Thursday, February 1, 2024

Foster's Old Time Fiddlers

Charles D. Foster was born in Nebraska, in 1880. His family later moved to Oklahoma, then (drum roll, please) Colorado. Musically proficient, Foster could play a number of instruments. It was in Colorado where he began his love of square dancing and fiddle music. Much like his famous-counterpart, Lloyd "Pappy" Shaw, Foster promoted square dance throughout the state, calling dances throughout Colorado, with his band Foster Folkway Features / C.D. Foster Orchestra. 

Aurora Democrat - Dec. 4, 1942

In 1942, Foster penned what was considered the first set of dance "cards" (square dance calls used by announcers). Learn to Dance the Foster Way were so successful, he printed a second volume. A third set would feature caller Charlie Thomas.

Click to enlarge

The test pressing records featured were discovered at a South Denver area estate sale, in a custom case. These are an amazing Colorado music find, which were destined for the trash, on the last day of the sale (whew). They were made in 1948 and notes K-W Recording, which is otherwise known as the Folkraft label (home of Grady Hester, Shorty Warren, Harold Goodfellow, and the Folkrafters). Interesting to note, the Folkraft Country Dance Orchestra featured early Pete Seeger recordings (1946).

According to a story in Let's Dance (December 1948 issue) - "Veteran square dancers have always clamored for twelve-inch unbreakable records of music without calls. The new Folkraft "Homesteader" series of four records on vinylite certainly satisfies this need. Music is by C. D. Foster's Old Time Fiddlers—and is the real "fiddlin'" music traditionally authentic to the square dance. Callers, accustomed to the orchestra-type music (all that was previously available) may find these strange to work with at first—but they are the real stuff. These records are obtainable singly, and are numbered F-1026 to F-1029. Some of the titles are intriguing. "Steamboat Bill," "Speed the Plow," "Mississippi Sawyer," "Down in the Tall Grass," etc." (NOTE: Denver's Lorraine Wingo [1926-2004], known for her accordion talents on the Western Caravan TV show, with Daughters of the Pioneers and Gene Autry, also recorded on the label, that same year - F-1023-1025). 

Listen to a sample of "Mississippi Sawyer"

Listen to a sample of "Down in the Tall Grass"

Foster's band would continue to tour throughout the 1940s, appearing as a regular at the Moose Hall in Denver, and the Golden Chateau club, in Golden. 

 Colorado Transcript - April 21, 1949 (click to enlarge)

In 1947, Foster appeared as an associate editor of American Squares magazine. He died in 1976, and is buried at Crown Hill Cemetery, Wheat Ridge.