It all started with a problem. Dad, Leo Piitz, and son, Lonnie Piitz were figuring a way they could both play in the same band. Leo, a drummer, played with every band in the territory but Lonnie was just starting saxophone and clarinet and didn’t have many gigs under his belt yet. Inspiration hit, of all places, while tearing down a shed on the farm – “Hey, let’s start our own band.” In January 1991 Leo clicked off the first of many dance jobs for the Leo Lonnie Orchestra. The vision was simple: good arrangements played by good musicians and have fun doing it.
Fast forward 20 years. Leo has since retired and doesn’t travel with the band very often but Lonnie still runs things according to the original formula. To provide music for every occasion, Lonnie formed the Studio Trio, the Leo Lonnie Orchestra Big Band, the Leo Lonnie Duo, and the Vince Foxx Combo. Dance dates take the musicians throughout Nebraska, Iowa, South Dakota and Kansas. The Polka Band is an annual favorite at the Wilber Czech Festival in Nebraska. 2011 is a special year for The Leo Lonnie Orchestra in that they will make their first appearance at the National Polka Festival in Ennis, TX. Later this year they will play the Duncan, IA, Duncanfest on September 17. Next year the band heads to Wisconsin for the 30th anniversary of Cesky Den in Hillsboro, WI, on June 9, 2011.
If you enjoy that unique Nebraska polka band sound, you won’t want to miss the Leo Lonnie Orchestra! For the past year and a half, the band has focused on expanding their musical library with more original sounds of Nebraska’s favorite and most noted polka bands. Through painstaking efforts and dedication to their Nebraska Czech musical heritage, the Leo Lonnie Orchestra has brought back to the live stage many of the original arrangements of Ernie Kucera, including several long-lost, never recorded polkas and waltzes retrieved from live recordings of dances and radio broadcasts from the 50’s and 60’s. You’ll also hear arrangements of the Eddie Janak Orchestra and even some Joe Lukesh and Al Grebnick favorites!
The band’s seven musicians bring to the stage substantial experience in the polka traditions of Nebraska. You’ll hear those distinct Nebraska stylings that include bass horn, trumpets and clarinets, the piano sounds from the Ernie Kucera band of old, piano accordion, the talents of two skilled button accordion players, and Czech vocals on many of your favorite sing-along tunes. Leo Lonnie has two recent recordings. This Is For You features the Polka Band in a tribute to Leo Piitz and his influence on our music. The Studio Trio CD, titled When I Leave You in the Morning, My Darling features the trio plus one playing Polkas and Waltzes. You can order a copy (or two) of each recording by contacting:
Lonnie L. Piitz
3070 Q Road
Brainard, NE 68626
Home ph. 402-545-2202
Cell ph. 402-367-8126
We are grateful for the many wonderful followers supporting the band and for the friendship of many excellent musicians throughout the country. Please check out our website to keep up on the latest news, schedule, and contact information to hire Leo Lonnie for your next celebration. Thank you for your support of Polka music. Come up and say hello when you’re at our dance!