An Interview by Barb Miller: Myron
"An Interview by Barb Miller: Myron Floren." Watertown Public Opinion, 1983.
at the Myron Floren concert and dance June 21, 1982 in the
Watertown Civic Arena gathered around for an opportunity to
dance wit Floren during several of the numbers when he came
down to the dance floor. Each woman could claim him for only
a few turns before another cut in. Here he dances with Gldays
Bassett of Watertown while others wait their turns.
Q. When did you first learn
to play the accordion?
A. I got my first accordion from Sears Roebuck
when I was on a farm back in Day County, S.D. when I was about
7 years old.
Q. Did you like practicing?
A. Oh, yes. Music was the only thing I was really
interested in and at the time we were going through droughts and
grasshoppers and hailstorms and Russian thistles and things like
that on the farm, so anything really looked a little better than
farming would be.
Q. Did you have any instructors
or teachers from this area that you particularly remember?
A. Not on the accordion. I had 10 lessons on
piano from—well, first, I had a few lessons from a third
grade teacher, Dorothy Swenson, now Mrs. Foss up around Webster—then
I had 10 lessons from Walter Fitzner who came in from Aberdeen
and had a few classes at the Roslyn High School. He went on to
become the conductor of the Minnesota Symphony a little bit later
on. On the accordion actually I just picked up from different
people that I listened to, like the neighbor, Johnny Bug, that
was near our farm had a little button box accordion and I used
to listen to him play at all the house parties and everything.
But as far as lessons on the accordion, I never had any lessons
Q. Do you recall the names of any
musicians around here whom you played with in the past?
A. Alvin Johnson here in Watertown, and, of course,
Leo Fortin used to be with Lawrence. He had left by the time I
joined the band, however. I’ve known Leo for many, many
Q. At what point in your life did
you decide to make music your career?
A. I think that it was probably when I was 7
or 8 years old. I’ve never really thought of anything besides
Q. What one person had the most
influence on your professional life?
A. That’d be pretty hard to pin down actually.
I would say listening to people like Charles Magnante on radio
and then, of course, Lawrence Welk. I used to listen to him when
I was going to school in Roslyn. But then I used to listen to
many of the fine pianists and I used to listen to Paul Whiteman
and the band and all the bands I used to listen to late night
from all the different hotels all over the country. So, It would
be pretty hard to say that any one person had a great influence,
but I think maybe when I got into camp shows and went overseas
and found out that it looked like I could really make something
out of it, then a lot of people, whether they were conductors
or musicians or entertainers of one kind or another, everybody
gave me a lot of encouragement.
Q. What would you recommend to a young person
interested in a career in music?
A. Well, it takes a lot of hard work in order
to become proficient on any instrument. It takes a lot of practice
time, takes time away from baseball and football and things like
that. In my case, it was quite easy because I was sick a lot as
a kid and I wasn’t even able to go out for a lot of sports
even though I wanted to. I wanted to be a runner like Glen Cunningham
and things like that. I remember one time we had a May 17 Norwegian
Fourth of July celebration in Roslyn and I ran in my old shoes
and beat the whole relay team from Webster. So that was quite
a thing. But, I used to love to run and play ball and everything,
but just when I was getting into a place where I could start getting
into it, I would get rheumatic fever or something like that which
would knock me for a loop.
Q. Why do you think the Big Band
era ended and do you think it will come back?
A. I don’t think it’ll come back
ever the way we remember it because it’s too hard to get
fine musicians to travel around like they used to and the one-nighters
and so on, it’s just not economically feasible to do that
anymore. The ballrooms are pretty much the same ballrooms that
were popular in the old days. Those that are left, you know, they
only hold 1,200-1,500 people at a time and when we go out with
our big band, we don’t play for any dances, we play for
just concerts where we can get from 7,000 to 15-20,000 people
in a building. That of course stems from the television show mainly
and we’re trying to think up some way to keep our band going
on at least a part time basis.
Q. How long have you been with
the Lawrence Welk Show?
A. I’ve been with the band 32 years now.
Q. How did you get started with
A. I was teaching the accordion and playing with
a group called the Buckeye Four in St. Louis. This was back 32
years ago, 33 years ago, and Lawrence came through town playing
a dance at the Castle Ballroom in South St. Louis. My wife and
I went down to the dance and he recognized me as being back from
here in the Dakotas and asked me to come up and play with his
accordion. I guess I must have done pretty well because he came
over in intermission and offered me a job right away.
Q. Now that he’s retired, you said the band
will try to continue?
A. We’re going to try to continue. Of course,
the television shows are going on as reruns and that makes it
a little bit hard to put on another television show that would
compete with it, and as far as my understanding is that Lawrence
is out of the picture as far as any new shows or anything like
that are concerned. We’re talking to various sponsors that
have shown quite a bit of interest and we’ve talked to people
in the band who are interested in going on. I think we should
try one way or another to keep at least te band going and some
of the entertainers because we’re the only people that are
really reaching the segment of the population that we reach actually.
Q. Then you think he’s really going to
A. I think he will, yes. He’s 79, you know.
He will be 80 next March. He’s showing signs that he’s
been playing the accordion a long time.
Q. What are your plans now, other
than trying to continue with the band?
A. I’ve got so many things that I’ve
developed over the years that I have no problem. My only problem
is getting a little time off here and there. I’m doing symphony
appearances, I’m doing theatres in round, I do dances, I
do show and dance, I play with about 20-25 different bands around
the country. I bring the music along and, in most cases, the bands
sound pretty much alike.
Q. Do you ever write your own music?
A. I do quite a bit of writing, polkas, particularly.
I have quite a few that are published, quite a number that are
recorded, and I record a lot of my own stuff, too.
Q. How do you arrange your schedule
so you can spend time with your family?
A. That’s the only hard part about being
in the business I’m in is that you don’t have very
much time to spend with your family.
Q. How many children and grandchildren
do you have?
A. We have five daughters and four are married,
and we have two grandchildren. My second daughter is married to
Bobby Burgess and they’re the one that have a little boy
and a little girl.
Q. Would you ever consider coming
back here to retire?
A. No, I don’t think so because all of
our friends are living here in California and, of course, we’ve
lived there for over 30 years. But, I still want to come back
to South Dakota at least a couple of times a year because I have
close associations in Sioux Falls and up in Day County, Webster,
Roslyn and I never want to lose those connections. One of the
first paid jobs that I had, but the way, was right here in Watertown.
I played a job that was sponsored by the Lanfield Ice Cream Company.
I think I got $15 and a gallon of ice cream or something like
Thank you Mr. Floren, and the very best to you,
your family and your organization.