I’d like to start this little tale off to let you know what got me interested in the trumpet and music. This goes back to 1937. when I was attending the Ceska Skola (Or Bohemian School) at the old Bohemian National Hall in South Omaha.
There was this one kid who had this shiny trumpet with 3 valves who would take his trumpet lessons right after Czech class just up the street from the school, on Saturdays mornings. I saw that horn and thought, “Gee, I’d sure like to have one of those trumpets, but how do you get any music out of blowing a horn with only 3 valves?” Well. I talked my dad into getting me a used trumpet, and it cost all of $37.50.
I did the same thing then: Went to Czech school and then to the same teacher. Mr. Adolph Pechar, who lived on So. 21st St. He charged me $1.00 for an hour of private lessons. You couldn’t beat that price. These lessons lasted about a year.
After that, when I was just 13 or so, I didn’t do much other than practice at home at times; and later played in the South High School Band for 2 years. Then Uncle Sam called me to service where I was a bugler, jeep driver and clerk. I did take my horn into the service, but by that time I had bought a better horn for $125.00 in 1941, and I am still playing the same trumpet.
After I got out of the service in 1946, Mr. Jim Hovorka was in need of ‘a trumpet player’ and my good pal and brother-in-law. George Patach, got me to go up to Hovorkas for band rehearsal. Afterwards, I got word that Jim had told son George, that I would never make it. George said. “Give him the books to take home and practice – he’ll be OK.” I did that, and what happened after that was something I didn’t expect: I was with Jim Hovorka and the Harmony Boys for 27 years, and believe it or not, I never missed one dance job.
In between, I was a member of the original 1965 Omaha Czech Brass Band; and after that, joined Vern Luddington’s Jolly Musicians for some 10 years or so. Those were all happy years.
One experience with Hovorkas band I’ll never forget: we were coming home from a dance job in Milligan back in the 40’s before the Interstate Highways, and George Hovorka was driving his big car pulling the trailer, and bingo, the trailer broke loose and landed on its side (with the top up) in the ditch. Drums were rolling down the highway, music was flying all directions; and I remembered that we had passed a gas truck some miles back. We stopped the car, turned around. and headed back to get everything off the highway before the gas transport got to us. We did manage to get the road clear before the gas truck came. We did get home someway, improvising the trailer hitch, with the chain. but it was quite an ordeal.
With Vern Luddington’s band, I was fortunate to get to play in Mexico and the Caribbean, and I won’t forget 1977, when we went to Germany and Austria. All 3 trips were fantastic; and I can’t thank Vern enough for these fabulous trips.
Getting back to my horn that I bought in 1941; I still play the same horn, and with the help of repairman Rudy Dvorak, it Still plays as good as when I bought it, some 52 years later.
I also played with E.J. Poss’s modern band for a little while; but my love was Czech music. I also played in Germany in 1985 with the Wendinger band out of New Ulm, Minnesota; and I want to thank Rudy Dvorak for inviting me to play with the Omaha Czech Brass Band in Czechoslovakia in 1987. I was the grandpa in that band (except for conductor Frankie Kostka): I had an experience over there, too, that I won’t forget. We had met some of my wife’s relatives prior to our first concert, and they had us over for a little champagne at their apartment, which Helen and I polished off. Well, it seemed to have an effect later in the evening or my playing; and I couldn’t seem to get my horn to play very well. My mouth felt like the Sahara Desert. I was swigging beer between numbers, and that didn’t seem to help. Believe it or not, I finally resorted to putting valve oil on my tongue. UGH. What a taste. but it did work.
I also played with the Charles Svagera Band, and I believe you know about his physical condition. He is one of my best friends, and I hope you, too, will keep Charlie in your prayers.
Right now, I more or less ‘retired’ from steady playing. I still pick up the horn, playing with Charlie Petrmichl’s band, as well as Frankie Hazuka. He also played with Ed Svoboda’s “Red Raven Orchestra”.
I might have missed a few musicians and band leaders who played an important part in my musical life; can’t forget Ernie Hovorka Ron Nadhzrny, Ray Dusatko, Charlie Jirkovsky, etc.
Lastly, I want to thank my lovely and patient wife, Helen for putting up with me and my playing for some 46 years. I can remember about only 3 New Year’s Eves that we were able to go out on the town ourselves and celebrate.
And as long as my health holds out I guess I’ll keep huffing and puffing.