My nephew, David, barely a teenager, was seriously involved in hero worship back in the early '70s. His hero wasn't a movie or rock star; David's hero was a country-to-the-core Tennessean who wore an orange and white cap with a bright orange "T" emblazoned on the front.
When it was time to watch the Bill Dance Outdoors television program, David, who lived with us at the time, sat at the feet of his idol, soaking up every bit of fishing wisdom Dance dished out in his laid-back totally believable manner.
As an outdoor writer, I was on the mailing list for all sorts of material hyping a particular product or personality. Much of the stuff got tossed; my readers couldn't care less about tips on musky fishing in Saskatchewan or ice fishing for walleyes in Michigan. When the press kit arrived from "Bill Dance Outdoors", however, promoting the man and his fishing shows, my interest was piqued.
David was having a birthday in a month and I mulled over the possibility that I might be able to give my nephew a birthday gift he wouldn't soon forget. I contacted Dance's PR rep, told him about David's infatuation with his fishing idol and made my request. Within a week, a package arrived postmarked Memphis, and on his birthday, I presented David with an orange and white cap with a "T" on the front; Bill Dance had sent one of his famous caps. The boy dang near flipped out.
I felt a bit like my nephew one day last week when the phone rang, I answered and there on the end of the line was none other than Bill Dance. Granted, it was a planned call; Memphis writer Taylor Wilson, a friend of mine and of Dance, had arranged our telephone get-together for me to interview Dance for my weekly radio program. I spent a special 15 minutes chatting with Dance, picking up a treasure trove of information about his 46 year long career.
"I was a part of competitive bass fishing from the get-go," Dance said. "I fished in the first Bass Masters Classic in 1967 and fished competitively for 14 years. What a great ride it was and I can tell you I wouldn't be doing what I'm doing today without those tournaments."
So, what is Bill Dance doing today? It wore me out just listening to him tell about all he has going on today.
"We kicked off Bill Dance Outdoors in 1969 doing 208 original shows a year. The show got syndicated and put on ESPN. Then we joined the TNN network and stayed there 15 years. We were bought out and our shows went to the Outdoor Life network, which became Versus network which has now been bought out by NBC Sports. That's sort of where we are today with our freshwater fishing programs.
"Two years ago, we started the Bill Dance Saltwater Outdoors series for the Outdoor Channel; we're doing 18 original saltwater shows and 26 freshwater shows a year now. As you might imagine, I stay pretty doggone busy. Next year, we'll cut back to 13 original shows and move our programs to NBC Sports," Dance said.
One of the most popular segments for which Dance has become famous are his "bloopers" clips where he breaks rods in ceiling fans, falls out of his boat, has snakes get in the boat with him et al.
"I could do one of those every week," Dance chuckled. "My producers wanted to accumulate these mess-ups and mass produce them. They've now gone world-wide – the BBC in London regularly shows them, as well as just about every network channel in the US."
It's comforting to know that ole Bill is still Dancin' after forty-six years.
Glynn Harris Outdoors is proudly sponsored by DSK, Ltd. of Minden.