Interview with Adolph Lesser, (AL) Part 2
Conducted by Dr. Timothy Kloberdanz (TK)
12 September 2004
Transcribed by Amanda Swenson
Editing and Proofreading by Marvin L. Hartmann
Prairie Public Collection
TK: I want you, Adolph, to tell that story about, I think it was George Walker. He liked to play music, but he liked to drink as well. And that thing with his wife...... if you could tell that story about George?
AL: Oh, that story during WWII?
AL: Yeah, he was an old timer. I played with these old timers. During WWII, during the war, George Walker and his wife went to Scottsbluff to play. George Dinas and his wife, they all played music. And long toward the end of the evening, George Walker always liked to drink a little whiskey, you know. So he was drinking pretty much, and finally they left there, and they got out in the open and on the street, and she started to really bawl him out in German, and she wasn’t supposed to talk German. So he said, "Look out," he says, "or I'll turn you in for sabotage."
TK: This was during WWII then.
AL: And I was surprised that he knew what sabotage meant. You know, but oh yeah, you happen to laugh all the time, with the old timers.
TK: Now when one of the old timers would come up and they would say, and now young people wouldn’t understand this, but they’d say, "Why don’t you have a Kuhe on stage?" Now they didn’t mean an actual cow, weren’t they talking about a musical instrument?
AL: They were talking about this bass, that they play with a bow, these big basses. And now they pick these basses. Then they had a cello. A Kuhe they means a big bass they played with a cello. And it worked good, it worked real good.
TK: And again when the old timers come up, they would not say, play me a Dutch Hop, they would say what?
AL: They would say play a polka. "Spiel amol ah polka." (Play a polka.) Oh yeah, they didn’t accept this Dutch Hop.
TK: And now the tradition really carries on in your daughter Cindy now doesn’t it? Wouldn’t you say, the musical tradition carries on with Cindy now.
AL: Oh yeah, yeah, the younger people. They’re a changing their style a little bit. Some want to play other music, Yanchovic style, Schottishe style. When we were teaching in my studios, some of them didn’t want to learn the Dutch Hop, they wanted the Yanchovic books, and they wanted to learn to play the... some of them wanted to play the Dutch Hop. That’s what we had to do you know.
TK: Now, did your daughter Cindy, did you teach her, or did she just pick it up?
AL: No, no no. I had an accordion school. I had four teachers. You never want to teach your own kid, that doesn’t work. I gave her to one of the teachers, she was the hardest one of the school to teach. She always wanted some harder music to play, and the teachers came to me, and said what will we do? And I said, "Give her some music so hard that she quits." I meant it. So she quits, I don’t want to mess with it. So she’d go home and work like heck and come back with a good lesson. So they found out they had to challenge her. So then they went from there and kept challenging her, and challenging her. And that’s what it took to keep her going.
TK: And now Cindy plays with a band today right?
TK: Cindy plays with a band today?
AL: Oh yeah, she plays with the Rhinelanders. She plays a button accordion, she plays the piano accordion, she plays a sax, she plays a clarinet, she plays a big bass and she drums. And she has worked with some of the finest polka bands in America. With Frank Yanchovic, she’s played in Branson, Missouri. And the Lawrence Welk Theatre, she played with a Scandanavian band that played all that kind of music. She played with a Russian bunch in Denver. She was complimented by, did you ever hear the Chemolyskies play... Polish? Florian Chemolysky was a Senator. But also the fourth generation with the polka band, and here’s what he told about her. He said, "Cindy Lesser can play with any band," he says, "and play in the character, play in character, play their style, with any band." And that’s very rare. You know sometimes you take a Dutch Hop player, and set him in with another band, it won’t work. He’s playing the Dutch Hop stuff. But she fits in with any band. She plays all kinds of stuff.
TK: So Cindy has done well, and you’ve earned the title of the Polka King, the Dutch Hop King, and the Old Master.
AL: Well, the Old Master, I have no idea where that ever came from, I didn’t think I was ever the master of anything, it just happened. I don’t know, somebody branded me with that and so that’s what I hear now a days.
TK: Well Adolph, we could ask you questions for a long time. These fellas have to catch a plane. Well thank you Adolph. This has been really interesting.
AL: Thank you very much.
TK: Thank you.
AL: I hope I said the right thing.