Marshall Flippo · My Thoughts · square dance

Flippo’s Last Dance: A Night to Remember!

Flippo's Lasr Dance
Flippo’s Last Dance

Recently we celebrated New Year’s Eve 2022, and I’m always taken back to one specific night, Flippo’s last dance at Green Valley, Arizona, on New Year’s Eve 2017.

Here’s an excerpt from Just Another Square Dance Caller: Authorized Biography of Marshall Flippo describing that memorable night:

Green Valley, Arizona—New Year’s Eve, December 31, 2017

At the end of November 2017, Jerry Junck asked me in a phone conversation if we were going to Flippo’s New Year’s Eve dance in Green Valley, Arizona. Lin and I weren’t sure.

He added, “I think Gary and I are going to drive down.” I had heard that this would be Flippo’s very last calling.

“That’s what he claims.”

I added, “It sounds to me like it might be the place to be on New Year’s Eve.” Flippo was asked four years earlier to sign a contract to do the Green Valley New Year’s Eve dance, and he refused a couple of times. Dean Capes, a member of the club, finally arrived with a contract in hand, so Flip couldn’t refuse any longer.

As Flippo signed it, he stated, “I doubt if I will be here in four years!” But he was, and what a wonderful celebration it was.

Ann Salwaechter, a dear friend, called him the Sunday afternoon of the big event to see how he was feeling.

Flippo told her, “I’m nervous with all these professional callers coming tonight.”

Ann exclaimed, “Flippo, you taught them all to call!”

When we arrived, Flippo met me at the door with a kiss, as usual. He always had a kiss for the ladies. He was greeting all the dancers as they came in and let me know about a man in attendance who wanted to talk to me about this book.

Numerous callers came from all over the USA, as well as many local callers. Larry Letson, a dear friend and caller from Indiana who had stopped calling, came in the door right after the announcements. It felt like a family reunion!

During the festive evening, the Green Valley square dance club gave Flippo a plaque thanking him for all his years of support.

Flippo receives a plaque from Kay Hill, Vice President, Green Valley Square and Round Dance Club, Flippo and Dean Capes, MC.
Flippo receives a plaque from Kay Hill, Vice President, Green Valley Square and Round Dance Club, Flippo and Dean Capes, MC.

Flippo called a memorable dance to faithful dancers and callers. Groups of callers gathered around the dance hall. Ken Bower, Gary Shoemake, and Wade Driver huddled together and shared a story (possibly a favorite Flippo), and belly laughs and deep laughter came from each of them.

Another time I saw Jerry Junck leaning up against a wall with eyes riveted on Flippo on stage. His expression stated everything—admiration and love for his mentor for decades, mixed with deep sadness. Often throughout the evening, the callers’ eyes were glued to Flippo on stage with admiring expressions. Their teacher was done.

During the evening, he announced this book from the stage and asked a question he’d wondered about often in our interviews, “Who would want to buy a book about me?” In no way did he ask this question in a solicitous manner—he could not imagine anyone wanted to read a book about him. The crowd roared!

Several people came up to me after his announcement, querying when it would be done, wanting a copy.

Patty Greene, then chairperson of CALLLERLAB, exclaimed, “How are you going to edit out the X-rated stuff?”

During the amazing night, Flippo handpicked his music. He sang, “Another Square Dance Caller.” He shared a heartfelt thank you to everyone in attendance and ended his final dance with the song, “I’m Leaving Here a Better Man.” I’m sure that’s how he felt that night!

Here’s the chorus to his last song with a profound message:

Still, I’m leavin’ here a better man

For knowin’ you this way

Things I couldn’t do before now I think I can

And I’m leavin’ here a better man

https://genius.com/Clint-black-a-better-man-lyrics

When Flippo stopped calling and the music ended, people gathered around him after the traditional big thank you circle. So many wanted to thank him personally with a final hug and kiss. Flippo and his fans lingered, exchanging stories. No one wanted the evening to end.

Kim Oxendine gives Flippo a hug with Gina and Tom Crisp waiting in line

Kim Oxendine gives Flippo a hug with Gina and Tom Crisp waiting in line

I’m sure that a sizable group of callers and friends took Flippo to a local drinking establishment to end the night with drinks, camaraderie, and stories to mark the end of an era in the square dance world.

To see the caller list of attendees for Flippo’s last night, see Appendix G.

Larada Horner-Miller, Just Another Square Dance Caller: Authorized Biography: Marshall Flippo, (2020): 326-329.

Callers from all over the United States in attendance to Flippo’s Last Dance.
Callers from all over the United States in attendance to Flippo’s Last Dance.

APPENDIX G – LIST OF CALLERS WHO ATTENDED FLIPPO’S LAST DANCE, DECEMBER 31, 2017

National Callers:

  • Ken and Dee Bower, Palm Desert, California
  • Bob Lottie & Dee Dee Dougherty-Lottie, Mesa/Casa Grande, Sun City, and Florence, Arizona
  • Wade and Healy Driver, Spring, Texas
  • Patty Greene, Monroe, North Carolina
  • Jerry Junck, Mesa, Arizona
  • Vic and Shauna Kaaria, Redlands, California
  • Larry Letson, Lafayette, Indiana
  • Tony and Kim Oxendine, Sumter, South Carolina
  • Mike and Lisa Seastrom, Thousand Oaks, California
  • Mike Sikorsky, Apache Junction, Arizona
  • Gary Shoemake, Sevierville, Tennessee

Local Callers:

  • Glenn Condit, Tucson
  • Tom and Gina Crisp, Sonoran Stables, Tucson
  • Rick Gittelman and Patty, Tucson
  • Don Haney and Sandy, Voyager RV Resort, Tucson
  • Wendy Krueger, British Columbia, Canada
  • Juanita Portz, Sierra Vista
  • Janet Shannon, Tempe
  • Mike Smithers, Sierra Vista
  • Harue and Bryan Swift, Sierra Vista
  • Bill Reinders, Green Valley

Larada Horner-Miller, Just Another Square Dance Caller: Authorized Biography: Marshall Flippo, (2020): 515.

I hold on to this memorable night as a once-in-a-lifetime experience! What an emotional New Year’s Eve that was—tears and laughter overflowed! Flippo’s last dance was a historical night in square dancing with the ending of a legend. I felt privileged to be there to witness Flippo’s last dance. Were you there? If so, how did you feel?


~Buy a copy of Flippo’s biography on my website: https://www.laradasbooks.com or at Amazon.

~Here’s Christmas greetings from Flippo & Neeca, featuring his song, “When Its Christmas Time in Texas”: https://youtu.be/mpJCUGffU3A

Coronavirus Reflections: Bitter or Better? meme - Flippo's last dance

~Visit my website to find out about my new book, Coronavirus Reflections: Bitter or Better? and my other five books and three cookbooks: https://laradasbooks.com

Christmas · Dancing · Marshall Flippo · My Thoughts · square dance

Christmas Celebration Flippo-Style!

Marshall Flippo - Christmas Celebration

For his Christmas celebration, Marshall Flippo came home to Abilene, Texas, for one or two weeks each year to be with his family after a busy travel and calling schedule. In fact, Flippo sandwiched Christmas in between his tours. He went north and then east, south, west and then home for Christmas. After Christmas, he headed north again and then west.

