One of the best-loved American Slovenian performers on the button accordion was Matt Arko Hoyer, the “granddaddy” of the button accordion players and pioneer performer of Slovenian polka and waltz music. Matt was born in Slovenia in 1891. He came to the U.S. in 1911 and settled in Cleveland.
As he learned to build, repair and tune accordions while in Slovenia, he continued this work in America. He formed the Hoyer Trio, which enjoyed immense popularity in northeast Ohio and western Pennsylvania. They recorded for Victor Talking Machine Co. in 1919, following to the Columbia Gramophone Co. and then for Okeh Records. In 1925, Victor introduced the new electrical process of making records and Columbia followed. One of the Hoyer Trio’s biggest selling discs was “Dunaj Ostane Dunaj,” taken from the German-Austrian march “Vienna Forever.”
Besides playing Slovenian weddings and dances, the Hoyer Trio played for Bohemian audiences. Matt was a sensation on the button accordion and the 120-bass chromatic. His playing style was unique, smooth and even. His music was beautifully laced with the typical Hoyer staccato that made each tune a musical rainbow. He added another dimension to his music by opening up his harmonica and changing the reed blocks, minimizing the monotony of playing in one or two keys.
In the early years of traveling to the coal mining towns of western Pennsylvania and other points in Ohio, traveling was a primitive challenge in Matt’s Model T. Eventually he got a Model A Ford.
Matt Hoyer continued to play well into the twilight of his years. In 1959 he became ill and succumbed to cancer on December 20, 1960. The dean of American Slovenian radio announcers, Heinie Martin Antoncic, in one of his radio tributes aptly stated, “Matt Hoyer was the George Washington among Slovenian polka musicians!”