Phil Jamison is a square dance caller, oldtime musician, and flatfoot dancer. For more than thirty years he has called dances, taught, and performed at music festivals and dance events throughout North Carolina, as well as across the country and overseas. For twenty-six years he was a touring member of the Green Grass Cloggers, and for twenty-three years was a touring member of Ralph Blizard’s band.
Though Jamison has been a Buncombe County resident for over thirty years, and is highly influenced in his dancing, calling, and playing by North Carolina traditions, he first became a dance caller in a more northerly part of the Appalachians. “I began calling old-time square dances in the mid-1970s, before I moved to North Carolina. At that time I lived in the Adirondacks Mountains of northern New York State. At that time, there were square dances held most every weekend at VFWs, Fire Halls, and American Legion Halls, as well at monthly old-time fiddlers’ jamborees. I regret that I cannot now name the callers I learned from and whose repertoires and styles I adopted. Since moving to North Carolina in 1980, I have learned from many callers at local community square dances in North Carolina, Kentucky, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia. These include Wallace Johnson (from western North Carolina), Wayne Jarrell (from Mt. Airy), Harmie Griffie (Kentucky), and Mac Samples (West Virginia).
“Although I am a self-taught musician, I would cite Tennessee fiddler, Ralph Blizard, as my main musical mentor, having spent 23 years playing at his side and performing music together. In the 1980s, I also spent time playing with and learning from [North Carolinians] Luke Smathers, Tommy Jarrell, [and Kentuckians] Marion Sumner, Morgan Sexton, and Lee Sexton. In recent years I have also spent time with ballad singer Mary Jane Queen. I have learned from, and been influenced by, these folks, as well as many other great musicians over the years.
“As a flatfoot dancer, my main mentors include Robert Dotson, Willard Watson, L. C. King, Buck Buchanan, Ruth Mosteller, and Hansel Aldridge (all from western North Carolina).”
Jamison is highly active in the traditional music and dance communities. He has been the coordinator of the Old-Time Music and Dance Week at the Swannanoa Gathering (Warren Wilson College) since it was founded in 1992, and was its assistant director for ten years. He has been on the editorial board of The Old-Time Herald since the magazine was founded in 1987, and has contributed more than thirty articles.
As a performer and caller, Jamison has appeared at most of the major folk festivals in the United States, and in national venues including ABC’s “Good Morning America” and the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid, New York, for which he was designated “Official Square Dance Caller.”
Phil Jamison is available to give dance workshops and demonstrations, concerts, solo or with the New Southern Ramblers, and to call dances.