Lawrence Vernel Loy was born on the 14th of December 1907 in Bancroft, Kansas as the son of Vernel and Grace Loy. He had an older brother, Wallace, and a older sister, Berdina. The family moved to Iowa where he grew up on the family farm. He attended High School at Bedford. In 1928, at age 21, he obtained his Bachelors degree at the Iowa State University, where three years later he would get his Master of Science degree.
During his time on the Iowa State University he met Helen Ruggles. They met
at a party where Helen was singing. They got married on December 22nd 1928.
Both Lawrence and Helen were very artistic. Helen was a fine singer, who sung
harmony with her friend Edna Holzinger for a local radio station. Lawrence did
a lot of woodworking. Furthermore, square dancing was a constant factor
in the house.
Lawrence and Helen would get two children. Their first son, however, died
during birth on March 10th 1940. Their daughter Patsy Sue was born on 29th
of August 1941.
In 1928 and 1929 Lawrence taught social sciences and mathematics at
the Thompson High School in Thompson, Iowa. He was also active with
the Scouts. From 1929 to 1935 he served as director of intramural athletics
at Ames Senior High School in Ames, Iowa. Prior to becoming a member of the
faculty at at the University of Massachusetts in 1936 he was an assistant
in rural organization in the Iowa Extension Service.
In September 1936 he moved to the University of Massachusetts as Professor
in Mathematics. Later Loy took a higher paying, more interesting job
as extension specialist in Young People's Programme at the same University.
As an extension specialist in recreation at the university, Lawrence Loy
traveled through all of the New England states, developing state and community
recreational programs. In his work he was associated with both youth and
adult groups, including Boy and Girl scouts, churches and farm bureaus.
As a trained recreation leader, Mr. Loy used to say: "Community recreation
means activities for young and old. Too many people get the idea that
recreation means major sports. Every good a recreation program should be
planned for the entire community."
During World War II, Lawrence Loy left his class at the University to carry
recreation programs to servicemen in New Foundland. After the war he went
on developing recreational programs in West Virginia, North and South Carolina.
A hobby of Lawrence that was directly connected to his work was
square dancing. In 1946 he organized the annual Country Dance festival
at the University of Massachusetts. He was caller at many large square
dances, that often were held in large barns, and attracted thousands
of people of all ages. Square dancing was hugely popular in the 40s and 50s.
Ever since Henry Ford (of the automobiles) published the square dance
book "Good Morning" in the early twenties, the enthusiasm was growing.
Another hallmark book was "Cowboy Dances" by Lloyd Shaw, which was
published in 1939. Together with this book, Shaw taught courses
for callers. Due to the war, the square dance boom was postponed
for a few years, but came to it's full potential in the
late 40s (for more information on square
dancing see: www.heinerfischle.de/history). This resulted in a high demand
for square dance records, a demand that was quickly satisfied by the large
Columbia was one of the first labels to recognize the potential of
square dance records. In 1941 Carson Robinson was contracted to make square dance
recordings. Of course they needed a caller for the records. Lawrence Loy,
who by now was an experienced caller, did the calls at the recording session
on 17th of February 1941. Of this session eight tracks were released
on four 78 rpm records (Columbia 36018 through 36021). These records
were reissued in 1953, when the square dancing boom was at a peak,
in an album (C 47), and on a 10" LP called "Square Dances" (CL 6029), which
2 years later was reissued again as CL 2551.
After the war RCA Victor also joined the square dance craze. Around year
end 1945 they recorded eight square dance tracks with the same combination
of Carson Robinson's band and Lawrence Loy as caller. These tracks were issued
on four 78 rpm records (20-1830 through 20-1833), in an album (P-155),
and on 10" LP (LPM 3030). Also the new MGM label (which recently signed Hank Williams)
recorded the Robinson-Loy combination. The recordings were made around
April 1947, and were issued on four 78 rpm records (10051 through 10054) in
Columbia wanted to expand their square dance catalogue after the war. Lawrence Loy,
who was very popular, was signed on September 28th 1949. Remarkable was that
he had a contract for himself as a caller, that was not tied to a band.
