The Sound of Oxford Junction in the 50s

Blue Skirt Waltz mp3   Greco_Blue_Skirt.

Music and dancing have always been a part of life in Oxford Jct. During my childhood in O.J. in the 1950s, the favorite dance band of many O.J. dancers was Leo Greco’s. Attendance was high when the Greco band was playing at the ZCBJ Hall and the open-air pavilion (in summer). Everyone enjoyed the evening, as did the personable Mr. Greco, talking and joking with the locals during intermission.

Greco’s music reflected O.J.’s taste and heritage. He played Czech, German, and generic tunes. Even the Czech songs had some German-like oompa-pa. The instruments used (clarinet, trumpet or coronet, snare and bass drum, human voice, piano?, accordion?) and the style in which they played was perfect for the cultural blend of Oxford Junction. There were probably more Czechs on the dance floor than all the other ethnicities, but most of those Czechs descended from emigrants from South Bohemia near Germany and Austria, where there was German influence, German as a second language, some German blood, etc.

You’re listening to the Blue Skirt Waltz from the CD “The Leo Greco Band, Polkas & Waltzes heard on WMT”. Mr. Greco graciously allowed us to play this here. Vaclav Blaha wrote the music (& may have written the Czech words) to Red Skirt Waltz which is a girl singing about her red skirt, the words you hear Frank Buhr singing. Mitchell Parish wrote the English words, as Blue Skirt Waltz which is a man singing about the night he met his girlfriend in a blue skirt. This curiosity was explained to me by Allen Hronik of Oxford Jct.,  now retired, was director of the Oxford Junction Polka Band since its start in 1955. Allen, of Czech descent, sings both the Czech and English versions.

The entire Greco album is wonderful, and is the sound of Oxford Jct. in the 50s as many of us remember it. O.J. danced to all the tunes on the CD. It was produced by LG Recordings of Cedar Rapids, Iowa which no longer makes them. I was not able to find a source for ordering.

Mr. Greco passed away August 2, 2011 in Cedar Rapids.  He hosted a radio show (music!) on Sunday mornings on WMT am  for over 30 years, up to ca. 2 weeks before his death.  I hope he knew that his music and his personality enriched the lives of his fans and was a big part of the cultural heritage of Oxford Jct.