Ruth Adams dies at 79

Ruth Adams, Accordion legend.

Ruth Adams, Accordion legend.

Ruth Adams, the accordion player for Minneapolis's beloved World's Most Dangerous Polka Band, a mainstay at Nye's Polonaise Room, has died at age 79 of cancer.

She started WMDPB in 1975, and quickly became a fixture at Nye's, where her love for the music drew in young and old alike. Gimme Noise interviewed her and band mate Joe Hayden in 2009, and she told us she couldn't imagine doing anything else.


"Honestly, I'm just kind of at a loss for words," says Michelle Ramsey, special events coordinator for Nye's. "Ruth will be missed terribly. Ruthy brought more joy to peoples' lives than she'll ever know."

Anyone who's been to the polka room at Nye's on a Friday night can attest to the magical combination of alcohol and an endless repertoire of polka tunes pretty much indistinguishable from one another. It's the type of scene where people who don't usually dance could find themselves dancing, gyrating, or just plain stumbling around with a smile on their face.

In 2006, Esquire Magazine named Nye's the Best Bar in America. In his write-up, Chris Jones credits WMDPB as one of the bar's more charming qualities:


It's time for Joe, Ruth, and Ollie to take their stage once again. A-one and a-two and it's into another number, "Too Fat Polka" or maybe "Sheik of Araby"--they all sound the same--and the dance floor fills up as though assembly's been called, and it will remain full till last call. The day has built toward this moment, through the sedate lunch hour, the afternoon lull, the dinner armies, the evening booze pounders and bar crawlers, and, finally, now, when they have all come together at once, summoned by Joe Hayden's trumpet.

WMDPB has also appeared on Jon Stewart's Daily Show and was once named a top-five house band by Billboard Magazine.

"Obviously she's a local institution that made a lot of peoples' lives better," says G.R. Anderson, a former City Pages reporter who at one point played drums for WMDPB.

"She was always kind to me," says Anderson. "I'll always appreciate that."

Here's a Nye's ad we found in an old issue of City Pages, which well illustrates Adams' sense of humor:

Here's Adams and the rest of the band in action:

Have a fond memory of Ruth Adams or WMDPB? Share it in the comments.