Leonard Becwar

Back when I was 5 or 6 years old Dad taught me to play his 2 row Hlavacek accordion. He had a little band at that time and his brother who was his drummer taught his son Ernie to drum. Whenever they were playing someplace we couldn’t wait till they took an intermission so we could get up on the stage and play. Image our thrill when we had as many people dancing to our music as they did. We also won prizes at contests like “Chick Boyes” Medicine shows etc. One time we won a diamond ring first prize. I had no use for it so we gave it to Ernie’s sister Darlene. Uncle Frank had it appraised and found out it was worth $20.

After getting married and going to work for a grain company I got away from playing execpt for a few parties. In 1963 after moving to the family farm, Suda’s Tavern asked me to play to entertain the people on New Years Eve. I had no accordion so I borrowed my brother Le Roy’s Hohner he had bought when he was stationed in Germany. I got Uncle Frank to drum as Ernie was now playing with the Rudy Jay Orchestra. One thing lead to anotherand we played Wilber, Alexandris, Gilead, Oak and other places. Anyway I bought my own accordion. When I took some jobs at Lad’s Bar in Omaha, Uncle Frank decided this was too far so I had to get whoever I could. One Friday and Saturday, Lad was to get me a drummer and he didn’t so having a little drum set along Daughter Dawn played. She made more in tips on Friday night than we got for playing. They thought it was cute to see a little 10 year old playing drums.

I kept wanting a bigger band so I got Bill Slezak on drums, Frank Kassik on tuba, Ed Burda and Ken Bolte on sax and clarinets. This combination we used to record our first record “Polka Party.” On this record we made “Out Behind the Barn” famous. A good friend Jum Rut asked me one time if I had ever heard the song. I hadn’t but another friend Lois Bernasek knew and sang it over the phone while I recorded it. It was and still is a hit. It pleases me when I hear other bands have recorded it. This is about the time my wife started singing with the band. Then Ken Bolte quit because of too much work, Ed Burda had a stroke which ended his sax and clarinet playing, so I got Rudy Jirkovsky and Louis Dale Svec on trumpet and sax.

This was the combination we had when we recorded the “In Your Town” record. In 1983, I decided to throw in the towel. It wasn’t too long and my fingers started twitching. So Johnny Halama and I started a two piece combo. Yes Johnny does a good job on drums. But very soon we put Bill Slezak on drums and Johnny on bass. We played a few places. Then a good Polish friend from York begged me to put together a bigger band to play for his daughter’s wedding. Having no music I talked to my good friend Gil Krajnik and he made me copies of his music. As a matter of fact he played that job with us. This started a six piece band, Joe Prazak on trumpet, Louis Dale Svec and Jo Brandt on saxes, Johnny Halama on tuba and Bill Slezak on drums.