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Blue Star Square Dance Music

By Buddy Weaver (4/07)  (updated 4/13)

It was in April, 1956 that Norm and Nadine Merrbach released BS 1501, "Blue Star Hoedown" and "New Broom", a two sided hoedown on 78 RPM vinyl.  Over the next fifty years and three producers, Blue Star Records would release over 1000 records becoming the largest and longest running square & round dance music company in the world. 

           

                Norman and Nadine Merrbach, founders of Blue Star Records

Take a look back to see how Blue Star and the square dance world evolved:

1956-1966

1.  Earl Caruthers, a "Texas Playboy" with Bob Wills is the lead musician for Blue Star music.  Playing as "Earl and his hoedowners", the strong fiddle and bass sound sets the square dance world on fire.

  "The Texans" band for Blue Star, 1964

2.  The first caller to record on Blue Star is Andy Andrus, a big name caller in Texas; in 1958 a little known caller makes his recording debut with "the Auctioneer" and Marshall Flippo records the first of what will be over a hundred Blue Star Records.  

3.  Bogan Records, becomes a subsidiary of Blue Star, begins in 1956; through 1997 Bogan releases a total of 198 records.

4.  Lore Records, another subsidiary label is purchased in 1958 and through 1986 produces 236 releases. 

5.  Swinging Square Records is started by Norm Merrbach in 1959.

6.  Bob Fisk makes his recording debut in 1962 on Blue Star with "True Love".  Recordings by Bob of "Once A Day", "Early Morning Rain", and "Tie A Yellow Ribbon Round The Old Oak Tree" are today's square dance classics.  Bob recorded a "live" dance in North Hollywood, released as a 33 1/3 album - now made available on CD as "Bob Fisk Tribute Album".

                        Recording artist, Bob Fisk                                                                        

7.  Rockin' A Records, yet another subsidiary label, begins in 1963.

 

1967-1976

1.  In the mid-sixties, the signature sound is provided by Dick Shannon, a dance band leader from Houston.  Playing as the "Shannoniers" and "Rhythmaires", they record square dance gold. 

2.  Ken Bower makes his recording debut in 1967 with "Happy".  The singing call "First Thing Every Morning" written by both Dee and Ken Bower was so popular, it was released twice, twenty years apart.  Ken returned to Blue Star in 2003 with "Summertime".

3.  In 1971, the biggest name in calling is Frank Lane and to get him to join the Blue Star family, a special record label is created, named for the Lane's famous square dance get-away in Estes Park.  Dance Ranch Records is started and today, thirty six years later, Dance Ranch is the leading producer of square dance CDs.  

4.  Johnnie Wykoff makes his solo recording debut in 1973 with "I Believe In Music".  Johnnie and Star Wykoff later become owners and producers of Blue Star Records

                    Jerry Helt & Johnnie Wykoff, 1974

5.  Making their recording debut in 1974 is, Wade Driver with "Glory On My Mind" and Lee Kopman with "Challenge Square Dance" Albums

6.  Also in 1974, Mike Sikorsky makes his debut with "When My Blue Moon Turns To Gold".  Mike returned in 2004 with "Swanee".

7.  Bee Sharp started in 1976 as a series of workshop records called by the one and only, Dave Taylor.

 

1977-1986

1.  Petticoat Patter, a subsidiary label is formed in 1982 as the first and to this day, only, record label produced for women callers, recording only women callers.

2.  Blue Star's musical sound changes, incorporating popular regional bands like the Fontana Ramblers, who played regularly at Fontana Dam in the Carolinas and Lee Mace's Ozark Opry Band from Lake of the Ozarks, Missouri.

3.  A Houston band named Stellar Unit becomes Blue Star's new signature sound; the band records "I Found A New Baby", Blue Star's biggest selling record in the past two decades.

4.  By the late eighties, Johnnie Wykoff takes over production of the Blue Star family of labels, as the Merrbachs begin to retire.

 

1987-1996

1.  Under the guidance of Johnnie Wykoff, bands change again and Blue Star music takes on a very modern and distinctly "up-beat" sound.

2.  Blue Star is one of the first record labels to offer it's existing catalog of music on digital format - MP3s.

3.  Bob Cat Records becomes part of the Blue Star family. 

 

1997-Present

1.  In 2002, Buddy Weaver becomes owner/producer of the Blue Star family of labels.   New music and new vocals start coming from Blue Star and Dance Ranch every month.

2.   In 2004, Hi Hat, Blue Ribbon and DJ become part of the Blue Star family of labels, making it the largest square dance record company in the world.  With a new band and staff of callers, "New Hi Hat Records" debuts in late 2004 and has been a consistent top selling record label since then.     