Heading Home for His Christmas Celebration

Annually, Flip called in Memphis, Tennessee, before Christmas for their holiday dance. After that dance,

Flippo headed west toward home and the holidays, calling in Dallas. “It’s 180 miles down to Abilene, so I went home, spent Christmas. I was calling basically every night. I was usually home around one or two weeks. Then after Christmas back to tour again.”

Larada Horner-Miller, Just Another Square Dance Caller: Authorized Biography of Marshall Flippo, (2020): 182.

Flippo’s Christmas Celebration in Sets in Order

Flippo enjoyed notoriety in Bob Osgood’s December issue of Sets in Order. Each year in the December issue, Bob went above and beyond by featuring many callers with a greeting in the footer on many pages. Dancers searched the holiday magazine to see a seasonal greeting from their favorite caller and spouse. This idea personalized that magazine.

From 1964 to 1985, Bob had a greeting from Flippo each year. He repeated other callers throughout the years, but Flippo was the constant for twenty-one years! See Flippo & Neeca’s holiday greetings and listen to Flippo’s Texas holiday song, “When Its Christmas Time in Texas”: https://buff.ly/2VhFtKk

Neeca’s Special Christmas Present

Neeca created a scrapbook for Flippo as a Christmas present one year, filling it with articles, pictures and memorabilia about his calling career. Afterwards, because of his amazing success as a caller, she filled two more. He cherished those scrapbooks, and they became the source of much of the information for his biography.

Finally,

Flippo cherished his time with Neeca and his son, John, so he prioritized his schedule so he was at home in Abilene every year to celebrate with their families there. Before and after Christmas, he traveled, but he wanted to be home for the holiday.  

What does your Christmas celebration look like? Do you prioritize your schedule to be home for Christmas?


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Visit my website to find out about my new book, Coronavirus Reflections: Bitter or Better? and my other five books and three cookbooks: https://laradasbooks.com

EXCITING NEWS HERE!

Marshall Flippo · My Books · My Thoughts · Patriotism · square dance

My Fifth Book: Flippo’s Veteran Story & More!

A young Marshall Flippo, the Sailor - fith book
Young Marshall Flippo, the Sailor

My fifth book was a book project that fell into my lap! How à propos—today being Veteran’s Day, and writing about Marshall Flippo’s biography who served in World War II.

How My Fifth Book Started

Marshall Flippo, an icon in the square dance world, was nearing ninety years old. In March 2017, a group of square dancers were sitting around after a dance weekend and Flippo’s name and age came up. One enthusiastic fan said, “Someone should write his biography.”

My husband, Lin, looked at me and said, “You’re the writer in the group. What do you think?” Nothing more was said, but the thought tumbled around in my mind. We prayerfully considered the possibility, and I decided to run it by Flippo.

In April, I called Flippo and proposed the project to him, and his swift response showed his quick wit. “Larada, no one would want to buy a book about me. But I do have a book you should write: a collection of stories of all the thangs that happen to traveling callers over the years. Wait a minute—that would be R-rated.” Another Flippoism!

At that point, he gave me no definite answer.

At the New Mexico Square Dance Festival, in May in Albuquerque, Marshall fulfilled his last calling contract in New Mexico because he was retiring. Early Friday night, while a group stood around him before the dance, Flippo brought up the topic.

“Larada wants to write a book about me.”

He continued with a humble air, “Who would want to buy that book?”

“I would,” said a longtime friend and caller, Greg Tillery.

“Me, too,” replied Jim Martel, another local caller.

“Put me on the list—I want a copy!” Ted Clements, a caller from southern New Mexico, chimed in. The chorus continued and everyone standing there raised their hands. Flippo turned to me and said, “Come over to my hotel room about 1:30 a.m. and we’ll talk about it.” The group laughed at his flirtatious nature, but he agreed to do it that weekend.

Later that year, I planned a trip to Tucson, Arizona, in October for the Women Writing the West conference. Lin and I met Flippo at the Texas Roadhouse there for dinner on Friday, October 27, 2017, to start our research. We planned to meet on Wednesday, October 25, but the Houston Astros were playing the Los Angeles Dodgers in the World Series. Flippo, an avid fan, wanted to watch the game, so we changed nights.

When we met, he immediately started with a saucy story. “Mama said, ‘If you play with it, it will fall off.’ Ninety years later, it still hasn’t.” I had to grab my notepad and start taking notes.

The waitress hadn’t taken our orders, and Lin started the questions. Flip immediately jumped into relaying his life with the exact addresses of the multiple homes he lived in Abilene, Texas, as a child. In fact, he had trouble with only one address. I still wonder why he forgot that specific address. But he had also picked a restaurant that had TVs 360 degrees around us, and he watched the World Series out of the corner of his eye.

After dinner, we moved from the restaurant to his home to finish the first interview. We muted the TV, and he watched the game over my head as he talked. One minute he’d be sharing his life stories, the next he’d catch me off guard with a comment on a batter, “Knock the hell out of it.” He amazed me how he could be telling a Navy story about a destroyer tender he was on, then comment on what a player on TV should have done. We took brief breaks when the game took its twists and turns. During one break, he lamented, “I can’t get my mind going again.” Lin and I both assured him that his memory was exceptional.

Within that short evening, he covered many of the major topics of his life: his childhood and family, his Navy experiences during World War II and afterwards, and he ended the night with how he met Neeca, his first wife. With the flair of a master storyteller, Flippo gestured his hands like when an umpire signals the runner is safe and said, “Let’s leave it.” We watched the rest of the baseball game together.

He sent me home with seven photo albums busting at the seams with memorabilia, precious stories, and the assurance that we had embarked on an adventure.

During the next year, we spent many hours together talking over the phone, and we had one more face-to-face opportunity to compile this document. As you can imagine, it was a delightful, fun adventure.

Flippo’s Naval Career

Flippo referenced his naval service several times during our interviews. As a patriotic seventeen-year-old lad from west Texas, his life changed forever the moment he volunteered. Because the war ended soon after he enlisted, his service time took a unique twist—he played baseball for DesPac. Destroyers of the Pacific baseball team took two guys off of all the destroyers who had baseball teams and formed a team. This tells me he was an exceptional baseball player.

So, you can see where his interest in the World Series came that night we talked in Tucson.

Flippo led a large life, calling square dances all over the United States and the world. I Said “Yes!” to the project of a lifetime I will never forget. Grab the book—hardback, paperback and/or one of the popular e-book formats—to see the full extent of his amazing life.

Just Another Square Dance Caller: Authorized Biography of Marshall Flippo - fifth book

How about writing a biography, autobiography or memoir? What family stories need to be told? Leave your comments below. I’d be interested in your thoughts!

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Visit my website to find out about my new book, Coronavirus Reflections: Bitter or Better? and my other five books and three cookbooks: https://laradasbooks.com

Book Production · Books · Marshall Flippo · My Thoughts

Interviews—Do Them Successfully!

Women talking on the phone - interviews

“Interview someone.” Yesterday’s assignment for this challenge reminded me of an amazing series of interviews I did. I orchestrated forty hours of interviews from 2017 to 2018 for my fourth book and learned so much. In 2017, a writing project fell into my lap, the biography of the most famous square dance caller in the world, Marshall Flippo. He lived in Tucson, Arizona; I live close to Albuquerque, New Mexico. We did a face-to-face interview to start with in October 2017 in Tucson, then one more in March 2018. So, most of those interviews we did over the phone.

