About Jack Hayes - fiddler, caller, composer


I played with Jack Hayes for a number of years in the late 1970s and early '80s. I wish I could tell you more about him. I've looked online, and asked around among a number of other people who knew him, and I haven't even come up with his birth/death dates or a single photograph. Here's what I can tell you.

Jack lived in Toronto for most/all of his life as far as I can tell. He seemed to have had some connections to the Halton area west of Toronto, but I don't know if ever lived there. I would guess that he might have been born about 1915 and I think he may have died in the 1990s. I had lost touch with him at that point. For many years he worked in the tool and die trade in Toronto.

Jack was a fiddler and a square dance caller. I got to know him during a time when, every Tuesday night for a couple of winters, he and fiddler Dave Weir and I put on night school square dance classes at Central Tech School in Toronto. I was the guitar player. At that time Jack also called dances at Harbourfront, the Buttonville Women's Institute and for seniors' groups and one-off square dances all over the Toronto area. He was the president of the Ontario Old Tyme Square dance Callers' Association from 1956-57.

Jack was famous for his brusque "drill sergeant" calling style, which often included a suggestion to "MOVE!!!" when dancers weren't proceeding at suitable clip. Another favourite was the line "Now that you've rested..." which always came about three and one half seconds after the last dance had finished.

Jack wrote hundreds of appealing, often quirky tunes which he named after just about everyone he knew (myself included) His most famous tune is "The Lemonville Jig" which is especially popular in the UK.

Jack also told some interesting stories during the breaks at those classes. He talked about having been a piper in one of the local Highland regiments. There are a couple of pipe tunes among his compositions.

My favourites were the stories of his days as the bouncer/ caller at Playter Hall, a big brick dance hall which is still standing in 2017, at the corner of Broadview and Danforth in Toronto’s east end.

George Wade and the Cornhuskers played there regularly, entertaining the dancers with a set of “modern” tunes, then changing into their satin overalls, swapping their saxophones for fiddles, and returning to the stage a few minutes later, ready for a set of old-time square dancing. On nights when bandleader George Wade was indisposed, Jack was sometimes called upon to call dances in his place.

I said that Jack was also the bouncer. Did I also mention that the nickname of the hall was The Bucket of Blood? According to Jack, it came by it honestly. Jack had lots of great stories about single-handedly preventing and breaking up fights there – especially on the nights when the Junction Gang and the Beanery Boys had showed up to rumble. One curious detail I remember hearing was that a fight could be triggered by having two men dance together. (this was the 1940s, remember?) Once the bouncer arrived to restore decorum it could be used as an excuse for a Donnybrook, or a distraction while another one started else where in the room.

If anyone out there has any more information about Jack please consider getting in touch and passing it on.


Title About Jack Hayes - fiddler, caller, composer
Subject Jack Hayes Tunes Reference Material
Year 1920
Locale Southwestern


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