How'd you get into calling?
First let me tell you about some of my family.
My little brother, Ted, used to work for Jerry Andel in his restaurant in Everett. When he worked there, he would sing with Jerry Andel and the Rough Riders on occasion on weekends. His signature song with them was “Somewhere over the Rainbow.” He was blessed with the tenor voice, I got the Baritone voice. Ted passed away in the summer of 2004 while fly fishing in Monroe, WA. He was only 38 with 4 kids and 1 grandchild he never had the chance to meet.
My mother, Margy Thomas square danced in the Renton/Seattle area for a number of years. She was struck with Colon cancer in 2000 and never danced again after her surgery in April of that year. But she was still involved in the activity. In the late 1990’s, I went to a couple of my mom’s dances with her and sat on the side of the floor laughing and saying, emphatically, “You will NEVER catch me doing that!”
Fast forward to the summer of 2005 – one-year after Ted died. I was pretty depressed and did not want to be around people at all. I know what you are thinking (if you know me now), you – didn’t want to be around people – yeah, right. Well, at the time, it was true. So, my wife, Tricia Marie, asked me (coax me) into going to Good ‘Ol Auburn Days. I decided I could be “around” people without being “with” people, so we went. When we got there, she grabbed a program and noticed that “Boots & Laces Square Dance Club” was doing an exhibition. She asked if that was my mom’s old dance club and I told her I thought it was. So, she talked me into going over and watching them. So we did.
As I was sitting there, minding my own business, this couple walked up with square dance attire on and one of them said, “Aren’t you Margy Thomas’ son?” I said, “Yes I am.” She immediately turned around and said (to several others there from the club), “Hey everybody, this is Margy’s son.” So much for trying to hide in the crowd! We quickly made several new friends because that’s the way square dancers are.
They proceeded to do there demonstration and as the Caller, Eddie Harry, was explaining this activity, I became more and more intrigued. Then he started the singing call – Somewhere over the Rainbow. There I was, sitting there watching my Mom’s Old Dance Group dancing to the one song that my Brother Ted used to sing. I pulled down my hat, pushed up my sunglasses and cried my eyes out.
I went up to Eddie afterwards and asked him if he could teach me how to do that. Keep in mind, I have been singing with various groups most of my life. He said, “We have lessons coming up in September.” I said, “No, I don’t want to learn how to dance, I want to learn to do what you were doing.” He said, “Yeah. We got lessons coming up in September.” To which I said, “No you don’t understand. I don’t want to dance, I want to do what you were doing.” To which he said, “No. You don’t understand. You have to learn to dance first.”
So in September, we started lessons. The first night, Tricia and I went to lessons and it was a blast. We got home and she said to me, “That is the first time I have seen you smile since Ted died.” I was hooked. We graduated in March and Eddie handed me two records and told me to learn them. On April 6th, 2007, I did my 1st singing call, Amarillo by Morning, at one of Eddie’s dances with Boots & Laces. I was so nervous, I couldn’t put the needle on the record myself. Thanks Eddie for giving me my start.
That summer, I went to Caller’s College with Daryl Clendenin, Jerry Junck and Doug Davis. I then came back the next year and did guest calls everywhere I could. I went to a dance with Wayne Easton at Juanita and after he put me up for a guest tip, he then invited me to come to his lessons with Wagon Wheels Square Dance Club. I began lessons with Wayne and have been with him ever since. The next season, Pi-R’s Square Dance Club asked me to teach their lessons for them and call a few dances. I began to do a few guest dances here and there and even got to call one in Hawaii while on vacation.
Last season, Pi-R’s asked me to become there full-time caller and I am now calling for them and traveling with them on caravans. It has been an interesting few years. And for someone who said he would never do this activity, I now spend between 4 and 5 nights a week doing it. I love the dancing, love the calling and just love the people that I do it with.
By the way, that couple I first met at Good ‘Ol Auburn Days, were my Mom’s best friends and have become some of my biggest fans of my calling.
Many thanks go out to Eddie Harry, Wayne Easton and Kevin Thomaier for your putting me up on your stage, believing in me and your patience. The Wagon Wheels for dancing to me when I wasn’t even sure what moves could go together. The Boots & Laces for doing the Demo and taking us under your wings and for letting Eddie put me up so many times. And to my Club, the Pi-R Squares for believing in me enough to give me a shot and supporting me through these past two years. I love you all and love to sing for you.