Second Favorite Callers
Before there can be a "Second-Favorite," logic would dictate there must first be a "Favorite," right?
Vic Kaaria (www.vickaaria.com) - Favorite Caller
While I may admit to a bit of marital bias, there are many other reasons Vic receives the coveted “favorite” title. First, he is a top-notch caller. He can read a floor (at any level through C3) and keep them dancing successfully. He understands music and knows how to use it to his (and the dancers’) advantage. He is a master harmonizer and has the ability to make others sound better when he works with them. He is a great technician with a deep understanding of choreography and definitions, and he knows exactly how and when to use it. Most of all, he is a fun caller, with a passion for the activity. Second, he is an amazing teacher. Whether he is teaching new dancers, new callers, seasoned callers, or his wife…he is a patient, encouraging, understanding, and gifted instructor. He has the ability to communicate to others in just the right way to optimize their understanding and learning. He knows how (and when) to give constructive feedback to help you be the best you can be. Last, but certainly not least (and this is where the marital bias comes into play), he has been my biggest fan and biggest support. He puts up with my never-ending questions, lifts me up during my frequent struggles with confidence, and as my silent partner in this venture provides invaluable insight and advice. He has already appeared on two of Chic’s releases, CHIC3005 – Devoted to You (a duet we sang together), and on CHIC1015 – For What It’s Worth. In addition to all of that, I never ever have to take out the trash, he always opens doors for me, and my gas tank frequently manages to magically fill itself. It’s no wonder he’s my favorite caller!
Scott Bennett (www.scottbennettcaller.com)
If the second-favorite designation happens when I work with another caller, Scott officially received that status in May of 2015 when he invited me to record background vocals for his release of "We've Got Tonight" on Acme Recordings. I happily obliged and it is now one of my favorite singing calls. A successful music producer himself (visit the Acme and Crest Recordings sites to hear his music), Scott has been another mentor as I've ventured into the music game. His biggest "assist" was with the creation of Chic's logo design. He insisted I didn't need to outsource to make my Chic logo idea a reality and created the template that became the foundation for the final logo. I not only ended up with a logo I love, I learned a new skill in the process. Choosing the right caller/voice for each singing call is part of the fun of producing. Scott's rockin' vocal on Chic Recordings' first release, CHIC1001 - You're No Good, proved I made the right choice for Chic's inaugural tune. Shortly after the release I received the following note from a dancer. "I just have to say that in all of my 34 years of Square Dancing I have never heard a song as good as Scott's version of "You're no Good." Scott did such a great job that when it came time to cut our second and third Ronstadt hits, I went right back to him for the vocals. He kindly agreed (both times to become the first second-favorite to record three songs) and delivered two more killer vocals for CHIC1007 - Just One Look, and CHIC1022 - That'll Be the Day. It's no wonder he's my second-favorite caller!
I must confess that the first time I was invited to attend a Deborah Carroll-Jones dance back in 1996, I was hesitant because I had never danced to a female caller. Generally speaking, I have always preferred to listen to male singers, and I expected it would be the same for callers. I was promised that dancing to Deborah would change my mind and when she sang “Fisherman’s Luck,” she had me “hooked.” It would be another ten years before I entertained the notion of becoming a caller, and I certainly had no idea of the many challenges that would present. Deborah is an inspiration for female callers all over the world and has helped pave the way and open doors for all of us. Her personal support of my efforts as a caller AND a music producer are hugely appreciated. When I asked if she would record a guest vocal for CHIC2006 – (Your Love Has Lifted Me) Higher & Higher, her immediate response was, and I quote, “HELL, YES!.” She was just as enthusiastic about recording CHIC2014 - Whatever Lola Wants and embraced the character with a vocal that surpassed my amazingly high expectations. It's no wonder she's my second-favorite caller!
Wade Driver (www.wadedriver.com)
The first time I heard the name "Wade Driver" was in the late 70's at a clogging class. It was the name of a clogging step we were learning (later known as a "double"), and I honestly had no idea that Wade Driver was a real person. Wade is not only real, as the Owner and Producer of Rhythm Records, he is a legend in the square dance music business. Within minutes of the public announcement of my Chic venture, I received a message of congratulations from Wade, and an offer of assistance. He proved that offer was not just lip service when I reached out to him for advice on the arrangement of CHIC1011 - Home Sweet Home. In addition to pointing me in the right direction for the arrangement, Wade stayed involved through the entire production process, and agreed to record the vocal. Collaborating with Wade on this song was a sometimes surreal, always amazing, learning experience for me. He provided guidance and assistance, while still allowing me to have my voice and make all the final decisions. Sometimes I felt like I had to pinch myself because I was dreaming. It's no wonder he's my second-favorite caller!
