My musical career probably started when l was about four (4) years old. My father was a trombone player and played in hands I sat next to him on a pop case, and imitated him while he played I think it cost him more in nickels for pop and candy than what his wages were.
When I was seven (7) years old I decided to learn the trombone. Dad said it was OK, but he wouldn’t let me have his trombone. He went to our neighbors and bought one for $1.50. The slides were good, but the bell was bent to a 45″ angle I still recall dad sharpening a broom stick handle and straightening it out. It worked!!!
I learned to read notes from dad and Bill Semrad, who was an instructor in the Abie School. When I was fourteen (14) years old I played a couple dance jobs on trombone, but I didn’t like it very much. Sooo!!! I borrowed a trumpet from my uncle. It was an old brass horn, dirty and hard to blow, I didn’t have any brass polish so shined it out with car polish.
Well—that evening I started practicing, and I was still at it at 3:00 o’clock in the morning. Finally, my mother made me go to bed because they couldn’t sleep.
It didn’t take but two weeks and I played my first dance, playing trumpet with V.R. Shimerka. I was only helping out. That’s when Ernie Kucera found out I could play trumpet. He brought over the library on Monday afternoon and said, “Your playing with us on Saturday.” That week I practiced the whole book, and my polka dances had begun. That was in May, 1942 at Madison, Nebraska. Wages were $2.00 a night!
I wasn’t old enough to drive, so in bad weather I walked 1/2 mile to meet Jerry Siroky who played bass. Many times walking home I would meet up with skunks and coyotes and what not.
We helped out with other bands. but I seem to be about 32nd down the list before they call. I love playing polkas and waltzes and watching people dance. The crowds aren’t as big, but its still an enjoyment to see people having a good time.
Source: Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony