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Published November 11, 2011, 02:35 PM

Jimmy Jenson "The Swingin' Swede" recalls a lifetime of making music

Alexandria, MN (WDAY TV) - Some great musicians got their start here at WDAY. Our live radio and television shows back in the 40's and 50's launched some star studded careers. Peggy Lee went on to Hollywood fame. Frank Scott joined the Lawrence Welk Show, and one of our musicians from that golden era is still playing.

By: Kevin Wallevand, WDAY

Some great musicians got their start here at WDAY. Our live radio and television shows back in the 40's and 50's launched some star studded careers. Peggy Lee went on to Hollywood fame. Frank Scott joined the Lawrence Welk Show, and one of our musicians from that golden era is still playing.

They call him the "Swinging Swede,” even though he is Norwegian. At age 80, Jimmy Jenson, honored by the Midwest Country Music Hall of Fame, has not stopped entertaining.

As our summer ended and fall slowly made its way into the valley, the small town of Hatton, North Dakota was celebrating more than just a bin busting harvest. The Swinging Swede was in town. With his traveling, trademark accordion strapped on, Jimmy Jenson spends another weekend, on the road singing and playing for those who used to float across his dance floors throughout Minnesota and North Dakota.

Jimmy Jenson is no stranger to show business. He's been in it for more than 70 years, playing at basket socials on stage at age 6. Then came the paying gigs.

Jimmy Jenson – Swingin’ Swede: “My first job I played they gave me a box of Valentine's Day Candy was at the Detroit Lakes Library Club, I was 8 then.”

And that is why so many people considered Jimmy Jenson more than just an accordion player. He was a tireless entertainer who with his band hit the backroads of the upper midwest.

Jimmy Jenson: “I was playing music at the right time, when people were dancing, we always had a big crowd no matter where we went.”

During the 50's he played with the Woodchoppers often heard live on Fargo Moorhead radio, later playing for shows in the Twin Cities with some of country's greats. All this from an accordion player who still to this day, does not read notes or music.

Jimmy Jenson: “There weren't many bands around back in the 40's and 50's so we would play sometimes every night. No I don't use notes, I improvise everything.”

Jimmy even hosted his own live TV show on Sundays, and he played organ for WDAY's Party Line, even though he had no clue how…and live TV was just that.

Jimmy Jenson: “I had a lot of fun experiences on Live TV. On WDAY, I always tell the story, it was my birthday and Bill Weaver of Party Line carried a flat cake over and I tipped the whole thing on the floor. That was Live TV.”

He recorded countless albums, and now CD's. Even years after The Swinging Swede played those dance halls and night clubs around the valley, families remember the details. Time has trickled by.

Jimmy Jenson: “I have done some 50th Anniversary dances where years ago I played for their weddings.:

It hasn't been easy; battles with the bottle, time away from family. It took a toll.

Jimmy Jenson: “It is a tough life if you want to make a living, which I did for many years.”

Recently, Jimmy Jenson has turned to singing gospel. After health scares, he says the music has given him a new perspective. At age 80, his fingers still skate across the accordion. The showman, his music just seems to keep going.

The man with 13 grandchildren and three great-grandchildren continues to record albums. He has produced more than ten.

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