3.  A historic moment in square dance music happens in 2005, when Blue Star Records becomes the first and only label to release it's 1,000th record.  Appropriately Marshall Flippo recorded the vocal for BS 2501, "Blue Blue Day"; the initial limited release collectable record pressing is sold out, but the release is available on CD and MP3.

4.  In 2006, Blue Star records turned fifty years old - it is the only square dance label that has been in business for fifty years.  

5. Available as MP3 downloads, the first of it's kind, now dancers without a caller can enjoy dancing and even spread the activity to their friends.  It is 2012 and a new generation discovers Square Dancing through www.buddyweaver.com/music.htm

6.  In 2013, Buddy Weaver develops a new process of capturing and digitalizing audio from vinyl.  The Classics web site begins selling impossible-to-find records now as MP3 downloads.  The Blue Star and Hi Hat web sites begin selling MP3 downloads directly to the public.

 

                                                            

Famous Blue Star recording artists, Jim Brower, Al "Tex" Brownlee, and Marshall Flippo                   Pictured in 1960's and being inducted into Texas Callers Hall Of Fame in 2007                                             

 

 

Blue Star Music has copyright ownership of the following labels: 

1 World * Blue Star (squares & rounds) * Bee Sharp * Blue Ribbon (squares & rounds) * Bob Cat * Bogan

 Dance Ranch * DJ * EZ for schools * Hi Hat (squares) * Lore * Petticoat Patter

Rockin' A * Swinging Square

 

Music from the following labels are released with permission and subject to copyright by Blue Star Music:

Lightning S Records, Lucky Records

 

 

Singing calls 2010-2011

BS 2545 - "HEY MA, SHE'S MAKING EYES AT ME" by Buddy Weaver

BS 2547 - "BEER BARREL POLKA" by Vernon Jones

BS 2549 - "THAT'S LIFE" by Andy Allemao

BS 2551 - "LAST CHRISTMAS" by Buddy Weaver & Andy Allemao

 

 

Hoedowns 2010-2011

BS 2544 - "STARS AND STRIPES" and "GIDDY UP"

BS 2546 - "PURE BLUE STAR" and "LONELY GOATHERD"

BS 2548 - "FILL 'ER UP" and "CIELITO LINDO"

BS 2550 - "WHISKERS" and "PAWS UP"

 


Singing calls 2008

BS 2537 - "CRAZY ARMS" by Gary Shoemake

BS 2539 - "ALBERTA BOUND" by Shozo Nishimura

BS 2541 - "EASY LOVING" by Jerry Story

BS 2543 - "I'M THE ONE" by Buddy Weaver
 

Hoedowns 2008

BS 2536 - "ROOTIN' TOOTIN' & LA ARANITA"

BS 2538 - "EARL GREY & PER QUALCHE"

BS 2540 - "TEMPEST & BLUE NOTE"

BS 2542 - "HOEDOWN OF THE PHANTOM & DANCERS DELIGHT"


Singing calls 2007

BS 2527 - "WHEN MEMPHIS GAVE BIRTH TO ROCK AND ROLL" by Joe Saltel

BS 2529 - "WHEN IRISH EYES ARE SMILING" by Ernie Kinney

BS 2531 - "I'M FROM THE COUNTRY" by Buddy Weaver

BS 2533 - "BACK IN YOUR OWN BACKYARD" by Mike Seastrom

BS 2535 - "I LOVE THE WORLD" by Buddy, Kini, Mele Weaver

Hoedowns 2007

BS 2526 - "KINGS OF SWING & ORANGE BLOSSOM SPECIAL"

BS 2528 - "ROSIN & SWINGING SWANS"

BS 2530 - "NEW TULSA & FUNKY RIDER"

BS 2532 - "RIGHT PATH & TIN SOLDIER"

BS 2534 - "PLAY IT COOL & PIANO IN A"

Singing calls 2006

BS 2517 - "BEST THINGS IN LIFE" by Elmer Sheffield

BS 2519 - "CALIFORNIA HERE I COME" by Buddy Weaver

BS 2521 - "EVERYWHERE YOU GO" by Mac Letson

BS 2523 - "SITTING ON TOP OF THE WORLD" by Ken Bower

BS 2525 - "ICE CREAM SODAS" by Al Stevens


Hoedowns 2006

BS 2514 - "GALE & HOTEL PACIFIC"

BS 2516 - "RIP TIDE & ROCK-A-BYE"

BS 2518 - "GET DOWN & ACCENTUATION"

BS 2520 - "OUT WEST & MUSIC BOX"

BS 2522 - "FIDDLING FRENZY & 34th AND VINE"

