Monday, March 19, 2012

Band Boys and Genealogy Karma

Regular My Musical Family readers might remember that one of the exciting finds of my trip to Crookston two years ago was a 1916 photo of the Crookston Juvenile Band, directed by my great-grandfather, G. Oliver Riggs.  The photo was hanging in the Polk County Historical Museum, and on the back was a numbered list of most of the 69 people pictured, including my grandfather, Ronald (No. 26) and my great uncle, Percy (No. 44).
The Crookston Juvenile Band, 1916
I mentioned the photo in a June 2010 blog post, Summer Concert Season Kick-Off, and included all the names listed, in hopes that it would be helpful to other people researching their family history – it seemed like good genealogy karma.   

I’m so glad I did.  A few days ago, I heard from a woman whose grandfather and great uncle are pictured in the photo.  Marni Fylling’s grandfather, Ole Fylling, is No. 68; he’s on the far right of the original photo (and is not visible in the above cropped version).  Her great uncle, Pete Fylling, is No. 45.

Here’s a close-up version that shows the Fylling brothers more clearly:

Pete Fylling is No. 45, on the far left; Ole Fylling is No. 68, on the far right.
Marni said she came across my blog post while Googling her family name.  “The Internet is a strange and amazing place,” she wrote.

Strange and amazing, indeed.

I learned from Marni that both her grandfather, Ole, and her great uncle, Pete, pursued an interest in music after their days in the Crookston Juvenile Band.  Ole went to St. Olaf College (just up the hill from my house).  He was a student director during his time there and received a beautiful baton that the family still has.  Pete played and sang for years in the Anton Weeks big band, which was based in San Francisco and was popular in the 1920s and 1930s.

I also learned that a love of music has continued through the generations.  Marni’s father, Bob, was born in Crookston and was a composer and life-long musician.  He played trumpet in the Navy band, and he played trumpet and upright bass in some of his own bands, but mostly he played piano.
“He really considered himself a composer, but played piano for a living – jazz as a young man, then popular music in the 70s and 80s (just because that’s what people wanted),” Marni wrote, noting that her dad continued to play jazz until he died three years ago.
Marni and her sister (who, like her grandfather, attended St. Olaf) both play the piano and enjoy listening to a variety of music, but the performer gene went to their brother, who can play any instrument and who was always game to try something their dad showed them on the piano.
“Having music in the family is truly a gift,” Marni continued.  “As much as I miss my dad, it’s amazing how much of him is still here in his recordings, and we’ll always have that music.”
I am grateful to Marni for sharing the story of her musical family with me, and with the readers of my blog.  Nearly a century has passed since our grandfathers and great uncles played together in that Crookston band; although they would likely be surprised to learn how Marni and I connected, I think they’d be pleased to know that their passion for music lives on through their descendants.


  1. Thanks, Joy, for adding this post and including the Fylling portion of the photo! So interesting. I'm glad you put names in your article too!

  2. Another Crookston contributor to music history was Elroy Lee, known professionally as Lee Barron (and His Bell Tone Music). He played thruout the upper midwest in the 30s to 50s era and wrote a book dedicated to the bands of that territory - "Odyssey of the Midnite Flyer." Mostly pictures, but interesting stories.

  3. I have not heard of Elroy, and the book sounds cool. Thanks for bringing it to my attention!