Michigan Heritage Awards
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1997 awardee, Charlevoix (Charlevoix County), grange hall musician
Vocalist, guitarist, and square dance caller, William Stevens (b. 1934) is a major driving force behind the continuity of Grange Hall music in Michigan today. With both parents calling and playing at local house parties and square dances, William has spent his life in the Grange, with its music and traditions dear to him. His repertoire includes older, traditional tunes as well as some newer tunes, in keeping with the changing tastes of the audience.
In the 1970s, the Tag-A-Longs trio was formed in Charlevoix, which included William as a founding member. At that time, the group won the talent competition at the National Grange Convention, and William went on to win numerous talent competitions at State Grange. As the house band for the Barnard Grange, the Tag-A-Longs and "Mr. Music" or "The Music Man," as William is called in Grange circles, continue the tradition of Grange Hall square and round dances. Barnard Grange, one of the largest in the state, is unique in that it is one of the few that still regularly put on old-time square dances. It is more common to have a DJ or more contemporary band play at Grange dances. These dances are not just for the Grange, but also for the whole community.
Under William's leadership, the group plays a key civic role, engaging in the many voluntary charitable and community service activities for which the Grange is known. The Tag-A-Longs maintain an active schedule of Grange Hall dances and fundraisers, barn dances, nursing home performances, antique tractor shows, fiddlers' jamborees, and local festival appearances.
One of William's greatest contributions to the perpetuation of Grange music and dance is his encouragement of others. He is instrumental in keeping dance callers and musicians involved in the tradition. Bringing the older and experienced together with the younger generation, he readily steps aside to feature others.
m is well known throughout the region for his dedication to the continuance of Grange music and traditions. His leadership as a prime mover and fine musician and vocalist has helped to make Barnard Grange the center of Grange music and dance in Michigan.
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