July 23, 2005

Myron Floren, accordion player on 'The Lawrence Welk Show,' dies

ROLLING HILLS ESTATES, Calif. - Myron Floren, a maestro accordion player who entertained generations of TV viewers on "The Lawrence Welk Show," died Saturday at the age of 85.

Floren died of cancer at his Rolling Hills Estates home in Los Angeles County, his daughter Randee Floren said.

A consummate musician versed in everything from polka to Bach, he joined Lawrence Welk's band in 1950 and stayed on until the television show ended in 1982.

The orchestra, which also included saxophonist Dick Dale and singer Jim Roberts, was famous for bouncing, effervescent dance music that Welk began playing as a young man in his native North Dakota.

More recently, Floren performed at music festivals around the country and frequently appeared at the Lawrence Welk Resort and Champagne Theater in Branson, Mo.

Parody singer "Weird Al" Yankovic, who also plays the accordion, has called Floren an inspiration in his youth.

Singer Bill Lennon, whose older sisters were regulars and who occasionally performed on Welk's show, described Floren as a gentlemen and a dedicated musician.

"A lot of folks in the orchestra said he conducted better with his elbows than many conductors do with the baton," Lennon said, referring to Floren's ability to play the accordion and keep the band on tempo.

Randee Floren recalled going out in public with her father as a young girl.

"People would recognize him and go crazy. It was like going out with a rock star in those days," she said.

Born on a farm outside Roslyn, S.D., in 1919, Floren took up the instrument after hearing an accordionist at a fair as a child. He married his former student Berdyne Koerner in 1945 and first played with Welk when the couple saw the band leader play at a ballroom in St. Louis.

The two musicians had met previously, and this time Welk invited Floren to perform a number with his band.

Myron chose "Lady of Spain" and the crowd was so enthusiastic Welk asked him to play the rest of the evening and quickly hired him, according to Margaret Heron, syndication manager for the show.

He and his wife Berdyne had five daughters, none of whom were musically talented, Randee Floren said.

She remembered one Father's Day when band members taught her and two of her sisters to sing a three-part harmony.

"We were terrible, but he was proud even though we stunk," she said.

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

A memorial service was pending. In lieu of flowers, the family requested that donations be made to the USO.

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