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Sammy Spring - fiddler & square dance caller

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Sammy Spring

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Sammy Spring - fiddler & square dance caller


Sammy Spring (1883–1958) was a fiddler and square dance caller from Otis, Massachusetts, in the western part of the state. This website includes photos of him and a lengthy interview conducted in 1939 by Edward Welch, a worker with the Federal Writers Project.

---excerpt from the 1939 interview:
“So you want to know how I come to take up fiddlin’. Well of course, I started in as a lad going to kitchen dances. In those days a fiddler was considered to be, or at least to me seemed to be, an important man, and there were several pretty good ones in this part of the country—a Heath feller from Monterey, an Irishman from Becket and a coon from over Tyringham way. Of course I was too young to do much dancing, but not too young to like the way the sellers sizzled and called. I used to go to the dances with my folks when I was a kid and I'd sit and listen to the fiddlers: out the sets all evening. When I got the most of them down good I bought a fiddle from the Coon from tiring him with some money I earned, and started into learn for myself I took a couple of lessons from Heath over in Monterey and after a while got so I could play pretty good.”

“It wasn't long before I was playing for dances–maybe a couple of years or so. Of course, I got most of the work in Sandisfield and Otis. I got so good that some of the other fellows got kinda jealous. Some one of them sent me a letter telling me I’d better quit or there'd be some trouble; but I kept right on and nothing ever come of it. ...

“You know in those old days, ‘specially over at the East Otis Tavern, we used to play for chicken pie suppers. That is, it was a combination affair, the cost a dollar apiece, fifty cents for the supper and fifty cents for the dance. Well at those suppers you could have all you wanted to eat. ‘Course, chicken pie was the main dish, but that wasn't all. They would have home-made pies and cakes, home-made butter, pickles, cheese, cookies, well jest about every kind of home-made food you could imagine. Tea, coffee and home-made doughnuts, but no hard stuff. These dances used last all night long. We even played at one that ran three nights in a row. Those used to be darn good times. No rough stuff nor anything wrong either. Whole families would attend, out for a good time and they sure had it. ...

“I honestly think that old-time dancing is coming back. For instance there are several groups that are learning these square sets. Take in Springfield for instance. They have a group of youngsters down there, Girl Scouts that can do all the squares like real old-timers. We went down there just once and took a set from Otis to show them how to dance and they caught right on to it. You know they's some sense to square dancin’. Why I'd rather see younguns dance that way than to try to do that crazy jitterbug stuff. Ain't no since to it at all. Jumpin’ round like crazy loons or monkeys trying to climb a tree, that ain't dancin’. They ain't no sense to it.”

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This Item is related to Item: Sammy Spring's Quadrille - Don Armstrong