DUNCAN — Bob Malek said when he was growing up he didn’t want anything to do with his dad’s band.
Today, in his 45th year with the band, Malek concedes it’s the family business.
“But it’s more than just a band,” he said Sunday. “It’s an institution.”
Don’t take his word for it. Ask any of the several hundred who flocked to Duncan on Sunday to polka around the dance floor or just sit and listen to Malek’s Fishermen Band.
“We’ve been following Bob for quite a few years,” said Norma Gregersen of Ames, who came to Duncan with her husband, Dalton, and son, Terry.
“My husband and I are in our 80s. We don’t do much dancing any more,” said Norma. “It’s mostly listening now — but we love to come and just listen.”
Dalton Gregersen, 86, said he enjoys seeing all the people.
“When somebody comes up to me, I know they’re not going to try to sell me insurance. I’m too old for that,” he said with a laugh.
Terry Gregersen said his role is “designated driver” for his parents, who wouldn’t be able to make the trip without his help.
Malek said the band is 80 years old, started by his father, Syl, and Syl’s brother, Ed, in 1932 as a six-piece accordion band called the Malek Brothers Accordion Band.
“They went to barn dances and dance halls and house parties and played dance favorites,” he said.
From the early 1940s through the 1960s the band averaged 200 dances a year.
Malek said he had no thought to following in his father’s footsteps.
“I had my wild oats to sow and my cows to milk and my classes to go to and my running around to do,” he said.
In the early 1960s Syl was forced to retire due to health issues but Ed continued it under a new name, L&M Band.
In 1968, his wild oats apparently sufficiently sowed, Bob restarted the six-piece band that became known as Malek’s Fishermen Band.
It traveled throughout the Midwest playing some of the old Malek Brothers accordion favorites as well as some newer songs. By that time Syl had rejoined them.
In the 1990s, as Syl and some of the other members retired, Bob’s children, Eric and Crystal, joined the band. The third generation of Maleks was on hand in Duncan Sunday.
Bob Malek said he is proud and humbled by the number of people who come from great distances to hear the band and to dance. On Sunday, his audience was from Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, Wisconsin and South Dakota.
“I think it’s the music, the beat we play, and it’s always fun,” said Malek. The guys like to get out and talk to people and I think the people like that, too.”
When Malek isn’t performing, he’s managing the Duncan Community Ballroom and he also farms about two miles from the dance hall.
“Cows and soybeans,” he said. “Hey, we could use some rain.”