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01/30/11

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Verne and Steve MeisnerThey're At It Again....

Verne & Steve Meisner

A page of POLKA history, Meisner Magic by Lynn Greene,
 written back in the early 2000s...

They’re at it again-Verne and Steve Meisner have been out spreading the word-as dedicated as if they were preaching the gospel. Except this is polka, chapter and verse. Verne Meisner has entered his 4th Hall of Fame for polka performers the end of last year. In case you less dedicated fans have let one or two accolades slip by-here they are: in 1989 Verne was inducted into the International Polka Association Hall of Fame, then came the Cleveland Style Polka Hall of Fame, the Minnesota Polka Hall of Fame and now the Wisconsin Polka Hall of Fame Lifetime Achievement Award.

While Verne lives in Waukesha, WI, his polka playing son Steve, lives in Whitewater, WI and he couldn't be more proud of his dad. Father and son each head up their own band - the Steve Meisner Band, and the Verne Meisner Band - but they also continue to get it together as Meisner Magic. And magic it is, if the crowds in Branson, MO are any indication.

Meisner Magic was the featured band at the Lawrence Welk Theater in Branson over the Memorial Day weekend last year. Myron Floren, of the original Lawrence Welk television show, stood in the wings as Meisner fingers glided over accordion keyboards in a rendition of "Achtung." Floren later commented on their expert performance of the song and stated that the selection was one of his favorite's too. He had recorded his version of the tune early in his career. This wasn't the first time the wel-known accordionist had met the Meisners. Floren had been the master of ceremonies for Verne's induction into the Minnesota State Polka Hall of Fame in 1996.

The Meisners also performed for the 2nd annual Lawrence Welk Polka Fest held on the theater grounds. Under two large tents they performed for thousands of polka fans, including three bus loads of Meisner fans from Wisconsin and Illinois. As a result of the trip, Steve and Verne will be featured on a recording from the 1997 Welk Polka Fest. The next ic television three years ago during the station's fund drives. It was very successful-having helped to raise the second largest amount of donations for Wisconsin public television in its history. "Cuca" refers to the record label most responsible for keeping the old-time polka alive by continuous recordings. Out of Sauk City, WI it has produced around a dozen of Verne's albums. The video featured other bands from the state and also demonstrated the different styles of polka music.

Verne and Steve each play a bit differently in their own bands-Verne sticking to more of the traditional tunes and his own compositions in that style; while Steve mixes it up a bit more, borrowing from contemporary recording artists as well as utilizing his own compositions. But they both play in the "Slovenian" style-a combination of Dutch style which is very musical and floating, and Polish style which is heavy on rhythm and brass. The Slovenian style has a snappy beat with good American instrumentation.

This Americanization of the Old Country's music is what has kept the polka alive and well. There is something about a polka that just makes a person happy. Today, you can still catch the Lawrence Welk show on television. It always has at least one polka featured. And if you watch closely, you will catch Steve on his accordion doing a promo spot for the station-it usually airs just previous to the show. And of course, now the Lawrence Welk show is a mainstay in the "new" Nashville-Branson. It's actually one of the longest shows there-each performance is about three hours. Verne and Steve were such a hit when they were there last year, that they have already been invited back for this years festival May 28th through June 1st-and yes there is a bus trip planned for the event.

Steve and Verne just returned from Las Vegas where they performed for a sold out attendance at the Orleans Hotel and Casino. This marked their 5th appearance at the Southwest Polka Fest in Las Vegas as fans danced continuously 12 hours a day for three days. They have already been invited back for next year. Wether that will actually happen or not is still being worked out-the problem is the Meisners are just too popular-they're booked every week, well in advance.

For these two, the accordion is polka music, and music is their way of life. While other members in their bands might have other jobs, it is their only job. They also act as their own agent and produce their own recordings which are available at their performances or through the mail.

But the way to really get a listen to polka is to experience it-through a live performance. Just remember to take your dancin' shoes. The smile will come naturally.

From a feature article on the Meisners by Frances Kalocy of the Polka News...
written back in the early 2000s

Polka man, accordionist Verne Meisner of Waukesha, Wisconsin. Playing over 40 years, works 250 days a year to promote his favorite music. He has devoted his entire life to music, a full time profession.