Larada & Marshall Flippo
Larada & Marshal Flippo

My Suggestions for successful interviews

  1. Be in a quiet space for the recordings. The second face-to-face interview we did in a restaurant with lots of background noise. Even though I did mosts interviews at home, several had interior background noise from my cat and my husband, but it was mostly undisturbed.
  2. Set a specific time and length of time. Think of the age of the talker and set the length accordingly. Flippo was 90 years old, so we did an hour each week.
  3. Have specific goals and questions prepared ahead of time, but let the person go where he wants. A friend warned me that Flippo might hijack the interview, and he did. But I wouldn’t have gotten those extra captivating stories.
  4. Record the interviews and back up regularly to multiple places. To record, I used an iPad app, VoiceRecorder, and left a copy on my iPad. Then I uploaded the file immediately after the interview to DropBox, an online storage space. I regularly made a backup of that folder on DropBox.
  5. Number and date each recording for later reference.
  6. Take handwritten notes. I filled four steno-pads and numbered the notebooks and dated them, following the numbering system of the recordings. I also noted each time where I was when recording.
  7. Ask questions about spelling and specifics immediately–don’t wait. Flippo passed away before I could get answers to all my questions, so I had to ask his son and ex-wife.
  8. Don’t stop the talker from sharing a memory multiple times because Flippo went deeper and added details each time he recalled it. The meat of the stories and memories is in the details. So when I wrote the book, I laced the details from the multiple renditions together.
  9. Listen to what the talker is saying and not saying. When asked, Flippo avoided his first divorce at first, and I knew this was a key part of his life and painful. When the time was right, his sharing was heartfelt and authentic.
  10. Limit your responses because the focus is on the person interviewed. After transcribing these interviews, I realized I laughed uproariously at Flippo’s stories, and my laughter blocked out his comments that followed. My laughter made some parts difficult to transcribe.
  11. Use a visual aid to stimulate memories, stories, and ideas. Flippo’s ex-wife, Neeca, put together three photo albums/scrapbooks of his calling career during their marriage, and we went through them page by page. He physically had the scrapbooks, and I had a digital copy. They sparked so many stories I don’t think I would have gotten otherwise; he had so many.
  12. Don’t comment–you may have an opinion about what is being said, but refrain from commenting. Your opinion doesn’t matter.
  13. After transcribing interviews, ask questions you have from unclear recordings or information you don’t understand. Flippo died before we finished, so I didn’t have the luxury of asking him. Again, his son and ex-wife helped me out tremendously.

Finally, I know that my advice about interviews is for a biography with multiple interviews. The meat of these suggestions still applies. Enjoy the experience and savor the time someone shared with you—it’s a privilege!

What advice would you give for having a successful interview? Add your comments below.

Coronavirus Reflections: Bitter or Better?

Visit my website to find out about my new book, Coronavirus Reflections: Bitter or Better? and my other five books and three cookbooks: https://laradasbooks.com

Book Promotion · Books · Marshall Flippo · My Thoughts

SWAG Strategies for Book Promotions

Money & books

I’m sure you’ve heard the term SWAG and loosely know what it means—cool stuff given away for free to promote something. People love free stuff, and it’s a great way to advertise your books and reward your current readers or future readers. So, SWAG works well with book promotions, but it must relate to your book somehow: the cover, characters in the book or the setting.

Here’s where the term SWAG originated:

The freebie swag, sometimes also spelled schwag, dates back to the 1960s and was used to describe promotional items. 

https://www.merriam-webster.com/words-at-play/what-does-swag-mean

When I first started my book business in 2014, I started with bookmarks for SWAG.

Bookmarks

A key SWAG item for authors is a bookmark, so I have created bookmarks for each book and given them away for free anywhere I can. I also include all of my bookmarks in any book order. I order them from overnightprints.com and have been happy with everyone. Most are two-sided which you pay extra for, but the newest one is only one-sided.

In 2020, I released the biography of the most famous square dance caller in the world, Marshall Flippo. I created a book pre-order system and had a monthly drawing for SWAG—items I purchased with his picture on them. Now that sounds expensive, but it wasn’t.

Inexpensive SWAG Sources:

I used two online photo companies:

I have bought from each of these fantastic companies regularly for several years, so the SWAG for Flippo’s book promotions cost me nothing but the shipping. Weekly I get advertisement from them, and often they offered several items for free—my cost, the shipping. So, I waited until one company offered the suitable items for free and ordered them. I stockpiled several for the Zoom Launch Party and gave them as door prizes.

Look at a sampling of some I bought:

SWAG Samples
Samples

I also made book bags, spiral notebooks, and coffee mugs. The most popular were the deck of cards and the coasters. In reality, the choices are limitless. If you do not receive emails from these companies, sign up for one or the other (or both if you create photo gifts). You’ll probably need to buy something to receive the emails with the free promotions.

Ultimately, the recipient of the SWAG connects it to your book and might encourage a sale or two. That’s its main purpose: advertisement for your book.

What do you do for SWAG? Share your ideas in the Comment section below.

Visit my website to find out about my new book, Coronavirus Reflections: Bitter or Better? and my other five books and three cookbooks: https://laradasbooks.com

Marshall Flippo · My Thoughts · square dance · Travel

Marshall Flippo, an International Sensation!

Flippo, Neeca and Prince Mikasa. International
Flippo, Neeca and Prince Mikasa of Japan

An international sensation—a shy Texas square dance caller? How did it happen? Flippo called in Japan, Germany, England, Spain, Morocco, and Majorca. He joined callers on several cruises. How did this unfold?

First, his popularity at Kirkwood Lodge for forty-two years influenced this part of his successful career, as it did so many areas. Dancers came to this dance haven from all over the world, then requested he visit their home country.

Love Affair with Japan

After World War II, Flippo made two trips to Japan as occupational forces. He related, “I kind of had a love affair with Japan. When I started going over thar as a caller, I had stood over a year down at Yokosuka after the war, and they treated you like their kinfolk. I mean, they just treated you so good, it was unbelievable.”  

Larada Horner-Miller, Just Another Square Dance Caller: Authorized Biography of Marshall Flippo, (2020): 235.

When asked how many times he traveled to Japan as a caller, he couldn’t remember. Matt Asanuma, a Japanese caller, first booked Flippo in Japan in 1983, and he told me his favorite story a couple times from that trip:

Matt announced to Flip the Prince would be there in about thirty minutes, and the Prince only knew about twenty Basics. “The Prince is NOT going to break down. Do not let him falter. You stay within those twenty Basics.”

Matt added, “We’ll all dance what he wants. He won’t stay but about twenty minutes. Call a tip, and he’ll probably be out of there, but don’t call anything so damn hard that he can’t do it.”

And his wife at that time could not be seen in public. Flippo didn’t know why, but it’s changed since then. “I ’member that afternoon almost like it was today. I called to them, and he came in.”

Matt stressed to Flippo, “Don’t call anything that he can’t do. We’ll put him in our best square, and he will NOT BREAK DOWN. He’ll probably be here only one tip.”

Well, he stayed two hours, and all these really, really good dancers just smiled about it. They didn’t mind. “Boy, they just danced along with twenty Basics for two damn hours. And they came after he left and said, ‘We’re sorry about that.’”

Flippo answered, “Well, I betcha you are, too.”“Oh, no, no, no. We had fun. We had fun. We like to dance.”Flip and Matt both thought the Prince would leave earlier, but Matt said, “He is having a good time.” Well, he stayed two hours, and all these really, really good dancers just smiled about it. They didn’t mind. “Boy, they just danced along with twenty Basics for two damn hours. And they came after he left and said, ‘We’re sorry about that.’” Flippo answered, “Well, I betcha you are, too.”“Oh, no, no, no. We had fun. We had fun. We like to dance.”Flip and Matt both thought the Prince would leave earlier, but Matt said, “He is having a good time.”

Larada Horner-Miller, Just Another Square Dance Caller: Authorized Biography of Marshall Flippo, (2020): 236.
Calling schedule in Japan - International

Flip shared a copy of the calling schedule for that memorable first trip, and the only time he wasn’t calling was when they were eating lunch or supper. Ten hours of calling for two days! Flippo said, “I should have been quintuplets!”

Japanese officials asked if Flippo had ever been to Japan before, but he avoided their question because he didn’t want to bring up his presence their after the war.

Flippo opened the door to Japan for many other callers by recommending callers like Gary Shoemake.

Flippo returned a couple times with the Chaparral Record Label “boys,” Gary Shoemake, Ken Bower, and Jerry Haag, but he couldn’t remember if Beryl Main ever went with them before he died. Gary said Beryl had already died before they traveled to Japan.


Larada Horner-Miller, Just Another Square Dance Caller: Authorized Biography of Marshall Flippo, (2020): 244.

In his biography, he shared hilarious international stories about his Japanese trips with “The Boys.”

The Love Affair was Mutual

In 1994 Martha Ogasawara wrote in an article, “Out of the American callers popular then, Marshall Flippo probably had the most influence on Japanese callers. Everyone slavishly imitated his style of calling, and to this day, many older callers call with a Japanese/Texan accent.”

The Japanese people loved Flippo. I connected with one of Flippo’s friends, a Japanese caller named Masaharu Hiraga, for information and mementos from Flippo’s times in Japan. He was incredibly helpful, contacting several people who knew Flippo throughout Japan and sending me their photos and stories of Flippo.


Larada Horner-Miller, Just Another Square Dance Caller: Authorized Biography of Marshall Flippo, (2020): 245.

Germany

Flippo enjoyed another international destination—Germany.

Flippo traveled three times to Germany with Tom and Gina Crisp as one of the calling staff. Once when he was still married to his second wife and two by himself.

Tom Crisp clarified Flippo’s trips to Germany. “We took Flip three times to Germany, first in 2002. We were scheduled for 2001 but had to cancel because of 9/11. He went again in 2007 with Jerry Haag, Ken Bower, and Gary Shoemake. We took them all again the next year in 2008. All three were sell-outs.”


Larada Horner-Miller, Just Another Square Dance Caller: Authorized Biography of Marshall Flippo, (2020): 247.

Spain, Morocco & Majorca

Continuing his international travels, Flippo and his first wife, Necca, went to Spain, Morocco, and Majorca with Bob and Nita Page for an eight-day trip. They started in Madrid, and he shared another hilarious story with Whitey Puerling, a dear square dance friend, and an trying to find an Easter parade you have to read (page 248 & 249 in his biography.)

England

Flippo added England to his list of international targets.

Flippo and his second wife went to England with Dave Taylor [another square dance caller], flying into London. They rented a car, and he remembered Dave asking, “Have you driven over here?”

“No.”

Dave stated, “I drove over here for about a mile.”


Larada Horner-Miller, Just Another Square Dance Caller: Authorized Biography of Marshall Flippo, (2020): 249.

What a time they had with the driving and a fantastic dance experience.

One That Got Away—New Zealand

Flippo received a written invitation in 1989 to go to New Zealand from the Prime Minister to celebrate the anniversary year in 1990. Flippo finished up his discussion about his international travels with, “And let’s see. I never did get to go to New Zealand. I guess I was asked a couple of times, and it always . . . Thar was somethang holding me back—somethang.”

Larada Horner-Miller, Just Another Square Dance Caller: Authorized Biography of Marshall Flippo, (2020): 250.

Cruises

Flippo went on several international cruises but didn’t know the exact number or destinations. He cruised with “The Boys” from Chaparral Recording Label: Ken Bower, Scott Smith, Jerry Haag, and Gary Shoemake. Flippo also joined these callers on cruises: Jerry Story, Tony Oxendine, Larry Letson, Tim Marriner, Randy Dougherty, Wade Driver and Mike Seastrom. He loved any time he could be calling and traveling with his caller friends.

Finally

In all his travel stories, Flippo related fun-loving tales. He never lamented the long hours of travel or the calling time there. He celebrated the fun, his friends, the different cultures and the people.

So, throughout his career, his popularity soared both nationally and internationally! Flippo reunited each year at CALLERLAB with his international caller friends, especially his Japanese friends. He loved his international connections.

Hopefully, these travel stories have whetted your appetite to read about this sensational caller, Marshall Flippo. You will find the travel stories and more in his biography, Just Another Square Dance Caller: Authorized Biography of Marshall Flippo.

Did you ever travel with Flippo? If so, share your stories with us! (Scroll down below to the Comment section.)


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~Here’s Christmas greetings from Flippo & Neeca, featuring his song, “When Its Christmas Time in Texas”: https://youtu.be/mpJCUGffU3A

ALL FOUR E-BOOK FORMATS OF FLIPPO’S BIOGRAPHY AVAILABLE NOW:

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Marshall Flippo · My Thoughts · square dance

CALLERLAB—How Did Flippo Take Part?

Flippo & Neeca at a CALLERLAB banquet
Flippo & Neeca at a CALLERLAB banquet

CALLERLAB came to life because the future of square dancing looked bright! All over the United States this dance craze exploded during the 50s and 60s. But with no organization in place, dancers faced mayhem if they traveled just fifty miles away from home because there was no standardization of calls. So, at home one call meant one thing; over there, something totally different.

Bob Osgood, being a futuristic thinker, caller and the editor a popular national square dance magazine, saw a gigantic need and provided an answer. Producing his square dance magazine provided him contact with callers from all over the United States, and this same problem kept cropping up.

Something of this magnitude took time. Organizational meeting started in 1964, and Bob used his magazine, Sets in Order, to report the progress of his group to the dance community. After organizing, they realized they had other issues to address in this group besides the standardization of calls.

In 1974, the first CALLERLAB convention occurred, with ten callers working with Bob to form this new organization, the international association of square dance callers. “Marshall Flippo was one of the eleven founding members of CALLERLAB.” They meet annually with banquets, training, calling and conversations.

Eleven Founding Fathers of CALLERLAB
Eleven Founding Fathers of CALLERLAB

The founding fathers were Bob Page, Marshall Flippo, Ed Gilmore, Lee Helsel, Arnie Kronenberger, Bruce Johnson, Joe Lewis, Bob Van Antwerp, Dave Taylor, Frank Lane, and Bob Osgood.

Flippo had a close association with Bob Osgood because he had worked with him at Flip’s favorite festival at Asilomar, California, and several of these callers worked there, too. Interestingly, Flippo had close relationships his whole calling career with all the founding fathers. He told hilarious stories about many of them and wanted them included in his biography.

Flippo’s Thoughts About CALLERLAB

When I interviewed Flippo for his biography, Just Another Square Dance Caller, he labored over his responses to my questions about this group he loved.

