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Area musicians provide entertainment at Salina nursing homes
Salina Journal - 12/31/2017
"How many people are in there?" the man sitting off to the side with a cup of coffee wanted to know.
He seemed disgusted that, at that point, only about 20 were in the dining room at Presbyterian Manor.
"He's the best entertainment we have," the man said.
About 30 residents, all told, came to see Joe Komlofske, who goes by Big Joe Eddie when he plays, entertain at the Manor on Saturday afternoon.
Komlofske is one of several area musicians who make regular stops at Salina nursing homes, assisted living centers and the Salina Senior Center. He gives concerts once or twice a week, 25 or 30 a year.
The concerts, offered a couple of times a month, are free and open to the public.
Komlofske, 67, plays old-time country, bluegrass, gospel tunes, "whatever the residents want to hear," on keyboards and harmonica. He encourages residents to sing along.
"They're happy," he said. "They're singing along. When they sing along, they sound like a choir of angels."
The residents sang along with "Let Me Call You Sweetheart" and the chorus of the "Beer Barrel Polka." Songs by Merle Haggard and Johnny Cash also made the playlist.
"It's always good," said one man, whose wife requested the "Blue Skirt Waltz."
Music has always been a part of his life, he said - "I've been doing this since I was 7 or 8" - but he also plays for the love of senior residents.
Some facilities pay a little bit, which comes in handy for equipment, but usually he plays for free.
"I do it for the smiles," he said.
Bill Burrows plays for assisted living centers - he doesn't like to call them nursing homes - for a similar reason.
"Once they get there (to a nursing home), no one comes to see them," he said.
He knows many of them because he had a band for 36 years, when he was younger, and had his family at home. People who are residents now supported him then.
"For me, it's kind of a payback," he said.
Sometimes, the residents will just sit there, then all of a sudden they're tapping a foot, smiling and singing along, he said.
"You never know what strikes a nerve with them," Burrows said.
He plays mostly country, bluegrass and old-time folk tunes most people know.
Burrows plays string instruments - guitar, banjo, fiddle, mandolin - and often with Dean White on harmonica.
"He still plays the heck out of the harmonica," Burrows said.
White is 91 and hired Burrows as the band teacher in Bennington many years ago. Burrows, in his early 70s, is retired now.
Komlofske still works at Beechcraft in Wichita, so most of his concerts are around 6 or 7 p.m. He's been playing nursing homes since 1980. Most of the time, he played with Gabby and the Guys, a band led by Jim McCain. McCain retired and the band broke up in October. McCain started playing at nursing homes in 1962, Komlofske said.
When the band broke up, Komlofske said, he decided to just keep things going on his own.
"It's a lot of fun," he said.
A band that still plays nursing homes is Crystal Creek, a guitar trio led by Ron Patee. Crystal Creek formed in 2003, but Patee said he's been playing nursing homes since the early 1980s.
Even with taking the first two weeks of the month off, Crystal Creek still logs about 10 gigs a month, 100 or more a year, Patee said.
"The residents love it; they're glad to see you," he said. "I feel the Lord wants us to do it."