November 1994 he was inducted into the National Cleveland Style Polka Hall of Fame and received the 1994 Lifetime Achievement Award from the American-Slovenian Polka Foundation. They were preceded by his 1989 induction into the International Polka Hall of Fame.

Governor Tommy Thompson sent Verne a congratulatory communication . The Polka is now Wisconsin's official state dance. Verne would like to see the polka dance taught in schools.

Met and talked with Verne in Frankenmuth, Michigan, when his band and son Steve were playing at the Summer Music Fest. Steve has his own band but father and son find time to play together.

Talking to Verne, he said, "Are you going to write about me? Write about Steve instead." There is no way one can write about one without mentioning the other.

As a youngster Verne grew up in Whitewater, WI and (about 10 years old) was fascinated with the accordion after listening to his uncle Al Meisner playing one. When Verne started taking music lessons, in all, only 18, a teacher told him, he couldn't teach him anything more, if he wasn't going to play what was on the page. Verne played clarinet in Jr. High School, but the accordion was the instrument he wanted to play.

He started playing for neighbors, ice cream socials and church events when he was 10 or 11 years old. He was ready to make money. His grandparents and parents were his chaperones when he played in the local taverns. He knew how to play ten selections, then would start playing them all over again. He plays by ear and figures he knows about a thousand songs now.

In the early 1950's, Verne was on stage with his idol Frankie Yankovic. After that they would often perform together. Nowadays, Verne plays across the state and all over the country. He brings much joy to many many people, with his happy polka music. He plays Slovenian style polkas, a little country and western, jitterbug, waltz and a little rock.

Some of the people that are part of his history: disc jockey Fritz The Plumber, the old Dandelion Park Ballroom in Muskego, Frankie Yankovic, Meisner's son Steve and Leon Kozicki.

Verne has written more than one hundred songs, one which is "El Rio Drive", one of my favorite polkas. Thank you for playing it in Frankenmuth, MI.

Received a cassette, Verne Meisner El Rio Drive, which has the first recording of El Rio Drive. It was written by Verne Meisner when he lived on El Rio drive in Menomonee Falls, WI.

Selections on the cassette are: El Rio Drive, Sweet Memories, Mexico, Your Lips Tell Me No No, You Won't Matter Anymore, Maybe Tomorrow, Another Waltz With You, Polka 76, Mocking Bird Hill, Country Woman, Mr. Ed's, I Saw Esau. If interested in this cassette or others write for an order form.

Steve lives in Whitewater, WI where his career started. At the park in Whitewater, he won the Fourth of July Talent contest playing "The Beer Barrel Polka" at the young age of 5. Before age 3, he'd be in his dad's (Verne) stereo trying to get at the music. His dad bought him a little record player but that didn't satisfy him. He didn't want to listen to music but wanted to make music.

As a youngster he begged his dad to give him lessons, after finding an accordion in his grandmother's attic. At the age 13, was featured on stage with his dad's band, playing the button box accordion. Being a featured performer wasn't enough for him so he learned to play the bass guitar. It was the bass guitar that got him a regular job with his dad's band. Played with the band for the next four years.

At age 14, he played on his first recording "Autumn Leaves" which is still a good seller.

Steve still wanted more, a band of his own. So at age 17, Steve struck out on his own playing accordion and singing. He's following in his dad's footsteps, his only job is his music. Steve took his turn at a rock and roll band. It only lasted about a year, because he loves his polka music.

He carries on the musical tradition, his sound is a more contemporary one with some of the popular hits by Stray Cats, Stevie Wonder and Dwight Yokam.

Verne and Steve play out about five days a week. During the week they used to play together, and on weekends they split up with their separate bands. It did depend on what the occasion called for.

The popularity of the polka music will never die out, if the Meisner family has anything to do about it. Steve Meisner has been linked to the continued rejuvenation of the polka music. A talented musician, playing several instruments. When he hears a tune he sits down and works it out, Steve reads music but most of the time he will learn it by ear. Maybe in the future the International Polka Hall of Fame will be comprised of both Meisners, father and son.


Reach Steve via e-mail at 

 

 

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