Flippo wondered about CALLERLAB, “See, we were getting great, huge, humungous classes at that time. I wonder if CALLERLAB hurt it, or did it? I believe it might have. It could have made the longevity longer, you know. Anyway, I thank, but it might have hurt it in a way like I go into a town and the guy following me, he called the same type of dance. So now you went in, at that time, you went in as a person, but now you go in as ‘He’s a Mainstream caller or Plus caller or, at best, caller.’ They still used your name, but it’s just incidental.”

Larada Horner-Miller, “Just Another Square Dance Caller: Authorized Biography of Marshall Flippo,” (2020): 223.

As he processed his feelings, he recalled specifics, yet still wavered about CALLERLAB’s influence on the activity he loved.

Flippo was on the Board of Governors for ten years, “but I got off it and decided I’d never get back on it. I had enough. I wasn’t much of a leader, Larada. I was just in thar, and I’d be real quiet. Sometimes I wouldn’t say anythang the whole meeting.” Flippo never envisioned himself as a leader—he helped get this organization off the ground and running but didn’t want to participate in the governing anymore; however, he was a regular attendee right up until the 2018 CALLERLAB Convention, the year he died.

Larada Horner-Miller, “Just Another Square Dance Caller: Authorized Biography of Marshall Flippo,” (2020): 222.

How Did CALLERLAB Standardize Square Dance Calls?

CALLERLAB’S standardization divided the square dance calls into separate lists at five different levels, with each level becoming more difficult. It started with Basic and then Mainstream. Originally, they had Plus1 and Plus2 but consolidated into Plus. Then they had A1 and A2 with the A standing for Advanced. The last level was Challenge divided into five levels. Today we still dance and teach these levels.

This topic was hard for Flip. “Geez, this is tedious.” So, when the list came out and everybody was teaching the same things, it became easier for a caller to go some place and they say, “Now we want Mainstream.” Then he knew they could probably dance Mainstream pretty well.

Pretty soon they were hiring callers for the level they could call, and a lot of the festival were all Mainstream, and then Plus got in there and most of them now are Plus. “So, damn, I can’t say it the way I want to say it.”

But once the list came out, it seemed all the callers began to call the exact same things. “Basically, if you hired one caller, the next caller you hired would call basically what the other caller called. Do you see what I mean? Before . . . it seems like they hired callers for their name and how they called . . . so pretty soon, they were hiring them for their level instead of for their name.”

After the lists came out, Flippo remembered that he was to call over in Lubbock, Texas. “Man, I knew those guys over thar were good dancers, so I made up a whole dance of stuff that I wanted to call. Well, when I got over thar, I started calling. Well, I thought they could do what I had written down, but every time I’d try somethang, it would go under. I knew the first tip that they weren’t going to be able to dance what I had written down and what I thought they could dance, so I had to kind of fall back on really what I thought they could do. It was tedious for a caller in a way to go somewhere without the list.”

Larada Horner-Miller, “Just Another Square Dance Caller: Authorized Biography of Marshall Flippo,” (2020): 227-228.

Finally, to end our discussion

Flippo’s statement, “We took ten lessons, and we were square dancers” demonstrated the evolution in square dancing. Today’s weekly lessons average four and a half months—a far cry from ten weeks.

He responded, “Yeah, that’s about all you had to do. You know, Betty [Casey, one of his mentors] taught four or five classes a year because if you just did ten lessons, you had two and a half months. She could teach another class, and that’s what I did when I first started calling. I’d teach a class, and two weeks later, I would start a new class. So that way, I thank, we got too uppity, uppity or somethang.”

Looking back, CALLERLAB came up in fourteen interviews with Flippo, a topic he loved to talk about yet wrestled with often. No matter what, he loved it!

Larada Horner-Miller, “Just Another Square Dance Caller: Authorized Biography of Marshall Flippo,” (2020): 229.

CALLERLAB Today

CALLERLAB continues to be a major influence on square dancing and has endorsed a new program, “Social Square Dancing” which can be taught in twelve weeks. Interesting how similar its length is to Flippo’s original experience of lessons so many years ago. The pandemic has affected our activity, so hopefully this new mindset will provide a movement that makes Flippo’s word come true, “I thank it’s going to survive it.”

For more information about CALLERLAB, visit their website: https://www.callerlab.org

Did you know about CALLERLAB before this blog? For more information about square dance history, here are two other books to look at:


Recent Blog Posts You Might Have Missed:

Coronavirus Reflections: Bitter or Better? CALLERLAB

My new book, Coronavirus Reflections: Bitter or Better?, is now available:

Join me at my Zoom Launch Party for my new book, Coronavirus Reflections: Bitter or Better? on September 22, 2021 at 7:00 pm. Go to my Facebook Event to RSVP, and I will send you the meeting info: https://www.facebook.com/events/596181948062057

Add Flippo’s Biography to Your Library!

~HAVE YOU ORDERED YOUR AUTOGRAPHED COPY OF THE FLIPPO BIOGRAPHY? Go to the homepage on my website & pay for it there: https://www.laradasbooks.com

~Here’s Christmas greetings from Flippo & Neeca, featuring his song, “When Its Christmas Time in Texas”: https://youtu.be/mpJCUGffU3A

ALL FOUR E-BOOK FORMATS OF FLIPPO’S BIOGRAPHY AVAILABLE NOW:

~Stop by my website for all the information you need about me & my books: https://www.laradasbooks.com

~Drop by my Amazon Author’s Page: https://www.amazon.com/~/e/B00LLQTXSM

~VISIT MARY ZALMANEK, A FRIEND’S BLOG: Cooking in a One-Butt Kitchen | Eating Well in Small Spaces: https://cookinginaonebuttkitchen.com/

Marshall Flippo · My Thoughts · square dance

Did You Dance at Kirkwood with Flippo?

Kirkwood Lodge
Kirkwood Lodge

Kirkwood Lodge and Flippo became synonymous to square and round dancers for many decades. Kirkwood Lodge, in the Ozarks at Osage Beach, Missouri, played a gigantic role in Flippo’s success as a caller. How did this love affair start? Again, Flippo would say, “I was at the right place at the right time.”

Kirkwood played such a key role in Flip’s life, I dedicated three chapters in Just Another Square Dance Caller: Authorized Biography of Marshall Flippo:

  • Chapter 9 – Kirkwood Lodge
  • Chapter 10 – The Pride of Flippo’s Life, John
  • Chapter 11 – Life at Kirkwood & More.

Also, in the Members Only section of my website, I have four additional items I couldn’t include in his already sizeable biography:

  1. Origin of the Kirkwood name
  2. Flippo’s Stories About Kirkwood Employees
  3. Picture of Kirkwood Employees
  4. Picture of Kirkwood Employees

I never danced at Kirkwood Lodge, but I know many people who did. For many, the memorable experience focused on Flippo and the fun he brought to their vacation experience. Flip entertained the dancers with hilarious after party skits and routines. He wowed them with his calling and the guest callers and cuers he hired there. And finally, if you were lucky, he taught you how to water ski, one of his many athletic skills he seldom bragged about.

HOW FLIPPO ENDED UP AT KIRKWOOD LODGE

During our interviews, Flippo returned to the topic of Kirkwood Lodge and Bill Hagadorn often. Kirkwood Lodge and Flippo’s subsequent yearly tours shaped his life and calling career. For forty-two years, he called at Kirkwood, a vacation spot in the Lake of the Ozarks at Osage Beach, Missouri, then for six months, he traveled on the road with dance engagements booked from dancers he met at Kirkwood. Bill Hagadorn, the owner, hired him. As we talked one day, Flip requested, “Now we got to have a whole damn section about Kirkwood Lodge.”


