Dean Hansen was born on April 24, 1933 in the Nebraska town of Elkhorn. At the age of four, Dean was the victim of the disease polio. Doctors told Dean’s father, Herman, that Dean would not be able to farm with his dad, but the doctors were wrong. After several leg operations, Dean was able to not only walk but to work with his dad on the family farm. It was during these early years that instead of farming, Dean began taking lessons on the accordian.
At the age of eight, Dean received his first 12-base Hohner accordian. Dean’s first teacher was Fritz Poppe of Fremont. Fritz traveled each week to the family farm near Elkhorn to give Dean 30-minute lessons for $1.00. Fritz taught Dean for two years until World War II broke out and the gas rationing took into affect, At this time, Dean began taking accordian lessons from his first cousin, the late Donald Rolfs of Elkhorn.
Shortly after the war, Dean decided to returned to Fritz Poppe for additional accordion lessons, but this time, Dean traveled to Fremont each week for his 30-minute accordian lesson. At the age of 13, Dean received his second accordian called the Beauark. Through his junior high and high school years, Dean continued to take accordian lessons. At the age of 17, Dean received a $1,500 International accordian, must of been a good year of farming! During his high school years, Dean traveled to district music contests where he received four superiors in a row.
When Dean was a senior, he traveled to downtown Omaha to take lessons from Johnny Svoboda’s Music Center. He also began playpp attt,ahterJoe Chops Tavern in Omaha for $6.00 a night. Dean being only 18-years of age, his father Herman decided to tag along for a nights performance. The crowd patted Herman on his back for Dean’s accordian playing, but a few pats turned into a few too many pats and drinks. By the end of the evening Herman was not only proud of his son but also snookered. Dean ended up helping his dad home from the tavern instead of his dad helping Dean.
After graduation in 1951, Dean attended a dance at the Milrose Ballroom in Millard. There he not only set in with the Mollers Accordian Band but met the band leader, Herb Molter, himself. By July of 1951, Herb Molter wrote Dean about joining the band in Des Moines and touring with the band throughout the midwest. Being only 18, Dean jumped at the chance to play music. Dean traveled with the band through the spring of 1952, when he decided to return home to help his dad on the family farm.
A life without music didn’t last for long, when Dean received a call in July 1952 from the Sparta Orchestra of Omaha. For six years, Dean played his prized accordian in various midwestern ballrooms and was featured with the band each week on the KMA Radio station of Shenandoah, Iowa. During these six years, Dean not only played his accordian with the Sparta Orchestra but helped out the Al Grebnick band of Schuyler during the winter of 1954. It must have been a long winter, for in the Spring of 1955, March 5, to be exact, Dean decided to marry Marguerite Blumer of Millard.
Three years later, still playing with the Sparta Orchestra, Dean decided to start a family and give up the music business for awhile. On October 6, 1958, Dean and Marguerite had their first child, Murray Dean. Dean continued to work on the farm and in the summer of 1959, Dean returned to his love of music. The late Eddie Janak of Omaha hired Dean to play the accordian throughout the midwest. Dean played with the band from 1959-1971. During these these years, Dean recorded four albums with the band and was featured on the KHUB Radio Station of Fremont for Sunday’s Polka Show.
In 1961, Dean and Marguerite had a second child named, Marla Jean, who is a music teacher today. In 1965, Dean not only decided to make his own recording, but decided to have another child. On January 15, 1965 Dean and Marguerite had their third child, Loin Lynn. Dean became the midwest accordian man, and was known as Dean Hansen and his accordians. His first album entitled “Dean Hansen and his accordians” featured various polkas and waltzs for the followers of his polka music. In the years that followed, Dean and Marguerite had their fourth and final child on Feburary 21, 1968, Lynette Sue. Dean, serving as a husband, father, musician an farmer, decided to move from the family farm near Elkhorn to a new home near Ithaca, Nebraska. In 1971, The Hansen family moved from Elkhorn to build a new life in Ithaca.
But this year was not only a transition for the family and as a farmer, but also as a musician. Dean joined the Ernie Kucera Orchestra of Abie, Nebraska in 1971. Dean made three recordings and traveled throughout Ohio, Texas, South Dakota and Minnesota with the Number #1 Nebraska Polka Band for eight years. In 1973, Dean traveled with the Ernie Kucera Orchestra to the Pla-Mor Polka Festival and won his first and only award, the button accordion contest. Dean received his first and only button accordion after playing a dance jobs with Ernie Kucera for only $25.
During his eight years with the Ernie Kucera Band, Dean’s son Murray began playing tenor sax and clarinet with the Moostash Joe Polka Band of Fremont. Marla began playing trumpet with the Jim Bochnicek Orchestra of Omaha and Lonny began playing the drums with the Frank Kucera Orchestra of Schuyler.
With a family full of music, Dean decided in 1979 to start his own orchestra, Dean Hansen and his Orchestra. The 7-piece band featuredDean’s family, Murray, Marla and Lonny and of course, Dean on the accordian, plus fellow musicians, Bill Baumert of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Dave Lyles of Omaha and Allen Moravec of Ulysses, Nebraska. The Dean Hansen Orchestra played their first dance job at Sokol Auditorium for the Jim Bochnicek Polka Fest in April 1979. After only three dance jobs, at Snyder, Nebraska and the Crete Blue River Lodge, on July 8, Dean’s son, Murray, died on July 9 from a farm accident on the family farm in Mead. Dean not only lost his son, but his farm hand, his tenor sax man and his buddy.
Shortly after the accident, The Dean Hansen Orchestra was on the road again, featuring Marvin Capoun of Schuyler in Murray’s tenor sax position. Throughout the past ten years, the band has gone through several transitions with fellow musicians Irvin Cidlik, Dwight; Herman Liska, Lincoln; Joe Prochaska, Abie and Bob Palensky, David City filling in for the Orchestra.
During the eighties, Dean’s daughter Marla, graduated from Midland Lutheran College with a bachelor of arts degree in music and moved to Anita, Iowa for her first teaching job as music director as well as leaving the band. After receiving her second job at Lewis Central Schools in Council Bluffs, Iowa in 1985, Marla met and married fellow musician, Richard Janak in August of 1988. Richard plays with the Ambassadors Orchestra of Omaha. Marla not only married and returned to the Omaha/Council Bluffs area but also to The Dean Hansen Orchestra in August of 1988.
In 1985, Lonny decided to also strike out on his own but not from the farm, instead his own band. The 9-piece Lonny Lynn Orchestra plays throughout the midwest also featuring Dean’s other daughter, Lynette, on alto saxophone and clarinet.
In 1989, the Dean Hansen Orchestra is now composed of husband and wife sax and Clarinet team, Kenny and Leslie Janak, of Omaha, trombone player, Allen Vallish of Kansas City, Kansas, and Joe Cada of Schuyler on bass. Dean is still playing the accordian, Marla the trumpet and Lonny on the drums. For the past ten years, the Dean Hansen Orchestra has made three albums plus the recent album release in August of this year. The Orchestra has also made two videos with the Czech Video-Tape Productions of Omaha.
Dean and his family travel throughout the midwest 12 to 15 nights a month playing polka and big band music. Dean and Lonny farm 1200 acres of land. Marla is still a music director in Council Bluffs and Lynette is Assistant news Editor at the Harlan Newspapers in Harlan, Iowa. In 1989, The Dean Hansen Orchestra celebrated its 10th Anniversary. With this celebration, Dean said “Without the love and support of my family, friends, fellow musicians and many polka lovers, I wouldn’t be in the music business today. Here’s to another great ten years.”
Source: Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony