Johnny Matuska

Johnny Matuska was born in Tabor, South Dakota in 1909.

At the age of six, he started played the violin. He played with the Tabor orchestra at the age of 11. Shortley thereafter, he started playing with an orchestra in Yankton, South Dakota at the Dakota theater in the time of silent pictures.

At the age of 18, he played in a contest at radio station WNAX (who was owned by the Gurney Seed Co. of Yankton, SD in the 20s) and then he was hired to play over the radio station during the summers between 1927-29. During those years, he studied at the Chicago Musical College in Chicago, IL.

In 1928, Johnny was the director of the concert orchestra at WNAX, where he started the WNAX Bohemian Band.

In 1933, Another opportunity presented itself to Johnny. Mr. Lawrence Welk had him in his band for a period of six weeks. The parting comment from Mr. Welk was “You are too good for our band!” The long travel bus living did not fit Johnny’s dreams. After the Lawrence Welk show, he played with Jack Pette’s band at the William Penn Hotel. After that he played with the staff band at radio KMMJ, Clay Center, NE. A short while later the same year, he played with Paul Spov of Colorado Springs, CO. The same year, Johnny had his own band playing at The Talk of the Town Nite Club in the Pierce Marquette Hotel in Peoria, IL.

In 1936, Johnny married Florence Bramaugh and moved to Dallas, TX to teach music. Later the company sent him to Wichita Falls, TX and then to Hoston, TX. The Second World Warcame along where he was employed in the training of people making automatic pilots for the Navy.

In 1944, Johnny moved to Omaha, NE where he worked for Martin Aircraft in the engineering department. At this time he also played in the Peony Park house band. After the Second World War, he migrated back to Yankton, SD and to radio station WNAX. This is when the nightly broadcast at 6:15 PM Grain Belt with the WNAX Bohemian Band began. Along the with band came over 120 dance appearances a year, nightly radio broadcasts and also a music store, enough to keep anyone more than busy.

From 1945 to 1955, Johnny made ballroom appearances at Sokol Auditorium, Omaha, NE; Kings Ballroom, Norfolk, NE; Glovera Ballroom, Grand Island, NE; Wickman’s Pavillion, Loup City, NE; Oscar’s Paladium, Sargent, NE; and many more.

In 1952, Johnny gave up running his band and went to tending to his music store. The band continued under the direction of Mr. Bergy. In 1953, after a medical operation, he returned to the WNAX Bohemian Band and played with the group until it terminated in 1955.

In 1960, Johnny sold his music store and went to the contracting business building over 20 homes in the Yankton area. His love of music continued when he played with a group called the Cleczers, which became more of a hobby to Johnny without any far engagements or job pressures.

Source: Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony