Polka Time Exclusive - Clem Rohde Band Bus

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It's Polka Time Photo Exclusive - TRUE STORY!

Our roving field agent and former owner of the Bel-Rae Ballroom, Tony Jambor, recently stopped at a local body shop for directions when he stumbled upon a bit of polka history . . . the 1954 band bus of Clem Rohde and His Orchestra from Morgan, Minnesota.

This 1954 Chevrolet Suburban was found in a barn covered in a layer of dust and brought to a body shop in Ham Lake for restoration. The owner of the vehicle, who wishes to remain anonymous, plans to keep the old band bus "as is" and re-paint it to its original way.

A new engine with automatic transmission was put in. You will eventually see it in parades and displayed at antique car and threshing shows.

We wish to thank the owner for his permission to use these photographs for our web page and for preserving the bus to its original state.

For those of you who don't know, Rohde was one of over fifty polka bands being booked from the New Ulm area during the 1950's. (Hence the name, "Polka Capitol Of The Nation.") When popular bands like the Six Fat Dutchmen, Fezz Fritsche, Whoopee John, Elmer Scheid, Babe Wagner, and others were on their national tours, smaller-named bands like Rohde picked up the slack and performed extensively throughout the Midwest.

The Clem Rohde Orchestra never recorded for any major record company, but the band did release three 78-rpm records under the name of "Clem Rohde and His Old Timers" on the Request label. Clemens died peacefully under hospice care in Mesa, Arizona, on Tuesday, April 21, 2009, at the age of 101!

For an additional story on a musician who played with Clem Rohde, click here

Vern Schmidt Sr. - A Musical Legacy