Olson legacy is one of FD music

ROCKWELL CITY – Duane “Oley” Olson was known as the “voice” of the Karl King Municipal Band.

For 65 years, he played – mostly the euphonium, but he was also the band’s announcer for 56 years. Then, too, he was chairman of the board and band manager for 31 years.

Olson, 80, died Monday.

“We’ve lost a part of Karl King in the person of Oley Olson,” said Paul Bloomquist, of Dayton, a band member.

Olson, who is survived by his wife Nancy Olson and daughter Susan Garro, joined the band in 1947 when he was in high school. Back then, it was still conducted by Karl L. King. Olson played trombone until the former euphonium player and announcer moved away and King offered him both positions.

King died in 1971, and Olson kept his memory alive through countless stories and anecdotes recalling the bandmaster and his work.

“He was just a wealth of knowledge,” said former band member Dan Cassady, of North Liberty. “I wish I could remember them all. Talking to him was like a history lesson.”

Jerrold Jimmerson, the band’s current director, said Olson was the band’s historian and voice.

“He was the voice of the band for a lot of years, and just had so much knowledge of the history of the band, and who the pieces were written for, where they were used, in what acts in the circus,” Jimmerson said.

He has known Olson since 1960, when Jimmerson joined the band.

“I really felt I got to know him much much better when I became the conductor 10 years ago,” he said. “We would work together. I would say he was a mentor to me.”

Olson retired from the band in 2012, due to his health. He and his wife, who plays clarinet, played their last concert with the band on Memorial Day.

“That was a big change, even though he was still a loyal supporter,” Cassady said.

Olson grew up in Fort Dodge, and worked for The Messenger for about 10 years, primarily in circulation.

Bloomquist said Olson told him a story about King visiting him at work.

“Mr. King would stop by with press releases and, as I understand it, it was Oley’s job to set the type for the labels,” Bloomquist said.

King, a former newspaper man himself, would help Olson with the messy typesetting process – but always while wearing his long white dress sleeves, said Bloomquist.

“Inevitably he would stop just in time – as I understand it Mr. King never got ink on his white dress shirts. That was a neat story for me to hear.”

Olson spent 18 months playing in Army bands in Korea. Later, he played with King at the Iowa State and Clay County fairs. Money from those high-caliber fair bands put Olson through college at Buena Vista.

When the new Fort Dodge Public Library was built, Olson helped secure a band office and rehearsal room there. It holds the archives for the Karl King band, Jimmerson said.

“He did a lot of things,” trumpet player Dave Swaroff, of Dayton, said. “Besides just announcing he promoted the band quite a bit.”

As band manager, Olson spent years “lining up things, securing funds from the city, working with directors over the years,” said Bloomquist. “The whole process was a lot of behind-the-scenes work that people probably don’t realize.”

Olson also brought a sense of dedication and decorum to the band, Bloomquist said.

“It is because of Oley Olson that I refer to (King) as Mr. King,” said Bloomquist. “In the days when he was conducting, he was never Karl. You called him Mr. King.”

The legacy makes the band more than just a typical community band, Bloomquist said. It represents its history.

In fact, according to Bloomquist, this Olson saying has become part of the band’s charter with the Fort Dodge: “Your dependability is as important as your musical ability.”

“Oley was such a modest, humble person, he did not want the honor and accolades he really deserves,” Bloomquist said.

“I’m sure he’ll be missed by a lot of people who come to the concerts expecting to hear his voice,” said Swaroff. “You don’t replace Oley. He’s one of a kind.”