Larada Horner-Miller, Just Another Square Dance Caller: Authorized Biography of Marshall Flippo (2020): 107.

In 1957 Flippo and Neeca took a square dance vacation at Kirkwood Lodge, a place suggested to them by a greyhound bus driver and his wife, who came to one of his Saturday night dances at the Hayloft in Abilene, Texas. This driver described Kirkwood and the dance program provided. He drove high school seniors there from all over the Midwest.

Flippo felt burned out on square dancing, so he planned this square dance vacation to be the end of their square dancing, but a serendipity happened. It rejuvenated them, having the time of their lives. They enjoyed it so much; they returned in 1958 and ’59. In 1960, they joined Les Gotcher, a caller they met at Kirkwood, at Eureka Springs, Arkansas, as a part of the staff.

Flippo back at Kirkwood

With the success of “The Auctioneer” in his pocket and his winning personality and voice, in 1961, Bill Hagadorn asked Flippo to become the staff caller at Kirkwood Lodge and the rest is history. Flip often said that Bill was the best boss he ever had! Flippo continued calling there for forty-two years, enlarging the senior week program and the square dance program for families.

Flippo kept up a rigorous weekly schedule [at Kirkwood] but each season differed.

Neeca described his schedule, “Flip called six nights during square dance season, every night during high school seniors, and four nights during family season.’ He kept up that pace for the six months he was at Kirkwood for forty-two years!”


Larada Horner-Miller, Just Another Square Dance Caller: Authorized Biography of Marshall Flippo (2020): 119.

KIRKWOOD BECAME THE BASE FOR HIS TOURS

“Flippo shared, “What happened was Neeca helped me a lot because guys would come to me [at Kirkwood Lodge] like from West Point, Iowa and Minneapolis, Minnesota and they’d say, ‘Hey, can you call for us?’

Neeca remembered, “We had received several booking dates, mostly from guests at the Lodge. Some were several miles apart. We were made welcome in many homes; many of these people became dear friends. Word of mouth spread quickly, and we kept getting more dates. We never in all my years found the need to write and ask for a booking.

We soon received more request than we had dates open. It was difficult to write people back and tell them he could not make; we had to turn down more than we accepted. It took some time to accept dates that would make it easier to travel. In order to accept some dates, he would only go to that area every other year. Flip was always quick to refuse full pay when the crowd was small because of the weather or some other reason. He called many dances for no pay at all.”


Larada Horner-Miller, Just Another Square Dance Caller: Authorized Biography of Marshall Flippo (2020): 163-164.

THE PRIDE OF HIS LIFE, JOHN

While the Flippos lived there, John Flippo, their son, was born, and this monumental addition to this couple made Kirkwood a special place to them.

“Neeca returned to Abilene to have him, ‘so he’s a pure Texan. They’re just thar a few days, and they came on back to the lake. He’s not enough Texan to move down thar. He’ll never leave that lake, I don’t thank.’”


Larada Horner-Miller, Just Another Square Dance Caller: Authorized Biography of Marshall Flippo (2020): 124.

And John didn’t leave. In fact, Flippo moved back to live with John at the end of his life, across the street from his beloved Kirkwood Lodge.

WHAT FLIPPO LOVED ABOUT KIRKWOOD LODGE

Flippo’s association with Kirkwood continued for four decades with a rich variety of national callers and cuers. He loved everything about Kirkwood: the dancers, the employees, and the calling and cuing staff he worked with over the years.


Larada Horner-Miller, Just Another Square Dance Caller: Authorized Biography of Marshall Flippo (2020): 115.

The Hagadorn Era at Kirkwood Ended

Flippo and Neeca and Pat and Joyce Munn bought Kirkwood in 1973 from Bill Hagadorn.”


Larada Horner-Miller, Just Another Square Dance Caller: Authorized Biography of Marshall Flippo (2020): 146.

They owned it for twenty years, but trouble arose, so they parted ways. But Flippo only remembered this pivotal place in his life with fond memories.

When Flippo lived his last months with John near Kirkwood Lodge, he enjoyed time with lifelong friends who were dancers and callers coming across the street to see their dear friend. So, from 1957 until 2018—sixty-one years, Kirkwood Lodge played an instrumental role in his life!

I’m sorry to say that we saw Kirkwood Lodge torn down this summer—a sad end of an era!

FINALLY

To see many historic pictures from Kirkwood Lodge, join this Facebook group: Remembering Kirkwood Lodge-Square and Round Dancing.

To read about Flippo’s experience at Kirkwood in more depth and to see all the extra resources in the Members Only section on my website, buy a copy of Flippo’s book. Then email me at Larada@icloud.com and I will get you into the Members only section!

Did you dance at Kirkwood with Flippo? Share your experience—how many years? What was your favorite memory? (Scroll down to the Comments section and please share!)

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Coronavirus Reflections: Bitter or Better? Kirkwood

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Just Another Square Dance Caller: Authorized Biography of Marshall Flippo - Kirkwood

~HAVE YOU ORDERED YOUR AUTOGRAPHED COPY OF THE FLIPPO BIOGRAPHY? AVAILABLE NOW! Go to the homepage on my website & pay for it there: https://www.laradasbooks.com

~Here’s Christmas greetings from Flippo & Neeca, featuring his song, “When Its Christmas Time in Texas”: https://youtu.be/mpJCUGffU3A

ALL FOUR E-BOOK FORMATS OF FLIPPO’S BIOGRAPHY AVAILABLE NOW:

~Stop by my website for all the information you need about me & my books: https://www.laradasbooks.com

~Drop by my Amazon Author’s Page: https://www.amazon.com/~/e/B00LLQTXSM

~VISIT MARY ZALMANEK, A FRIEND’S BLOG: Cooking in a One-Butt Kitchen | Eating Well in Small Spaces: https://cookinginaonebuttkitchen.com/

Marshall Flippo · My Thoughts · square dance

How Did “The Auctioneer” Affect Flippo’s Career?

"The Auctioneer" received a Gold Record Award in 1967 for selling 500,000 records

The recording of “The Auctioneer” became a decisive moment in Marshall Flippo’s square dance calling career. How it unfolded supports his often-repeated motto: “I was at the right place, at the right time.”

LEROY VAN DYKE RELEASED “THE AUCTIONEER”

            First, Leroy Van Dyke released “The Auctioneer” in 1956.

Van Dyke was inspired to write the song from his own experiences as an auctioneer and those of his second cousin, Ray Sims.

He wrote it while stationed in Korea during the Korean War, and first performed it to troops on the same bill as Marilyn Monroe. After finishing his service, Van Dyke entered the song in a Chicago talent contest. It gained him a record contract with Dot Records. “The Auctioneer” subsequently topped the pop music chart, selling 2.5 million copies.


https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Auctioneer#:~:text=Van%20Dyke%20was%20inspired%20to,his%20second%20cousin%2C%20Ray%20Sims.&text=%22The%20Auctioneer%22%20subsequently%20topped%20the,chart%2C%20selling%202.5%20million%20copies.

            Then because of its popularity, Flippo must have heard this hit repeatedly on his favorite country and western radio station, wondering to himself if it would make a good singing call. All the words in the song made this unlikely—lots of words because of the auctioneer’s chant, but its popularity outweighed that difficulty to Flip. Can’t you see him memorizing all the words then experimenting with the choreography.

