Music was Basgall's Philosophy

Gasper-O'Brien, Diane. "Music was Basgall's Philosophy." Hays Daily News, 12 October 2001.

Stan Basgall said his father lived by the philosophy that live music is the best music, the best entertainment.

Eddie Basgall surely would forgive his son for stretching the truth a bit today.

Eddie Basgall, widely known across the Midwest for his wide variety of dance bands, died Monday of a heart attack at the age of 72.

Stan Basgall, who played in bands with his father for more than 35 years, wanted his dad - a professional musician, arranger and composer from Hays - to be remembered for his live music that brought enjoyment to throngs of people.

So following his father´s funeral services at St. Nicholas of Myra Catholic Church this morning, Stan Basgall had taped polka music of one of his live performances played as people filed out of church.

"Actually, the tape was of a live performance, so it wasn´t canned music," Stan Basgall said. "And the only reason it´s a tape is simply because we can´t get him up there to do it himself."

Nonetheless, Stan noted, "You did it again, Eddie. You played to a packed house today."

The church was filled to near capacity, and not surprisingly, there were a lot of older people who had followed Eddie Basgall loyally over the years.

One of those was Earl Blauer from Hays, who got his start in music with Basgall in 1959.

"Playing in his band helped put me through college," said Blauer, then a music major from Phillipsburg attending Fort Hays State University.

Basgall´s brother, Delbert, also was a college student and asked Blauer to play in his brother´s band one night.

It turned out to be a permanent arrangement for Blauer, who went on to become band director at Felten Middle School for 35 years before his retirement three years ago.

"We traveled an awful lot of miles together," Blauer said, "and we had very few unkind words between us in 42 years. (Eddie Basgall) and I had a pact that I´d stay with him until he hung it up. I really didn´t expect it to be this soon, or quite like this."

Eddie Basgall also continued playing in bands long after his retirement from Hays Piano and Organ in the mid-1980s.

Actually, it was his music that served as kind of a therapy for Eddie Basgall while recovering from back surgeries necessary after being injured moving a piano at the music store.

"After hurting his back, his doctors said, 'If you like it, do it,´ " Stan Basgall said of his father´s music.

Eddie Basgall probably best will be remembered for playing the accordion, although he also could play the saxophone, the clarinet, the organ, the keyboard and the piano.

He also played a large variety of music.

"A lot of people talk about his polka music," Stan Basgall said, "but he could play about anything. Kids would come up and ask him to play rock ´n roll, and he´d do that, too."

Eddie Basgall got his start in his dad´s band, The Troubadours, as a youngster, and went on to form several bands of his own, including the Eddie Basgall Orchestra, the Danceland Band, the Jolly Dutchmen and the Eddie Basgall Band.

Over the years, Basgall rubbed elbows with the likes of Lawrence Welk, Bob Hope and the Lennon Sisters, whose real last names were Denning and were relatives of Basgall. But he never forgot his roots.

"If people couldn´t afford a full quartet, a quintet, he´d tell them, 'Hire me,´ " meaning Eddie Basgall solo, Stan Basgall said. "Then I´d tag along, and Jon Kisner would sometimes come, and we´d all have a good time."

Eddie Basgall also was called upon by a lot of churches, of several different denominations, for his expertise to help select an organ for their sanctuary.

"He shared his talent freely with others," Stan Basgall said of his father, who inherited his talent from both sides of the family.

Both of Eddie´s parents were musically inclined, with the Basgall music heritage going all the way back to Eddie´s Volga-German ancestors who played in a band in Russia.

People who heard Eddie Basgall´s bands didn´t soon forget him - even after 50 years.

For their wedding dance in September 1949, Larry and Laurine Werth from Schoenchen had hired The Troubadours, the band that included Eddie Basgall´s father, Joseph, his mother, Hilda, and 20-year-old Eddie Basgall.

"I can remember seeing him playing when he was young, 8 or 9 years old, and he was so little he had to sit on a wooden pop case to play the accordion," Larry Werth said of Eddie Basgall. "In my lifetime, he´s probably the best accordion player I´ve ever heard."

When it came time for the Werths to celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary in 1999, they booked the Eddie Basgall Band, which again included more than one Basgall family member.

As a joke, Werth said at his 50th anniversary he set up a wooden pop case for Eddie Basgall, but he didn´t sit on it this time around.

"He probably would have broken it," Werth said with a laugh.

Werth said he felt like he was one of the lucky ones to have heard Eddie Basgall´s music a lot over the years.

Werth also heard him in his last performance, at last Friday´s Oktoberfest celebration in Hays.

"I didn´t get a chance to talk to him, but he hollered at me (from the stage)," said Werth, who said he´ll always have fond memories of Eddie Basgall and his music.

Stan Basgall said he wasn´t sure of his plans for the future of the Eddie Basgall Band but that he would at least fulfill the commitments his dad had made.

"Hell if I know," Stan Basgall said when asked who would take his father´s place on the accordion. "You can´t replace Eddie Basgall.

Reprinted with permission of The Hays Daily News.

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