Patty Greene (www.pkgdesignworks.com)
I was so excited to find a song for Patty Greene to sing for Chic Recordings. I knew that CHIC2009 - Cleopatra, Queen of Denial was it the moment I decided to make it into a singing call, and Patty delivered the awesome vocal I knew she would! Patty returned for a second guest vocal for Chic with CHIC2023 - Playground in My Mind. Just minutes after sharing the preview, I started to receive feedback that this was the best vocal they'd ever heard from Patty. I've lost count now of how many times people have reached out to tell me what a great job she did, and I completely agree! Patty is currently chair of Callerlab's Women in Calling committee and is an amazing advocate for female callers all over the world. She made history when she was elected to serve as only the second female Chairman of the Board for Callerlab. On top of all of that, she is a loving and giving person, and incredibly fun as a Callerlab banquet dinner date. It's no wonder she's my second-favorite caller!
Michael Haworth (www.michaelhaworth.org)
Mike may not know this, but he is one of my earliest second-favorite callers. In the summer of 2001, I subbed on rounds for the late, great, Bob Malthouse and Michael Haworth was one of the callers for that dance. It was my first opportunity to work with Mike and hear him call, and I was amazed by his ability to harmonize. I commented to Vic on our drive home that Mike sang beautiful harmony notes that I had never heard another caller sing. It only took that one evening to know that in addition to having a beautiful voice, Mike is a harmony master. I had the privilege of studying in Mike's harmony "dojo" during the two-and-a-half years we played and sang together with the Shakedown square dance band. It is a time and experience I treasure. Mike was the obvious choice to record the lead vocal for Chic Recordings' second release, CHIC3002 - A Summer Song. The first performance of this singing call was at a Mike Haworth dance in 2013 when Mike and Vic sang it, accompanied only by acoustic guitar. Mike also sang harmony with me on Sharpshooter's release of "All About That Bass." It's no wonder he's my second-favorite caller!
Hunter Keller (www.hunterkeller.com)
It was at the 2007 Callerlab convention in Colorado Springs where I first met a very young and talented caller named Hunter. Since his move to Southern California, he has become a young and talented caller that I now call, friend. He has been a supporter of Chic Recordings from the beginning, is always willing to lend a hand (literally as you can see here), and frequently assists on the engineering side of things in the Menifee studio. He willingly agreed to record the male vocal for CHIC1006 – (Your Love Has Lifted Me) Higher & Higher and delivered a great one, as I knew he would. In fact, he did such a great job, he has already recorded his second vocal for Chic with CHIC1009 - Cleopatra, Queen of Denial. It's no wonder he's my second-favorite caller!
Jim MacDonald (www.jimmymacproductions.com)
As I’m sure everyone knows, Jimmy Mac is the magic behind most of Chic’s music. He is a brilliant engineer and musician. He has been in the square dance music production business for over 20 years, so it was only a matter of time before he recorded a vocal and became a “caller.” His calling debut was on Fine Tune’s rock classic, “Smoke on the Water” which hit the label's Top Ten sellers list within weeks of release. As we were putting together the rough tracks for CHIC3017 – Baby, It’s Cold Outside, I mentioned that I hadn’t yet decided who I was going to invite to sing the male half of the duet. Without missing a beat, he said “pick me, pick me!” I didn’t miss a beat either before saying, “done!” Jimmy receives so much praise and recognition for his music and guitar work, that many don’t realize he is also an amazing vocalist with a range that spans the entire 88-key keyboard (only a slight exaggeration of his nearly four-octave range). On top of all that, he is a great vocal coach and a harmony genius. He shares that genius every time I have a vocal lesson, and every time I get into the booth to sing (whether it be for leads or background/harmony vocals). It’s no wonder he is my second-favorite caller!
Carrie Masters (www.carriemasters.com)
I was so excited to invite Carrie to share her vocal talents with Chic Recordings. Her vocal style was perfect for CHIC2004 - It Feels Good and she did a great job!. CHIC2020 - Blue California was another song that was a perfect fit for Carrie's voice and I'm so glad she was able to record it before leaving California for Washington. Carrie has been calling for many years and made a name for herself in a field with music that was targeted for the male caller, before technology made it possible for us to adjust the keys for our vocal range. Having entered the calling field after that technology was developed, I just can't imagine how difficult that must have been. It's no wonder she's my second-favorite caller!
The first time I heard David sing was at a clogging weekend on Catalina island. He and Dawn had recently married and she "made" him sing for us at one of the dances. He gave a great rendition of Frank Sinatra's "Chicago," so when it came time to select a caller to record a vocal for CHIC1003 - Let's Get Away From it All, a Sinatra tune, David was the obvious choice. David and Dawn were neighbors for many years and we have spent hours with them around a card table. (Did you know David cheats?) David and Vic attended the same caller school where an 11-year-old David perfected the song, "Tie a Yellow Ribbon." (You can see proof of how well he sings it here.) Long story short, rather than learn two new singing calls each week, as assigned, David came to school for eight weeks and sang "Tie a Yellow Ribbon"...twice! In early 1996, David taught me to square dance (again) with a square in their garage. At the time, I had no idea that square dancing would end up being such a major part of my life. It's no wonder he's my second-favorite caller!
Tom Miller (www.tommiller.info)
I was introduced to the golden voice of Tom Miller shortly after Vic and I were married. Every month a package came in the mail bringing a cassette tape from Hanhurst square dance music service. This tape (later a CD) contained music samples of all the new music being released for square dance callers. I was not calling then, but Vic was always anxious for this package to arrive so he could place his monthly order for new music. More often than not, we would skip the vocal recording and go straight to the music sample for each song. Not if Tom Miller had recorded the vocal! Vic loved Tom’s voice, and I quickly learned to love it too. Being able to hear what Tom did with a song was one of the treats of the subscription service. (It was a disappointing month if Tom had not recorded a vocal.) I knew it was only a matter of time before I found just the right song for Tom to sing, and CHIC1012 – Because was definitely it. I got goosebumps as I listened to the raw vocal he sent from the studio, because it was so beautiful. CHIC1020 - Blue California was Tom's suggestion for a singer, and there was no way anyone else was going to sing it. It's another beautiful vocal from that golden voice. It’s no wonder he’s my second-favorite caller!
I think my first introduction to Steve Moore came via his amazing recording of “Five Piece Band” on Gold Wing records. It only took one time hearing him call “live” to realize the amazing vocal on Gold Wing was not an anomaly. On stage, and off, Steve combines his great voice and smooth choreography with a kindness and humility that is rare in this world. Thirty years into his calling career, he made the choice to get off the road and only take local gigs, so we have only seen him a few times in the past ten years. I was thrilled when our paths crossed recently and I had my first opportunity to call/sing with him. I was even more thrilled when he accepted my invitation to record CHIC1016 – Windy. Two days after the recording session, I received a delivery of two dozen red roses. The card read, “Thank you for Windy…Steve Moore.” Sorry Steve, but you got that backwards…thank YOU for “Windy.” (And for the roses.) It’s no wonder he’s my second-favorite caller!
Tony Oxendine (www.tonyoxendine.com)
I first met Tony at the Bakersfield Fiesta in March of 1999. Vic and I were recently engaged and we decided to drive up for the day to dance at the Fiesta. I have to admit that as a fairly new dancer, I had no idea who Tony was when Vic introduced us. I have since learned that Tony is pretty much square dance “Royal-ty.” Tony has been extremely supportive of my Chic endeavors and offered advice and encouragement along the way. When I shared Chic’s version of “(Your Love Has Lifted Me) Higher & Higher” with Tony, prior to its release, he asked if he could sing it at the Indio festival. I readily agreed and captured this magic moment on video. Watching Tony sing “my” song, while a giant floor packed with dancers grooved to the music literally brought tears to my eyes. CHIC1008 – ‘Til There Was You is a beautiful song that demanded a beautiful voice. Tony was the perfect choice and I was so thrilled when he accepted my invitation. The vocal he recorded surpassed my highest expectations. He even took the time during the recording session to take pictures and send them to me for Chic’s Facebook page. When I returned to Tony with an invitation for a second guest appearance, his response was an enthusiastic affirmative. His voice is perfect for CHIC1023 - Playground in My Mind, and his recording is exactly what I wanted for the song. He is nothing short of amazing! It’s no wonder he is my second-favorite caller!
