HR: Your name and where you were born.
JS: Jimmy Schwab, and I was born 6 ½ miles northeast
HR: Can you tell me where your family lived in Russia, and
when they came to the United States?
JS: From the history that I’ve read, they were from the
Baden area. They were German Russian. They went from Russia
to the United States, in 1839, was it?
HR: What are your earliest memories of music when you were
JS: When I was growing up, the first thing I recall, my dad
and brother playing wedding dances. Sometimes I’d listen
to them at night; they’d practice it in the house until
2 o’clock in the morning. I would enjoy that, listening
to it in bed. It seemed like it was so much nicer than it ordinarily
sounded when you woke up and heard it.
Anyway, when I first got involved, it was the first time I
remember hearing of Lawrence Welk, in 1938, when I was 7 years
old. He had done his first broadcast from the William Penn Hotel
in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania. We had a sod house, also like the
Welk’s home. They had the deep walls and windows. That’s
one of the things that got me started or interested I guess,
because that was they’re first radio broadcast. My dad
listened to it sitting by that window, and we had the radio
sitting on that platform there. Other than that, I guess, from
then on in, well I knew who Lawrence Welk was. Then later on
in 1942, I think he came with his whole band. They played down
here at the school gymnasium. I got to go, while I was a youngster
to listen to the band.
Later on when I was in high school, I started with my dad,
playing weddings. Well he didn’t play too much anymore
then. I started playing with him and then different guys like
Eugene Weisbeck, I played with him for a while. I played some
with Mattie Lip. Then later on, while in school, we had a high
school dance band, performed six pieces called “The Silver
Six”. In 1956 when I went into the service, I was stationed
in Anchorage, Alaska Fort Richardton. We had a four piece band
up there called “Four Spots”, I think it was, “Blue
Notes, Blue Notes”. And after the service when I came
back, we had already started the Bubbling Quintet, before I
went into the service in 1956. So when I came back we just kept
on going. We got bigger and started doing a little different
kinds of music.
For the old time, Gene Weisbeck was the man we used. We called
him the “Waltz King”. And from that we kept on playing:
old time, some wedding music, like you still hear once and a
while. But we went also a little more into big band songs, in
the 50’s and 60’s. People were dancing like mad.
Sometimes we’d play 6 or 7 nights in a row, without getting
any nights off and having to do the chores, it was sometimes
pretty tough. Every so often, I’d lie beside the tractor
wheel and rest for 10, 15 minutes and I was ready to go again.
Those were pretty tough years, many hours of sleep lost, but
we still enjoyed it; the people made it fun. It was a very good
experience. Until the 19… well when Gene retired, in the
late 1980’s, early 90’s, we more or less, started
doing maybe a little bit less of the real old time, because
Gene was the always one who would take the lead in those tunes.
Then we slowly started drifting, the crowd started getting smaller.
We started playing at more night clubs. Then we were doing three
piece, “Bubbling Trio”, the same outfit we first
started with three piece, and it was the same three guys that
were left at the end, that still played. That was about 1992,
a couple surgeries, I had a couple, my brother had one, and
so I said, “I’m not going to play no more, we put
in our time and that was enough”.
Now we are not doing anything, unless, maybe some party comes
up. But I’ve been trying to keep my trumpet in shape and
going. And then when you get older, you can’t blow no
more. So we were pretty well all done with that business. Now
I take it a little bit easier
living in town, doing a little bit more card playing, and stopping
at the casino once in a while. There are other interests. I
suppose that sometimes, a person misses it a little bit, you
know, after so many years, but I don’t regret, even though
it was tough sometimes, I don’t regret it.
HR: Who was in the Bubbling Quintet?
JS: Bubbling Quintet, well at one time we even had six piece.
We had Bill on the accordion, my brother Larry on the piano,
my brother Clarence on drums, Gene Lispeck on the accordion
and I was on trumpet. So we had six, and we’d switch,
we’d use three trumpets sometimes, and saxophones. Bolser
passed away, well that was way back in 1970’s I think
when he passed away, we didn’t have a sax player. So we
added Doug Webber with the tuba, but that was a little problem
carrying that big tube on top of a van or a station wagon; you
had to tie it down. Anyway, Doug died in about 1989 or 1990.