HOW FLIPPO CHOREOGRAPHED “THE AUCTIONEER”

When asked how Flippo choreographed “The Auctioneer,” he chuckled. One person, all eight parts! He did it in the living room at 1918 Marshall in Abilene.

That shocked me, so I asked him, “So you danced all the parts?”

Flippo walked through the whole thing. “It’s a terrible figer [figure], the first one [in] the first Auctioneer. Of course, we didn’t have a lot of Basics they got now, so I had six Basics. It’s not too good of a figer [figure]. Nowadays, you have to walk people through it two or three times before they get it, but back then, people, I don’t know .”

His laughter continued as I commented about the feat of him walking through it, one person doing all eight parts.

People tended to memorize singing calls because there weren’t that many basic calls. Now, if Flippo went into their town and called “The Auctioneer,” and changed the figures, “they flat-ass knew it. They knew it. They memorized that— they did better than you did!”

I asked Flip if it was unusual to take a pop song like Leroy Van Dyke’s “The Auctioneer,” and it became popular then in the square dance world. Was that going on or did he kind of pioneer that?

“No, I don’t know what happened thar. I know I went to Houston after he had recorded it, about six months. I don’t know how come it to hit. Callers bought it big.”

Norman [Merrbach from Blue Star Records] didn’t think it would go. Flippo was surprised, and Norman was surprised, too, that it took off like it did, but the reason for that big sale back then was the dancers were buying records, too, and callers. So, callers were buying, and dancers were buying them. “I’s putting ’em in the garage! Breaking ’em!”

Flippo chuckled. “No, I wouldn’t [break ’em].”

Later, “The Auctioneer” was re-released, and Flippo put different figures (calls) to it, and it never did sell like the first one.


Larada Horner-Miller, Just Another Square Dance Caller: Authorized Biography of Marshall Flippo (2020): 95-96

FLIPPO RELEASED THE SINGING CALL, “THE AUCTIONEER”

            So, Flippo started calling in 1952 and released his first singing call, “The Auctioneer” in 1958, just two years after Van Dyke’s release, so the song’s mystique still held over. Several serendipitous events made this monumental event happen.

The turning point in his career happened in the Hayloft in Abilene. It was 1957, and Flippo was calling “The Auctioneer.”

One night Flippo was at the Hayloft in Abilene, and he was calling “The Auctioneer” before it was recorded. Two callers from Baytown near Houston had been to Colorado at some square dance and were going through town. They decided to come to Flippo’s dance. One of them had a French name that Flippo couldn’t remember, and the other one was Andy Lyons.

They came up after Flippo called “The Auctioneer” and congratulated him. “That’s pretty damn good.” They encouraged Flip to call Norman Merrbach in Houston, who was the producer of Blue Star records.

They repeated, “Call him.”

Flippo responded, “I’ve never thought anythang about recording it.”

“That’s pretty good. You ought to do it.”

After that, Flip forgot about it. Then he got a phone call from Norman. Norman asked Flippo to send him the words to that song.

So, Flip sent him the words. “Thar’s a lot of words.”

Norman called Flippo up, “I believe I’m going to pass on that ’cause callers want one with not too many words, and they don’t have to learn all the words.”

So, Flippo understood that, and he continued calling for a couple months. Then Norman called him up again and asked him to come to Houston “and do that thang.’”

Flippo answered, “Well, I’ve got to work Monday. I’ve got a dance Saturday night in Abilene, here. How far is it?”

“It’s three hundred and sixty-five miles.”

He stalled a little, “I don’t know.”

Norman persisted, “Well, I’ll tell you how you can do it. After that dance, start driving down here.”

“What you mean—at night?”

“Yeah, drive down here and get here early morning and we’ll do the thang. You can drive back and be ready to go to work Monday.”

Flip’s humor prevailed, “Wait a minute. You must be talking about my brother, and I don’t have a brother.”

Norman encouraged Flip to think about it.

So, Flippo asked Neeca, “You thank we could cut this? Go down?”

“Oooh,” she exclaimed, “I bet Momma and Daddy would go with us, and they can both drive. I can drive. We’ll take turns about sleeping.”

There were three sitting up in the front seat, one in the back seat trying to sleep. They drove down to Houston and got there about nine in the morning, just in time for Flippo’s appointment. “We had breakfast at a Sambo’s, which they don’t have anymore. I remember Fred trying to pay for it. Fred was Neeca’s dad.”

Flippo told his father-in-law, “No, you drove down here. Let me get it.”

Fred answered, “You don’t have any money. I have your billfold right here. You left it up on the table last night at the dance. Bless your heart!”

They went to Norman’s place, Norman and Nadine Merrbach, the owners and producers of Blue Star Records. “He was really a good guy and a good engineer.”

They did the recording in the studio, and “the studio acoustical stuff was egg crates.”

“I can see the studio from my mind right now. We went in and when they played it, I called it at the same time. Well, I remember one time we had trouble. I’d make a mistake and we’d have to start over, and then somebody else would make a mistake. It wasn’t one of those days that everythang went well.”

But now “The Auctioneer” went really well. Flippo hit it the first time, and of course he had been calling it with a band for a long time, so he was lucky to get out of there, and they headed back to Abilene. They got back in time to get a little sleep and go to work the next day.

“Anyway, ‘The Auctioneer’ hit pretty good. Well, I’d say, you know, all of my career I just lucked out, being in the right place at the right time. I don’t know what it was, and ‘The Auctioneer’ hit really good.”

Flippo was pleased with the way it sounded, but he didn’t realize it was anything big. He would think about it from time to time. Then the square dance magazine started praising it. “The only thang I can thank of is a lot of dancers bought records at that time, and learned the singing call that was on the record.”

The records were only sixty-five or seventy cents apiece, and they were 78 records. You could take a pile of them into a dance and they’d just be gone in a minute. People were just hungry for some kind of records to play at home or listen to. And some callers started from listening to tape recorders and to records. “They picked up ideas, started calling, and some of them turned into really good.”

Flippo remembered calling with a band in Houston one time. He turned around and asked them if they knew “The Auctioneer.”

Their response, “Oh, yeah, yeah. We done that. We can play it for you if you want to call it. Ohhhh, that’s Norman’s big one!”

They repeated, “Oh, that’s Norman’s big one, big one.” Flip repeated their response and chuckled.

“Well, I thank I’ll call it next the tip.”

So they did a good job on it, and they said this is “going to make ole Norman.”


Larada Horner-Miller, Just Another Square Dance Caller: Authorized Biography of Marshall Flippo (2020): 93-95
Norman Merrbach congratulated Flippo for his first Gold Record Award for "The Auctioneer."
Norman Merrbach congratulated Flippo for his first Gold Record Award for “The Auctioneer”

What an amazing story! Little did that band know that this song launched Flippo’s career, skyrocketing him to become a legend in the square dance world. In 1967, Flippo received a Gold Record award for “The Auctioneer” selling 500,000 records, an outrageous number for the day.

