of the dance. While the output of the yak is not as high quality as some speakers, their output is best understood by the dancers.
By the way, I noticed that on Facebook you have a picture, where I can see callers signing their names on Yak Stacks, what was that all about? What kind of an event was it?
At the CALLERLAB convention in Nashville, Palomino donated a Yak Stak to be signed by the callers in attendance. The Yak was then auctioned off to the highest bidder and the money donated to the CALLERLAB Foundation. I believe $700.00 USD was raised.
Do contemporary callers in the USA generally prefer to use notebooks, MP3 players, Mini-Disc Players or records?
The overwhelming majority of callers today are using notebooks. Some are using their I phone or mp3 players but the storage is inadequate, no cue sheets, and no music control.
Do you feel nostalgic about the "good old days", when all callers used gramophones and vinyl records?
I did for a while but no more. The notebook just has too many advantages.
I categorize singing calls according to how often and how gladly I use them. In a folder named "TOP" I have the following tunes: Amarillo By Morning, City Of New Orleans, Country Roads, Dock Of The Bay, Mountain Music a Rhythm Of My Heart. These are compositions known to and liked by dancers in my clubs. Have you used any of these recently?
Within the past month I have called every one of those. No matter how old, good is always good.
Which singing calls available from Rhythm Records belong among your favorites?
Of course the newer ones are always favorites of the moment but of all we have done my favorites are: All Wrapped Up In You, Key Largo, Mountain Music, Country Fiddle Blues, Scotch and Soda, Suspicious Minds, and Best of My Love
On YouTube it is possible to find last year´s videos, on which, in addition to yourself, you can find Johnny Preston, Gary Shoemake, Marshall Flippo, Mike Sikorsky, Ken Bower and Tony Oxendine. Is there any caller, next to whom you would feel nervous on the podium?
Is calling in the USA different from calling in Europe?
Very! I find that dancers in non-English speaking countries normally dance better because their powers of concentration is better. Also, the average age of dancers in Europe and Asia is lower than in the States.
For 50 years you have been living the square dance life. In that period of time there have been many changes in the names of calls and their categorization into the various levels and so on. How did you feel about those changes? Do you see something like progress? Was it ever difficult for you as a caller to adjust to such changes?
In December it was 55 years since my first tip and my first singing call. The main changes since then are in the equipment we use and the places we dance. I danced for fifteen years before I was in an air conditioned hall. My first record was a 78 rpm and the equipment was a Newcomb 40 watt with one speaker and a monitor. Other than equipment and location, the main changes have been the addition of figures and increase in complexity of our choreography. Also, and most important, we now have multiple levels of ability and corresponding dance levels. I am not certain this a good thing. I like it when we all dance together and must rely on the capability of the caller to make it interesting and fun for all. My opinion is that callers sometimes use the additional figures as a "crutch" to lean on rather than really work at his or her craft. Just my opinion.
Can you still be surprised by anything after 55 years of calling?
I am surprised daily by things: either by my wife, my children, my grand children, my dancers, and by callers. Fortunately, most of the surprises are good ones.
What has been the theme of a workshop recently led by you?
I like to teach new figures as a means of having the dancers learn their basics. For example: I have been working and calling "cross roll to an ocean wave" as a tool to strengthen the use of "cross run" and "run" by my MS and Plus dancers. It is C1 basic but is fun and easy to teach quickly.
What figures do you teach to beginners during the first lesson of a course?
Circle left and dancing to the beat. I insist they complete one circle in exactly 16 beats. This teaches them how large a step to take and seems to have everyone moving at the same speed regardless of their size. I then teach the Allemandes and proper hand holds. Depending upon the quality of students, I sometime get thru "chains" the first night.
On your webpage several flyers for caller schools are posted. On one of them, "Understand what it takes to be a leader" appears as one of the topics in the program. What does the phrase "to be a leader" mean for you personally?
To me it means taking responsibility for your actions and thereby setting an example which others may follow. I am a big believer that, no matter what happens on my floor, it is my ultimate responsibility.
If you were standing face to face with a beginning caller, what would you begin to teach him first?
The importance of knowing how to dance followed by the insistence that they know where each figure begins, how it is done, and where it ends. "It is very easy to call hard. It is very hard to call easy". A new caller cannot lead if they do not know where they are going.
You have already led many calling courses. What do you most frequently try to help callers to improve?
There are many caller schools at which the emphasis is on choreography and resolution. Those things are necessary but a caller needs to learn how to sound good at the same time. Cadence, timing, flow, pitch, and presentation are not taught enough in my opinion. These are the things that I give most emphasis in working with a caller(s).
Now I would like to ask another question about recordings. You have been coordinating a "Clearing House," a list of compositions, which Record Labels the world over are planning to release, for more than two years now. How did that whole project get started? Is everyone who started doing this continuing to work on it?
The clearing house was my idea based upon a failed attempt at the same thing years ago. This time, with the assistance of email and lower profits, every producer, to my knowledge, is participating and we have not had a single duplication in two years.
You have been dancing since the year 1957. You must have heard many interesting "war stories" told by "old" dancers and callers. Tales nearly forgotten in this day and age. So that brings me to my final question: Can I get you to tell us a Texas Tall Tale or other amusing anecdote?
A couple of years ago, Marshall Flippo called me with a suggestion of a tune to record. I told him that I had not heard it and he said he would mail me the CD. A few days later, I received the package, opened it, and immediately called Flip. I received the package, I told him. He said, "how did you like the tune?". I said "It would have been easier to know if you had put the CD in the case instead of leaving it in your car". I got the CD later and Flip has since released "Muddy Water".
These questions were placed by: Jirka Ščobák, caller Karolína SDC Bratislava, Slovakia
Translation from Czech into English: Jessica Jayne Martin, Tarantela, Olomouc, Czech Republic.
Translation from English into German: Nicole Siebentritt & Dave Preskitt, Stuttgart, Germany.
Published in ECTA News - Issue 75
Wade Driver - Video