But even by that time, we weren’t doing any five or six
piece jobs anyway. My brother died, the drummer died, then I
had to do double, I had to drum and play trumpet at the same
time, and that’s when I had my surgery. I said, “I
can’t hold that trumpet up and play drums at the same
time, my arm can’t take it”. “So,” I
says, “if you guys want to book any jobs, you can go ahead
and do so, but,” I said, “Bill, you’ll have
to use your automatic drummer, and I’ll try to play trumpet”.
So anyway, that’s where we’re at, we just haven’t
been playing much, and we don’t really care to.
HR: What instrument did your dad play?
JS: My dad played accordion. He played the old time wedding
waltzes. He played mostly all the weddings years ago. He had
done it without an amplifier, in that big blue room down there.
He had that old accordion; it had a good loud sound to it, and
the people they danced like mad. (laughs) He played until about
’58 or something like that, then he died, wait a minute,
no he didn’t play till ’58, he died in 1956 when
I was in the service, after basic training, when I came home
is when he died. He was only 54 years old when he died. So people
loved, well he was one of those guys who was good for weddings.
He’d play and sing, and make fun for the people and they
HR: Do you know how he learned to play the accordion?
JS: He learned from a young kid, just playing by ear all the
time you know. I don’t know, there’s a little story
I might mention. He used to be up late at night and play. Years
ago, the people had a habit of trying to dry their corn upstairs
in their house, you know. But one thing they forgot, the rats
like corn. He’d sit up and play at night, and he had his
.22 next to him, and that big window, where they’d have
a hole up in top or down in the corner. He’d sit there
and play and practice, and then when a rat or mouse would come,
he’d shoot it with that .22. I don’t know if he
ever got any or not, I was too small to remember that. But,
that’s how he tried to get rid of those mice and rats,
but I think they learned their lesson to do that corn cleaning
over in the barn. So, there’s little things you think
of once and a while, but sometimes when you want to remember
them, you don’t.
HR: Well, how did you learn to play?
JS: How did I learn to play? Well, I bought-- my dad bought
me-- a trumpet. I said I wanted to join the high school band,
me and a couple of my buddies. I told my dad I wanted a trumpet,
I’d like to play trumpet in the band. So, he got me a
trumpet for 100 dollars, and we played in the high school band.
That’s where we started the “Silver Six”.
After high school, I went, well, in 1950 then I started our
own band with some of them guys from before. Bill was a very
good accordionist, but he didn’t care too much to play
the old time like Gene did. They just had a different style,
so it was good that we had two different accordion players that
could do one or the other. From there on, I just kept on going
until ’56, and then my brother and I went into the service.
I was drafted and he volunteered so we’d get out at the
same time. We were in there from ’56 to ’58, then
we came right back and just kept on going for another 40 years.
HR: Did you read music then, or play mostly by ear?
JS: We played mostly by ear. Bill had written a few arrangements
that we used, but it was more or less some of the Guy Lombardo
or Glen Miller style or some of it. We worked on some of the
theme songs that the big bands were playing, like Russ Morgan-“Dust
Your Heartbeat for Me”, and Lawrence Welk- “Bubbles
in the Wine”. What was its name again, I can’t think
of the name now. I should, he’s a very popular star, he
died a couple of years ago. I even saw him when I was up in
Alaska; he almost went on tour with their band. “Thanks
for the Memory”- Bob Hope. He came up in 1956 to Anchorage
to the army base, to entertain the troops, and that’s
where I saw him. But anyway, we did some of those theme songs
from some of those bands, during the Big Band Era. But that
wasn’t quite as much as the old time as what you’re
probably more interested in, in this documentary. The old time
music was different, was more lively music, I guess.
HR: More about old time music, what do you mean by old time
JS: Well, the old time waltzes and polkas. Like my dad played
with Gene Weisbeck. Then my dad would do a lot of them old marches
like the “Repass Band March”, “Under the Double
Eagle March” and all that stuff. Then he’d run bass
on the accordion. He’d practice them late at night, and
we’d be in bed and listen to it. So I don’t know
what else about old time music I can say, you had some last
night here. I’m sure that they played a lot of the stuff,
I know Victor Schwaan does any way. And Marv, well he might
have a little different style but he’s pretty much old
time too. They do a pretty good job. We just used to play both
and when we quit, I just figured, well that was long enough.