BS 2524 - "SASSY AND BRASSY & CUP OF LIFE"


Singing calls 2005

BS 2499 - "I'VE GOT A LOVELY BUNCH OF COCONUTS" by Ernie Kinney

BS 2501 - "BLUE BLUE DAY" by Marshall Flippo

BS 2503 - "WHEN THE RED RED ROBIN" by Jerry Haag

BS 2505 - "WINK AND A SMILE" by Mike Sikorsky

BS 2507 - "HELLO MY BABY" by Al Stevens

BS 2509 - "RING OF FIRE" by Buddy Weaver

BS 2511 - "NEW YORK, NEW YORK" by Mark Clausing

BS 2513 - "START OF SOMETHING BIG" by Joe Saltel

BS 2515 - "STREET FAIR" by Buddy Weaver

Hoedowns 2005

BS 2498 - "TEN TWENTY (10/20) & DAPPER DAN"

BS 2500 - "UP THE CREEK & BIRTHDAY SQUARE"

BS 2502 - "FLAT TOP & DRIVEN"

BS 2504 - "CHOPSTICKS & WAIKIKI"

BS 2506 - "PRETTY LADY & WORKING FOR THE MONEY"

BS 2508 - "IDA RED & RUNNING AWAY"

BS 2510 - "BLUE STAR RAMBLER & SMOOTH AND EASY"

BS 2512 - "SADDLE UP & ROCKIN'"


Singing calls - 2004

BS 2475 - "YOUNG AT HEART" by Ken Bower

BS 2477 - "SWANEE" by Mike Sikorsky

BS 2479 - "BOOGIE GRASS BAND" by Jerry Story

BS 2481 - "READY FOR TIMES TO GET BETTER" by Buddy Weaver

BS 2483 - "SWEET GEORGIA BROWN" by Elmer Sheffield

BS 2485 - "BE BOP A LULA" by Gary Shoemake

BS 2487 - "PLASTIC SADDLE" by Jerry Story

BS 2489 - "I DROVE ALL NIGHT" by Tony Oxendine

BS 2491 - "THERE'LL BE SOME CHANGES MADE" by Buddy Weaver

BS 2493 - "PEG OF MY HEART" by Mike Seastrom

BS 2495 - "HAVE YOURSELF A MERRY LITTLE CHRISTMAS" by Buddy Weaver

BS 2497 - "FROSTY THE SNOWMAN" by Buddy, Kini, Mele Weaver

Hoedowns - 2004

BS 2476 - "BRIAR PATCH & AMPLITUDE"

BS 2478 - "CINDY & GOOD ENOUGH"

BS 2480 - "JUMBLE & GROVE"

BS 2482 - "COTTON EYED-JOE & KICK IT UP"

BS 2484 - "SHINDIG & STAR'S HOEDOWN"

BS 2486 - "ONE WAY & HAPPY PIANO"

BS 2488 - "RUBBER DOLLY & BLUE AND WINDY"

BS 2490 - "AFTER ALL & DUSTY ROAD"

BS 2492 - "CITY SLICKER & SANDY"

BS 2494 - "MIDNIGHT & WILD ABOUT"

BS 2496 - "MUSIC BOX & SHOWBOAT"


Singi
ng calls - 2003

BS 2458 - "I FOUND A NEW BABY" by Buddy Weaver

BS 2461 - "WAITING FOR THE ROBERT E. LEE" by Jerry Story

BS 2463 - "SUMMERTIME" by Ken Bower

BS 2465 - US "NATIONAL ANTHEM" by Bob Baier

BS 2467 - "HELLO MARY LOU" by Buddy Weaver

BS 2469 - "WITCH DOCTOR" by Mike Seastrom

BS 2471 - "COWBOY'S SWEETHEART" by Deborah Carroll-Jones

BS 2473 - "I LEFT MY HEART IN SAN FRANCISCO" by Buddy Weaver

Hoedowns - 2003

BS 2460 - "COMPANY'S COMING & UP JUMPED THE DEVIL"

BS 2462 - "MACARENA & TURKEY IN THE STRAW"

BS 2464 - "SO NEAT & LANI"

BS 2466 - "GO THE DISTANCE & NOBODY'S BUSINESS"

BS 2468 - "LIFE GOES ON & DUKE IT OUT"

BS 2470 - "SUNNY DAY & DEW ON THE MOUNTAIN"

BS 2472 - "CRACKERJACK & EXPRESS"

BS 2474 - "SOMETHING HOT & DILEMMA"

 

THE HISTORY OF HI HAT SQUARE DANCE MUSIC
By Buddy Weaver (2010) (up-dated 2012)

 

1963-1976

From the late 1950's to the early 1960's, Merl Olds, was producer for Sets In Order Records, a subsidiary of Sets In Order Magazine.  A prominent square dance caller and round dance cuer in the Los Angeles area, Merl along with his wife Deliah, began using talented Hollywood musicians to play square and round dance music for their newly formed company.  In 1963, Hi Hat Dance Records premiered and  while Merl no longer worked for SIO Records, he continued to do record reviews for SIO Magazine.

