Myron Floren Was Known As “El Loco With A Squeezebox” When Attending Augustana College
You may have known him best from seeing the handsome, wavy-haired man play tunes like “Lady of Spain” and “Beer Barrel Polka” on television’s Lawrence Welk Show.
But what you may not have known was that the “Happy Norwegian” as fellow Dakotan Welk dubbed him, had a rowdier side to him once he got away from the family farm near Roslyn.
Myron Floren attended Augustana College in Sioux Falls from 1939 through 1941 where he planned to major in music. But the college orchestra’s director told him they didn’t need an accordionist, so Floren changed his major to English with a minor in music. He still wanted to play his accordion and be paid for it, so he gave lessons and played on KSOO Radio as the “Melody Man”.
But it was his weekend gigs that brought out the hipper side of the young man from Day County.
For the two and a half years Floren played many weekends in a local Mexican American *conjunto* polka band. Floren said in a book about the Lawrence Welk Show called, “The Edgier Side to Champagne Music Making”, that the group was called “La Banda de Lunares de Hierba Loca” or “The Crazy Weed Polka Band”.
The band played in the infamous roadhouses between Sioux Falls and Brandon, as well as weddings, country dances, and high school proms in southeastern South Dakota, southwestern Minnesota, and northwest Iowa. Floren said the experience widened his horizons in both life and music. He said that while he liked to smoke an occasional marijuana cigarette, he denied any reefer madness. He also said it was the first pre-punk pre-nuclear polka band that inspired the likes of Brave Combo from Denton, TX and others.
“I did meet some pretty ladies who’d go nuts over my wavy hair,” he said in the book. “Pretty soon I got a reputation around the Augie campus as ‘that music guy with the fast fingers!’”
(By the way, no accordions or tubas were damaged in researching this story.)