By Theresa Parker
There are the usual reasons for the split-up of a band – personality clashes, day job demands, family obligations, retirement, poor health, even the death of the band leader. But no one was prepared for the news coming from the polka world in June 2007 when it was announced that Bobby Jones, the charismatic leader of his namesake band, was missing. Tire tracks and the license plate from his car were found on the banks of the rain swollen Brazos River in Wharton. It was hard news to accept, especially for those musicians who had shared the stage with Bobby in one of the most popular bands around.
Some of the members of the Bobby Jones Czech Band were in a state of shock and couldn’t continue playing for a while. Bob Suttie, who had been with the band since 1989, decided to continue the legacy.
“I guess I’m just not ready to quit playing this music!” Bob said in the September 2007 issue of Texas Polka News. “I wrote the song ‘Polka Time in Texas’ 15 years ago, because that is what I saw when I looked out at the crowds dancing to the Bobby Jones Czech Band. I had been in the band less than two years. But from the beginning I could see that ‘When it’s polka time in Texas, the world is a brighter place, that beautiful Czech music puts a smile on every face.’”
He went on: “The shock of this whole situation has continued to take its toll, but I am committed to continuing this fine tradition. I feel I have a legacy to cherish, and to pass on to my children. So I have started a band called the Texas Legacy Czech Band.” Bob also thought it was important to honor the more than 30 bookings the Bobby Jones Band had for the rest of 2007.
In the October 2007 issue of the paper, Editor John Rivard reported that “Bob Suttie and the Texas Legacy Czech Band brought new life to the New Taiton Dance Hall on Sunday, Aug. 26, playing for a good crowd eager to hear the new band. It was a fun dance!”
The article continued: “Suttie is still putting together the new band. On this day he had Cary Oswald (accordion), Mike Gest (tuba, bass), Donnie Wavra (sax), and Jimmy Ryza (drums), while Bob played trumpet, sax, and trombone. The music was good. The band played a great variety, and also closed with a group singalong of You Are My Sunshine, followed by a march around the hall to When the Saints Go Marching In. We were also pleased to see Bob working the hall during the band break, thanking people for coming.”
The Legacy Continues
Other members of the TLCB in the beginning included Delores Rivera and Gene Janis. Bobby Jones alum Joe Zetka Jr. returned to play with the band and continues as accordionist when he’s not playing with the Jodie Mikula Orchestra. Other mainstay members now are Bob Suttie (accordion, trumpet, sax, trombone), Mike Gest (tuba, bass), Jimmy Heinsohn (trumpet, steel guitar), and Darrell Pavlas (drums).
Bob said the years have flown by. “We’ve recorded three CDs, appeared five times at Wurstfest, and performed at the National Polka Festival and on the Mollie B Polka Party TV show. We continued the tradition of playing every year at the Christmas parties in Shelby and New Taiton, and the military tribute in Rosenberg each May,” he recalled.
And the best thing about the gigs – the people. “I sure appreciate the people who come out to dance to our music and listen to us. Through the years, we’ve seen a lot of same people at our yearly dances. It’s especially gratifying when they talk about how good the music and dancing are,” Bob said.
Bob invites everyone to the Taiton Community Center on Sunday, July 30, to help the band celebrate its 10th year anniversary from 2-6 pm. Freddie Vacek will be serving pork steak, sausage, Texas toast, potatoes, veggie, and dessert cobbler, all for $7 a plate.
Come dance and party with us! Guest appearances by former TLCB band members. Bring your instruments for the jam session. All those 21 and under will get in free and will eat free!