Copyright 2015 Polish American Journal

last update 7  March 2016


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Polka World Loses Stan Lachut

Steve Litwin

My first introduction to the Lachut Brothers was standing in front of the stage at the Dom Polski Hall in North Tonawanda. These brothers played music that made me want to run home and pick up my accordion. They were older than I was, but we became friends, on stage and off. As time progressed Stan Lachut was my teacher. He taught me not in a formal sense, but how to play music from the heart, for the people and as a tribute to our heritage. Litwin's blue room, the back room of Litwin's Bar and Grill on Oliver Street, was our stomping grounds. It was where Stan would pick up the house accordion and start playing whatever tune that came to mind. The back room would automatically fill with people, andoften time standing because all the tables and chairs were taken. The "big" event each year was Koledy night when all the regulars would gather, filling the Blue Room, to make music from the heart. It was Stan who produced that music and taught us all to enjoy every minute. We lost Stan Lachut January 1, 2016 at the age of 94. His love for the music and people will never be lost, thanks to a few tape recordings my Uncle Henry "Jumbo" Litwin made with a small cassette recorder. Everytime I pick up my accordion, I remember a tune that Stan played, not from sheet music, but from his many performances with the band and solo on accordion. He was one of a kind, a "brother" and a true Polska Musician. Stanley Lachut was the husband of the late Florence Lachut, and father of Ronald, Janice (Wayne) Tylec and Gerald (JoAnne) and grandfather of eight grandchildren and 13 great-grandchildren. He is also survived by his brother John (Natalie) and is the brother of the late Stephen, Chester and Viola Wiechec.

Polka Jukebox

Steve Litwin

IPA Polka Hall of Fame inductee Kevin Adams is a friend to all, a dedicated musician, someone who appreciates those around him. As a highlight to his induction into the Hall of Fame he has given the polka world, "Love Notes," a sixteen track CD offering a complete spectrum of music. Original to standards, to heart-felt tunes, this compilation combine the talents of Kevin, Matt Lewandowski and Matt Rosinski to make the magic happen. Standards “Musician’s Life” and the Dynadukes’ All the Flowers” work perfectly with Gene Pitney’s “Today’s Teardrops,” and originals like “Do You Love Me?” Adding Jeszcze Polkska Nie Zginela,” “Oh Canada” and an amazing trumpet version of The Star Spangled Banner broadens the spectrum of this entire product. Kevin is teamed with Matt Lewandowski and Matt Rosinski playing an endless collection of instruments. If you don't have this, you should have it. Get "Love Notes" today.

Polka Jukebox

Steve Litwin

Alex Meixner is a musician extraordinaire, an entertainer, someone who gathers the best at their musical talents and creates music that can electrify a crowd. He is a professional in everything he does. “Happiness is a Choice,” Meixner’s latest dynamic nineteen track compact disc, is a collection of musical styles played by eighteen different musicians on dozens of different instruments. Add the fact that the recording took place in eight different studios and the cover graphics were the product of seven year old Zoey Meixner, you would think it couldn’t get any better. Another level of “better” is demonstrated when you begin listening to this eclectic collection of powerful and professionally performed music. Highlighting select tunes on this nineteen track CD is not easy because each song presents its own unique flavor and musical atmosphere. “Michael’s Polka is rich with accordion and drums, while “Why Die Thirsty” states the obvious that drinking or not, the same state awaits you. The warm instrumental, “Just For You” is smooth while “Hawaiian” polka quickly sends your spirit to the islands. Even the classic “Jup Ei Di” adds some Mozart magic to the song. Let’s not forget a couple of Joe Oberaitis tunes that are in the mix of this grouping. The bottom line is easy. This is a professional product, created by imaginative, artistic performers. “Happiness Is a Choice” and it should be your choice to add it to your collection.

Polka Jukebox

Steve Litwin

“The directions are clear, keep playing and singing the songs people like to hear.” This first sentence of the liner notes on the new CD, Clear Direction, by the New Direction of Buffalo, NY tells the story in fourteen words and 17 tracks of music. Creating a recording where Li’l Wally standards like “First Time” polka, “Here Comes Johnny” polka, and “Lucky” polka are featured with Casey Homel’s “To the Left” oberek, Casey Siewierski’s “Hey Ha” polka, and an updated Richie Gomulka tune, the band plays for the people. Mixing in some originals like “Life’s Too Short” polka and “It’s Alright to be a Polka Fan,” these five “Nickel City” boys add some of their personal touches to this project. New Directions has Ron Urbanczyk on concertina and piano, Jim Raczkowski on drums, Bob Krupa on trumpet, Frank Zeczak on clarinet,sax and trumpet and Geno Rzeznik on bass and guitar. New Direction doesn’t need a map to find the right road. These veterans simply reached back to those early days when clubs and polka lounges featured local bands playing good old fashion “Chicago Style” polkas. As you would expect “Clear Directions” is on the Sunshine label. More band information can be found on the internet at: www.thenewdirectionband.com.

