Melody Kings

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Melody Kings

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Ivan Oziebko (Ozubko) and his wife Euphemia Harasyma, along with their two young daughters Mary and Annie, came to Canada from Stubno, Halychyna (Galicia), a province of the Austro-Hungarian Empire (from the territory of present-day Ukraine) in 1903. Three other relatives' families, including Ivan's father- and mother-in-law were accompanying them.

Ivan, a farmer by vocation, as well as a violin player, settled on their first homestead at Del Norte, near Innisfree, Alberta. Their family soon grew into nine individuals, including four sons (Joseph, Ivan, Vasyl and Michaeo) and three more daughters (Katie, Parascavia and Helen). Joseph, Parascavia (Jennie), Ivan (John, Jr.), and Michaelo (Mike) all eventually learned to play violin as well. Another son, Vasyl (William), who only also played violin a bit, was drawn more to the guitar and, eventually, the banjo.

In the 1930s, during the Great Depression, in order to help support the family, John, Jennie, Bill and Kashka (Katie, on the drums), formed a family musical group that played all manner of social occasions, including dances and weddings in the area. They proved to be an extremely popular depression band at a time when the need for public entertainment was deep and intense.

In the early 1940s sons John, Bill and Mike moved to Edmonton to find work. Very soon, John formed an orchestra that played regularly at the Blue Hall (a very public dance gathering place near downtown Edmonton), into the 1950s. For nearly a decade, the five-to seven-piece orchestra had no name, yet drew enthusiastic crowds to their dances because of the quality of their music. John ultimately named his group the Melody Kings in the early 1950s, and they moved to become a legendarily popular dance orchestra at the Ukrainian Centre Hall on 97th Street, and eventually at many Alberta communities.

The list of musicians who played with the Melody Kings in the early years featured John on violin and drums, brothers Mike and Jim Serink (saxophonists), Mike Ozipko (guitar), Peter Serink (accordion) and Steve Serink (drums). Over the decades some others of the many members of the band included: Bill Sabrowski (tenor saxophone), Mike Sabrowski (alto saxophone), Jim Strembitsky (saxophones), Bill Ozipko (banjo), Reuben Missal (accordion), Ed Wasyk (guitar), Eugene Warawa (saxophone), Nick Welleschuk (accordion), 'Smiling Charlie' Kaminsky (banjo) and Jerry Ozipko, John's son. The Melody Kings suddenly ended in February 1979 after more than thirty years when John Ozipko passed away from a massive heart attack just two days after the group played at the Norwood Legion.


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