Following the Tradition of Family Music

"Following the Tradition of Family Music." Hebron Herald, n.d.

The Tibor Brothers


Funny how things run in families.

With the Tibor family of Hebron, it’s music. You can trace it back to Leonard Hecker, now the great-grandfather of the Tibor clan, who headed a family band in rural Dickinson back in the 1920s.

Four generations later, there are five Tibor family bands performing in North Dakota and adjacent states. And there’s a whole chorus of Leonard’s great-grandchildren coming up.

“One time in Dickinson we had three family bands working in different parts of town on the same night,” said Francis Tibor of the Tibor Brothers, the clan’s best known and most traveled band.

Last year, the Tibor Brothers recorded an album called “A Family Celebration” in honor of the Hecker’s 69th wedding anniversary. The family’s picture barely fit on the album cover—and many members were missing.

In case you don’t know the story, 14 children were born to Joseph and Margaret Tibor in the 1930s, 40s and 50s.

At first, the family’s main claim to fame was that the children were being named in alphabetical order. The Tibors ran out of children before they ran out of letters but still got more than halfway through the alphabet.

The lineup: Albert, Bernard, Charles, Dorothy, Ernest, Francis, Gerard, Harvey, Irene, Jerome, Kurt, Larry, Marie and Noreen.

As the Tibors made their way through the alphabet, the children were taking to music the way their mother had when she was young.

“It’s just been in the family for so long it’s part of it,” Margaret Tibor, Hecker’s daughter, says. “We couldn’t be without it.”

“I remember we couldn’t play during Holy Week,” Margaret Tibor said of her Catholic family. “It just about killed me when I was a kid.”

The Tibor children got into music as much out of necessity as desire, Franics Tibor said.

In the mid 1940s, after hail destroyed Joseph Tibor’s crops three years in a row, Margaret Tibor decided to try to make some money out of the family’s musical talents. The five oldest children were dubbed “The Rhythm Cowboys” and hit the church social circuit, with their mother on the piano.

Nearly 40 years later, seven of the nine surviving Tibor brothers (Ernest died of leukemia in 1950) still make their living in music, and Margarent Tibor plays the organ at church in Hebron.

The Tibor Brothers group-Francis, Harvey, Larry, Kurt and Gerard-have cut nine of their own albums and provided backup music in 50-60 others. They perform widely at clubs and fairs.

Charles Tibor and his wife, Ardell, head a band out of Hebron that performs in a 100-150 mile radius of west central North Dakota community.

Jerome Tibor has the Jerome Tibor Band out of Dickinson.

Albert Tibor, the eldest and among the first to perform, works for Wylie Piano Co. while Bernard sells insurance in Hebron.

And there is the third generation of the singing Tibors. Arman and Allan Tibor, Albert’s sons, and Bryant and Grant Tibor, Charlie’s sons, perform as the group Cypress.

“They’re very good,” Francis said. “They’ve been a road band for four or five years.”

Finally, there is Stuart Oak, a band that includes Bernard Tibor’s son-in-law, Tom Conlon.

Of the 14 children in the Tibor family, only the two youngest—Marie and Noreen, have not played in a band at one time or another. Noreen says she knew better.

“People think it’s a wonderful life,” Noreen said. “They don’t see the work (involved). I grew up seeing the guys coming and going all hours of the night.”

They also don’t see some of the traveling hardships bad weather can bring, Francis and Noreen said.

Like the time the Tibor Brothers’ bus got stuck in a snow drift near New Salem, N.D. and they had to use cymbals to dig out.

Or when they took off their shoes, socks and pants and pushed their van through mud for seven miles on a rainy night in South Dakota.

During a blizzard, the band was stranded for 10 hours at an Interstate 94 rest stop just a few miles from home.

Travel is accepted as part of the band’s life, Harvey Tibor said.
“It’s like taking over the farm; you just do it,” he said.

The Tibor Brothers have reduced substantially their overnight travel schedule since they began playing in clubs in 1970, cutting it from about seven months to about three weeks a year, Francis Tibor said.

Most of the Tibors’ engagements now are within daily driving distance of Hebron.

Franics Tibor said county fairs are much preferred over nightclubs because they take less time, provide a better mix in the audience, and pay as much in a day as clubs do in a week.

The Tibor Brothers play rock, country, country-rock, gospel, old time, and 50s, depending on the audience.

Francis said a trademark of the Tibor Brothers is, of all things, Thermos bottles, which they carry with them to nightclubs where most people drink liquor to have a good time.

“None of us drink,” Francis said. “We’re known as the Thermos brothers.”

The Tibors travel in an old Greyhound bus converted into a camper. Franics drives. On the road, the brothers play cards to pass the time between performances.

The brothers have their inevitable arguments but are more or less forced to get along and generally do, Franics said.

“No one’s going to fire anyone,” Francis said. “No one has the authority. No one will walk out. Where would he walk out too? Generally, we take sides in an argument but never on a permanent basis.”

Tibor acknowledges that the group wouldn’t be where it is if it didn’t have its family ties as a promotion.

“Being brothers has been a big asset to us,” Tibor said. The group has little trouble getting bookings and performs primarily in the Dakotas, Wyoming, Montana and Minnesota.

The Tibors have developed their late father’s blacksmith shop in Hebron into a recording studio. The group’s record company—JoMar—is named after Joseph and Margaret Tibor. The group’s major sales are at fairs, festivals and through a growing mailing list system, according to Francis Tibor.

The brothers biggest original hit has been “It’s So Easy Lovin’ You,” which reached 95th on the Billboard Country Western Charts several years ago.

The Tibor Brothers are now gearing up for some television promotions of their newest album “Polka Pops,” a rendition of same major hits.

Francis Tibor said that at the moment, there are no other bands sprouting from the Tibor troops.

Tibor says he is asked often how one family got so much musical talent.

“I don’t feel it was a much talent as it was being so close to (music) from the time we were very young,” Tibor said.

And there is still a lot of music and a lot of youngsters in the Tibor clan.

Reprinted with permission of the Hebron Herald.

Permission to use any images from the GRHC website may be requested by contacting Michael M. Miller