Special Delivery

Special Delivery

The Special Delivery Band is one of the newest band on the Buffalo Polka Circuit. Pictured are band members (l. to r.) Mark Kohan, Ted Szymanski, Jay Skiba, Dave Miesowicz, and Tom Goldyn.

Photo: Jen Pijanowski

Veteran Musicians Form New Band

BUFFALO, N.Y. — Five area seasoned musicians have united to form Special Delivery, Buffalo’s newest band offering everything from ethnic to alternative music.

Special Delivery — Tom Goldyn, Mark Kohan, David Miesowicz, Jay Skiba, and Ted Szymanski — collectively have over two-hundred years of playing experience, and have performed with each other over the years.

Goldyn and Skiba were most recently members of Miesowicz’s Bedrock Boys, a band that earned honors as one of Buffalo’s “Best Oldies” bands. Szymanski was leader of the Cityside band for over twenty-five years. Kohan, a member of the Buffalo Music Hall of Fame, was leader of the Steel City Brass for 30 years.

“We have been working with each other recently as fill-ins,” said Miesowicz. “We liked what we heard and decided we should form the new band.”

“We have the best of both worlds,” said Szymanski, referring to the member’s ability to switch between ethnic and variety-dance music.

Special Delivery will be one of the area’s most versatile bands. “Besides playing several instruments each, all members of the group sing, which allows us to play everything from Old World polkas to Top 40 hits,” said Szymanski.

The band’s first public appearance will be Saturday, June 1, 2013, at the George F. Lamm Post, American Legion #622, 962 Wehrle Drive, Williamsville, for the “Opening of the Grove” party. Special Delivery will play alongside the award-winning Polka Country Musicians from Connecticut. For ticket information, contact Bob Krawczyk at (716) 633-9242 or 837-3582.

To hire the band, or to learn more, contact Teddy Szymanski at (716) 688-9101 or Dave Miesowicz at 684- 7336.

Special Delivery will launch its website this summer, which will include information about public appearances, member biographies, song catalog, and more.

Gomulka’s Genius Reaches Maturity

By Mark Kohan
Great artists, it has been said, are the ones who interpret what they see, and translate that into something we all can appreciate.

If you are a polka fan who doesn’t know anything about Lenny Gomulka, chances are you are not much of a polka fan. That aside, one listen to “Save the Music” will tell you more about polka music’s greatest living asset than a week’s worth of Chicago Push YouTube videos and a few gallons of Red Bull.

A child star who hit the big time when there was a big time, Gomulka’s rise to the top of the polka ladder is the result of his God-given talent, being in the right place at the right time, and — most of all — his ability to look at the big picture. A consummate professional, he finds time for everyone, from the insiders who have memorized his diet, to the ciotki who — in spite of his name recognition — still confuse him with Stas Golonka. (And sometimes come up with a third polka star named Stas Gomulka).

Over his 40-plus years in the business, he has given us everything from down-to-earth, foot-stompin’ Old Country-meets-New material, to adventuresome American Country-polka hybrids. He has worked and recorded with polka music’s legends — Marion Lush, Eddie Blazonczyk, Li’l Wally, and Sturr are but a few who come to mind. He is polka’s Eric Clapton, Ricky Skaggs, Benny Goodman, and B.B. King.

So, when Gomulka tells us there is trouble ahead, we should listen.

It is no secret that polka music’s heyday has long passed. With the loss of each generation comes the closing of dance halls, church halls, picnic grounds, and ballrooms that were once homes to decades of dancers. Children are no longer raised listening to polkas and Polish radio programs in their parent’s and grandparent’s homes. In most cases, children are not even allowed to attend wedding receptions, where most of us learned how to polkas, waltz, and oberek.

Mind you, polka is far from moving into assisted living, but it does have a few brochures in its hands. National fests still draw crowds, and local dances can still produce enough people to pay the band and the electricity for the night.

It is not only polka music making more visits to the doctor’s office, either. Live music is under fire, too. We are well into the third generation of weekend party-goers who can’t image a live band in their favorite club or dance hall.

It is a sign of the times: as music becomes more efficient why should you pay a six-piece band when you can pay for one DJ who spins – royalty free in most cases – someone else’s creative efforts? Our country’s leaders, more obsessed with quantity than quality, are letting artistic pursuits fall to wayside in favor of “better numbers” on math and science scores. Don’t believe me? Then tell me how many fundraisers you’ve attended for your kid’s school science department.

This brings us back to Gomulka’s new CD:

After years of following the all-too-predictable patterns of one or two originals and reworked favorites on almost every polka CD recorded, Gomulka has taken a brave and long overdue step by writing twelve — count ’em — twelve originals on his latest studio session “ Save the Music.”

Bringing polkas up to speed by joining the digital generation’s effort to keep live music pertinent with VH1’s “Save the Music Foundation,” Gomulka has crafted a product that covers all the bases. His “Save the Music” is a showcase of just about every style of polka out there, yet still done with Gomulka’s recognizable flair.

