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Accordion, Instrument of the Gods In the News Music

R.I.P. Myron Floren

[Thank to abnu for the heads-up!] Back when we lived together during our stay at Crazy Go Nuts

University, George and I would stumble across a channel playing a rerun of The

Lawrence Welk Show while watching TV. Rather than quickly flip to

another channel, we’d sit there transfixed, watching this strange

little bit of Americana fixed in amber, and I suspect one of the

reasons was the gentleman pictured below, Myron Floren:

Photo: Myron Floren.

I am the polka king! I can do anything! In the heyday of The Lawrence Welk Show, he was mobbed by fans, just like a rock star!

Myron got his big break in the late 1940’s when he and his wife 

attended a Lawrence Welk performance at the Casa Loma ballroom in St.

Louis. Welk invited him onstage to perform a number, and Floren chose

Lady of Spain which wowed the crowed. Impressed with the enthusiastic

reaction and Floren’s playing, Welk invited him to join the band that

night, and in 1950, Floren started a 32-year run on Welk’s show.

Even though polka isn’t really my thing, I am an admirer of Floren’s excellent

playing technique. The man’s fingers were a blur over the piano

keyboard and chord buttons, and he played a mean version of Beer Barrel Polka

(which you might know better as “Roll Out the Barrel”, which is

actually the first line of the chorus). He was also regarded as an

excellent conductor; it’s said he did a better job conducting with his

elbows (since his hands were occupied with the accordion) than most

bandleaders did with a free hand and a  baton.

Floren is probably behind one of the major reasons that the accordion

is considered an old folks’ instrument. He cemented its reputation in

his three decades of bandleading on The Lawrence Welk Show,

which got cancelled in 1982 not because of flagging ratings, but

because it was considered “too old” for advertisers. In spite of this,

I owe Mr. Floren a debt of gratitude, for without the image of the

accordion that he firmly implanted in the minds of generations of North

Americans, my own approach to the accordion — as well as those of “Weird Al” Yankovic, They Might Be Giants, Tom Waits or The Arcade Fire — wouldn’t be as special. Without him, we’d be players of yet another ordinary instrument, such as drums, bass and guitar.

Myron Floren died last Saturday at the age of 85 at home in Los Angeles County.

He is survived by his wife, five daughters and seven grandchildren. May

the bellow action be smooth and the reeds be true whereever you are,

Mr. Floren!

One reply on “R.I.P. Myron Floren”

We were sad to learn that Myron had passed away. Our sympathy to the family. We had the pleasure of seeing him live at the kimberley Accordian Festival about 7 years ago. Cliff and mary from Alberta, Canada

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