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Schroeder's Playboys - An Appreciation
by Tony Parkes, August 2012
If I could be transported back to the 1950s and had my choice of any one square dance band to hear and/or dance to live, it might well be Schroeder's Playboys in Phoenix. I've seldom heard such sheer energy, combined with technical skill and tight teamwork.
"Little Spanish Restaurant" is one piece I never get tired of hearing. Listen to how the fiddler never stops playing when the accordion and banjo take the lead, but instead improvises behind them. (The same record with calls by Al Brownlee can be heard here (Dash 2505). "Square thru" was new enough that Al called out all the turns. A transcription of the calls is available.)
The hoedowns are collectively the finest example I've found of the Southwestern style of square dance music, characterized by slower-than-Appalachian-or-Coloradan tempos, punchy guitar rhythm, and bouncy, almost dotted-note fiddling. Compare "Soldier's Joy" with the same tune as played by Floyd Woodhull's group from New York state. They're both excellent, but in very different ways.
"Raggin Up Annie" is a gem. It has to be heard more than once to appreciate the fiddling. This is a prime contender for my favorite recording of my favorite tune - at least, my favorite recording of those intended for dancing. The finest of all Ragtime Annies is probably Byron Berline's on his album "Dad's Favorites," coincidentally also played in Southwestern style. A 30-second sample is here.
Note: The Lloyd Shaw Foundation has the entire Dash records output (with Schroeder's Playboys) available on five CDs. Walter Noble (fiddle), John Schroeder (guitar), Tony Cordasco (bass)
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