He pays tribute to his late friend and polka legend Eddie Blazonczyk on the CD’s opening tune, “Rose Colored Glasses.”

I don’t want to bore you with how impressed I was with every song on this recording, but I do want to say that Gomulka’s words about Blazonczyk — without ever saying his name — is a new level of maturity in the polka field. It is a giant step away from the “cash and carry” (and well-deserved in most cases) tributes to everyone from polka stars of the past to the guy who used to pour your dad his drinks at the corner bar. Like Dan Fogelberg’s tribute to his musician father Lawrence Fogelberg, “Rose Colored Glasses” acknowledges Blazonczyk’s role as a musical father figure — not only Gomulka, but everyone he touched. And it’s not sappy, mawkish, waltz: it is a polka, just like what Blazonczyk gave us.

The next song on the CD is probably the most important one: “Ta Ra Ra” is based on a melody that Gomulka’s son, Teddy, sang aloud in a moment of youthful innocence. Gomulka turned this simple riff into a driving polka, a message to hundreds of musicians out there to not be afraid to try new things, and to listen to what’s around you for inspiration. There is no need to borrow Country tunes or rearrange Li’l Wally songs. Take a chance and try something new.

More importantly, the placement of “Ta Ra Ra” immediately after “Rose Colored Glasses” says that Gomulka understands his role a bridge between generations. His son will never know Blazonczyk except through his music and what his father and his parent’s friends tell him. Like Blazonczyk, Ted can provide the inspiration to continue creating new material.

We are lucky to have Lenny Gomulka as our connection to the past, and to the future.

Polka Jukebox

By Steve Litwin

Putting Carl Finch and Danny Jarabek in the same room or studio can produce many things, including an eclectic, interesting, unique collection of musical performances packaged as The Nice Musics. This 14 track CD offers the listener everything from an "Accordion Interlude," to "The Grasshopper" a public domain Dutchman polka, to “Evening Bells,” rich with accordion and piano. Other pieces like The Polish Kid's “Bang Bang,” “Stacie’s Theme,” a haunting melody dedicated to Carl's cat, and “Barbara,” the polka many of us learned during our first accordion lessons, compete for the "favorite" by the listener.

This isn't your Mother's polka collection but it is a musicially interesting product by two talents in our business and deserves your attention. Carl Finch was on keyboards, guitar, bass, accordion and some vocals. Danny Jerabek can be heard on button box, accordion, trumpet, tuba, drums, piano and vocals. On denTone Records and recorded at The Echolab in Argyle, Texas, The Nice Musics is as graphically interesting as it is musicially interesting. The project was produced by Eugene Swick. Email: Carl@brave.com or Danny at: info@copperboxsite.com.


Every once-in-a-while, a band produces a recording that the people, the listeners, can relate to and sing along with and connect with every musical track. The excellent selection of the tunes is matched by the bands performance during the session to make the listener think they are at a dance, in a church hall, standing in front of the band with a cold beer nearby. The music is not overly complex, but is perfectly performed to give it that “live” feeling. This is what The Golden Tones of Pennsylvania have done on their latest CD, "The Golden Tones - A Bunch of Polkas.

Veterans of the polka industry, the Hazleton, Pennsylvania based Golden Tones have been playing polka music for over thirty years. They developed their own style and were influenced by bands like Eddie Blazonczyk and The Polskie Swingmasters.

Featured on the CD are 15 tracks with some great standards of polka music including "I'll Marry You Next Saturday," "Boys and Girls" polka, "Harvest Time" waltz, "None Do I Car For," and "Balloon Polka."

The six musicians of The Golden Tones include: Richie Machey, (sax, clarinet and vocals) Jerome Machey, (trumpet and vocals) Joe Krzysik, (accordion, keyboards and vocals), A.J. Wanyo, (drums) Mike Yevich, (accordion, trumpet, guitar, bass and vocals) and Paul Pehala, (accordion, concertina and vocals).

"A Bunch of Polkas" was recorded by Wizzears Studo and mixed at Peppermint Records. Visit The Golden Tones on their website: www.goldentones.8k.com.

Saturday Night Polka Party on Satellite Radio

NASHVILLE - Jimmy Sturr is now on satellite radio every Saturday at 6 p.m Eastern time with "The Saturday Night Polka Party." Featured on Sirius XM Radio, the weekly program arrived July 20 on the Rural Radio, Sirius XM Channel 80. Jimmy Sturr has become synonymous with quality polka broadcasting through his syndicated radio shows, heard weekly for the past 40 years on 24 stations across the country. The 18-time Grammyģ winner extends his reach beyond his fan base to much better serve American listeners with all styles of polka music favorites, tracks from upcoming polka artists, stories from the road and special guest interviews.

