“Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination and life to everything.” — Source unknown
Music has a power all its own. It can inspire, worship, soothe, educate, seduce, or be a lullaby. Songs can bring to mind memories of a happy time and place or bring tears at a memory. With the variety of genres, music touches everyone in some way. It is about tradition, cultural history and more.
Music is certainly ageless. Just ask Percy “Len” Collier of Continental who will turn 90 in July. Collier estimates he played at 1,300 weddings and 600 anniversaries in 60 years.
“If you were not booked all weekend, you were doing something wrong,” Collier commented.
Not bad for someone who began singing at a roller rink for 50 cents. Collier is well-known for his square-dance calling, with polkas and country music also in the line-up. However, the demand for live music at social events lessened when deejays playing records became the trend.
But even 10 hospitalizations in 2018 could not keep Collier from performing. He is still at the microphone as the leader of the current line-up of the Len Collier Band with experienced musicians Collie Lambert, Ed McDowell and Nancy Whitaker.
“If someone can come to hear the music, forget the troubles of the day and leave with a smile, it is all worth it,” Collier said.
Nostalgia may play a part in the popularity of the open mic or music jams that happen in northwest Ohio most every night of the week. Country, bluegrass, gospel, polka and even rock ‘n’ roll can be heard. Some venues even have room for dancing.
Ted Lange, from Ridgeville Corners, is part of the Squeezebox polka band and husband of Mollie B. From an early age, he was part of his parents’ polka and variety band, The Buckeye Polka Band, and later filled in for other area bands. He also recalls those years when his parents’ band were kept busy on the weekends before the deejays came on the scene.
“We played two and sometimes three weddings or anniversaries each weekend. We were busy Friday, Saturday and Sunday,” he added.
Polka has close cultural ties with the Polish, Czech and German communities, and is even a part of some church services. That fact and the growing popularity of the couple and their band keeps them busy with some 100 events a year, and a variety stage show. They also invite their fans to join them on a cruise each year.
Of course, Mollie B. is also known for the Mollie B. Polka Party on RFD-TV, and Squeezebox featuring Ted Lange and Mollie B are in the latest Clint Eastwood movie “The Mule.”
Music styles can intertwine cultures. Ramon Rangel was part of a four-piece Tex-Mex or Tejano band in the Defiance area. There are similarities to polka music with accordions featured in both. Rangel said the waltzes are also similar to the “American style.”
“People enjoyed dancing to the polkas and the waltzes. They enjoyed the music,” he added.
The band played many benefits in the community and had many local appearances such as at the UAW Hall and the Latin American Club. The musicians were also popular in Michigan, Indiana, and Illinois. One event that was always on the schedule was Fiestas Patriss, or the Mexican Independence Day, Sept. 16.
Rangel is no longer in a band but still sings and plays guitar.
Music has a way of connecting people with the world around them, whether a performer or listener. Some call it having a “soundtrack of life.” This connection now is being recognized as a tool in dementia and Alzheimer’s care.
Not only can familiar music trigger memories of lyrics and personal experiences, it also can calm chaotic brain activity. It can help promote more relaxed interactions between patient and caregiver.
There also are documented cases where music has unlocked the memories of individuals who have previously been non-verbal or closed off completely. Play lists are specific to each individual.