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Myron Floren

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Most famous as a regular performer and assistant conductor on The Lawrence Welk Show, Myron Floren was also one of polka's finest accordion players. Floren was born of Norwegian parentage on November 5, 1919, in Roslyn, SD; although some sources list nearby Webster instead, Floren's family actually lived on a farm in between the two towns, and Roslyn claims him as its own. Floren first heard the accordion at a neighbor's house party when he was seven years old, and quickly talked his father into buying him one of his own. He took several piano lessons, during which he learned to read music, but as an accordion player, he was otherwise essentially self-taught. Floren made his professional debut at the Day County Fair when he was only eight. He later went on to study music at Augustana College in Sioux Falls, where he earned extra money by giving accordion lessons (he would eventually marry one of his students, Berdyne). In 1939, Floren got his own radio show on the local station KSOO, playing mostly polkas and Scandinavian-style waltzes. He attempted to enlist in the Air Force during World War II, but was turned down because of complications from a near-fatal bout with rheumatic fever in his early teens; instead, he joined the USO and entertained troops near the European front. In 1946, he and his wife moved to St. Louis, where he performed regularly on local radio with a country band called the Buckeye Four; he also made his television debut locally in 1948. In 1950, Floren and his wife attended a performance by Lawrence Welk, whom Floren had admired since Welk's days on South Dakota radio. Welk had also heard of Floren, and invited him on-stage to do a number. Floren launched into a version of "Lady of Spain" that drew a loud ovation from the crowd, and Welk offered him a job with his band. Floren went on tour for the next year, until Welk settled the band into a regular local television spot in Southern California. The Lawrence Welk Show was picked up nationally by ABC in 1955, and Floren assumed a highly prominent role second only to the host himself. Floren and Welk were both accordion players who shared a taste for polka, and Floren was featured on a polka number virtually every week; plus, he served as the Welk band's manager and as an assistant conductor, directing the band when Welk himself picked up his instrument. When ABC canceled the series in 1971, Welk secured a syndication deal that kept the show on over 200 stations until 1982, and Floren stayed for the duration of its run. In the meantime, Floren released a number of polka and waltz albums on the Welk Music Group-run Ranwood Records label, including a popular collaboration with Welk on World's Greatest Polkas. After the Welk show went off the air, Floren expanded his touring commitments, playing with big bands around the country and making regular appearances at festivals and ethnic events. He also performed frequently with the Jimmy Sturr Band. In 1998, Floren suffered a small stroke; although he recovered completely, his treatment revealed the presence of colon cancer, for which he underwent surgery. He was able to return to the road for a time, but further health problems began to affect his ability to maintain such a busy schedule. ~ Steve Huey

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05 November 1919 in Roslyn, SD

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'40s, '50s, '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s