On a small farm in a Czech community near Alexandria, Minnesota Betty Rydell grew up as the baby of the family. When Betty's mother Lena, married her father Frank Rajdl, he had previously lost his twenty nine year old wife and one daughter. Lena came to the farm and immediately saw four young children peeking out the window. They were all Betty's half brothers and sisters whom Lena came to love as her own. Frank and Lena had two children together, Betty and her older brother Kenneth. They both attended Sunny Knoll country school for eight years.
Betty's mind was always occupied with music from an early age even when mom told her to clean her room. Frequently, she stayed up late lying on the kitchen floor listening to the Grand Old Opry. Then she would arise early to listen to her favorite country entertainers on KSTP radio. She put on her own fantasy shows pretending she was on stage as a singing star sometimes using a snow bank as a stage. Betty would sing and do pretend interviews.
At age eleven she sold her beloved bicycle to purchase her first guitar. That really started something! She started taking guitar lessons. Betty never had to be told to practice. She would practice playing her guitar and singing several hours each day. Sometimes mom would say, "Betty do you have to play and sing so long and so loud?" Alone a lot, she had a lot of time daydreaming about great things in music.
Her volume paid off when, at age eleven, she auditioned for Archie Viering, who was a local celebrity with a radio show. One day he was visiting Betty's parents. While the adults were drinking coffee in the kitchen, Betty was in the next room with her guitar singing as loudly as she could. He could not resist asking her to be on his radio show. She sang, "I Love You Because" on the radio and thought she had made the big time.
Betty's favorite country singers were Wanda Jackson, Kitty Wells and Jean Shepherd. She liked Wanda Jackson's wardrobe so much that Betty sewed fringes on her dresses to copy Wanda's look. Betty developed a great love for country music but also while jamming with friends she also grew to love Bluegrass music.
At age fourteen Betty started entertaining with her brother Kenneth who played accordion. They played country music plus old time polkas and waltzes at little bars and restaurants in central Minnesota. Sometimes they would be paid $5.00 each or whatever was placed in the hat by the customers. Donald Drum from Club 29 in Alexandria once said, "will you play another hour for a hamburger?" Of course, Betty complied. Betty actually thought she getting "rich" playing music. She really thought so when she used her earnings to buy her family their first television set.
High school was not Betty's thing. Actually, she hated high school. One time her biology teacher told her she should spend more time dissecting frogs and less time on the guitar. How she got an A in algebra Betty will never know. Betty didn't fit into any of the high school cliques probably because she wore dresses that her mother had sewed out of feed sacks. She did enjoy singing in the high school choir and playing violin in the orchestra. The orchestra director would say after playing a classical piece, "Betty now play something you like." So Betty whipped out, "Boil 'Em Cabbage Down" which she still plays to this day. Like many farm kids and Cher, Betty quit high school at age sixteen.
Betty's playing with brother Kenneth sadly ended when he passed away at age twenty two from kidney disease. This was a very sorrowful time and her home was an extremely sad place.
Then Betty got a job at a local truck stop cooking, serving plus singing and playing guitar all for $20.00 a week. From there, wanting to be an entertainer so bad, she rented an apartment in near by Albany, Minnesota so she could be on radio station KASM with Sleepy Head Cliff and other musicians. She didn't make very much money but got lots of exposure in the local music industry and had lots of fun.
The big city of Minneapolis was calling her so Betty and four of her Alexandria girlfriends moved there. They rented an apartment near Loring Park and Betty walked to work at Snyders Drug store on Hennepin Ave, plus Sunshine Biscuit Company and also a German restaurant where she was made the head waitress.
During this time bands would get her up to sing which she loved.
Her two best friends in the music business, Red Johnson and Duane Bristlin were a big influence on her. She often performed in shows with them.
Later she auditioned and starting performing at the KSTP Sunset Valley Barn Dance with David Stone. She played various shows with this group. Betty also worked at the famous Flame Café on Nicolett Avenue (which featured many Nashville Stars including the Everly Brothers) backed by the Jimmy Wells Band.
Betty was also with an all girl band playing Korsmos Club on Nicolett Ave. They used to all get the giggles and couldn't stop. This band also backed up Ernest Tubb, Tex Ritter, LeRoy Van Dyke and Texas Bill Strength.
At age eighteen Betty went on the road with Johnny Long and Buddy Rein playing Mandan, North Dakota. Then in 1958 she joined the Rhythm Rangers with Jack and Betty Holmer plus Gordy Porter.
Shortly after, Bob Friedl was discharged from the service and joined the band. Six months later Betty and Bob were married. They had one child, Greg. Betty loved being a mother. They packed up a crib, pots and pans, pictures for the wall and traveled to North and South Dakota, Montana, Nevada, California, Oregon and Washington playing music wherever they were booked.
When Greg was school age they settled down in Brooklyn Park. Betty was elated to finally have her own home after five or six years on the road. In the next thirteen years they played three venues, Diamond Jims, The Manor and Paul's Place. When Louie Johnson at Paul's place wouldn't give Betty a raise she would go to Glenn Travisky at the Manor and perform there. Then under similar circumstances they would go back to Paul's Place. This back and forth process went on for many years. They also played a summer at Arrowwood Lodge in Alexandria, Minnesota. Betty, Bob and Jake Braziel made up the Betty Rydell Trio for seven years during this time period. Greg was also very interested in music taking piano and drum lessons. He often got up with the band and did "Wipeout." Later he had his own rock band.
After fifteen years of marriage Betty and Bob were divorced and Paul's Place in their "Enquire' like magazine wrote, "what happened to Sonny and Cher happened to Betty and Bob." Then Betty returned to Paul's Place with a new band, featuring Denny Milan, Jimmy Mann and Robbie Ataway. Sometimes the band would have to take long breaks and help fold napkins so the club could get the next group of people seated. During the Paul's Place and Manor years, the bands consistently drew standing room only crowds. They also played the Minnesota State Fair opening for Charlie Pride and Conway Twitty. Betty also worked the band shell with Barbara Mandrell before she was a star. At the St. Paul Auditorium she worked with Bobby Helms singer of Jingle Bell Rock and also Del Reeves.
Betty was always known for having great musicians and entertaining shows. Fans drove for many miles to see the shows. Part of Betty's charm was her interaction with the audience, remembering audience member's names and doing various comedy skits involving the audience. She is famous for her Dolly Parton act, the hula routine and the pregnancy routine called "One's on the Way!" Also Betty thrilled each audience by playing multiple instruments in each performance.
Later Betty started working on the road again with Bruce Menier, Phil Danz and Larry Michaels playing Kansas, South Dakota, Montana and Minnesota plus a trip performing in Austria. She also appeared at Midwest Country Theatre in Sandstone, Minnesota many times including opening for Conway Twitty's son Michael and Freddy Hart. Appearing at Midwest Country was one of the highlights of Betty's career and this also resulted in shows being broadcast on television.
Betty was single for six years but in1980 she met attorney Edward Bearse and within six months they were married. Then Betty gained a step-son, Eric age 9 and step-daughter, Melanie age 8. Betty was frequently on the road for the next several years as well as playing night clubs in Minnesota. On weekends Ed would load up the kids and bring them to wherever Betty was performing including driving through snowstorms. In 1983 Ed became a State of Minnesota District Trial Judge. Betty was worried about Ed becoming a Judge because she didn't have matching silverware, wasn't into classical music and her paintings were bought at consignment places. She was not into sports or politics which Ed was a fanatic about but it has all worked out.
Betty became very tired of working the night clubs and started performing a singles act singing for church luncheons, private parties and senior facilities. To this day she spends most of her performing time in these venues.
In 1994 a very special little girl was born to Betty's son Greg and wife Jeannie.
Her name is Randi Rae and she has always been a very special delight to Betty. Her daycare years were spent at Grandma's house. She would accompany Grandma at the various jobs and take her toys under table when the show was happening. Much to the audience's delight she would put her stuffed animals on the table as a puppet while Betty was singing beautiful ballets. Randi turned out to be very musical and Betty accompanied her to Branson where she appeared at Mel Tillis Theatre, Midwest Country and many other places. She still performs with Grandma but her main musical endeavor is her own band called Midwest Mayhem.
During their marriage Betty and Ed went on mission trips to Honduras. Betty learned ten Spanish songs and she had to teach guitar even though she did not speak Spanish. She rode a mule up in the mountains and sang in various churches and villages. There were bugs and spiders in the room but God protected them. They saw much poverty including women sweeping dirt floors in huts. Even though they had nothing they tried to keep things tidy. Seeing all of this made Betty and Ed realize how well we have it in the USA. They ministered to the Spanish and Garifina congregations. Ed has been on twenty plus more mission trips in Central and South America plus Africa.
Ed first started singing with Betty at the annual Christmas Shows and later became a full part of the show singing and doing comedy. Her yearly Christmas Show in the twin cities has always been a big even drawing up to 700 people. Numerous kids have performed at these shows because Betty loves giving young people a chance to entertain. Many have gone on to great success including television, acting careers and having their own bands. One was on Ellen's show and another is now in a Broadway show.
In 2010 Betty and Ed started wintering in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas. During that time they presented numerous shows at the 55 and over parks plus other events in the Valley. Betty is a Rio Grande Valley award winning entertainer having won both female entertainer of the year and female vocalist of the year. In addition to the Valley Betty and Ed are regularly performing at various festivals in the upper Midwest.
Betty has great love for family and friends.
Her faith is very important to her.
She thanks God for letting her perform all these years and frequently gives thanks for the fans who come to listen to her.