  First Hi Hat Records ad from SIO 12/63

 

Providing the new sound was Dick Cary, jazz trumpet and alto horn player, pianist, and arranger.  Also playing was Joe Leahy, another jazz player who started his career with Les Brown and His Band Of Renown.  Plus Jimmy Bryant, one of the most talented guitarist in the Hollywood entertainment industry.

Amazing Dick Cary/California Doings by Dick Cary: CD Cover  Dick Cary      Jimmy Bryant with Speedy West

 

Many of the big name callers of the sixties enjoyed a long recording partnership with Hi Hat Records:

DICK HOULTON from California

RED BATES from Massachusetts

LEE SCHMIDT from California

TOMMY CAVANAUGH from Great Britain

DICK WEAVER from Hawaii (Buddy's Dad)

 

Joining Hi Hat Records in 1963, ERNIE KINNEY would record 130 vocals in thirty-eight years with Hi Hat.

His list of hits include: "DEVIL WOMAN", "EL PASO CITY", "FOOLS FALL IN LOVE", "COME TO ME", "MISTY", "GREEN GRASS OF HOME".

  ERNIE KINNEY (Ernie can also be seen in "Son-In-Law", click here )

1976-2002

In 1976, Merl Olds split Hi Hat into a separate round dance label and square dance label, selling each to new producers, Pete Metzger and Ernie Kinney, respectively.  Under new ownership, the Hi Hat Square Dance sound was guitarist Del Casher, a protégé' of Les Paul.  A side story is the fact that Del Casher's name was mis-spelled as Katcher on the very first record labels and remained in error for three decades. 

   Del Casher can be found on the internet at: http://www.delcasher.com/

In the twenty-six years that Ernie owned and produced Hi Hat Records, he was the first to create 2-Couple called records for home dancers that didn't have a whole square; the first to create records with music along with harmony vocals so that every caller could have full back-up singers; the first to create a label of karaoke records, music by the full band and sung by square dance callers.

Joining the Hi Hat Records staff was Bronc Wise, Tom Perry, Mike Sikorsky, and Jerry Schatzer - a few of the most popular callers of the day.

The Hi Hat sound changed again in 1981, when Ken Carlton was enlisted as arranger/musician.  The KC studio was the first to introduce electronic percussion to square dance music, where the rhythm was generated by a computer using recorded samples of live musicians.  Within five years, all square dance record companies would be using sampled percussion.

The Hi Hat recording staff changed again with Joe Saltel, Dan Nordbye, Deborah Carroll-Jones, Tom Miller, Wayne McDonald, and Kip Garvey joining the label.  In 1991, Ernie invited Buddy Weaver to join the Hi Hat Records staff.  Hi Hat is the only square dance music company that had both father and son as staff artists, in this case separated by twenty five years.

     Ernie and Lani Kinney receiving the Callerlab Gold Card from Buddy Weaver (2010)

Under Ernie Kinney's supervision, Hi Hat Records added sister labels - Blue Ribbon Records in 1976, ELK Records in 1984, and DJ Records in 1993.  The ELK label is the first "karaoke" record label with square dance callers doing the vocals on the flip side.  ELK also produced cassette and CD releases featuring the Hi Hat Pioneers, a quartet of callers singing cowboy songs.  The last members of the quartet are Ernie Kinney (leads), Tom Perry (baritone), Buddy Weaver (tenor), and Wayne McDonald (bass).

 

2004-present

In 2004, Buddy Weaver, producer of Blue Star Music, acquired Hi Hat Records.  Remaining autonomous, New Hi Hat Records debuted with a new staff of callers and new musical sound.  Now, modern electronic arrangements done by Japanese caller, Hiroshi Yaoko are featured.  New hits are made with "Glory Hallelujah", "You Are My Sunshine", "Ghost Riders Hoedown".   New Hi Hat Records (along with Blue Star Records) are among the first square dance labels to offer vinyl and CD formats; with the close of the vinyl era, the label name graduated to - New Hi Hat Music.