He also got an exceptionally good royalty: 4% of 90% of the sales. This was
a contract that was comparable to Roy Acuff and Gene Autry, most contracts
started with 1% of 90%! Two days after he was signed the first recordings
were made in Columbia's studios in New York. Lawrence called with Wilbur Waite's
Pokeberry Promenaders (a name derived from Pokeberry Ridge in Amherst, MA
where Mr. Loy lived). The band consisted of Fred Sears on fiddle, Wilbur Waite
on bass fiddle, and Tony, an Italian, on accordion. Their style was simple
but effective. The intro was played by the accordion, after which the fiddle
would take over to play the melody.
Since Lawrence Loy found it hard to call without dancers, a group of dancers
travelled with him to New York (one of the dancers was Paul Channell,
who fifty years later is the 1st Vice President of the Square Dance Foundation
of New England). The eight tracks that were recorded were predominantly popular
country tunes from that time like "Just Because", and "San Antonio Rose".
They were issued on 14th of November 1949 on four 78 rpm records (Columbia 20636-20639)
collected in album H-11, and on 10" LP "Square Dances Volume II",
Columbia HL 9014.
Lawrence's records sold well, and subsequently, on 28th of September 1950
his contract was renewed. On the 4th of April 1951 he again recorded eight
tracks with Wilbur Waite's Pokeberry Promenaders. Remarkable is that the fiddle
is not or hardly audible, and the melody is played by the accordion exclusively.
Again, on the repertoire were popular country tunes like "Golden Slippers".
The eight tracks were issued on four 78 rpm records (Columbia 20817-20820)
in album H-14 and on 10" LP "Square Dances Volume III", HL 9018.
His contract was again renewed in 1951 and 1952. On March 3rd 1953 he went
to the studios with Wilbur Waite's Pokeberry Promenaders for the third time.
This time the recordings again featured the fiddle, although not as prominent as
on the first session. The eight tracks recorded were issued on
four 78 rpm records (Columbia 21105-21107) in album H-20, on the 10" LP
"Square Dances Volume IV", HL 9024, and on a 45 rpm double EP (H4-20).
In september 1953 his contract with Columbia was not renewed. With three 10" LPs
in the HL 9000 series, Lawrence Loy (together with the Chuck Wagon Gang) had the
highest number of LPs in this early Columbia LP series, more than Roy Acuff,
Gene Autry, Carl Smith or Lefty Frizzell!
Lawrence Loy died on March 10th 1955, aged 47, of a heart attack. On a conference
held the day after his death the following homage was dedicated to him:
"In nearly 20 years Lawrence V. Loy served the Commonwealth
Massachusetts as Extension Professor in charge of Youth Programs at
the University of Massachusetts. He inspired thousands of people of all ages
with the spirit of youth, and instructed them in the intricacies of dance.
His fame and influence reached the distant corners of the world. His technical
expertise was heightened in potency by virtue of his vibrant albeit dignified
personality and self-sacrificing consecrations to his art."
On the 15th of July 1955 "his" Country Dance Festival was dedicated to him.
In the early sixties, 20 of his 24 Columbia recordings were reissued on 2 12" LPs
on the Harmony label. His wife Helen out-lived him by thirty years, and
re-married in 1957 with Herbert Randolph. His daughter Pat S. Loy lives
in Florida, where she is a teacher and an artist. Both Lawrence and Helen
are buried in Amherst, Massachusetts, near the house they lived in for years.
In 2001 Lawrence Loy was inducted in the Square Dance Foundation of New England's
Hall of Fame with the following text:
"Lawrence Loy gave generously of his time and enthusiasm to further the cause
of wholesome community recreation. His devotion to the youth, the lilt
of his songs, the joy of his games, the full souled sway of his dances,
friendly enjoyment of simple everyday group activities enriched and
inspired the lives of others. He founded the UMass Country Dance festival,
Old Colony Callers & Teachers Association, the New England Recreational Leaders
Laboratory, the New England Young Men's and Women's conference, and recorded
for Columbia. His leadership was unassuming but effective. It was little friendly
deeds that made Lawrence Loy big in the world of square dance. Today we honor
his memory by induction into our Hall of Fame."
Timeline and Trivia Notes
Group Members included:
- Lawrence Loy, caller
- Fred Sears, fiddle
- Wilbur Waite, bass fiddle
- Tony ??, accordion
Credits & Sources