About Jack Hayes- fiddler, caller, composer

John Castex "Jack" Hayes (1912-1993)


I played with Jack Hayes for a number of years in the late 1970s and early '80s.

Jack was born in "Cabbagetown" in 1912 and lived in Toronto for most of his life. He died in 1993. I had moved away and 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!) Once the bouncer arrived to restore decorum it could be used as an excuse for a Donnybrook, or a distraction while another punchup started elsewhere in the room.

The following is an excerpt from some correspondence to me from his son, John Hayes.

John says of him:

"In Dad's Early Years, living in Cabbagetown, (part of Toronto) he spent a couple of his formative years, living on the Farm of his Grand Parents. I have never been certain as to whether it was the Maternal or Paternal "Folks". Their farm was located in the North East Corner of Peel County. Yes, in the 50's and 60's, he'd combined Calling Square Dances with controlling the door {bouncing} at Playter's Hall, located at Broadview and Danforth. Yes it was called by many the "Bucket of Blood". Jack was an Amateur Boxer until the arrival of their 1st child, Elizabeth Ann, and had even advanced to the Provincial Finals, in his weight class, So he knew how to handle himself. The stories he told you were true as I've heard them from others, Musicians and Dancers, from the Hall. He named his music after Family Members, Sons, Daughters, Brothers, Sisters, Nieces, Nephews, Friends, Places etc.."

John also provided most of the photographs below. His Granddaughter Lindsay Glendenning provided the picture with the bagpipes.


Title About Jack Hayes- fiddler, caller, composer
Subject Jack Hayes Tunes Reference Material Other Music, Dance & Entertainments George Wade and His Cornhuskers
Year 1912
Locale Southwestern
Keywords Playter Hall Square Dance Toronto


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