Visit Linda Lee's new radio show at www.polkajammer.com
The accordion has been good to Linda Lee Brown and she has been good for the popularity of accordion music throughout the Midwest.
Linda Lee is the leader of the Frankenmuth Bavarian Inn Band which is featured at the world famous Frankenmuth Bavarian Inn Restaurant in Frankenmuth, Michigan. She also performs solo and is the company's Entertainment Coordinator.
Wearing a bright Bavarian-style dirndl, Linda Lee strolls through the Inn's seven dining rooms during the winter months. In the summer, her upbeat sound echoes through the Inn's outdoor Fischer Platz. Nearly one million visitors heard her music last year.
Linda Lee's schedule also includes entertaining at private parties in the restaurant with her four-piece Bavarian Inn Band. In addition, she travels when time permits. "It's a busy life but I love it," said Linda Lee, whose son, Jonathan and husband also are involved in her work. "I love to play the accordion and I love to entertain."
Linda Lee's fondness for accordion music began long before her affiliation with Frankenmuth Bavarian Inn. At age seven, she began taking music lessons after her parents purchased her an accordion. "I wanted a piano, but the accordion was smaller and more affordable," she said. Linda Lee played semi-classical music. "At that time I never even heard of polka music."
She said her parents took her to banquets and parties to perform when she was nine or 10 years old. She enjoyed the attention and loved entertaining.
High school changed all that briefly. She had to put away her accordion when her high school band in Bay City, Michigan, did not have a place for an accordionist. She took clarinet and saxophone lessons in the ninth grade where she achieved her goal of first chair during remaining high school years. Her musical talent was so impressive that the band director made room for her accordion in concerts the next year.
Linda, dedicated to music, put together her first summer time band which she proudly called "Linda and her Boys."
Linda Lee said she would have loved to study accordion at the college level but there were no conservatories in the area that specialized in accordion instruction. She became a music major at a local community college but felt her opportunities were limited. She quickly switched her major to business and began a career as a medical assistant.
When she married Roger Brown in 1967, she and her husband moved to their first home in Kawkawlin. "I remember the day we looked at the house," she recalled. "I could just see myself playing the accordion in the backyard."
After a daughter and son were born, Linda Lee bought a Cordovox (organ/accordion). She then had to figure out how to pay for it. When she was five months pregnant with her third child, she answered an ad for volunteer musicians to play at a local festival in Midland, Michigan. It was there that she impressed Julius Blasy, former mayor of Midland. He turned her career around on a new note.
"He pounded polkas into me," Linda Lee said of Blasy. "That's when my whole program of music changed."
With Blasy's coaching, Linda Lee formed her first band, "Linda Lee and the Golden-Aires." "We rehearsed in Julius' garage and performed 2-3 times every weekend, 50 weeks a year."
When her children got involved in music, they formed the "Brown Family Singers." "Our oldest daughter, Michelle, began singing at the age of 6 at church, and our son, Bryan, started when he was five. Jonathan, better known as 'J.J.', played the drums for the first time when he was three. He sat on the lap of our drummer and learned how to play."
The children performed in Kansas, Georgia, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Minnesota, Indiana and South Dakota. Their program was a mix of Polish, German, Slovenian and American music. Linda Lee's band accompanied them and they even cut a record.
Linda Lee"We practiced every chance we could," Linda Lee recalled. "I remember driving to Cedar Point once. We told the children we couldn't go in until they knew their song."
As the children grew older, they became more interested in playing musical instruments with their mother's band. In 1983, Michelle took over playing the keyboard when the group was one person short performing in Kansas. She is now a dental hygienist in Arizona.
Bryan is a computer engineer who keeps his mother updated on the electronic music scene. 'J.J.', who played his first drum solo at the age of 6 when he could reach the foot pedal, is now the drummer in the Bavarian Inn Band and works in law enforcement.
"I encouraged the children to get involved in music because I wanted to keep them busy," said Linda Lee. "It was good for them." Her husband, Roger is an "Inventory Manager Associate" at Home Depot in Midland, Michigan, along with being the "Star Laser Operator" at Frankenmuth River Place in Frankenmuth, Michigan.
She has recorded eight albums - "Golden Sounds" in 1980; "Kiss Me I'm German" in 1982; "We're Going to Frankenmuth" in 1984; "From Linda Lee With Love" in 1986; "Wunderbar" in 1993; and "Im Rosengarten" in 1994. Linda teamed up with Frank Moravcik, from Cleveland, Ohio in 2001 and recorded "An American Oktoberfest" on the Cleveland International record label. The newest recording is "A Frankenmuth Christmas".
Linda Lee has had a Booster Club for over 20 years. Her quarterly newsletter "Musically Yours" is now available online and will be updated often. She is a Michigan Touring Arts Musician. Linda is also a member of Michigan Accordion Society and the Arizona Accordion Club and CAPA (Closet Accordion Players of America), as well as American Accordionist Association. AAA was founded for and is dedicated to the purpose of recognizing talent, effort, performance, accordion development as well as service to the accordion industry. Other interests include being hostess of the Sunday Morning Polka Show "Rise 'N Shine" with Linda Lee on 90.1 FM WUCX Delta College Public Radio. She can be heard also on Saturday mornings at 10:00 a.m. on 91.3 WOES Ovid-Elsie High School in Elsie, Michigan. The show is also repeated on Wednesday evenings at 7:00 p.m. These shows are also on live Audio Internet Streaming at http://www.oe.k12.mi.us/~woes/swf/woes.swf at the above times.
Twenty-one years and five Cordovoxes after her career began, Linda Lee performs on the latest state-of-the-art Hohnervox MIDI (musical instrument digital interface) accordion with the range of sounding like a solo instrument or a complete band. She entertains five days a week. And best of all, people who have heard her perform around the country now visit the Frankenmuth Bavarian Inn to see her. "It is a real joy for me to make people happy. I will do anything I can to get more people interested in polka music and the accordion," she said.