Friends, family and a lot of fans said goodbye to a local music legend Thursday morning.
The funeral for Don Lipovac was held in Kansas City, KS. That's where he was from and that's where KCTV met him four years ago. KCK was his home base, but he made his mark nationally and internationally.
KCTV5 featured Don Lipovac in Faces of Kansas City in 2010. At the age of 75, he and his band were still packing dance halls across the metro. It was a tradition he kept going for six decades. Pictures show him playing the accordion at a wedding dance in 1954 in the Strawberry Hill neighborhood of Kansas City, KS.
He was good. Just four years later he became the best of the best when he won the national accordion competition at Carnegie Hall.
"1958 was the biggest year of my life," Lipovac said. "That's the trophy. It's not as big as if you win a golf tournament!"
He went on to place fourth in the world competition that year in Brussels. After that Lipovac hit the big time with an appearance on the Lawrence Welk Show.
"And I was drafted in the U.S. Army, all in 1958," he said. "Wow, that was a big year. It was, yes."
When he returned home he formed the Don Lipovac Band, which became a huge draw.
"We've had the best crowds of any band in town," he said. "We've had 600 to 800 people in our booster club."
Music is Lipovac's life. At age 5 he taught himself to play the accordion. Lipovac graduated from the Kansas City Conservatory of Music with a degree in music theory. He said his favorite instrument has always been the accordion, or what he calls the poor man's symphony.
"If you were to play a French song, that's with the right hand," he said. "And then this left hand - 120 buttons. First two rows play melody. Isn't that beautiful?"
Back in 2010, Lipovac said he and his band don't travel like they used to. He said it wasn't long before that first interview that they would crisscross the United States.
"One time I played in Milwaukee in this famous polka bar, and I said 'what are the hours?'" he said. "They said 9 at night until 3 a.m."
So Lipovac played for six straight hours wowing the crowd with a 28-pound accordion strapped to his back.
Playing the accordion, he said at the time, is a labor of love that remained close to his heart.
Copyright 2014 KCTV (Meredith Corp.) All rights reserved. Originally 2010.
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