National polka star coming to PdC

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Mollie B, at the Frankenmuth Summer Music Fest 2016, will be showcasing her vocal talents, dancing and performing on the button accordion, trumpet, banjo, bass horn and drums while in Prairie du Chien for Oktoberfest.

Mollie is pictured in 1984 (with brother Chad playing drums in the background) singing with the Jim Busta Band.

By Correne Martin

The musical entertainment at this year’s Oktoberfest is bigger and better than ever. The lineup is so top-notch that plans for Saturday’s festival at the Memorial Gardens include a music tent, where national polka star Mollie B will be the headliner. She will join her father’s ensemble, the Jim Busta Band, and they will trade the stage with the 20-member La Crosse Oktoberfest Singers throughout the day.

Mollie Busta is the host of RFD-TV’s “Mollie B Polka Party,” in which she sings, dances and plays  a variety of different instruments. The “Mollie B Polka Party” currently airs in over 55 million homes on Wednesdays at 5:30 p.m.and Saturdays at 9 p.m.

Raised in Spring Grove, Minn., her dad, Jim, started his band the year she was born. She remembers actually singing on stage at 3 years old. Early in her life, Mollie’s dad started her on piano and, by the time she was 8, she began playing sets occasionally. By the age of 11, she was a full-time member, playing trumpet for the Jim Busta Band.

“So when other kids were attending school events, my responsibility was the band,” she recalled.

In high school, Mollie arranged songs for the school’s band and choir, her dad’s band and even found time to create her own original compositions. She was also student-director for her high school band rehearsals and concerts.

Mollie attended Luther College in Decorah, Iowa, majoring in music (trumpet and voice), and her senior paper was on polka music, which gave her the chance to educate her classical music professors and colleagues about the music dear to her heart. She also earned a master’s degree in instruction from St. Mary’s University of Minnesota.

“I became a music teacher in Lanesboro, Minn., and I loved it. It was the best experience,” she said.

In 2005, Mollie joined Ted Lange’s Bratwurst Boys, which, in 2007, became known as Squeezebox. “We began recording and opportunities really started to come along,” she noted.

“Then, I got a call from L.A. They wanted me to audition for all kinds of things,” Mollie added.

Not quite ready for such a jump, Mollie instead moved to Ohio, where Squeezebox truly took off. Still, she continued to play in her dad’s band as well.

In July 2011, RFD-TV called Mollie and wanted her to host the now famed polka show. She agreed and began leading the one-hour program that featured the nation’s top polka bands and a wide variety of ethic styles produced on location at music festivals around the country.

This opened up the doors for Mollie to secure a Christmas show in Branson, Mo., which was always a dream of hers. “Sometimes, my mind still can’t wrap around what happened,” Mollie stated. “The [“Mollie B Polka Party”] let me be nationally-known; it really spread my popularity. I could sing, dance, share my knowledge of music and keep these ethnic traditions alive.”

In 2017, Wisconsin Public Television released the documentary called “POLKA!” Mollie is the host of this hour-long documentary about celebrating life with polka music in Wisconsin.

For the coming winter, Mollie has scheduled another dream show, with two performances of Mollie B’s Branson-Style Christmas Show at the CAL Center in Reedsburg, Dec. 2.

“The numbers have been great. We’re 70 percent sold now,” Mollie shared. “It’s going to be a smaller cast than Branson was but still just as wonderful.”

This year, Mollie said she’s had 160 performances thus far, including over 30 with the Jim Busta Band, mainly German festivals from August through November.

One such festival is Oktoberfest in Prairie du Chien, where local residents and visitors will get to listen to her stellar talents. Those attending the fest can see her, the Jim Busta Band and Karl in the music tent from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., 2 to 3:15 p.m. and again from 4 to 5 p.m.

Mollie said she mainly plans to play the button accordion, trumpet, saxophone and clarinet and, of course, please the crowd with her melodious vocals.

“I don’t speak German, but I can sing it. I really enjoy getting the crowd involved in my performances and there might even be some kids up on stage,” she said. “I’d invite people to come out all day and not only enjoy the music, but the other fun festivities of Oktoberfest in Prairie du Chien.”

Mollie said her dad will be playing the concertina and her brother Chad is also in the band. He’s been the band’s regular drummer since the age of 7.

Alternating with their schedule will be the La Crosse Oktoberfest Singers, a lively group of men whose repertoire consists of old and new German songs performed in both German and English. Four instrumentalists play a button accordion, banjo, bass horn and drums, of course, accompanied by the singers. This band has performed for many local conventions, festivals, parties and more, but namely at several different events at La Crosse Oktoberfest. For more information visit buttonboxbygosh.com/oktoberfest.html.

To learn more about the Jim Busta Band, visit jimbustaband.com. For more about Mollie, including her entire upcoming schedule, visit MollieB.com.

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