Alternative Patter Music

A presentation by Ted Lizotte at the 2001 CALLERLAB Convention in St. Louis, MI


Comments from Clark Baker:

Tapes of this session are available from Convention Tapes International. Ask for CALLERLAB 2001, tape #29 - Non-Standard Music. The price is $9 plus $2 S&H.

An unintended result at this session was some outstanding choreography (mostly Mainstream, some Plus) and high energy dancing resulting from the synergy of the music, the callers and a super square of dancers. I recommend getting the tape, dancing it, and researching some choreo.

There were two goals for this session:

  1. To expose you music which is not traditionally used as patter music, and let you see how the caller handles it, and how the dancers respond to it.
  2. To give you some ideas on how the callers choose and work with their music.


The philosophy when I started using "pop-patter" was that I wanted to do something during the night that I liked. I like a lot of music that the activity offers, but let's face it; we don't listen to the singing call station on our FM dial. As I continued to increase my collection of songs, I found that my dancers responded extremely positively. While I have numerous pieces which are more borderline the ones I list below are tried and true and requested often at my dances. I tend not to use one of my "pop-patters" until at least tip 3 of my dance. My other patters are a split between traditional patter and singing call patter, I view these as one and the same, though others may have differing opinions. Usually, not more than 1/2 of my dance is devoted to the pop-patter.

Ted's Rules

When I utilize a "pop-patter", there are a few rules that I like to follow.

  1. Start with a Grand Square, Circle Left, or Allemande-RLG right off of the bat. This gives everyone a chance to feel the music, find the beat and get into it.
  2. Keep it simple. Over used, sure, but on the mark. For the most part, people are unaccustomed to this type of music. They now have to pick out my voice from the vocals on the record. I try to impress them with the smoothness of the dancing and go back to the choreo component with my next "traditional" piece of music. Dancers who dance to me every week have much more leeway in this area.
  3. I do this more for myself, than anything. I try and time my allemande lefts and RLGs to the chorus on the music. It forces me to pay attention and I also find that if people are going to sing and ignore me, the chorus is when they're going to do it.
  4. End with the record. I heard a famous caller once say, "only good callers end with the record", I guess I took it on as a challenge. Unlike a normal patter record which is constantly repeating itself, most people know these songs inside and out, and can sing along with the whole thing. Don't gip the dancer by going back to the beginning and then not finishing the piece as it was intended. Listen and time it. When you get it right it's impressive.

Song Selection

How do I select these songs? By ear mostly. When I'm driving home from class, I'll set the radio to SCAN and wait until something catches my attention. The thought being that if it makes me stop and take notice, it will effect my dancers the same way. Though I have a collection of songs that I've purchased and never used, my percentage here is better than with my singing call records. :-)

Overall, I look for a song with a distinct regularly occurring chorus and that isn't offensive to the general population which in today's music can be difficult. I try to vary my selections to different decades instead of concentrating on just my own but I have to like the piece of music. If I can't get into it, I shouldn't expect my dancers to.


  1. Bad Case of Lovin' You - Robert Palmer

This had a driving beat that hooked me the first time I heard it. Most people know it, and if not, they all know the chorus. This is probably one of the fast moving songs I have. Played at 45, it's enough to tire the kids out, but they love this one.

  1. Believe - Cher

Too popular to not be included. Again, a driving beat that gets everyone's toes tapping and it won a grammy. Again, this thing can move pretty quick, which is why they like it.

  1. September - Earth, Wind and Fire

This is beautifully smooth piece of music. lots of instruments you don't normally hear. It's a great travel back to the 70's without getting to heavy into the disco. I play this right at 45 as this is at almost perfect dancing speed.

  1. Turn the Beat Around - Gloria Estefan

This has a wild opening that gets people wondering what it is going to happen. As this is a remake of the original, and a better one in my mind, everyone knows the tune.

  1. Hurts So Good - John Cougar Mellencamp

One of John's earlier works for those who remember when he started. One of his biggest and it works well. I play this slightly faster than recorded to keep up the pace.

  1. Star Wars Theme -

Who doesn't know this? This is actually the "disco" version that was released the same year the original movie came out. I play this slightly faster than recorded. The audience always seems to love this one, plus I'm a huge Star Wars fan.

  1. Stars on 45 -

Similar to the Star Wars piece, this is one of those compilation disco versions. Kind of like the "Hooked on..." series of music. This one centers around the Beatles and the 60's allowing us to drift back with the music while maintaining the driving bass of the 80's. This is a right at 45'er. A nice sing-along tune that I use often as the last patter of the night. In addition, it's on pink vinyl, which leads right into Pink Cadillac.

  1. Smooth - Santana

Again, another grammy award winner. This is hugely popular and it adds a Latino flavor into the program. I have to play this at around 50 RPM, but the music holds together very well.

  1. Horse with No Name - America

This is a REALLY laid back piece of music. This is a "gimmick" piece for me. I use with this song and get everyone to "weave to the La-La's". If you know the piece, and even if you don't, the la-la'd chorus section is always familiar. People like to sing along, and I make a game out of trying to get them into a weave the ring in time to sing.

  1. Man, I feel like a Woman - Shania Twain

The joke here is "it's all in the punctuation." Pause and think about it. Anyway, I'll make sure I sing along with Shania, particularly during that title. The people that turn and look at me funny are the ones that are really paying attention. This is another 45'er for me.

  1. Everlasting Love - Gloria Estefan

As popular as "Turn the Beat Around" and it's on the flip side. A two for one deal. Same drive as the other Gloria tune and it move's. Slightly slower than recorded usually helps people succeed with this piece.

  1. Don't Be Stupid - Shania Twain

This is good, if nothing else because of the title. It's a little slower than the rest, even at 45, but it's a nice one to warm up to getting used to something other than patter, or a nice choice to wind down to something different.