Ed Beyer: Living a life of music.

December 31, 2019

Ed Beyer holds a picture of The Beyer Trio, which included himself on accordion, left, his brother Walt on drums, and Ed Stakenas on saxophone.

Ed Beyer: Living a life of music.

Editor’s Note: MC History Spotlight is a regular history column brought to you by Ludington Woods Assisted Living and Memory Care. This regular column features a story from our county’s past. Today, we feature the story of Ed Beyer, one of Mason County’s music makers. Ed is a resident of Ludington Woods.

Ed and Walt Beyer

By Rob Alway, Editor-in-Chief.

LUDINGTON — There was a time when live music was prevalent at restaurants and taverns throughout Mason County. The Beyer Trio, consisting of brothers Ed and Walt Beyer and Ed Stakenas, was one of the most popular. The group played together for about 30 years, from the mid-50s until the early 80s — Ed Beyer played accordion and concertina, Ed Stakenas (who passed away on Nov. 13, 2019) played saxophone and Walt Beyer played drums. They were best known for their weekly appearance at The Rendezvous Bar in Walhalla from 1955 to 1983.

Ed Beyer, 94, was born and raised on the family farm which was located on the east side of US 31 near Freeman Road in Free Soil Township. Beyer Road, located a few miles south, was named after Ed’s grandfather, John Beyer. He is the son of Charles and Amelia (Berndt) Beyer and the youngest of five kids. His other siblings included Herb, Hattie, Louise and Walter.

Ed attended Pelton School (Grant Township District No 2, fractional), located just south of the corner of US 31 and Free Soil Road, until the eighth grade. He then attended Manistee High School and graduated in 1942 at the age of 16.

Herb was the only brother who was in World War II. Both Ed and Walt registered but never got called up. They also received deferments because they had to help their dad on the dairy farm.

During high school, at the age of 14, he started “diddling around” with the concertina.

“I started playing for small deals like the junior Farm Bureau square dances in 1944,” he said. Word got out that the Beyer kid could play and he started booking regular gigs. From 1947 to 1950 he was a regular performer at the Eagles in Manistee. Then, he played at the Lakeview Hotel on Round Lake, and Manistee locales such as Canfield Lake, the Bungelow and The Pines.

Ed’s brother, Walt, joined in.

“I picked up a set of drums one day and had booked a gig out in Fountain,” Ed recalled. “So, I called up my brother Walt and said I needed a drummer. Walt never played drums before but he sure learned first by that Saturday night.”

The most steady gig was at The Rendezvous.

Ed met his wife, Mary Oleniczak of Oak Hill (Manistee) in 1947. They were married on Oct. 7, 1950 at St. Joseph Catholic Church in Manistee. The marriage was a little controversial because Ed was Lutheran.

“I was baptized and confirmed at St. John Lutheran Church at Pelton’s Corners,” he said. The church, which has since been torn down, was located on US 31 near Free Soil Road. Ed later belonged to St. John’s Lutheran Church in Ludington from 1950 to 1993 and is now a member of Our Savior Lutheran Church in Scottville.

“It worked out. She went to her church and I went to mine,” he said.

Ed with his children.

Ed and Mary had four children, Jane (born in 1952, died in 2018), Chip (born in 1954), Michael (born in 1958, died in 1959 at 4-months-old due to a heart defect), and Tim, born in 1961. Mary died in 1992.

Ed earned a living as a woodworker. He started at Carrom in 1947 and worked there until 1972, leaving as a superintendent. He then began working at Brill Manufacturing and retired as a supervisor in 1987. He then stayed on there part-time until 1992. He also built items that he sold on his own, including the Pig’s Dinner troughs at House of Flavors Restaurant.

Ed also owned a musical instrument business which he operated out of his home from 1958 to 1980. He sold and repaired several instruments, especially concertinas and accordions. He stocked several items for musicians, such as drum heads and reeds.

“I even did some repairs for the Scottville Clown Band,” he added.

He also spent a stint teaching accordion and concertina at Excello music studio which was located at the corner of Washington and Ludington avenues. Several of his former students continue to entertain music lovers today, including John Marek and Charlie Cole.

Ed now enjoys listening to music, rather than performing. He said Ludington Woods offers a lot of entertainment for its residents. His cousin, Rodney Beyer, is now a regular performer, thanks for Ed. “Rodney came in to visit me one day and brought his accordion. We went out to the library and he started playing. Next thing you know, he had an audience. Now he comes here regularly.”

Reflecting back, Ed said his life has been pretty enjoyable thanks to music. “I’ve always enjoyed my music and sharing it with others,” he said.

Sharing life’s journeys at Ludington Woods Assisted Living and Memory Care, 502 N. Sherman St., Ludington, MI 49431; 231-845-6100; www.ludingtonwoods.com.

 This story is copyrighted © 2019, all rights reserved by Media Group 31, LLC, PO Box 21, Scottville, MI 49454. No portion of this story or images may be reproduced in any way, including print or broadcast, without expressed written consent.

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