You have to quit, there are only so many years you can put in.
HR: Did you play barn dances?
JS: Barn dances, maybe two or three of them. I was pretty small
yet, when I first started. Larry and my dad had a few that they’d
play. I played maybe two or three of them. Gene and I played
a few proms. We played a prom at Hag once, just two of us, you
know, some of them would only hire two guys. We also played
some of the bigger ones, at the bigger schools, and then we
used four or five piece. I know I have a picture at home, where
we played one at Linton. We had a picture of that, then, I don’t
know, I probably got some more pictures at home, but I can’t
think of them. Probably proms and maybe school dances that we’d
HR: How far did your group travel?
JS: Oh boy, we traveled throughout North and South Dakota,
Minnesota, Montana, Washington D.C., and Austria; we got around
a little bit. That was when we still had five piece.
HR: When you played in North and South Dakota, did you stay
JS: Sometimes we did. Like we used to go to Bowman, and play
there on a Friday and Saturday night, we’d stay there
on Friday night, but on Saturday night after we were done, we’d
drive home 160 miles. We’d get home at 8 o’clock
in the morning, and then we went to like, Aberdeen. We used
to play down there once a month at the VFW Club and the Legion
Club. But there we usually went one night, and we came back
the same night, if it wasn’t too far. Fargo we’d
stay overnight. Jamestown, Valley City, we’d usually go
home, unless we had two nights in a row.
HR: Was that common, to have two nights in a row?
JS: Yes, certain areas and certain times like Aberdeen, they
were for quite a while, we’d play two there. Bowman we’d
play two all the time because it was so far. Fargo, we’d
take two nights, and otherwise we’d just go home the same
night, because most of us were milking cows and had chores to
do. So we would try to get back, if we only had one night, we’d
try to get back that same night.
HR: Were there women in the bands very much when you were growing
JS: No, no, except in Alaska, we had a woman piano player there.
HR: Did Larry say that you had a sister that played?
JS: Oh, Florence. Yeah, she would, she could play, but she
never played dances all that much, just with my dad.
HR: What did she play?
JS: She played piano.
JS: Yeah. Larry and her both played piano. I played some, but
just for my own entertainment. I still try it once and a while,
but the fingers are so stiff so I don’t get there or where
I’m supposed to go. I try to do it for exercise, to try
to stay in shape a little. But it’s funny how you forget
the tunes after many years, or remembering the keys. Which keys
to push, and the air: you don’t get enough air.
HR: How many tunes do you figure you knew?
JS: Oh my gosh, probably 150 or something, if something that
one guy didn’t know, another guy did. Bill could play
anything in any key, and he could take the lead on the stuff.
Like with the trumpet he couldn’t play all the way through
anyway, because it would be too hard. So I’d take apart,
or he would take apart, or the other guys would take a part,
so we’d switch off.
HR: Do you remember playing for weddings?
JS: Oh for weddings, yeah, a lot of weddings. Even after my
dad, we still played some after Gene retired you know. His health
wasn’t so good anymore so when he retired we were still
playing weddings and stuff, but probably not quite as much old
HR: Was there music that you needed for a wedding that you
didn’t use for other stuff?
JS: For a wedding, oh like the old waltzes, the old “Strasburg
Waltz”, and stuff like that, even though we played them
at the clubs too, once and a while. We tried to mix up for whatever
people liked. There’s some numbers that you never forget;
when you play certain numbers, people are out on the dance floor.
“Somewhere my Love” the theme from Doctor Shavago,
was one of them, when you played that dance, there was somebody
out on the floor. There was “Spanish Eyes” and what
were some of the other ones, oh, “My Darling Anne”.
Those were little, not the old time waltz, they were nice listening
to, more or less like dinner music waltzes. “My Darling
Anne” “Beautiful Rose” there was just a lot
that Bill played when Gene wasn’t there anymore.
HR: When you were playing old time music, what were some of
the numbers people would request?
JS: For old time, “Du liegst mir im Herzen,” “O
du lieber Augustein,” stuff like that. Especially some
of the older stuff, and then at weddings, they’d sing,
they’d like that.
HR: How were you paid?
