Rhythm Playboys

One of the longest performing bands in the country, with over 50 years of entertaining experience, the Rhythm Playboys generate energy and excitement everywhere they perform.  This dynamic band is comprised of  very talented, dedicated musicians from western Wisconsin.

The Rhythm Playboys have been around for 53 years, but you’d never know it from looking at bandleader Ryan Herman. Him leading the Rhythm Playboys – which still boasts two original members – is almost like Justin Bieber fronting the Rolling Stones.

Herman, whose day job is teaching second grade in the Eleva-Strum School District, is in his mid-30s but probably could pass for a decade younger, in part because of his ever-present grin.

Herman’s father, Ralph, was a dairy farmer in rural Osseo when the Rhythm Playboys got started. He played accordion with the band for half a century, playing his last show only two days before his sudden death in February 2008.

Ryan Herman joined the band 15 years ago, and with his father’s passing the frontman role became his by default. “I didn’t really want that job, but it happens,” he said.

Herman has to be among the busiest musicians in the region. Between shows with the Rhythm Playboys and a constant stream of solo appearances, he said he performs about 25 times a month. On July 22 alone, he played three shows, then started the long drive to Denver for a show there.

The Rhythm Playboys have a reputation as a top-notch polka band, and that’s no surprise. The band won a bunch of Wisconsin Polka Music awards in 2009, including Band of the Year and, for Herman, Personality of the Year.

But Herman said there’s more to the Rhythm Playboys than just polka. He considers it a dance band, and on any given night they’ll play waltzes, two-steps, foxtrots, swing, old-time country, and more.

“All of it is danceability,” Herman said. “If it’s not a beat that they can dance to, we don’t play it.”

The Rhythm Playboys got their big break by playing songs on WEAU-TV’s noontime “Farm and Home Show” from 1960-65. “That really kind of gave them the exposure that got them off to a start,” said Herman, who never got the chance to see those shows.

More recently, the Rhythm Playboys – with 88-year-old fiddler Orville Dahl, and 75-year-old drummer Alvin Zastrow from the original lineup – have been seen on RFD-TV, a national cable channel. And the band is a big hit every February at the Southwest Polka Party in Las Vegas.

Herman plays Holmen’s bandshell Sunday, with Karl Hartwich on concertina.

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