Terry and Marilyn Loehnig began entertaining long before they were married in 1968, and long before the existence of the Loehnig German Band of today.
Marilyn became interested in the accordion at age five when she received a red, plastic accordion as a Christmas gift. She began playing simple tunes by ear -- songs she heard on the radio or at Sunday school. She recalls playing "Jesus Loves Me" and "How much is that Doggy in the Window?" when she was about six years old. She said, "I would leave my accordion out of the case near the radio, and when I would hear a song I liked, I'd run into the kitchen and try to play it along with the radio."
Acknowledging her interest in accordion music, Marilyn's parents bought her a small, 12 bass accordion. At 12, she began taking lessons at Lindhurst Music Studio in Washington, Mo. using a new, 120 bass accordion. She continued playing music by ear, and with the aid of music books learned more advanced music.
Terry also took accordion lessons at a young age. During their early teens, Terry and Marilyn became accordionists in Sonny Bottermuller's Peace Valley Orchestra. Locals will recognize the names of other members of this "old-time music" band: Terry's dad, Edwin Loehnig, played guitar; Andy Schuetz, button accordion; Lorene Bottermuller, bass violin; and Sonny Bottermuller played violin. The band performed for many public dances, special parties, and the Hermann Maifest at the Eagle Hall.
In 1963, Marilyn boarded at the Bottermuller home while she worked at Florsheim Shoe Co. Terry was away at college at the University of Missouri in Columbia. In 1964, Marilyn began teaching local young people to play the accordion and formed an accordion band to stroll the streets of Hermann during the Maifest. The "accordion band" also entertained at church picnics, the Gasconade County Fair, and many other functions.
Shortly after they married, Terry and Marilyn moved to Germany where Terry was on active duty in the army. While living in Bavaria, they enjoyed typical southern German music. Thus came the idea of starting a folk music band when they returned to the U.S. two years later.
While Terry served in Vietnam in 1971, Marilyn entertained as a strolling accordionist at the Stone Hill Winery Winefest, the forerunner of Octoberfest in Hermann. When Terry returned home in 1973, the couple began playing at Stone Hill Winery during Octoberfest and Maifest. For nearly three decades the Loehnig children were part of the family performances. They learned to play drums and sing songs in German.
The Loehnig family cut their first record album in 1980. A second album and cassettes were cut in 1984. The second recording included the ever-popular Duck Dance, which the Loehnigs introduced at Stone Hill Winery festivals after seeing the dance done in Germany.
Marilyn received a special gift from Terry in 1987, a Yugoslavian-made, 3-row, button-box accordion which she taught herself to play, and it was featured on the Loehnig's third cassette in 1988.
In 1990 during festivals at Stone Hill Winery, trombonist Jim Oncken, a cousin of Terry, contributed his musical talents by sitting in with the Loehnig band. Later he was hired as an official member of the band, and he added vocal selections to the band's repertoire.
Following in the musical footsteps of his dad Jim, Ehren Oncken expressed an interest in learning to play the button-box accordion. At a Maifest concert when he was eight, Ehren asked Terry if he could show him how to play. A few weeks later, Ehren had taught himself several tunes just playing by ear and was good enough to make his debut at the Three River's Electric Cooperatives's annual summer meeting. At age nine, having taken piano lessons for a number of years and with a natural talent and an ear for music, he learned to play nearly a dozen songs on the button-box after only a few lessons from Marilyn. Ehren soon became a featured performer with the Loehnig German band.
In 1996, Marilyn and Ehren participated in the Missouri Folk Arts Masters-Apprenticeship Program offered through the University of Missouri and the Missouri Arts Council. During this year-long program, Ehren learned German folk songs on his button accordion and Marilyn taught him to sing traditional German folk songs.
The first Loehnig German Band CD was recorded in 1998. And in 2000, Ehren released his own CD of button-box music.
The Loehnig German Band continues to perform at festivals, public dances, and special parties. The band specializes in German folk music including waltzes, polkas, schottisches, vocals, yodeling, and special selections on the button-box accordion by Marilyn and Ehren.
Present band members include Terry, guitar and vocals; Marilyn, accordion, button-box and vocals; Jim, trombone and vocals; Bonnie Oncken, drums; and Ehren, button-box and vocals.