JS: Not very much in the beginning, we used to make 8 to 10
dollars a night in the first years. Well later on towards the
end when things got more expensive everywhere, we got up to
pretty good salaries. I don’t know if I want to dare mention
HR: If people heard the “Bubbling Quintet” would
they, could they, know it was the “Bubbling Quintet”?
Did you have a style that was different from other people?
JS: Well, yeah, a lot of them told us we had the Lawrence Welk
style. So, and then uh, if you played the Guy Lombardo tune,
a lot of them would know it was Guy Lombardo.
HR: Do you remember anything about Names Days?
JS: Oh yes, I forgot about that. Yeah, in the old days before
I had a trumpet, or before Larry or my dad even played that
much they had Names Days. Every year, you’d kind of look
forward to that Names, and people would come from town they’d
come out there and celebrate Names Days, church feasts, like
St. Peter and Paul, St. Mary’s at Hague. And New Year’s
Eve, I used to have some of my uncles come out with my dad,
late in the morning after 1:00, after the bars closed up. They’d
come out there and shoot the shot guns, and scare us kids. They
were having their fun. They’d come in the house and make
a bunch of noise, but that’s what it was all about in
those days. People they looked forward to that. Those tough
years, in Russia and Germany I suppose, they were just glad
that they were free and they had things they could do, the way
they wanted to. I don’t think they could have carried
a shotgun in any of those countries.
HR: So what is a Names Day?
JS: Names Day? That’s the name of a Saint, like Saint
John, my dad was John, St. James would be mine. Whatever these
ordinary names are around here, and from German territory or
Russian territory. Whenever they had a Names Day, there were
so many ordinary names, they had lots of names, lots of Names
HR: Was that the same as a birthday?
JS: Well, somewhat yeah. A birthday is when you were born,
that’s your date of birth. And your Names Day, was the
Saint of that name. Whatever the Saint was that was their Names
HR: What would they do at a Names Day Party?
JS: Oh, they would play cards or they’d drink. My dad
would play when they come here; they would dance and always
had something to do. They had excitement, and they had fun.
HR: Were Names Day for the kids?
JS: No, they were for the parents; the older people. Well the
kids enjoyed that, we loved it when all the company came. Then
when it was all over with and they’d go home in the evenings.
You were kind of sad and let down, everything is empty, the
yard is quiet, so you kind of miss them leaving in a way.
HR: What if your Names Day was in the summer, during the harvest
JS: That I don’t know. In those days, they probably quit,
they weren’t as rushed as they are nowadays, with the
big machinery and stuff. They can’t hardly take off now;
they can’t keep up no more, not enough people to run the
machines. The machines are getting way too expensive. But I
really couldn’t remember if they, well they didn’t
on certain holidays, they didn’t work anyways. Like the
big church feast down there at St. Mary’s, on St. Mary’s
day, August 15, they didn’t work. Names Days, well I think
that they even quit for that. Well, maybe not, not too many
of them because usually they were on a weekday. In those days,
your weddings were usually on a Monday, or a Tuesday. They maybe
went on for two or more days. Felix knows all about that, and
Katie. They attended plenty of them. The weddings were plenty
long. And I don’t know how they do it, like my dad would
play until the next morning, lay down for an hour, and get up
and start playing again. I was too young, in those days, so
I didn’t have to do that. But we had plenty of times on
the road where we lost sleep.
HR: Did both your mother and your father have Names Day parties?
JS: I don’t know if I remember my mother’s. Her
name was Magdelina. I’m sure she had a Names Day, but
I don’t remember which it was anymore. It was usually
the man in the family that would celebrate the Names Day. Maybe
somebody else could enlighten you on that.
HR: Thinking about music of the church, was there special music
for the funerals?
JS: Funerals, of course, I attended very few funerals, until
I got up to high school I guess, and after I had been in the
service. Now almost every week, you have to go to a funeral.
Neighbors, we’ve lost so many lately, and it seems like
you can’t hardly keep up. The funerals in those days,
I know my folks used to go if a relative died, but when we were
maybe 15, 16 years old, we didn’t go. Maybe the parents
felt it was not the best thing for the young kids to be at.
HR: Was German used very much at all in the Catholic Church?
