In 1955, a popular local Los Angeles TV show, was picked up by ABC and swept the nation. You can still see it in reruns every Saturday evening. The star of the show was a Ukranian-born German named Lawrence. Little Larry's family migrated to the U.S. when he was a wee lad. Dirt poor farmers, the Welks struggled for food and shelter. At some point, according to the lore, Lawrence asked his dad to buy him a mail-order accordion. In exchange for this extravagance, Lawrence promised to work diligently on the family farm until his 21st birthday.
And, as so many have done throughout history, sacrifices were made because people understand the arts are worth it--we need music, we need poetry, we need art and design and beauty.
When I was 5 years old, however, I didn't see it that way.
I remember it like it was yesterday: I was with friends, hiding in the bushes in front of our house on South Owasso Ave. Our plan was to throw pebbles at passing cars. A couple of issues became quickly apparent: 1. Very few cars passed on our street; 2. The distance between our hideout and the street exceeded the length of our best throw.
Finally, here came a car and we gave it our best shot, which fell way short, but the strange car stopped; right in front of our house. Yikes! It paused, then pulled into our drive way. A man I had never seen before got out, opened his trunk, pulled out a suitcase and carried it to our front door. (Oh, the curse of a fertile imagination.) I watched from the seclusion of the bushes while he knocked on our door. I heard my mother invite him in.
Anxious moments passed and I heard my father call my name. I walked into the house expecting the worst. It was worse than I imagined. I walked it and noticed In the man's open suitcase was a shiny little accordion. I was being signed up for accordion lessons.
Dang you Lawrence Welk.
I don't know for sure, but I'm guessing that accordion sales soared during the early years of the Lawrence Welk Show. I also don't know for sure, but I'm guessing that like Lawrence's family, my accordion and lessons were probably a big sacrifice for my parents. Did they envision that I would some day be the leader of my own polka band?
I did learn to play the accordion well enough to make my family proud when I played "The Little Indian Dance" in a recital with other young Lawrence Welks. I also learned, although it didn't occur to me until years later, that I loved music, I loved being a musician, that music is worth sacrifice. Thanks Mom & Dad.
Gratefully, our two sons love music. Both are skilled drummers. Yes we spent money on drums and lessons at a level some would call excessive. It was worth every penny. My Amazing-Missus and I have always agreed on this. She grew up in a music-loving family. Her mother was a wonderful pianist and made sure her daughter learned to play as well. Her twin brother married a very talented musician and their son is a gifted trumpet player in a world class band, just home from a concert at Carnegie Hall in NYC. Last night we had the privilege of hearing him play once again with his jazz band. (There's nothing better than live jazz.)
Now; the Grand-Girls. I am so grateful that their parents allow us to be involved in their lives. I hope we never take advantage or take it for granted. Since the girls were tiny, they've been in a program called, "KinderMusik." It is wonderful and it has been fun to participate with them from time to time.
One of the greatest joys for me as Pops is watching the next generation grow to love music.
Thank you Lawrence Welk... and Mrs. Kaylor, and Aunt Betty Brady, and Betty Cox, and Mr. Churchill, and Tom Durham, and James Keyes, and Miss Conchita.