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.
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?
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.
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 Mainstreamcaller or Pluscaller 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 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.”
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
~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
After several hours of interviews, Marshall Flippo had definite ideas how to start his biography. He ended up with two unique pieces he wanted, so my dilemma became, which would it be?
His passionate interest in the intricacies of his biography fascinated me. Then I found out he had prior experience with book publication because he wrote a chapter in Bob Osgood’s book, The Caller Text. Flippo was one of the contributing callers, writing chapter 24: “Building and Maintaining a Repertoire.”
As we discuss the layout of the book, Flip stated, “I have a dirty joke a caller’s wife told me the first time I met her, and I want you to start my book with it. I’ll tell it to you, and then you clean it up so we can use it.” Then he told me the joke, and I howled because I loved Flippo’s outrageous humor. I assured him we could use it, but I wondered about starting his life story with a dirty joke.
But as I transcribed the interviews and relived our 40+ hours together, I realized that humor defined Flippo in a way I hadn’t realized. His practical jokes and stories about his caller friends showed the humorous life he lived!
Another reason for humor came up when I transcribed the first few interviews and Flip was still alive. I sent him a copy of the interviews so he could answer questions I had.
In his raspy Texas drawl, he stated, “Take the giggles out!”
I laughed and replied, “Flip, any time you giggled in the interviews, I put in the word “Giggle” to remind me when I wrote the actual text, I wanted to remember to add your laughter.” He accepted that. Yes, he laughed a lot in the interviews, reminding me how much he enjoyed his life.
Also, Flippo told me repeatedly he wanted people to laugh when they read his biography. So, I understand the reason to start with a joke.
Hs joke is hilarious about some hunters caught in a cabin in a snowstorm and nature calls—you’ll have to buy the book to get the full joke.
So, we went with that for a few months. Flippo often returned to the joke, chuckled and wrote a reminder to himself to phone the caller and ask permission from his wife to include her name in the book. Somehow, he never made that call, so I emailed the caller about this touchy topic. He said his wife would prefer not being named.
I felt good about the joke and the start of this book. After several months, during one of our weekly interviews, Flippo stated, “I have something else I want to start the book with.”
Not knowing what was coming, I sighed and wondered what it could be.
Flippo added, “I want a tribute to those callers who’ve gone and helped me get started.”
After this poignant request, I swallowed, and the lump in my throat expanded. I stopped the tears because I had to listen.
“Okay, we can do that, but what about the joke?” I asked.
Easily he figured, “Put the joke after this part,” so I did.
So, once again Flippo recited a list of callers’ names to me who he wanted in this part. The first part consisted of Abilene, Texas callers: Betty Casey, J. C. Wilson, Bob Sumrall and Owen Renfro.
Then he named Bob Osgood, Bob Page, Arnie Kronenberger, Bob Van Antwerp, Joe Lewis, and Bill Castner. Those men lived all over the United States. He told stories on each, and the gratitude he expressed about these people was palatable.
In my research, I found a picture of everyone but Betty Casey, so I added her signature. I loved adding the pictures to provide a visual to the name. Some names are historical callers in the square dance world.
Sadly, two callers died near Flippo’s death who he might have added to this list: Frank Lane and Lee Kopman. I added them here because of their gigantic contributions to square dancing over the years. Also, Flippo loved and admired both of them.
Honor those who go before you—yes, that’s the man Flip was!
Finally, how we started Flippo’s biography depicted him to the tee: a spicy sense of humor and deep gratitude to those who went before him and helped him get his start as a caller.
One last note: I started Flippo’s biography with an unusual piece we never talked about with the assistance of his son and ex-wife. Someone who preordered Flip’s biography asked before he died if she could get her copy autographed by Flippo. After he died, that question haunted me. How could I do it?
I emailed John and Neeca, and Neeca found this treasure on a card he sent her years ago—how appropriate it was to use because he truly loved all of his friends.
How do you start a biography? I believe there’re hundreds of ways to do it, but the solution is in the person the book is about! What best portrays the subject?
What do you think? How do you think a biography should start?
I love history so here’s a square dance history lesson about annual holiday greetings featured in Sets in Order magazine! From 1948 – 1985, Bob Osgood, the editor of Sets in Order, published a square dance magazine which dancers and callers waited for each month. He jam-packed each issue with pertinent information about this pastime and career that so many loved.