JS: Oh yeah, in those first years. I couldn’t speak English
until I was six. I’m still not good at it. In all the
schools, everything was in German, until you started going to
school, then you had to learn English.
HR: Did they sing in German?
JS: Sometimes, mind feels a little bit.
HR: So you were at the folk festival in Washington D.C., why
don’t you tell us about that?
JS: Well, that was in ’76, September I think it was.
They had all kinds of entertainment from all over the United
States; they had them come in from Mexico and everywhere. They
all did their thing you know, whatever they did. We would play
between two and three sessions a day for five days I think it
was. Then you’d play for maybe it was between a ½
hour and a hour, you’d play and then somebody else would
come on and you had the rest of the day free, to go around and
sight see and stuff. We had taken a couple around from Pettybone,
they were the most loyal people, two old people, he just died
this last spring. They were our dancers, and we sometime put
on weddings too, and had them dance. They went along to Austria
with us, and their son and his wife, they went along too, and
we had a nice time, so much to see, and so much to do. We wore
out our shoes; we got sore feet, so we had to buy new shoes.
That’s how far we walked, but it was a good experience,
and we had five good days, and other than that, I guess there’s
not too much I can say.
HR: Were you playing inside or outside?
JS: They had tents put up outside. Yeah, they had big tents,
they had them all over the place wherever, every band would
play or whatever they had, in a different place.
HR: Did people dance when you played?
JS: Oh yeah, there was some dancing going on. Not as much as
the wedding dances I guess, but sometimes I didn’t know
what the people wanted or liked the best. You sometimes don’t
know, you just got to try until everything falls into place.
HR: Do you remember there being, since you played trumpet,
a town band in Linton or Strasburg?
JS: In Strasburg, years ago, yeah, those old guys had the Strasburg
City Band. But I don’t think they had anything recorded.
That was before recorders came out. Every Saturday and Wednesday
night they’d have the bandstand that’s out at the
Welk farm, that’s what they’d play on, they’d
be in there and they’d play all them marches and they
were good too. They had a lot of horns, probably a 15 to 20
piece band. They would do it twice a week, so they knew just
what to do I guess, and I’m sure they read the music too.
HR: When you were in high school, did you play in the bandstand
JS: No, we didn’t. I don’t think we had that, it
was kind of in bad shape, they weren’t using it anymore
when I was in high school, but they played like I said, two
nights a week. How long they were there, there’s probably
some older people around that would know more than I do about
that. Because I remember they weren’t using that bandstand
anymore when I started high school as far as I can remember.
It was there, but there wasn’t any more bandstand being
HR: When I grew up in Wishek, we still had outdoor concerts.
Did you do some outdoor concerts without the bandstand?
JS: The school band you mean?
HR: Actually, in the summer we had a community band that played
JS: Oh, well I don’t know, maybe they did before my time.
In the high school band, we never did much, maybe a parade,
sometimes a parade marching through town you know then the high
school band, sometimes we’d play.
HR: Do you remember anything else?
JS: Not really, I got married in ’56, and then I was
in the service in Alaska for 18 months, and then I came back
HR: Were you a full time musician in the service, or did you
do it on the side?
JS: In the service, that was just a side band that we got together.
We used to go to the Seal Club or whatever, and they had piano
there, and if you wanted to practice or play and that’s
how we met I guess, and then we started this four piece band,
we would play on Friday and Saturday nights; the Clubs, Service
HR: And you were paid?
JS: Yeah, we were paid there, we were on our own, that had
nothing to do with the service. I think we were getting 12-15
dollars a night.
JS: Well, that was a little side money. You didn’t get
paid much when you were in the service. Then they send over
half the check home to the wife, so you had to make a little
extra bit of money.
HR: Was there anybody singing with the band?
JS: Anybody singing with the band? Bill used to and but then
when Gene quit and he played accordion all the time then. He
played trumpet also, like I mentioned we had three trumpets,
a tuba, drums, and two accordions. Bill and Doug also played
trumpets, so we used three trumpets sometimes. Then Bill would
sing some of the tunes but when Gene retired and he started
doing some singing, not all that much. After Gene retired, he
said, I can’t play accordion and sing at the same time.
HR: I think that did it, thank you very much. That was good.
JS: Thank you.
End of Conversation.