The first time I saw LynnMarie was in April, 2016, when she played alongside Vince Gill and The Time Jumpers at the Jammin’ to the Beat Blues benefit concert at the Ryman Auditorium. What should have struck me was this very attractive blonde playing Polka music on a button Accordion. But what really got me (and my husband) was the song “He Will Never Be” written about her young son, James, who was born with down syndrome and autism. Because of our background in education, we reached out to her regarding her son and found out she was so much more than just another performer at the Ryman.
LynnMarie is the granddaughter of Yugoslavian immigrants. When she was seven years old, she was attending her own First Holy Communion celebration and it was very dull. Her dad brought out the accordion and suddenly everyone was cheerful and happy because of the music. She decided at that point, that she wanted to play the accordion. The only problem was the keyboard accordion was too heavy for a seven-year-old so her father taught her to play a diatonic button accordion instead.
After attending college and getting married, Lynn and her then husband, Jim, worked in TV production in Los Angeles. One of the guests on the show requested an accordion player to perform with them. Few even knew LynnMarie played. Eventually she was persuaded. Chet Atkins’ guitar player, Pat Ferguson, saw her performance and instantly recommended her to Chet. Chet Atkins asked her to play Polka. Before that time, she thought only Slovenians would like Polka, but Chet Atkins proved what a natural fit Polka was to Country Music. In the course of a few years, she cut several albums and garnered five Grammy nominations for her Accordion-playing. LynnMarie still is the first and only female artist to hold that honor. She performed all over the world, bringing her modern-day polka music to people who loved the fresh sound. Jay Leno introduced her as “The Dixie Chick of Polka” when she performed on The Tonight Show.
Even though her professional life was successful as she performed with legendary artists such as Vince Gill, Hal Ketchum, Dobie Gray, Air Supply, Riders in the Sky, Ricky Skaggs and Willie Nelson, her personal life was much more challenging. After several miscarriages, her son James was born in 2006… and LynnMarie went into total depression. Eventually she decided take a break. Though many years of therapy and a miraculous day when God clearly spoke to her about loving herself, He specifically impressed upon her “Don’t live in the future, let go of your fears, and live in the moment and you will feel more love than you ever have.” LynnMarie slowly began to heal….and write. At first she thought she was just writing for herself, but with her background in television, she eventually wrote and performed in a one-woman off-Broadway show Stories & Songs from my Bathrobe- One Woman’s Journey from Depression to Dessert.
Today Lynn has turned what she has learned in her personal life into a book- Wrap Your Heart Around It: A Memoir About Learning to Love the Life You Have. With humor and untamed honesty, Wrap Your Heart Around It is a memoir revealing LynnMarie’s unique take on some heavy topics like depression, Down syndrome and co-dependency. She shares her belief that we are all special needs adults and that we all have wounds and behaviors that can either hinder or help us.
Because she is a single mother, LynnMarie has returned to her roots of television production where she is currently an assistant producer on the new Nashville-based talk show, Pickler and Ben. LynnMarie jokes, “I work in television to pay for my music habit.” LynnMarie plans to complete here next album, a duets record with several of her famous friends in 2018.
If you live in the Nashville area, you can hear authentic Polka music when LynnMarie and her Nashville Polka Guys play at the Bavarian Bierhaus at Opry Mills October 6 and 7th. Also if you want to attend a fun night of music and food, join LynnMarie on October 14 for a Fall Festival at the award-winning Old School Farm to Table Restaurant where donations will benefit “Because Of James,” a new non-profit that provides support for special needs families.
Enjoy this appearance of LynnMarie performing Squeeze Box Polka from 2015.
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Bethany Bowman is an entertainment writer for the Tennessee Star.