Thinking back over Flippo’s story, have you ever had a series of events unfold in your life to create something unthinkable? Let me know. (Scroll down below to make a comment)


Recent Blog Posts You Might Have Missed:

~Pre-Order My New Book, Coronavirus Reflections: Bitter or Better? To be released in August. https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSdJNjMivaCzk2YcNWHGMoxG4FPsfVEqEQEzYbcYr4tX9cDPVQ/viewform?usp=sf_link

Just Another Square Dance Caller cover - The Auctioneer

~HAVE YOU ORDERED YOUR AUTOGRAPHED COPY OF THE FLIPPO BIOGRAPHY? AVAILABLE NOW! Go to the homepage on my website & pay for it there: https://www.laradasbooks.com

~Here’s Christmas greetings from Flippo & Neeca, featuring his song, “When Its Christmas Time in Texas”: https://youtu.be/mpJCUGffU3A

ALL FOUR E-BOOK FORMATS OF FLIPPO’S BIOGRAPHY AVAILABLE NOW:

~Stop by my website for all the information you need about me & my books: https://www.laradasbooks.com

~Drop by my Amazon Author’s Page: https://www.amazon.com/~/e/B00LLQTXSM

~VISIT MARY ZALMANEK, A FRIEND’S BLOG: Cooking in a One-Butt Kitchen | Eating Well in Small Spaces: https://cookinginaonebuttkitchen.com/

Marshall Flippo · My Thoughts · square dance

Flippo & Obstacles He Faced

Young Flippo—Obstacles he faced
Flippo as a Young Caller

To think the Flippo we knew faced many obstacles as a young caller! Square dancers all over the world know the refined quality of the program Marshall Flippo presented at any dance he called—smooth rhythm, wonderful choreography and a beautiful voice. It wasn’t always that way.

“Marshall Flippo’s calling career could easily have not happened. In fact, Flippo missed his first night of square dance lessons. Initially, he couldn’t connect with the music and find the beat. Being a shy man by nature, his temperament could have stopped him from becoming the well-known caller who’s so well- loved. Just one of these could have been fatal, but Flippo faced all three and over-came the challenge placed before him.”

Larada Horner-Miller, Just Another Square Dance Caller: Authorized Biography of Marshall Flippo, (2020): 81.

Flippo and Neeca and their good friends, Hub and Hazel Evans, arrived at their first square dance lesson late, so the guys refused to go in. The women made sure they were on time the next week. Thank God for Neeca and Hazel’s unflagging commitment. Once there, Flippo fell in love with what the whole activity offered: physical contact, friendly people and movement to music.

After their lessons, Betty Casey, their class caller and Flippo’s mentor, encouraged them to go out to a local dance at the YMCA. She assured these fledgling dancers J. C. Wilson, the caller, would be good to them. This time they took a complete square with them, squared up and the first call J. C. called they’d never heard. So, they tried to sit down, but J. C. noticed their evacuation from the floor, so he stopped the dance and separated the dancers.

“Flippo added with a laugh, ‘And God, strangers coming up thar and getting us. I never did see my wife again until the end of the dance, so they split us all up, and we had one hell of a good time, you know.’”

Larada Horner-Miller, Just Another Square Dance Caller: Authorized Biography of Marshall Flippo, (2020): 82.
J. C. Wilson-Obstacles he faced
J.C. Wilson

What they experienced as beginner dancers at the hands of J. C. Wilson and those experienced dances exemplify true square dance hospitality. What happened kept these couples and a great caller wanting to dance.

Flippo and Neeca’s love of square dancing continued to grow, so his becoming a caller seems like a natural progression.

When I asked Flippo why he started calling, he answered,

“I thought, ‘Maybe I can do this in time.’ I loved to sing. I was out of lessons about a year before I ever started. Thar was two square dance clubs, and they were both full. They both had waiting lists for people to get in. The list wasn’t that long, probably ten to twelve couples. So, we put our names in for that one downtown. They could only dance twenty-five squares.”

Larada Horner-Miller, Just Another Square Dance Caller: Authorized Biography of Marshall Flippo, (2020): 83.

So, Ed Hall had a chicken coop in Wylie, near Abilene, that he offered to clean up for a small square dance hall. It would dance three squares. Twelve couples signed up, and they danced to records for a while and then had a live two-piece band, but they needed a caller.

“One night someone had a suggestion. Thar’s twelve of us here. Why don’t we all learn to call? And we won’t have to have a record or a band, so we’ll just be our own caller.’

So that’s the way it started. Flippo remembered the first one he called. Singing calls didn’t appeal to him too much at that time, so he learned patter. First one he learned was ‘Dip and Dive.’ So, they all learned some kind of calls. “Some guys were good. I wasn’t one of the good ones.”

Larada Horner-Miller, Just Another Square Dance Caller: Authorized Biography of Marshall Flippo, (2020): 83.

After deciding to call, Flippo faced one of his obstacles as a caller: he couldn’t keep the beat. Would this be the obstacle that would block our world-renowned Flippo?

“At one point, Neeca told him, ‘You can’t stay on beat. What’s wrong with you? Can you pat your foot to the music?’

‘Yeah,’ Flippo explained. He had a ‘Turkey in the Straw’ record, and he would go in the front bedroom of their house because they had no furniture in there and he had a little record player.”

Larada Horner-Miller, Just Another Square Dance Caller: Authorized Biography of Marshall Flippo, (2020): 83-84.

Neeca would listen to him practice and stand it as long as she could, then she’d question him about his ability to stay on the beat. She finally suggested to say something every time he pat his foot with the beat, and that seemed to help.

Recently I heard a long-time caller friend of Flip’s say that Flippo said more words in his calling than any other caller because of his problem with keeping the beat.

Flippo persistently worked hard at mastering his craft. He would not let this get him down. Feeling a little confident, he ventured out after a time. First, he made his calling debut in Abilene at the CrossTrail square dance club, one club that they had been on the waiting list. He made a mistake on his first try and had to restart—he saw Neeca duck into the bathroom.

Melton Luttrell-Obstacles he faced
Melton Luttrell

For his next calling adventure, Flippo and a group traveled out-of-town to Cisco, Texas, to dance to the legendary Melton Luttrell. Two couples that came with Flippo told Melton that he had started calling. The hospitable move then was to invite the visiting caller to the stage to call. So Melton invited Flip up to call (this was when he was having trouble staying on the beat). Scared to death, he didn’t share with me how he thought the evening went.

Before they left the dance hall to go home, Flippo had seen the two couples talking to Melton after he called, so Flip asked them what he said.

They said, “Melton told us to tell you, ‘Don’t quit your day job!’”

Instead of discouraging Flippo, he went home and continued his practice, working hard on keeping the beat. The next time they returned to Cisco, Melton again invited him to call a tip, but this time, Melton noticed a marked improvement and told Flippo.

Wagon Wheel Dance Hall-Obstacles he faced
The Wagon Wheel Dance Hall

From those early days, Flippo called locally in Abilene, first at the Hayloft and then helped build the dance hall, The Wagon Wheel. He faced adversities that might have made someone else quit, but that was not Flippo’s nature. Because he never faltered but persisted, his calling career exploded so the obstacles never stopped him, and we’re the luckier for it.

Did you know this about Flippo? I would appreciate any comments! Scroll down below the information for the Comment section.


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Just Another Square Dance Caller Cover-Obstacles he faced

~HAVE YOU ORDERED YOUR AUTOGRAPHED COPY OF THE FLIPPO BIOGRAPHY? AVAILABLE NOW! Go to the homepage on my website & pay for it there: https://www.laradasbooks.com

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~Here’s Christmas greetings from Flippo & Neeca, featuring his song, “When Its Christmas Time in Texas”: https://youtu.be/mpJCUGffU3A

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