I first danced to Johnny Preston in 1998 at a local dance in Riverside, CA. The number of dancers who packed the hall that evening was an indication that Johnny was a great caller. I was too new of a dancer at the time to appreciate his command of choreography, but I certainly recognized the fact that he had a beautiful voice. Years later, as a more seasoned dancer (and a fairly new caller), I have enjoyed some fascinating conversations with Johnny about choreography. He was the first to bring CHIC1014 – Whatever Lola Wants to my attention, and I was so happy when he agreed to record the male vocal. He even went the extra mile and recorded the tune in character, complete with accent. It’s no wonder he’s my second-favorite caller.
Jet Roberts (www.jetroberts.com)
Jet is another caller who has been my second-favorite for many years. When I returned to square dancing in the late 90's, we attended a Jet Roberts dance near downtown Riverside. David and Dawn Mee assured me I was in for a treat and they were right. I was too new of a dancer to truly appreciate the way that Jet controlled the floor and the dance, but in the years since I have come to appreciate that talent. As we mixed the vocal to the music, even Jimmy Mac (Chic's engineer) commented on Jet's tone, pitch and amazing feel for rhythm. Jet delivered all of that in spades for CHIC1004 - It Feels Good. On top of that, he has a wife who is a caller too! (Hey, Sylvia!) It's no wonder he's my second-favorite caller!
I was anxious to find just the right song for Sylvia Roberts to record for Chic and when I decided to do CHIC2015 – For What It’s Worth, I knew I had succeeded. Sylvia and I were both at the National Convention in Des Moines, IA (sans husbands), and I really enjoyed the time we spent laughing and getting to know each other better. No other female caller I know “gets” the challenges associated with trying to break into the calling business when your spouse is already an established caller. While it certainly opens a few doors, it can also create roadblocks. While it’s great to have someone you love and trust who can offer constructive feedback, sometimes you just need them to be there and not say a word. One of my favorite moments at Nationals was watching Sylvia get “wired for sound” to be taped for a local news program. She had zero notice that she was the lucky one chosen and she handled it like a pro. It’s no wonder she’s my second-favorite caller!
Joe Saltel (www.joesaltel.com)
One of the most fun parts of producing square dance music is choosing callers to record the vocals. Sometimes I have a song in mind, and I search for the right caller. Sometimes I have a caller in mind, and I search for the right song. Matching the great voice of Joe Saltel to CHIC1013 – I Will was a combination of both, and ended up being a match made in heaven. Joe’s sister put it into words: “It sounds beautiful, makes everyone smile and feel great, and conveys the essence of Joe.” When I invited Joe to record for Chic, I told him I already had a song chosen for him. I said, “it’s a Beatles song, but not one of their bigger hits. It’s called, I Will.” Joe responded by singing, “who knows how long I’ve loved you…” That moment was a dead giveaway that Joe was a big Beatles fan. It’s no wonder he’s my second-favorite caller!
Elmer Sheffield (www.squaredancesites.com/elmer_sheffield)
I was so thrilled when Elmer agreed to record the vocal for CHIC1021 - Ugly Christmas Sweater. He is truly a legend in the world of square dance music production. (I knew this long before I learned to call. Vic has close to 200 ESP records filed and stored in the garage. I manually handled each and every one when we digitized, catalogued, and created a database for all of Vic's records shortly after we got married.) In addition to producing some of the best music in the business, Elmer has also recorded more singing calls than any other caller. There is a lot more I could add to the list of Elmer's credentials, but you can read that in his bio. What I want to share is something I witnessed at a recent Callerlab Convention. I was impressed as he took such good care of his wife, Margie, who was in a wheelchair. I cannot remember the specifics, but I was passing by as he declined an offer to go hang with the guys because he needed to get her up to the room for some rest. It was a simple, passing moment, but the tender way he put her needs ahead of his own touched my heart and told me everything I needed to know about the kind of man that Elmer is. It’s no wonder he’s my second-favorite caller!