Perham man has a long history of music
For Dale Lubitz of Perham, currently playing accordion for the Old Time Country Bunch, playing with a band is nothing new.
His first band, the Melody Boys, started back in 1955 when Lubitz was a sophomore at the Frazee High School. The Melody Boys played mostly for school dances.
In the spring of 1957, Lubitz said, a Frazee Ag teacher entered the band, made up entirely of FFA students, in a district talent contest in Fergus Falls. The Melody Boys won first place, and advanced down to the state talent contest, where they got third.
Normally, Lubitz said, the top two winners of the state contest would advance to the nationals down in Kansas City, but the Melody Boys got invited down anyway as entertainment.
"That was quite a highlight of senior year," Lubitz said.
In 1960, the Melody Boys split as band members and went their separate ways. The saxophone player got a job with another band, and another band member went to the National Guard, Lubitz said.
Then, in 1963, thanks to some fortuitous circumstances, Lubitz found his way back to music.
"A band that had been hired to play at the Buffalo Lake Tavern had cancelled, and the owner, who knew me, called me to ask if I could help," Lubitz recalled. "I hadn't played for three years at that point, and was pretty rusty."
Lubitz told the owner he'd help out if he could have one gig a month for the following year, and the owner agreed. So, the Melody Boys were born again, this time with different members, and lasted until 1985.
The band played all over the region, Lubitz said, from Little Falls, Minn. all the way over to Breckenridge, N.D.
During this time, Lubitz was also busy farming. He owned 600 acres and milked 60 cows, and all of that plus the music kept him pretty busy, he said.
"There were times when I'd work all day, then leave at five at night to go play, and then get home at five in the morning," he said.
Lubitz estimates that about 24 or 25 of the venues that he has played at during his music career have since burned down. He figured the band played about 167 dates in a year.
Being that busy could certainly be challenging.
"It was hard at times," he said. "Especially when we were going further away. That's when it got a little more stressful."
Playing music and keeping up the farm wouldn't have been possible without his family, Lubitz said.
"My wife was a fabulous helper throughout all of that," he said. "I couldn't have done any of it without her."
Lubitz and his wife will celebrate their 52nd wedding anniversary on Oct. 10, 2011.
Old Time Country Bunch
In 1985, when his daughters graduated from high school, Lubitz hung up the accordion, not expecting to pick it back up. For 15 years, he dedicated himself to farming, until he got a call in 2000 from Harold Wilkinson, a former member of the Old Time Country Bunch. Wilkinson asked if Lubitz would be interested in playing with a band in nursing homes. Lubitz's answer, of course, was yes.
The first concert that he played was a care center in Frazee, Lubitz said.
"When we went in to the nursing home, the people that used to come to my dances in high school were all in the nursing homes," Lubitz said. "They all recognized me, and I just exploded."
Though Wilkinson is no longer with the band, the Old Time Country Bunch is still strong, made up of several different members. The band plays several times a week at nursing homes or assisted living homes throughout the region, and Lubitz said he enjoys playing now just as much as he did back in 1955.
"It makes me proud that people want us to play for them," he said. "Every place we do, we fill the dining room up."
Lubitz said one of his favorite moments of his music career was playing for Charlie Scheidecker's 25th wedding anniversary in Perham.
"The band took our second break around 11 p.m., and then came out and opened up with Blue Eyed Waltz," Lubitz said. "I looked up, and the whole ballroom was packed with people. Each couple was twirling in their own way, and the whole crowd was moving just like a carousel. You look over that, and you think, you're doing that. I just about lost it."