Danzig man Strikes up the Band
Lind, Bob. "Danzig man Strikes up the Band." Forum, 8 November 2005, sec. 2B.
Here, from out of the past, come stories about the first radio
N.D, about going barefoot during the summer and about Dolores the
They come from Doug Johnson, now of Madison, Wis.,
who once lived in Lehr, N.D.
Doug, seeing a Neighbors story about a book published recently
about Danzig, sent in information about his father, Art
Johnson, who grew up in Danzig.
Art was born on a farm there in 1909 and attended the Danzig Elementary
When he was a boy, he'd take a few cows belonging to Danzig residents
to pasture and just spend the day there. That was great fun.
So was going barefoot, which all the boys did all summer. Then
bummer: When the boys went back to school in the fall, they had
shoes. Young Art hated that.
Danzig at one time got its electricity from a one-cylinder diesel
generator. Several men would start it every morning by pulling on
rope wrapped around the flywheel. It was shut down at night.
Danzigs first radio? It was owned by the depot agent. Every Saturday
night, most of the townspeople would go to the depot and take turns
the earphones to hear music coming over this incredible device.
Art Johnson, Bandleader,
born in 1909, he later became a leader of three bands in the
When Art was about 16, his family moved to Lehr, where they operated
the Johnson Caf.
Meanwhile, Art was into music.
Art taught himself to play the trumpet when he was a boy and he
playing in a band when he was about 12.
He went on to direct three bands:
- The Golden Fellowship Band, based in Venturia, N.D.
- The Lehr High School band.
- And in between, a dance band which had posters reading The Art
Orchestra Featuring Dolores the Singing Director.
Dolores was Dolores Eisenbeis, probably from the
Danzig-Ashley-Venturia area, Doug says. Her title of singing director
was a gimmick; once in a while when Al would play the trumpet with
the band, Dolores would take over as director. But the title looked
good on the posters.
The band toured the state about the same time Strasburgs Lawrence
Welk was getting started.
Art became involved in many nonmusical activities, too. He was
Gloves manager. He operated a traveling theater troupe. He served
Gen. George Patton in Europe during World War II. He was a professional
photographer. He was a postal clerk and became a postmaster.
He died in 1980. His wife Lyla still lives in
The Johnsons had two sons. Doug graduated from
Lehr High School and from Augsburg College in Minneapolis, then
taught high school physics in Madison until he retired in 2002.
His brother, Gordon, lives in Rogers, N.D., and works for Miller
Motors in Valley City, N.D.
And looking back on the musical careers of these North Dakotans,
be noted that even though Lawrence Welk did fairly well with his
and his Champagne Lady, he never had the pleasure, as Art Johnson
featuring Dolores the Singing Director.
Art Johnson's band plays on a muddy
street in Danzig, N.D., circa 1930.
Johnson's Golden Fellowship Band plays
Venturia, N.D., circa 1930. Johnson is the leader (in dark coat).
Reprinted with permission of the Forum.