John Berquist Slovenian Recordings Collection

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John Berquist (1947-2016) was a musician, composer, storyteller and folklorist from Eveleth, Minnesota. He wrote and sang songs about the people of the Iron Range area of Minnesota: miners, lumberjacks, and immigrants from Scandinavian and Slavic regions. He was well known as a storyteller and a master of the “Scandihoovian” dialect. His wife, Carol Hepokoski, said of Berquist, “Growing up in Eveleth, I think he liked to say he learned to swear in six languages.”

The collection features interviews and performances recorded for the Slovenian Button Box Accordion Project in 1984. Part oral history, part music history, the project documents the lives and musical languages of several accordion players of the Iron Range. The collection includes photographs and maps from the project.

This digital collection of curated selections includes 32 field recordings with accompanying notes, and 55 photographs and maps. The materials, along with others from a larger Minnesota Folk Arts Program Collection, form part of the John Berquist Collection at the Mills Music Library.

Special thanks to The National Endowment for the Humanities for providing essential support for this online collection.


Original collection materials reside in the Mills Music Library. Materials in the collection are non-circulating but may be consulted in the library. Patrons wishing to consult materials may contact the reference librarian on duty.

Materials in the collection are subject to the guidelines for use and reproduction of materials in the special collections of the General Library System of the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Image Source:

Rudy Jandrey’s collection of Slovenian button accordions. In front from left to right: Mervar Slovenian, orange celluloid covering, without chrome pieces, under rebuilding process; Lubas Slovenian 3-row, early 1920s, new bellows; 1935 General, completely rebuilt, chromatic. Back row from left to right: Ruatta & Crucianelli, chromatic 1920s, Chicago; early 1940s late Mervar Slovenian fingerboard; Mervar chromatic, 1930s; and 1926 Excelsior, Italy, chromatic.