Vernon Belik

Vern Belik was born Sept. 25. 1924 in Prague, Ne. He started his career in music at the age of 5 when his dad Kazimir Belik bought him a set of drums from the Prague Band, at that time called the “Snappy Seven.” His dad played with the Polka Band in Prague called the Blue Jackets Orchestra and taught Vern how to play the drums. Almost every evening his dad played the accordion and Vern played and practiced playing the drums till it was time to go to bed. There came a time when the Blue Jackets Orcheetra broadcasted a Polka Show for Radio W.A.A.W. in the Livestock Exchange Building in Omaha. Vern went along with the band, not knowing where they were going, and his dad told him they would play for some friends when not knowing was a broadcast they played accordian, bass and drums over the radio. Vern was 6 years old at that time and hardly even know what a radio was as it was 1930 and very few radios in the country. Vern joined the Prague Drum & Bugle Corps in 1937 and they performed local fairs and the State Fair.

Vern started playing saxophone, a C-Melody old timer, at age 14: again taught by his dad. At age 15 his dad got him a E Alto Sax and Vern started playing in the High School Band. He organized his first Polka Band in High School and the band played their first polka dance at the Prague National Hall. Not many people came to the dance but the parents of the musicians came and it was a memorable event to say the least.

Vern’s Dad passed away in Aug. of 1939 and never heard Vern play the accordion. Vern taught himself to play his Dad’s accordian (a 4-row Button Anton Hlavacek) and still plays it today. The accordion is now approximately 61 years old. Along came 1940 and Vince Shimerka asked Vern to play Sax in his Silver Moon Orchestra. Vern was paid $1.00 per night playing 3rd Alto Sax. Until in 1941 he started playing lead Alto Sax and earned $3.00 per night. There were many commission jobs and one time they played a commission dance in “Pilsno” in the winter. Vern’s take home pay was 50¢. They stopped to eat in Schuyler on the way home and Vern bought a hamburger and malt for 25¢ so still made 25¢. At that time it was a lot of money. Then in 1951 Jerry Havel bought out the Silver Moon Orchestra and almost immediately negotiated a Sunday Polka Show broadcast from Fremont Radio KFGT.

A member of the Orchestra Eddie Vanek kept his date book and it showed the Orchestra played 63 days in a row all over the midwest. The Orchestra played weddings almost every Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursdays. Then regular dances Friday, Saturday and Sundays. All radio shows were live no tapes or records. Imagine coming home at 4:00 Sunday morning going to church at 10:00 and leave for a Broadcase at 11:00 and maybe about 3:00 or 4:00 for a dance job, maybe in Ord. Every day and farm. But we were young and it was a great time for all the Band members.

Then Jerry Havel sold the Orchestra to Al Grebenick and Vern played with Al for about 3 months. Al went on the road and Vern couldn’t do that at the time so went on to play with Adolph Nemec Orchestra. After a period of time, Vern went on to play with Dennis Wesely’s Orchestra. Again broadcasting from K.F.G.T. Radio in Fremont. After a while Dennis went to a modern orhcestra and Vern wanted to play Czech music so signed on with Matt Sladky and the K.L.H.S. Polka Band. Also broadcasting every Sunday from Radio K.L.H.S. in Lincoln. This was a successful Orchestra and we played 2 to 3 times a week. We played the State Fair in Lincoln every year always following the 6-Fat Dutchman in the Open Air Auditorium. Harold Loeffellmacher the owner of the Dutchman Orchestra, offered Vern $125.00 a week to play with them on the button accordian doing just solo work. Maybe 6 sets a night. But Vern being married at that time already, could not go on the road, so played with Matt up until the time Vernon organized his first Band after a brief lay off. During lay off period, Vernon was spending time in a Regional Center for a drinking problem he knew he had. This was a hard time for Vern and all his family: Donald, Darlene. Danny and his faitful wife Marie. After a stay of 5 weeks Vern came home and in 1972 started the Vern Belik Trio. It took off pretty good and soon a 5 piece band was formed and now numbers 6 men.

In 1990 Moostache Joe, an Orchestra leader from Fremont, asked Vern to play accordion with his Band on a Canada to Texas tour. This was very enjoyable as his wife Marie got to come along and both saw a lot of new country they never saw before and Vern continued playing with Moostache Joe for 3 years. It was a fun time and Vern found out here are polka dancers all over the U.S.A. and Canada and not only in Prague and surrounding cities. We must not forget 3 other bands Vern played with off and on The John Holub Polka Band from Richland, Ne., the Darrell Coufal Band from Brainard and the Frank Kucera Band from Schuyler. Going into 1996 Vern will be playing 56 years and likes to play for “Happy Dancing People” as much now’as he did back in 1940.