"We will feature all that the audience has come to love over the years," says Sturr, "with a newfound freedom to bring more folks to the party." Sturr also hosts his own weekly television show on the RFDTV network, seen nationwide via DirecTV, Dish Network, and Family Net. Jimmy Sturr and his Orchestra have over 120 recordings; many of which have been recognized and rewarded with numerous honors. Sturr and his Orchestra are on the top ten list of the all≠time Grammy Award winners, with 18 Awards. Broadcast Music Inc. (BMI) has awarded Jimmy Sturr & his Orchestra its most valued award, the "Commendation of Excellence."

Klassic Recordings to Release New CD

Klassic Recordings has released a sneak preview for the holiday season featuring two songs that will be offered on a new CD, scheduled to be released in January, 2013. "I Only Want You For Christmas" and "Meet Me Under the Mistletoe" capture the holiday and the dynamic musicianship of Frank Borzymowski, Dave Kurdziel, John Zelasko, Robin Pegg, Rob Piatkowski and Randy Koslosky.

It's been 12 years since the last Frank & Friends recording and this new collection will be worth the wait! The concept of Frank & Friends originated back in the year 2000. To celebrate his 30th year of performing, Frank wanted to do something special when recording his new CD, I Played Polkas. He decided to ask polka musicians considered the best in their business, who Frank admired but never had the opportunity to collaborate with, to be part of this project. Hey, if Sinatra and Bennett can do it, why can't Frankie B? The phenomenal result was one of the best Polka recordings to be produced in quite a long time! The collaboration of Frank with a who's who of Polka musicians exceeded everyone's expectations.

Now, in 2012, Frank & Friends were back at it! Their new CD is in production and will be available in January, 2013. Frank, along with Friends - old and new and some special surprises - are back! The collaboration of Frank Borzymowski/ Dave Kurdziel, Robin Pegg, John Zelasko, Randy Koslosky/ Robbie Piatkowski, along with super engineer, Gary Rhamy will make this CD the one to have in your Polka Library!

For more information and to pre-order the CD, visit www.frankbandfriends.com on the internet.

Bill Shibilski Now on Polka Jammer Network

The "Bill Shibilski Polka Party" has been added to the Polka Jammer Network's Saturday schedule with a 6 p.m. Eastern time slot. This program is in addition to the popular Sunday 6 p.m. Eastern broadcast from Fairleigh Dickinson University in the New York City area. Shibilski will broadcast two different programs each weekend on the two broadcast facilities. Each show will be archived and available for two weeks on their respective websites. Both programs will be produced with many of the regular Shibilski features including "The Collector's Corner," "The Battle of the Bands," notices of Polka events, listener celebrations, and recording oddities.

Tune in the Bill Shibilski's Polka Party every Saturday on the polkajammernetwork.org and Sundays at 6 p.m. Eastern on www.wfdu.fm and 89.1 FM in the New York City area. Email: PolkaWithBill@Gmail.com or PolkaWFDU@Gmail.com.

Just For Old Times Sake

South Bend, Ind. -The Soundsations of South Bend have released a CD, Just For Old Times Sake featuring a 15 track mixture of polkas, waltzes obereks and country tunes. "Pulaski Post" polka and "See if I Care" polka are featured with familiar songs like "In the Tall Castle" polka, "Przybyli Ulani" Polka, and "Babulinka" oberek. "Crying Time/Together Again" and "Crystal Chandeliers" add some country to the mix with great vocals featuring Stephanie Futa Carter.

The Soundsations are Kenny Bartkowiak on accordion and acoustic guitar, Paul Futa, Jr. on concertina, bass and trumpet, Tom Williams on sax, clarinet and piano, Pat Cukrowicz on drums, Steven Futa on electric guitar and Stephanie Carter on vocals.

For more information on the CD or performances, E-mail Kenny Bartkowiak at: kennyb1223@sbcglobal.net or write: Kenny Bartkowiak, 58191 Wayne Lane, South Bend, IN 46619.

Bill Shibilski's Polka Party is back on radio!

After a ten year absence from the NYC Metro area airwaves as well as the internet, Bill Shibilski's Polka Party recently returned to radio on Sunday evenings, 6-7 p.m. Eastern time, over the Farleigh Dickinson University radio station WFDU-FM 89.1 from Teaneck, NJ, and on the internet at www.WFDU.FM The over-air radio signal covers Northern New Jersey, parts of NYC, Nassau, Westchester and portions of Orange, Putnam, Rockland and Sullivan Counties.

Listeners may find it more convenient to listen on the internet at http://www.wfdu.fm and as a bonus will be able to hear an archived recording of the show for two weeks following each broadcast date. Email Bill Shibilski at PolkaWFDU@gmail.com.

It's A New Day; for The Boys!

For most of the 1980s, The Boys made their mark on the polka industry as they toured the country performing their signature sound. The material they recorded on their albums, especially the hit recordings Boys Nite Out (1988) and Boys Will Be Boys (1989), is still enjoyed and requested by many of their fans, even today. During the years after the group disbanded in 1990, The Boys could only get together occasionally to perform at special reunion events. In 2008 however, circumstances allowed the band to start performing again on a more regular basis. Now with all the key elements in place, The Boys, comprised of Mike Matousek, Al Puwalski, Frank Liszka, Jeff Yash, Mike Evan, and Dave Morris, are proud to announce the release of their first new recording in 22 years! Aptly entitled A New Day, the new CD features five new original tunes, some great cover tunes crooned by Polka Hall of Famer Frank Liszka, and a few good old Polish-style melodies all performed in that familiar Boys style.

The recording boasts 16 selections in all. To get your copy of A New Day, send your $15 check made out to Mike Matousek, 8372 Williamstowne Drive, Millersville, MD 21108-1066.

For more information about the recording, the band members, booking the group, and The Boys's ; performance schedule, visit www.TheBoysBand.com. DJs and IJs interested in promotional copies of A New Day should email their inquiries to mike@TheBoysBand.com. It’s A New Day for The Boys!

Bel-Aire Releases Two New CDs

Bel-Aire Records has released the 1984 Eddie Blazonczyk's Versatones Polka Thriller album on CD and a new CD by Stephanie entitled This is Polka Music.

Polka Thriller, originally offered on vinyl in 1984, has been remastered and repackaged and features Versatones' hits like "I Love Wanda," "Hey Pretty Girl," "How Can I Love Her," and nine other great songs, recorded between 1978 and 1984.

Musicians on the tracks include: Joe Dudek, Eddie Blazonczyk, Sr., Jerry Darlak, Jerry Tokarz, Rich Tokarz, Ed Wolinski, Jim Sierzega, Lenny Gomulka, Jerry Rajewski and Rich "Sudzy" Cerajewski.

Polka Thriller is on Bel-Aire Records - The Vintage Collection.

This is Polka Music by Stephanie by "America's Polka Sweetheart," contains twelve songs, Kozicki Elected Director of Polish-American Musician’s Club The Polish-American Musician’s Club presented its annual dinner, dance and induction of officers on Wednesday, June 19, 2013 at the attractive White Eagle Banquet facility in Niles, Illinois. The Club has been in existence since May 1, 1922. Popular musician and radio DJ Leon Kozicki was administered the oath of office as a recently elected director of the Club. His is a well known national music personality and has been a member of the Club for many years. Kozicki thanked the Club for this honor accorded to him and pledged his efforts to continue to promote the Club. The oath was administered by Gary Matts, President of the Chicago Federation of Musicians, Local 10-208. Among personalities present were musician and vocalists Chet Kowalkowski, former IPA President Ken Gill as well as Hans Schaden, President of the Czechoslovak Musicians Club and Joe Kainz, President of the German American Musicians Club. with three originals by Stephanie, "Please Come Back To Me," "Step by Step," and "Ty Ry Ryt Kum" oberek. With plenty of honky style and concertina, this new CD celebrates Stephanie as a 2010 inductee to the Polka Music Hall of Fame.

Musicians joining Stephanie Pietrzak on this recording include: Eddie Madura, Jim Sierzega, Rich "Sudzy" Cerajewski, Dave Kurdziel and Wayne Sienkowski.

Contact BEL-AIRE ENTERPRISES, 7208 S. Harlem Avenue, Bridgeview, Illinois 60455 or visit the website at: www.belairerecords.com.

Windy City Brass - Okrzesik Family Production

Archer Recordings just released a CD by the Father, Mother and three sons of the Okrzesik family. Father, Ted O. Sr., newly inducted into the Polka Music Hall of Fame, is on drums and sings "Up the Hill" polka. Mother Gennie O sings duets with her husband Ted, Sr. on "Twelve Angels" waltz and "Rocks and Stones" polka, and with son Ted Jr. on "Polkas in the Moonlight."

Ted O Jr. dominates ths CD as he sings "Windy City Brass" polka, "Nine Horsemen" oberek, "Why Me?," "Ashes of Love, "Idzie Lala," "Hosa Horasa," "Three Eggs," "Hang It Up," "Wanting You" and "Who Stole the Kiszka?" Danny O is on concertina and Johnny O on second trumpet are also heard on vocal duets.

Before Stas Bulanda went on his own, he performed with Windy City Brass. He sings "What Should I Do?," and "Play Musicians" polka. All twenty-two selections on this CD are superbly done.

New Bel-Aire Store and Website

CHICAGO -Bel-Aire Enterprises has launched a new website and store, Belairerecords.com. Offering a complete catalog of polka recordings and other musical items, Belairerecords.com will also be providing reviews and writeups on recordings, photos and band history. Be sure to visit the site and look around. Check back often for monthly specials and featured Items. Belairerecords.com

In 2/4 Time

The Polka and the Accordion in North America

By Mark Kohan

Voices, Spring-Summer 2001, Vol. 27:1-2

The Journal of New York Folklore

There are two universal truths about accordions. The first is that the accordion is almost always associated with polka music. The second: a concertina is the same thing.

To what do we owe the association of the accordion with Polish dance music? The accordion is not exclusive to the polka. Its sweet, reedy sound has been the musical backdrop for scenarios of lonely cowboys in the Texas Panhandle, romantic interludes under the Eiffel Tower, and Cajun house parties deep in Louisiana's swamps. Surely accordions are not played just by Polish Americans.

There is a mystique about the accordion, albeit ofte

n a negative one. When Madison Avenue wants to demonstrate cool versus uncool, it sometimes calls upon the accordion to demonstrate the latter. But the accordion was a respectable instrument until the advent of rock n roll. Songs of love and devotion were then sung over the electrified strains of guitars, and teen idols, who played the six-stringed talisman of rebellion, created a charisma for themselves equal to that of guys who drove fast cars.

Beginning in the mid-1980s, accordions regained some lost ground. Credit is due a counterculture movement in the rock n roll industry. Seeking an alternative to the guitar, bands incorporated the accordion into some of their music. Among the bands and musicians not afraid to let the instrument demonstrate its versatility were the Talking Heads, Bruce Springsteen, Billy Joel, David Lindley, Los Lobos, even the Grateful Dead.

And it is the Irish who can lay claim to the first recordings of accordion and concertina. Traditional Irish dance music played on fiddle, uilleann pipes, concertina, accordion, flute, tin whistle, tenor banjo, pianos, and combinations thereof was captured on cylinder recordings before the portable piano was heard playing polkas on record.

Still, if only by association, the accordion belongs to the polka.

The Stomach Steinway

The accordion is, for all practical purposes, a portable piano, powered by air driven over tuned reeds. And hence its popularity: it is easier to carry an accordion than a piano down to a church basement wedding reception.

The accordion's popularity among polka bands can be attributed to that fact. Although most polka bands are dedicated to their art form, they must play a variety of music for bread-and-butter receptions, dances, and parties. It was not until the late 1970s, when synthesized keyboards replaced the accordion as the portable keyboard, that gig-playing polka bands could make use of both instruments. Most such bands today have both an accordion and a synthesized keyboard.

The concertina lacks the accordion's keyboard. It is usually small and hexagonal, with buttons to be played by both hands as they push and pull to work the bellows.

First-Generation Polka

The early polka bands in the United States made little use of the accordion or none at all. They played what has become known as village music on violins, bass violins, a clarinet, and a bowed cello or bass. One of the early band leaders was Franciszek Dukla of Chicago, who with vocalist Frank Zielinski began a recording career for Victor Records on December 7, 1926, with the song Na Okolo Ciemny Las. Around the Dark Forest as it's known in English, is part of the standard literature for today's polka bands.

How the music of Franciszek Dukli Wiejska Banda (Frank Dukla's Village Band) evolved into today's polkas has become a debate among academics. It is believed that Polish musicians adopted and adapted the accordion and concertina to fit popular music styles within their communities. To trace the use

of these instruments in today's polka bands, we must look to early recordings by Polish artists.

The earliest American Polish-language recordings were made by the Berliner Company in 1897, featuring a tenor with piano accompaniment. It wasn't until the next decade, when recording techniques had improved, that full instrumentation could be added.

The first recording of either the concertina or the accordion by a Polish artist is hard to trace. Columbia did not begin a separate numbering system for ethnic recording series until 1908; Victor's began in 1912. Apparently the first known Polish artist to record the accordion was Jan Wanat, on the Victor label in 1917. Wanat's discs of traditional Polish dances, played in a conventional, formal style, were hot sellers. His accordion solos were played on a custom instrument that brought out the bass.

Early Polish recordings can be classified as folksong, light and grand opera, patriotic and traditional song and dance, popular music played and sung by Poles, and dialogue, mainly comedy skits. At the time many of these recordings were made, the polka was very popular, especially outside Polish communities. A majority of Polish folksongs (particularly songs of war, such as parade music and marches) were already in cut time, the 2/4 polka tempo. Other Polish folk and dance songs the mazurka, krakowiak, polonaise, and kujawiak were easily adapted as polkas, obereks, and waltzes, which are the dances still popular today among Polish Americans.

The recording companies sought Polish artists whose music would appeal to newcomers who yearned for music of the homeland, but the record executives were at a loss as to what music that was. According to Alvin Sajewski, son of Wladyslaw Sajewski, founder of the W.H. Sajewski Music Company in Chicago, the record executives knew there was a huge ethnic market but did not know how to tap it:

The records were by people from the city who liked the classical singers, the high-pitched sopranos. People wanted simple pretty melodies, but they would buy these records because there was at least something Polish on them. The people wanted folksongs (Spottswood 1982).

The Successful Hybrid

In 1923 Columbia recorded a duma, a waltz by Henry Lewandowski. This old-time fiddler led the way for newer bands that were beginning to play polkas and other Polish dances in a livelier and less formal fashion.

One of Columbia's hottest artists was the Ukrainian fiddler Pawlo Humeniuk. The company polonized Humeniuk by changing his name to Pawel Humeniak, and with Polish vocalists, his records sold well in Chicago. The January 1927 recording of Zareczyny, Czesc. The Engagement, Part , with singer Ewgen Zukowsky was the genesis of the Polish American polka. The playing technique of the anonymous accordionist is almost identical to that used today.

Columbia and its competitors Victor, Okeh, Odeon, Brunswick, and Vocalion realized more than modest profits from the hybrid Polish American polka. During the 1930s the Polish recording business exploded. In 1931 Victor alone released 176 recordings in its Polish series, including 38 by village orchestras (playing what is known variously as Gorale, Mountain, Highland, or Old Country music) and 12New Floyd Grocholski CD Michigan State Polka Music HOF inductee, Floyd Grocholski has released a new CD entitled "Family, Friends, Traditions." Floyd Grocholski's Family Tradition band is based in Auburn, Michigan. The band has been a staple in the Michigan polka scene since the 1970's. Their current lineup includes members in ages from the early 20s to the 60s. The CD features 14 songs including such favorites as "Scolding Mother", "Haystack" and "Holiday in Poland". To obtain your copy, call Floyd at 989-671-2003. by what Richard J. Spottswood has called; new-wave polka bands; the forerunners of today's bands. These new-wave recordings, made primarily by Ignacy Podgorski from Philadelphia, and by Edward Królikowski of Bridgeport, Connecticut, blended brass, accordion, and violin and combined; the energy of the village orchestras with a smoother, more emphatic melody line; (Spottswood 1982).

Podgorski, whose popularity extended into the 1940s, also sold sheet music of his material, much of which was based on the music of the village bands.

The Concertina and the Polka

One early artist who greatly influenced the hybrid Polish American polka was a concertina player and singer from Chicago, Bruno Rudzinski. His work, like Lewandowski's and Humeniuk's, was less formal a mix of traditional Polish folk melodies influenced by American jazz. Rudzinski's recordings made him the Polish Spike Jones of his day, as he would often repeat or forget lines and start the vocals over again.

His first recording, Przyszedl Chlop do Karczmy; A Man Came to the Saloon, was on the Victor label and released in 1928.

It 'wasn't until the late 1940s, however, that the concertina made its way into mainstream polka music. The instrument was promoted by bandleader Eddie Zima, probably the most famous of all polka concertina players. He was born in Chicago in 1923 and began playing the concertina by ear when he was six. His record of Circus polka, which became a hit in the nation's Polish communities, introduced hundreds of thousands to both Zima and the concertina. He recorded for the Capitol, RCA, Dana, Chicago, and Jay Jay labels, and his orchestra later formed the nucleus of the still-popular Ampol-Aires. He is considered the godfather of Chicago-style polkas, which are slower and bouncier than the traditional Eastern style, named after the big bands from the East Coast that played these zesty polkas from the 1940s until the late 1960s.

Zima influenced a multitude of musicians who found theNew Floyd Grocholski CD Michigan State Polka Music HOF inductee, Floyd Grocholski has released a new CD entitled "Family, Friends, Traditions." Floyd Grocholski's Family Tradition band is based in Auburn, Michigan. The band has been a staple in the Michigan polka scene since the 1970's. Their current lineup includes members in ages from the early 20s to the 60s. The CD features 14 songs including such favorites as "Scolding Mother", "Haystack" and "Holiday in Poland". To obtain your copy, call Floyd at 989-671-2003. concertina a natural for the polka. Among those he inspired was Li¬’l Wally Jagiello, the son of Polish immigrants, who often sang with Zima's band at picnics in Chicago. Although Jagiello's early recordings made use of the accordion, he is most famous for his work on the concertina, and for promoting Chicago-style polka to national prominence. His recording of Zosia; (ophie) so startled some disc jockeys that they thought it defective, but the song's slow, heartfelt tempo won it nationwide popularity. Today, Chicago-style polkas dominate the polka re Make plans to attend our 40th Anniversary POLKA FIREWORKS Festival at Seven Springs!!! Wednesday July 3rd thru Sunday July 6th 2014 Featuring 14 of the Nation’s Top Polka Bands! Lenny Gomulka & Chicago Push (MA) Thursday & Saturday John Gora & Gorale (Canada) Saturday Dennis Polisky and the Maestro’s Men (CT) Friday & Saturday The Boys (MD) Friday The Knewz (NY) Saturday Jeff Mleczko’s DynaBrass (MI) Sunday The Buffalo Concertina All-Stars (NY) Sunday Tony Blazonczyk’s New Phaze (IL) Friday The Nu-Tones (PA) Thursday Ray Jay & The Carousels (PA) Friday Andy Fenus & The Trel-Tones (PA) Saturday Henny & The Versa J’s (PA) Sunday Mike Charney’s CrabTown Sound (MD) Friday The Mon Valley Push (PA) Saturday And DJ Kenny Olowin (PA) Wednesday & Thursday Polka Mass celebrated on Sunday morning and featuring Henny & The Versa J’s Don’t delay – Make your reservations today!!! Room Reservations contact Tish Blazonczyk @ (708) 594-5182 More info visit our website: WWW.POLKAFIREWORKS.COMcording industry.

