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Musician shared through performances, teaching

By Marty Clear
Published April 20, 2007


BELMAR SHORES - If you listened to live music in Tampa lounges in the past 50 years, there's a good chance you heard Ed Krochman.

If you bought a musical instrument between the mid 1950s and the early 1980s in Tampa, you may have bought it from Ed Krochman.

Mr. Krochman, who passed away April 12 after several months of declining health, was a mainstay of the popular music scene for many years, playing everything from polkas to big band standards to top 40. He was 85.

"He was one of the best musicians I ever played with, and I've played with a lot," said Merv Stone, a longtime tenor sax and vibraphone player who performed with Mr. Krochman years ago at the Hawaiian Village.

"He was an extraordinarily good accordion player, always very professional."

Besides performing five or six nights a week for many years - and a couple of times a week until he was in his 80s - Mr. Krochman owned and operated successful music stores called Krochman's Music House in South Tampa and Town 'N Country.

He was born in Chicago and started playing the accordion professionally when he was 16. He was still in his teens when he met a girl named Helen Machnicki who had come to one of his shows. They started dating and were married in the early '40s.

Like most young men of his generation, Mr. Krochman joined the military during World War II. Because of his musical talent, he was never sent into combat. He spent the war years entertaining his fellow soldiers.

"The way he looked at it," said his daughter Paula Brodesser Caire, "the Army was paying him to do something he loved to do."

After the war, he rejoined his wife and started a family that eventually included three children: daughter Paula and sons Greg and Ronald.

In 1954, Mr. Krochman was playing in a quartet called the Showmen in the Chicago area. The band landed a steady job in Florida, performing on a radio show called Florida Calling, hosted by Tom Moore. The show originated from Winter Haven. Once they experienced Florida's climate, the band decided to stay.

"He came down without my mother and us kids," Greg Krochman said. "But he decided Florida was a pretty nice place and said we should live here."

There wasn't much work for musicians in Winter Haven back in those days, so the Showmen eventually relocated to Tampa. They played in local clubs and lounges, and opened a music store called the Showmen's Studio on Manhattan Avenue.

"They sold instruments, but it was more about lessons," his daughter said. "They'd have accordion classes with 30 or 40 students. There wasn't anything else like that in Tampa, and people flocked to it."

The Showmen's Studio lasted only a few years before the partnership broke up. Mr. Krochman opened the original Krochman's Music House at the same location, then moved to a larger space down the street in the mid 1960s. The Town 'N Country store opened in 1975, and both stores closed when Mr. Krochman retired in the early 1980s.

Even when he was running the stores, Mr. Krochman kept a full performing schedule. He'd play five or six nights a week at such venues as the Hawaiian Village, Guy Lombardo's Port O' Call in Tierra Verde, and the Dolphin Den and King's Inn on the Pinellas beaches, where he often performed with organist Lenny Dee.

His work schedule meant he didn't have a lot of spare time. But his kids knew why he worked two full-time jobs for 30 years.

"He was first and foremost a family man," Greg Krochman said. "He wasn't a dad who came home from work and threw the football around in the front yard or anything like that, but we always knew he was providing for his family. He was a great, great man, and he didn't have a mean bone in his body."

Besides his children, Mr. Krochman is survived by a granddaughter, two great-grandchildren and a brother.

[Last modified April 19, 2007, 07:25:51]

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