Ralph Case, 91, a square dance caller and country entertainer whose dancers, cloggers and musicians played to audiences of thousands over a 60-year career in the Washington area, died Dec. 25 at his home in Upper Marlboro of complications after a stroke.
Mr. Case called dances at military bases, churches, recreation centers and schools, and his troupe performed at inaugural celebrations for Presidents Richard M. Nixon, Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan and at congressional parties and state society functions. He taught square dancing to Margaret Truman at the White House. Amy Carter once joined his cloggers for a show on the White House lawn, under the approving eyes of Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter.
In the 1950s, Mr. Case was host of the "Hayloft Conservatory," one of the early country television shows in the area, which was broadcast on WTTG (Channel 5). From Constitution Hall, he broadcast the "Town and Country Show," with a new promoter named Connie B. Gay, who would later build a leading radio operation and promote several musical artists.
In the late 1940s and 1950s, Mr. Case was the primary coordinator and booking agent for square dances, country musicians and entertainers in the area. During those years, there were often as many as 35 square dances on weekend nights. Mr. Case was instrumental in organizing the Country Entertainers and Musicians Benevolent Association, and he was its first president.
He helped to organize folk festivals in the Washington area and across the country and appeared at many of them. He also toured overseas with his country entertainers to the Azores, Germany, England, Italy, Africa, Greece, Panama, the Virgin Islands, Iceland and Romania.
Over the years, Mr. Case had appeared with such entertainers as Andy Griffith, Eddie Arnold, Rudy Vallee, Hank Williams Sr., Patsy Cline, Jimmy Dean, Red Foley, Grandpa Jones and Minnie Pearl.
He was born in Chandler, N.C., and began calling square dances in Enka, N.C.
Among North Carolina square dancers, he became known for a clear and energetic style of calling, and he attracted an enthusiastic following. He was leader of a square dance group that twice won competitions at Asheville folk festivals.
He moved to Washington in 1941, intending to stay one year. He remained in the area for the rest of his life.
During World War II, Mr. Case led square dance exhibition teams that performed at War Bond shows and at USO centers. With the Southern Appalachian Square Dancers, he appeared at Fort McNair, Glen Echo, the Jewish Community Center and at dozens of area recreation centers and schools. His trademark dances included the Georgia rang-tang, shoo-fly swing and the southern grapevine twist, in which each dancer somehow hugged his own neck.
In 1950, Mr. Case helped launch the career of country entertainer Roy Clark, a banjoist who had played in one of Mr. Case's bands. Clark later wrote in his autobiography, "My Life In Spite of Myself:" "Ralph Case was one of my earliest and biggest supporters, so when Grandpa Jones set up a four day tour, Ralph told him, 'This kid is really good. You ought to use him.' . . . at the age of 17 I won the USA Country Banjo Championship, a five-string banjo contest held in Warrenton, Va. First prize was five hundred dollars cash and a chance to perform at the Grand Ole Opry. . . . Ralph not only convinced me to go, but drove me down to the bus station and bought my bus ticket . . . he shook my hand, looked me straight in the eye and said, 'Now you go down and do good.' "
Years later, Clark would return the favor by inviting Mr. Case's clogging group to appear on the "Hee-Haw" television show before a national audience.
Mr. Case had six sons, and he taught them all the craft of calling square dances. He had one primary rule: "Keep your voice at a high pitch, so it can be heard over the crowd."
To supplement his income as a musician and square dance caller, Mr. Case held a variety of jobs over the years, including working at the farmers market in Northeast Washington. For periods, he was self-employed as a produce and egg peddler. In the 1950s, he went back to school, learning to be a radio serviceman at Washington's Chamberlain Vocational High School.
At the age of 60, he began a career as a clerk at the Maryland State Roads Commission, where he worked for 24 years, retiring at 84. He continued to call square dances until shortly before his death.
His marriage to Rossie Truell ended in divorce.
Survivors include his wife, Frances Hansberger of Upper Marlboro; their two sons, Larry, of Mitchellville, and Warren, of North Beach, Md.; four sons from his first marriage, Jim, of Upper Marlboro, Ken and David, both of White Plains and Bob, of Houston; 17 grandchildren; 19 great-grandchildren; and a great-great-grandson.