In the fall of 2009, the First Japan Hi Hat Fesitval was held in Tokyo, featuring calling talent from the US, Canada, Sweden, and Japan.  The second Hi Hat Festival was held in conjuction with the Laughlin River Romp in 2011.  The Third Hat Festival took place in Tokyo, January 2014.

Japan Hi Hat Festival Staff - Wada, Ozaki, Blume, Yaoko, Weaver, Crawford, Nishimura, Yaoko

In 2013, the label -   Hi Hat Retro Music, featuring previously released Hi Hat songs begins selling music.

Also in 2013, Buddy Weaver develops a new process of capturing and digitalizing audio from vinyl.  The Classics web site begins selling impossible-to-find records now as MP3 downloads.  The Blue Star and Hi Hat web sites begin selling MP3 downloads directly to the public.

Hi Hat Music produced by Buddy Weaver

2012 Releases 

HH 5307, IT'S GOOD TO BE ME by Andy Allemao

HH 5306, STREETS OF LONDON by Lanny Weaklend

HH 5305, LOVES GONNA LIVE HERE by Elmer Sheffield

HH 5304, FLY ME TO THE MOON by Joe Saltel

HH 5303, I BELIEVE IN MUSIC by Ken Bower

HH 5302, EXCEPT FOR MONDAY by Lottie Ainsworth

  2010-2011 Releases

HH 5301, HELLO DOLLY by Buddy Weaver

HH 5300, I'M PRETTY GOOD AT DRINKING BEER by Buddy Weaver

HH 5299, INDEPENDENCE DAY by Darren Gallina

HH 5298, TENNESSEE WALTZ by Masaru Wada

HH 5297, IF HEAVEN by Lottie Ainsworth

HH 5296, WHY DON'T WE JUST DANCE by Buddy Weaver

HH 5294, MARGARITAVILLE by Buddy Weaver

HH 5293, IF WE HOLD ON TOGETHER by Lone Blume

HH 5292, BANJO PICKERS BALL by Tac Ozaki

HH 5291, MY MELODY OF LOVE by Lottie Ainsworth

HH 5290, SUNNY by Buddy Weaver

HH 5289, WHEN THE SUN GOES DOWN by Lone Blume

2008 Releases

HH 5288, TAKE ME HOME COUNTRY ROADS by Masaru Wada & Keiko Yaoko

HH 5287, COAL MINER'S DAUGHTER by Lottie Ainsworth

HH 5286, KINGSTON TOWN by Mike Driscoll

HH 5285, CRAZY FOR LOVING YOU by Tac Ozaki

HH 5284, OBLADI OBLADA by Scott Bennett 2007 Releases

HH 5283, CHRISTMAS POP and WINTER HOEDOWN MEDLEY (hoedowns)

HH 5282, BAD MOON RISING by Tim Crawford

HH 5281, BLAME IT ON THE BOSSA NOVA by Lottie Ainsworth

HH 5280, TIGER RAG and LET IT BEAT (hoedowns)

HH 5279, GREEN GREEN GRASS OF HOME by Masaru Wada & Hiroshi Yaoko

HH 5278, BLUE CLEAR SKY by Lottie Ainsworth

HH 5277, LIGHT MY FIRE by Tim Crawford

HH 5276, CUPID by Masaru Wada

2006 Releases

HH 5275, FIVE HUNDRED MILES AWAY FROM HOME by Scott Bennett

HH 5274, GHOST RIDERS and NEW MACARENA (hoedowns)

HH 5273, THERE'S NO PLACE LIKE HOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS by Buddy, Kini, Mele Weaver

HH 5272, TIE A YELLOW RIBBON by Buddy Weaver

HH 5271, DANCE by Lottie Ainsworth

HH 5270, HOT CHOCOLATE and LADIES NIGHT (hoedowns)

HH 5269, CAN'T HELP FALLING IN LOVE WITH YOU by Masaru Wada & Keiko Yaoko

HH 5268, TENNESSEE RIVER by Scott Bennett, Lottie Ainsworth, Buddy Weaver

HH 5267, PROUD MARY by Masaru Wada

HH 5266, YOU ARE MY SUNSHINE by Lottie Ainsworth

HH 5265, DON'T BE CRUEL by Masaru Wada 2005 Releases

HH 5264, TRIBAL DANCE and WILDWOOD YELLOW ROSE (hoedowns)

HH 5263, LIVING ON LOVE by Masaru Wada

HH 5262, YOU'VE GOT TO CHANGE YOUR WAYS (EVIL WAYS) by Tim Crawford

HH 5261, GLORY HALLELUJAH by Masaru Wada

Releases prior to this are Classic Hi Hat Records (maroon label) available in limited quantities as vinyl OR digital on HI HAT RETRO MUSIC web site

 

        

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