Jagiello in turn has inspired many of today';s virtuoso concertina players, including Wally Maduzia, Lenny Maynard, Rich Benkowski, Al Piatkowski, Richie Kurdziel, Scrubby Seweryniak, Bill Czerniak Sr. and Jr., Ronny Marcusiuk, Tom Kula, and Teddy Kiewicz.


Breathnach, B. 1971. Folk Music and DancesNew Floyd GrocholskiKozicki Elected Director of Polish-American Musician’s Club The Polish-American Musician’s Club presented its annual dinner, dance and induction of officers on Wednesday, June 19, 2013 at the attractive White Eagle Banquet facility in Niles, Illinois. The Club has been in existence since May 1, 1922. Popular musician and radio DJ Leon Kozicki was administered the oath of office as a recently elected director of the Club. His is a well known national music personality and has been a member of the Club for many years. Kozicki thanked the Club for this honor accorded to him and pledged his efforts to continue to promote the Club. The oath was administered by Gary Matts, President of the Chicago Federation of Musicians, Local 10-208. Among personalities

present were musician and vocalists Chet Kowalkowski, former IPA President Ken Gill as well as Hans Schaden, President of the Czechoslovak Musicians Club and Joe Kainz, President of the German American Musicians Club. CD Michigan State Polka Music HOF inductee, Floyd Grocholski has released a new CD entitled "Family, Friends, Traditions." Floyd Grocholski's Family Tradition band is based in Auburn, Michigan. The band has been a staple in the Michigan polka scene since the 1970's. Their current lineup includes members in ages from the early 20s to the 60s. The CD features 14 songs including such favorites as "ScoldingLenny Gomulka says “Save the Music” LUDLOW, Mass. — The polka world has always focused on preserving music and preserving cultural traditions. Not until now has the discussion come up to save the music as we know it. Polka music has been known to bring friends together. It’s been a family form of wholesome entertainment and it’s been a genuine way for people to meet people. In the newest CD just released by Lenny Gomulka & Chicago Push the focus has shifted from “preserving” the music to “saving” the music. Not as simple as it may seem, polka music needs to be saved from falling by the wayside. Polka music, unlike other musical genres, consists of a unique, loyal, passionate fan base. Those pure polka fans and enthusiasts are indeed the spirit and inspiration for every bandleader, musician, and polka promoter. Collectively, entertainers and fans alike need a unified approach to reimage polka music in order to gain more respect. The word is already out there. Even VH1 has formed its “Save the Music” Foundation with efforts to develop strategic partnerships with school districts to build sustainable instrumental music programs for public elementary and middle school students. It’s been proven that the benefits of music education are astounding and studies have consistently exposed the tremendously positive effect music education has on a child’s academic performance, sense of community, self¨-expression and self¨-esteem. This is exactly what “Save the Music” by Lenny Gomulka & Chicago Push is all about. The involvement of children involvement is key, and it’s up to the polka community to encourage that and make it happen. The new “Save the Music” CD release with Lenny Gomulka & Chicago Push captures photos of Lenny’s son, 7-year-old Teddy Gomulka, enjoying his musical moment. It also features the 7-year-old singing along on a song that he himself composed. This is why it’s called “Save the Music,” and this is what polka music needs much more of. Together let’s “Save the Music” with Lenny Gomulka & Chicago Push featuring 15 tracks of which 12 are all-new compositions. Cds are available on-line at www.chicagopush.com or by sending $17 to Chicago Push, 30 Woodland Place, Ludlow, MA 01056. (See advertisements in various PAJ publications) Mother", "Haystack" and "Holiday in Poland". To obtain your copy, call Floyd at 989-671-2003. of Ireland.
Dublin: Talbot Press.

Camp, T. 1992. Weird Al finds a vein of fun in rock parodies. Milwaukee Journal, July 7.

Ethnic Recordings in America. 1982. Washington, D.C.: American Folklife Center, library of Congress.

Spottswood, R. 1982. The Sajewski Story; in Ethnic Recordings in America: A Neglected Heritage. Washington, D.C.: AmericanPapuga7084Papuga7084 Folklife Center, Library of Congress.

Treasured Polish Folk Songs with Translation. 1953. Minneapolis: Polanie Publishing Co.

Mark Kohan is editor-in-chief of the national monthly newspaper Polish American Journal and was leader of the Steel City Brass for 28 years; he plays both accordion and concertina. With the permission of the publisher, the article was adapted from Squeezebox Jam, a publication of the Polish American Festival held in August 1992 in Cheektowaga, New York. The annual event is sponsored by the Town of Cheektowaga (a suburb of Buffalo), and made possible with public funds from the New York State Council on the Arts.

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