Jerry Koci

Jerry Koci was born on November 20th, 1890, and was known as the oldest great Czech band leader living in the state of Nebraska.

Jerry came from a long line of musicians in his family. His grandfather lived to the age of 102 and also played the accordion. His father was an accordionist, but his brothers Joe and Mike played trumpet.

He started to play accordion at the age of 9. During his teens, he played for gatherings such as birthday parties and afternoon wedding receptions.

In his early 20s, he started his first band playing at barn dances, weddings, anniversaries and other festive occassions.

One of his engagements which lead to another was his appearance at the Opera House in Wilber, Nebraska in 1912 where he met his wife.

In 1923, Jerry performed in his first polka music broadcast. Among the radio stations were the seed company stations of KFNF which was The Henry Field Station and KMA which was The Earl May Station, both of Shenandoah, Iowa. Other call letter towns for broadcasting that Jerry and his band were a part of was KGBZ-York; KMMJ-Clay Center (now Grand Island); KFEQ-Oaks, Nebraska (now St. Joseph, Missouri); KFAB-Lincoln (now Omaha); and KFNX-Yankton, South Dakota.

Back in the 20’s, getting fan mail was great for the band. There was one week that Jerry and his band wanted to boast of what was received so they gathered it all up into one bushel full, weighing 17 lbs.

In South Omaha, Jerry and his band got tied up in the House Harness network of Bill Kallesh, who sponsored them on many of the above radio stations, including South Omaha.

In 1935, Jerry and his wife moved from the trade of farming to town living in Crete, Nebraska.

One of Jerry’s most memorable occassions was at the Sokol Auditorium playing a battle dance with the Golden Prague Orchestra.

On October 18th, 1981, Ray Kosmicki drove to Crete, Nebraska to the VFW club to put together the Jerry Koci story. Upon arriving at the VFW club, here was not only Jerry but five distinguished members of his band, among friends and relatives all wanting to help. It would only be proper to mention the names of the band members: 79 year old Art Bauer of Crete, Nebraska, who was his Cornet man; 77 year old Fred Chrastil of Crete, Nebraska who was his Sax and Clarinet man and vocalist; 83 year old Adolf Sobotka of Wilber, Nebraska who played Bass and Slide Trombone; 78 year old Eddie Keller who was his drummer; and 79 year old Joe Pavel who was his Trumpet man.

Mrs. Koci passed away in 1964, and Jerry has been living with Lavern and granddaugher, Gladys Rahe, of Crete, Nebraska, for the last 17 years, daily doing his chores in the household which makes him so active and young.

Source: Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony