BEHMERS MUSIC

 

One of Northeast Nebraska’s great advantages to early Rock n Roll bands was the availability of music stores in Norfolk. One such store was Behmer’s Music.  Started in 1960 by Duane and Lavonne Behmer, it flourished as a small store in the three hundred block of Norfolk Avenue, and later two other locations on the Avenue.  With a small staff, Lavonne and Duane Behmer were able to service musicians from all over Northeast Nebraska, South Dakota and Iowa. In addition to stereos, records and school band instruments, Behmers carried a line of electric guitars, organs and pianos.  Many musicians around the country who hailed from Norfolk, got their start working for Behmer’s  music, delivering pianos, teaching guitar lessons and selling records to the dozens of eager teenagers who flocked to town on Thursday nights and Saturdays.

Duane Behmer was somewhat of a link between musical eras, since he was a young sax player in his father Harry Behmer’s band, the “Dixie Five”.  Duane liked the uptempo music of the middle fifties, and many of their orchestra arrangements, were tunes of the rock era,
such as “Shake, Rattle and Roll” and pop tunes of the day.  The Dixie Five
allowed a young Don Sohl to sit in with the band and sing rock n roll at a King’s Ballroom dance in 1956.  The performance of Sohl and the reaction of the audience, especially the girls,  prompted the Kings to start booking rock n roll dances for teenagers at Kings Ballroom. Had it not been for The Behmers allowing Don to sing rock with their band, it is verypossible that Kings might have passed on the music and stayed in the big band, polka styles.

Among those who worked at Behmers was Greg Goodman, keyboardist with the Smoke Ring.  “I was giving guitar lessons for Behmer’s in their store at the six hundred block of Norfolk Avenue.  Jim Casey would come in and listen to me play piano.  When a slot opened up with the Ring, he came in and offered me the job.  I was elated. You know, the Behmers carried a lot of us musicians on their books, because we couldn’t afford to pay everything on a new guitar. They would let us pay a few dollars a week until we had it paid off. They had big hearts and really loved us kids.”

Behmer’s Music found a new home on the corner of Norfolk Avenue and Fourth Street, complete with a small performing area in the basement for live appearances by local bands.  Mr. And Mrs. Bob Greene and Doug Speidel were partners for a time at that location.  In addition to the store, the Behmers and Speidel started the legendary “Red Bull” night club that was the performing spot for many local as well as national touring acts, and was later sold.  Lavonne and Duane Behmer remain active in the community as well as their family and business.