Square Dance Caller and Teacher
801 Lake Mendocino Dr. #11
Ukiah, CA 95482
Lawrence Johnstone began square dancing at the age of 14, at his parents' insistence — they met while square dancing in 1962, and wanted it to be something they could all enjoy together as a family. Lawrence took to it immediately, and even felt the urge to try calling at that early stage. He resisted it, though, because he didn't think that he could sing — and never told anyone about the urge.
That changed in 1993, after 15 years of square dancing, when the Ukiah Promenaders' club caller Milt Adams wanted to quit. Lawrence took lessons from Steve Minkin and Bob Bunch, and became the Promenaders' club caller in April of 1994. He has continued to call for them ever since, and currently calls for three different clubs: the Promenaders; the Frontier Twirlers in Willits; and the Singles & Pairs in Santa Rosa.
Along the way, Lawrence also attended and graduated from Daryl Clendenin's caller school in McCloud, California. He has called in Oregon, northern and central California, and Nevada, and has called several times at the National Square Dance Convention, USAwest Square Dance Convention, and California State Square Dance Convention. He has been recognized numerous times since 1999 by the Northern California Square Dancers' Association as one of the top 10 callers in the northern half of the Bay Area. As of April 2014, he has been calling for twenty years.
Lawrence works hard on his teaching skills — the teaching techniques sessions at the annual CALLERLAB convention are among his favorites. In addition to teaching beginner classes for his clubs, he taught classes for the Sonoma County Cooperative group in Sebastopol for several years. Lawrence also enjoys doing what callers refer to as "one-night parties" — that is, parties for groups of non-square-dancing people at which some simple square dancing is taught.
Lawrence tries not to imitate other callers, and strives to be different without being difficult. Part of this comes from his love of and frequent use of Big Band music, and part comes from trying to create smooth, flowing choreography that uses calls in slightly different combinations from those used by many callers. He does, however, admit to great admiration for several well-known callers and has attempted to study and use some of their techniques:
- Joe Saltel
- "Joe's my absolute favorite. If it weren't for all those tapes I bought from him, I wouldn't be a caller today, so blame him..."
- Jerry Quam
- "Possibly not as well known as he deserves. I was a dancer when he started, and was one of the 'dolls' that he used to practice on at the Center Wheelers' president's house. Watching him develop into a good caller is the sort of thing that makes you think, 'Hey, maybe I could do that.'"
- Nate Bliss
- "Great singing voice, great timing, could always make you think hard without interrupting the flow of the dance. And a great friend. I still miss him."
Here are a couple of pictures, for use of anyone making a flyer. Click on the thumbnail for the full-size photo:
1994 Publicity Photo
2004 Cal State Convention
2006 Publicity Photo
Dance at Oakdale, 2009
2009 CALLERLAB Convention
2014 National Convention
Onstage with the Ghost Riders
Scot Byars has a recording of a singing call duet with Lawrence on his MySpace Music page. Look in the player for the entry called "Heart Of My Heart Duet." (Even though neither of the songs is actually "Heart Of My Heart!") Here's a direct link.
In 2014, Lawrence became a staff caller for Bob Elling's Riverboat Records. To date, the following Riverboat releases feature his vocals:
|Number - Title||Release Date|
- Under The Sun
(2015 Gold package)
05/21/15 (as single)
- Ain't Misbehavin'
(new vocal on re-release of RB 3005)
- God Bless The USA
(new vocal on re-release of RB 3031)
- Christmas Dance With You
- Don't Sit Under The Apple Tree
(2016 Gold package)
06/09/16 (as single)
- Steppin' Out
(2016 Gold package)
09/16/16 (as single)
|RIV 621 - Auld Lang Syne
|RIV 680 - Simple Life
(2017 Gold package)
|RIV 681 - Then The World Will Know
(2017 Gold package)
If you have a browser new enough to support the HTML5 <audio> tag (basically, any current browser, and any Internet Explorer version higher than 8), you should see an audio player under the title that will let you listen to the sample. Riverboat titles can be purchased directly from the Riverboat Records website. (Which Lawrence designed and maintains.)
In 2009, a square dance record producer asked Lawrence to record a few singing call vocals on the Square Tunes and Grenn record labels:
|| Call Nbr
|| Release Date
| I Wonder Where You Are Tonight
| Meet Me Under The Mistletoe
| Forever You'll Be Mine
| Put On Your Old Gray Bonnet
| Pennies From Heaven
|Stairway to Paradise (favorite)|| GR-12419
These titles were formerly available from Hanhurst's Music and Tape Service, but do not seem to be available any longer since the sale of that business and its associated site dosado.com to their current owners. Nor does the current owner of Square Tunes and Grenn, SquareDanceMusic.com, appear to have them available. So, I guess they're now in limbo somewhere...
A short video taken 2015-03-21 by Allison Drumheller of the end of the singing call "Peg O'My Heart" at the Overalls' Spring Stomp dance in Roseville, CA. (Yes, I'm walking out on the dance floor with a wireless microphone.)
First singing call of the evening at the 2016 Idaho State Festival in Boise, ID
Video of me calling with the Ghost Riders Band at the 2016 National Square Dance Convention in Des Moines, IA.
Patty Kennedy Greene was kind enough to use my phone to video my singing call with the Ghost Riders Saturday night at the National Square Dance ConventionPosted by Lawrence Johnstone on Sunday, June 26, 2016
Auld Lang Syne as the last singing call of the 2016 Rockin' Jokers' Glass Slipper Ball on New Year's Eve. (Actually, just past midnight, so it's New Year's Day.)