SLOVENIAN STYLE POLKAS - CLEVELAND STYLE POLKAS - BUTTON BOX MUSIC - HARMONIKA MUSIC - OBERKRAINER MUSIC
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     Polka Music

A brief history of Slovenian and Cleveland-Style polka music

 

 

The word polka comes from the Czech word pùlka literally meaning "little half", a reference to the short half steps featured in the dance. The word's familiar form has been influenced by the similarity to the Czech word polka, meaning Polish woman.

 

The polka is a lively Central European dance and is also a genre of dance music familiar throughout Europe and the Americas. It originated in the middle of the 19th century in the Czech lands and is still a common style in Lithuanian, Czech, Croatian, Slovenian, Polish, German, Hungarian, Austrian, Ukrainian, Belarusian, Russian, and Slovakian folk music. In light classical music, many polkas were composed by both Johann Strauss I and his son Johann Strauss II; a couple of well known polkas were composed by Jaromír Vejvoda, the author of Škoda Lásky also known as the "Beer Barrel Polka" and "Rosamunde".

 

When one talks about Slovenian-Style polka they speak of an Americanized style of the music based upon the traditional Slovenian folk songs. This style of music came about when immigrants from Slovenia taught the old songs to their children.  These children, as adults, translated the old traditional lyrics from Slovene into English, and arranged them in a polka beat. In the beginning Slovenian-Style polka was just music for local ethnic clubs and union halls.  It is usually associated with Cleveland and other Midwestern cities as that is where most Slovenian immigrants put their roots down when they came to America.

 

In 1986 an important event took place in American cultural history that eluded the attention of most Americans. The National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, the U.S. organization of musicians, producers, recording engineers and other recording professionals dedicated to improving the quality of life and cultural condition for music and its makers, which are famous internationally for the Grammy Awards, established a new award category, for polka music. The first recording artist honored with this new Grammy Award was the 71-year old Slovenian-American band leader from Cleveland, Ohio named Frankie Yankovic, known and loved for several decades as "America's Polka King".

 

Old time ethnic music is what Frankie Yankovic and his colleagues played. These polkas are mostly popularized versions of many different tunes and dances from the original folk music from Slovenia and surrounding countries. The repertoires of polka artists is not simply one type of dance music suggested by the term polka but are rather a large variety of pieces of music styles including waltzes and jazzy style of polkas.

 

The Cleveland-Style of polka music is generally played at a faster tempo and features different instrumentation than the traditional music. The polka bands from Cleveland always included two accordions with at least one piano accordion, a chromatic accordion, or button box, a saxophone or clarinet, and a rhythm section including such instruments as drums, bass, and banjo. The main melody instruments in the band were the accordion and the saxophone. The epicenter of the Slovenian & Cleveland-Style of polka is undoubtedly Cleveland, "The Polka Town", and northeast Ohio, but it is also popular in Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

 

With the commercial success of Frankie Yankovic and other musicians Cleveland-Style polka music was soon introduced to a wider audience. In addition to Frankie Yankovic, the most important pioneers in developing the Cleveland-Style of polka music included Matt Hoyer, Louis Spehek, William Lausche, Josephine Lausche & Mary Udovich, Joe Kusar, Johnny Pecon, Johnny Vadnal, Eddie Habat, Kenny Bass, Ernie Benedict, Ray Champa and Frankie Mullec. Following these pioneers hundreds of descendents of the original Slovenian immigrants took to playing this style of music. If you want to hear the pioneers of Cleveland-Style polkas, please scroll down for some 78 RPM recordings from 1920s - 1950s.

Louis Spehek

Eddie Habat

Frankie Yankovic

Johnny Pecon Orchestra

Joe Kusar Trio

Kenny Bass & His Polka Poppers

Matt Hoyer Trio

William Lausche

Johnny Vadnal Orchestra

Mary Udovich

Josephine Lausche

William Lausche

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             JOE KUSAR TRIO (78 RPM Record)

 

             PLANINCA POLKA (Instrumental)

             MATT HOYER TRIO (78 RPM Record)

 

             DUNAJ OSTANE DUNAJ KORACNICA POLKA (Instrumental)

 

             FRANKIE YANKOVIC SLOVENE ORCHESTRA (78 RPM Record)

 

             NA LEVO TRI NAS DESNO TRI POLKA (Instrumental)

 

 

             LOUIS SPEHEK AND SON (78 RPM Record)

 

             MOJA FRANCKA POLKA (Instrumental)

 

 

             FRANKIE ZEITZ AND HIS POLKATEERS (78 RPM Record)

 

             MOON RUN POLKA POLKA (Instrumental)

             ERNEST BENEDICT QUARTET (78 RPM Record)

 

             SILK UMBRELLA POLKA (Instrumental)

 

             FRANKIE MULLEC AND HIS ORCHESTRA (78 RPM Record)

 

             TICKLE POLKA (Instrumental)

 

 

             MARY UDOVICH & JOSEPHINE LAUSCHE (78 RPM Record)

 

             MIJI TOVARISI SO ME NAPRAV LI POLKA (Vocal)

             JOHNNY PECON And His Orchestra (78 RPM Record)

 

             INCLINE POLKA (Instrumental)

 

 

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             KENNY BASS AND HIS POLKA POPPERS (78 RPM Record)

 

             JUG JUG POLKA (Instrumental)

             EDDIE HABAT AND HIS ORCHESTRA (78 RPM Record)

 

             GO MAN GO POLKA (Vocal)

 

 

             RAY CHAMPA AND HIS ORCHESTRA (78 RPM Record)

 

             RAINBOW WALTZ (Instrumental)

             FRANKIE YANKOVIC AND HIS YANKS (78 RPM Record)

 

             WHOOP POLKA (Vocal)

 

             CHESTER BUDNY AND HIS BOYS (78 RPM Record)

 

             FLEET AVENUE POLKA (Instrumental)

 

 

             JOHNNY VADNAL AND HIS ORCHESTRA (78 RPM Record)

 

             SHE TOLD ME POLKA (Vocal)

             JOE PRINCIE AND HIS ORCHESTRA (78 RPM Record)

 

             BYE BYE MY BABY POLKA (Vocal)

 

 

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             FRANKIE SPETICH AND HIS ORCHESTRA (78 RPM Record)

 

             DING DONG POLKA (Instrumental)

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Ray Champa

Ernie Benedict

Frankie Mullec