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 – 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 It’s Christmas Time in Texas”: https://buff.ly/2VhFtKk
So, who besides Flippo and Neeca did Bob spotlight for these holiday greetings? After looking through several past issues, I decided to feature one from the 60s, the 70s, and the 80s. Just an aside—the one from the 80s was the last issue of Sets in Order.
Here are lists from 1965, 1975, & 1985. The names underlined & bolded repeat more than one year.
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Yes, it’s hard to believe! Marshall Flippo died November 4, 2018, and here we’ve lived two years without him. Hopefully for those who bought his biography, you’ve been able to keep his memory alive and celebrate his life.
Lin and I watched Disney’s “Coco,” to add to my celebration of the Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) in my blog from last week. What a precious story that is! One of the premises in the movie is Miguel’s father, Hector, abandoned the family, so for several generations they banned music in their homes, and they cut Hector’s photo out of the picture celebrated on Día de los Muertos. So, on the Día del los Muertos, Hector came to the gate to cross over to join his family’s celebration, and the gatekeeper denied him because no one posted his picture—Hector’s retribution!
As I thought about this story line and the loss of Flippo and so many dear friends and family, I wondered what Flippo, Frank Lane, Lee Kopman, and many others were doing right now, so here we go!
Frank Lane died on October 31, 2018, Flippo on November 4 and Lee Kopman on November 13—within three weeks, three major square dancers lost to this world. Unlike the movie, “Coco,” the inhabitants of the Great Beyond look young and vibrant. When Flippo passed away, Frank greeted him warning him about the smoking policy in their new place. To Frank’s surprise, Flip stated, “I don’t want a cigarette!” Miracles do happen!
Then Flippo added, “Frank, have you played ‘Petals Around the Rose’ recently?” Frank laughed and said, “I’ve played it several times up here.” Soon the two of them greeted Lee—a heavenly reunion. Square dancers rejoiced and have enjoyed many festivals since this trio arrived.
Dia de los Muertos 2020 arrived and many of our deceased loved ones crossed the bridge and joined us on this memorable day whether we saw them or not, so obviously we remembered them with photos and reminisces.
After their return across the bridge before dawn, dancers donned their festive square dance attire and participated in a gigantic dance with this powerful threesome calling on the biggest celestial stage with live music similar to our amazing Ghost Rider Band. This heavenly band included Pancho and Marie Baird and the Git-fiddlers Band playing with Earl Caruthers and his Hoedowners. Bob and Becky Osgood and Lloyd “Pappy” and Dorothy Shaw organized this big event with workshops on dancing and style. They reminded the dancers about smooth dancing. And was it smooth!
Flippo kept elbowing Frank saying, “Listen to that band! The best I’ve ever heard!” And Frank agreed.
Favorite cuers like the Manning and Nita Smith, Charlie and Bettye Proctor joined in, providing rounds between tips. The multiple round dance circles filled the whole dance floor.
My dad and mom sought out Flippo and made a strong connection through me. I can imagine the smile on my dad’s face as he danced to these historic callers and cuers!
Neeca Flippo and Barbara Lane sat at the back of the stage, clapping and enjoying their husband’s music and friendship. Norman and Nadine Merbach sat beside them, proud of their star, Flippo.
Lee Kopman wowed everyone with a variety of new moves he’s created in that other world with unfamiliar names and calls I can’t even imagine!
The highlight of this special dance came when this trio invited other callers to join them. The crowd went crazy when their favorites took the stage, yet it appeared the dancers loved all of the callers. Flippo honored his mentors from Abilene, Texas to be the first on the stage during this part of the dance: Betty Casey, J. C. Wilson, Bob Sumrall and Owen Renfro. When they finished, they circled Flippo and celebrated his successful career and their part in it.
As always, Flippo enjoyed the breaks between tips, socializing with friends. He teased Bob Fisk about his full head of hair. Beryl Main reminded Flippo of his lost suitcase and all the fun they had being “The Chaparral Boys.” When that topic came up, Jerry Haag joined in the reverie, and Flippo recalled Jerry’s Brenda Flea after party routine.
A cluster of callers gathered around Ed Gilmore, an icon in the calling world. Joe Lewis stood near Ed, and Flippo joined them. Flip had always been in awe of Joe Lewis as his hero.
When the music stopped, Flippo heard a familiar voice and saw a crowd of dancers huddled around Arnie Kronenberger, and immediately he knew Arnie was telling his favorite joke—cleaned up for sure.
As he surveyed this collection of callers, Flip eyed Dave Taylor and moved towards him. As they hugged and reconnected, they remembered their countless dances they worked together, especially their trip to England and Dave’s driving on “the wrong side of the road.”
After the next tip, Al “Tex” Brownlee shouted, “Flippo, come on over here!” He waved a pair of handcuffs at Flip and began laughing at that hilarious trick he pulled on Flip. Flippo wondered how Tex could tell any of his jokes here, but Tex assured him that he had clean versions.
Flippo relished his dancer friends as much as his caller/cuer friends. He approached Bill and Phyllis Speidel with a laugh. Bill had his magician outfit on, and he grabbed Bob Fisk to remind him about his cowboy hat that appeared to be ruined so many years ago.
Then Flippo rushed to Whitey Puerling and hugged him close. With tears in his eyes, he recalled their trip to Spain and the Easter parade they never found. Another couple nudged Flippo, Joe and Cricket Young. He left Whitey and visited with them. As happened so often for Flippo when he was at a square dance event—he didn’t have enough time to spend with each friend!
When Cal Golden took the stage in his glittery costume, the dancers roared. Other callers made their appearance: Bob Page with his wife Nita, Bob Van Antwerp, and Bill Castner. I love it when multitude callers sing together. Later Max Forysth and Johnnie Wykoff joined Bob Yerington and Johnny Davis on stage. Bob and Al Brundage also performed for the crowd. The night ended with C. O. Guest, Billy Lewis and Hotsy Bacon.
After the dance, Harper and Ray Smith organized the after party, the party after the dance, and they are created with its’ beginning. They featured Singing Sam Mitchell and Flippo applauded the loudest—he loved Sam’s singing voice.
This memorable celebration of Dia de los Muertos, square and round dance style, ended in the wee hours of eternity—remember, no time in heaven! As you can see, the beat goes on, and square and round dancing continues to flourish in the next world. Someday I’ll see you there!
“It’s a thick book!” Many have received their copy of Just Another Square Dance Caller: Authorized Biography of Marshall Flippo, and this has been one of the major responses. Wow, thick!
Yes, it ended up being thick—Flippo had a rich full life. There’s 592 pages (sixteen pages of front matter), more than 450 pages of memorable pictures and ten appendices. Also, there’s story galore: Flippo told stories about callers and cuers and then callers and cuers told stories about Flippo. Because I felt this was a history book, I included an Index of thirty-seven pages for cross-referencing.
Flippo worried about the size of this book and commented, “It won’t be as big as Bob Osgood’s.” So I worked hard to keep it smaller. Bob Osgood became the leader of square dancing for many years. He published a monthly magazine, Sets in Order, that kept dancers and callers abreast of square dance news in its heyday. This magazine influenced many callers’ careers with articles, advertisements and reviews of newly released songs. He helped Flippo’s career immensely. He also was the mastermind behind, CALLERLAB, the international organization for square dance callers that standardized square dance calls.
As I Saw It, Bob’s biography is 636 pages, so Flippo’s is smaller, by a few pages.
After readers received the book, the other comment I’ve heard with much scrutiny is about something special I added to the title page. Early on when people signed up to pre-order a book, someone asked that Flippo autograph her book. I agreed to do this, and I was certain many people would want his autograph, then he passed away before it was published.
That thought returned to me often as I was transcribing our interviews and putting the book together, then I had a brainstorm. I contacted his son and ex-wife and told them about my plan. I asked if they had a good signature we could use.
His ex-wife found a couple: one on their divorce decree that wasn’t as legible and another one from a card sent at an earlier time in their lives with a clear signature, so she sent it to me. I inserted it on the title page, and it actually looks like he autographed the book, saying, “Love Flip.”
So, no I didn’t forge his name as some have intimated which I would never do. I just thought it was a nice touch when the reader opens the book—a welcome from Flip!
I’d like to end this with a list of books written about square dancing. Some are thick; others aren’t. You can find this list in Appendix J, Additional References in Just Another Square Dance Caller:
Betty Casey, Dance Across Texas, University of Texas Press (1985).
$24.95 paperback; $7.49 hardback; $11.95 e-book on amazon.com
Betty Casey, The Complete Book of Square Dancing [and Round Dancing], University of North Texas Press (2000).
The history of our activity fascinates me. I’m hopeful that Flippo’s biography will join these legendary tomes in your library. Yes, it’s thick but it’s worth it!
Are you a history buff? What history do you enjoy?
~ RELEASE PARTY of Flippo’s biography on Zoom on Wednesday, July 29, 2020 at 7:00 pm MST! Be ready to celebrate! Door Prizes, the inside story, Flippo song bytes & interview clips and more!The meeting ID number & the passwordwill be posted on my website on Wednesday, July 28.
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ALL FOUR E-BOOK FORMATS OF FLIPPO’S BIOGRAPHY AVAILABLE NOW.
Marshall Flippo and Bob Osgood enjoyed an amazing working relationship for many years. Bob, the visionary, and Marshall, the new hot caller made quite a team.
Bob published and edited the square dance magazine, Sets in Order, from 1948 – 85. Flippo’s name first appeared in Sets In Order November 1958 in the “Round the Outside Ring” article for calling at the Permian Basin Festival. “The Auctioneer,” Flippo’s first smash hit, also first appeared in the same issue in the “On the Record” section, listed as a new release.
From then on, readers saw Flippo’s name regularly, whether in reports about where he was calling around the United States or a review of his newest released song.
Flippo’s name appeared repeatedly with song after song being reviewed and lauded in Sets in Order, and Bob noticed this! After Bob hired Flip in 1964 to call at a week and a weekend event at Asilomar, California, he actually saw Flippo in action. Flippo’s skilled calling prowess and his popularity with dancers drew respect from Bob, and their relationship deepened.
“. . .his personal appearance tours throughout the country have given a real ‘lift’ to thousands of dancers,”
Bob Osgood, Sets in Order, (August 1965):33
Bob wrote this in an ad in his Sets in Order magazine, August, 1965 issue. Flippo’s years of tours touched many lives, his popularity increased, and Bob watched Flippo’s successful calling career grow.
So, Bob started a series called DIALOG in Sets in Order magazine in February 1968 and stated, “This month we inaugurate a new series of dialogues directed to those people who have a desire to call square dances.”
Bob Osgood, Sets in Order (February 1968): 12
First of all, Flippo and Frank Lane teamed up with Arnie Kronenberger and did two interviews for Sets in Order magazine in May and June 1968 on “How Does One Go About Learning to Call?” Bob Osgood wrote in the May issue, the focus: “If you have never called before, then there must be a thousand questions running through your mind. We’ve tried to anticipate some of these, and we’ve brought together several outstanding callers to field the answers for you.”
Bob Osgood, Sets in
Order (May 1969): 19
Then the second interview on this topic in the June 1968 issue focused on “Last month we asked this trio of experienced callers several questions having to do with memorizing calls and with sight calling. This month we question them on a variety of related subjects including some hypothetical questions a beginner caller might be expected to ask. We start of by trying to get some opinions.
Bob Osgood, Sets in
Order (June 1968): 19
In the third interview, Frank and Flippo teamed up with Bob Page, longtime friend who Flip worked yearly with at Asilomar, in the DIALOG article titled “Leadership In Square Dancing.” This article focused on “Calling a square dance is only a portion of the caller’s many responsibilities. He is looked up to as a “leader” and there are many opportunities for the caller to evidence good judgment, to develop sensitivity and to provide the type of activity that the dancers hope to receive. We asked three nationally known callers a series of questions and we think you will be interested in their frank replies. We began by asking, “What do you consider the caller’s responsibilities in a club run by the members themselves?”
Bob Osgood, Sets in
Order (April 1969): 19
Finally, the fourth interview saw Frank and Flippo back with Bob Page and the title of the DIALOG article was “BuildingDancer Reaction.” Bob Osgood introduced it with “Being able to work with people — with human beings — to impart to them your ideas, to encourage them to follow your instructions and suggestions, is just about as basic to square dancing as it is possible to get. Only the caller who naturally gets on well with others or who specifically trains himself to do so, can really do the job successfully. This month we question three well-known callers on this subject and the first thing we asked them was how to “lift” a group that seems disinterested, that seems to have no spark.”
Bob Osgood, Sets in
Order (June 1969): 19.
You can see that Bob identified Flippo as one of the leaders in the square dance world at this time and respected what he had to say. He felt this so much, he asked Flip to write a chapter for a book he published about square dancing, The Caller Text which took 36 years to write.
This dynamo duo loved and respected each other and touched so many with across the country and the world. Enjoy the four articles below.
Here’s the four DIALOG articles from Sets in Order
“How Does One Go About Learning to Call?”
“How Does One Go About Learning to Call?” Second Part
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As I continue to write Marshall Flippo’s authorized biography, I ponder his life and how it unfolded. Flippo’s success as being the most famous square dance caller in the world didn’t just happen. He had friends galore across the United States and internationally, and he treated them fairly and returned to square dance clubs and festivals for decades for repeat performances at numerous places. How did he engineer such a successful career?
He always credited Neeca, his first wife, with his business
success. Early on his career, she planned out a successful tour after people
became acquainted with him at Kirkwood Lodge at Osage Beach, Missouri where he
spent six months of his year. From the clientele that visited there, Neeca
lined up a tour across America and the world, and the clubs and festivals were
so pleased with Flippo’s performance, that he was repeatedly asked back—some
places over thirty to forty years of continuous visitation.
Imagine that—an annual six-month tour filled to the brim
with dancers who were anxious for his return every year. Marshall’s supreme
memory compelled people to love him dearly because in many cases, he called
them by name after his year absence. This can’t be explained or identified at
face value—his people skills endeared him to the dancers.
So, what made him so successful? When asked, Flippo said it
was luck and being at the right place at the right time, but there was so much
He was committed to his craft of square dance calling and
practiced extensive hours—Melton Luttrell, his longtime caller friend,
remembered him practicing singing calls while he was driving down the highway.
Being on the road for six months of the year gave him ample practice time.
Another caller noted Flippo refusing to participate in an after party at a convention so he could practice his calls before the next day’s events.
Flippo’s talent of unique choreography and his wonderful singing voice won him many fans—he was a star in the square dance world to many. To hear him sing “The Auctioneer” which was his first recording and became highly successful, his clear voice and choice of popular music shines through.
Check out a snippet of Flippo’s famous singing call recorded in 1958:
He connected deeply with other callers who helped him. One
caller mentor was Betty Casey of Abilene, Texas who had studied with Lloyd
“Pappy” Shaw in Colorado Springs, Colorado and influenced Flip with Shaw’s
teachings. She is the one who taught Flip to call.
Flip received more of Shaw’s dance philosophy from another
mentor, Bob Osgood, the editor of the highly successful square dance magazine,
Sets in Order.
Another mentor from Abilene, Texas was J. C. Wilson who took the young Flippo under his wing and help him with his rhythm and shared something unique—Burma Shave jingles that were popular at the time. J. C. used the jingles as fillers as dancers did certain calls or moves. Flip became known for his selection of these jingles and other callers followed suit and “borrowed them” from Flip.
Flippo’s career started in the late 50’s and early 60’s during a time that square dancing flourished, so he had events with record numbers outrageous in size compared to ours today. The large number of dancers increase Flippo’s popularity worldwide and the number of fans increased.
Success formulas are hard to analyze—as Flippo said being at the right place at the right time did have a impact, but his personality, talent and well-planned tour with its connection to Kirkwood put him in a place to become one of the most successful square dance callers in the world.
And, I promise you, as I continue writing this amazing book,
I will continue sharing my musing with you!
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Whitey & Gladys Puerling were playful friends of Flippo’s who created a
Fan Club. I thought it would be fun to recreate this group. Would you like to
join the Marshall Flippo Fan Club Facebook page? Read interesting posts about
Flippo’s life. https://www.facebook.com/groups/328325644382769/
Do you want to pre-order the Marshall Flippo biography? You can select which
paper format or e-book format you would like? Go here to order the version you
want. Monthly SWAG Giveaways! https://goo.gl/forms/4D4hwbHdme1fvJc42