Jump River’s Yodeling Bar Owner

By Trevor Keller | December 15, 2017


Piotrowski’s Bar is likely the most jumping spot in the town of Jump River. Some bars have a jukebox full of 45s. This one plays the greatest hits of 1945. Ninety-three-year-old Cindy Piotrowski not only owns this bar, she often provides the musical entertainment. Piotrowski was raised in a family of musicians.

“When something came up or I watched somebody else do something, I was going to try it,” Piotrowski said.

Growing up, she learned piano, guitar and how to yodel. Piotrowski taught her sister to yodel, and together with a neighbor, they’d form the Happy Harmonizers, a country and western music group. Piotrowski looks back fondly on those days.

“We enjoyed the music,” Piotrowski recalled. “Play at the drop of a hat.”

In the 1940s, the Happy Harmonizers played dances, variety shows and banquets across the state. They were an in-demand act, but the group eventually dissolved and Piotrowski’s music career was put on hold. Her big comeback came in the 1960s when she and her husband Jim bought a bar in Taylor County. Cindy Piotrowski didn’t know much about running a bar, but she knew how to be an entertainer.

“Oh yeah, I could cut the rug,” Piotrowski quipped.

She’d cut her teeth learning the 6-sided harmonica, a rare early 20th-century instrument with six differently-tuned harmonicas fused together in a circular fashion. Piotrowski says it plays like a concertina.

“When you blow, you get one note. When you draw, you get a different note altogether,” Piotrowski said.

Piotrowski’s harmonica made the bar a big draw.

“When I got the harmonica then everybody comes in, ‘I want to hear that harmonica and I want to see it,’” Piotrowski said.

Five decades later, they’re still coming in. Friends, family and customers love to drop by and hear a performance from Jump River’s premiere performer. Piotrowski still plays the harmonica, but she also loves to jump behind the piano and play some of her favorite country and western yodeling classics.

“I go to the piano and then I spend some time there,” Piotrowski said. “I found out people really enjoyed it, so I could give it away.”

Trevor Keller

Trevor Keller

Trevor Keller is Executive Producer of “Wisconsin Life” for PBS Wisconsin. He loves photography and is always looking for a new Wisconsin park, trail or scenic overlook to explore.
2018-01-19T17:53:32-06:00Tags: |

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