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Sunday, 28 July 2013

Frankie Yankovic born 28 July 1915

Frankie Yankovic (July 28, 1915 Davis, West Virginia - October 14, 1998) was a grammy award winning polka musician. Known as "America's Polka King," Yankovic was the premier artist to play in the Slovenian style during a long and successful career.

Born in Davis, a small town in West Virginia, accordionist Frank Yankovic grew up in the Slovene-Italian section of Collinwood, Ohio. His parents were Andy Yankovic and Rose Mele. Frank

began playing the accordion when he was 9, and his mother bought him his first "piano-accordian" when he was 16. Frank's first band consisted of Albert Naglitch (piano), Johnny Hokavar (Hocevar) (bass), Bill Dunlavey (sax), Frank Skufka (banjo), and Lee Novak (drums). They became the most popular band in Cleveland performing at weddings and all sorts of parties.

In 1938 23 year old Frank Yankovic asked Columbia and RCA to make recordings of his band. Both companies turned him down. So Frank decided to produce two 78 RPM records under his own "Yankee" label. It was Heinie Martin who took Frank and his band to the Cleveland Recording Company Studios, in Downtown Cleveland. Fred Wolf owned the studio. Since Frank was not thinking of a music career yet, he used "Slovene Folk Orchestra" for his band name. Frank put up all the money for his first records. All 4,000 copies were sold by Mervar's Music Co. of Cleveland, Ohio, in just a few weeks.   

Yankovic enlisted in the Armed Forces in 1943, and cut some records while on leave, prior to his departure for Europe. He fought in the Battle of the Bulge, where a severe case of frostbite nearly resulted in the amputation of his hands and feet; fortunately, he was able to beat the gangrene before that became necessary, and was awarded a Purple Heart. The doctors urged him to have his fingers amputated, but he refused, since that would mean he would not be able to play the accordion.

Frankie Yankovic hit the national scene when he earned two platinum singles for Just Because (1947) and Blue Skirt Waltz (1949). Frankie Yankovic obtained the title of America's Polka King after beating Duke Ellington in a battle of the bands in Milwaukee.   



 Three Yanks Polka

Yankovic also hosted the television series Polka Time for Buffalo, New York-based WKBW-TV for 26 weeks in 1962. He commuted from Cleveland to host each episode, which aired live. He also hosted a similar show in Chicago at about the same time.

Yankovic won a grammy award in 1986 for his album 70 Years of Hits. At his peak, Yankovic was performing on the road in 325 shows a year. Before he died, Yankovic had sold 30 million records and won the first Grammy awarded for a polka album, in 1986.

Yankovic released over 200 recordings in his career. He seldom strayed from the Slovenian-style polka, but did record with country singer Chet Atkins, pop singer Don Everly, and a version of the “Too Fat Polka” with comedian Drew Carey, also from Cleveland.
Frankie Yankovic also had a longstanding relationship with accordion virtuoso Joey Miskulin.
Frankie Yankovic is not related to "Weird Al" Yankovic (who himself has been known to perform polka), although Al did play accordion for "Who Stole the Kishka?" on one of Frankie's final records, Songs of the Polka King, Vol. 1.

Yankovic died on October 14, 1998, in New Port Richey, Florida, due to heart failure, at the age of 83. He was buried in Cleveland's Calvary Cemetery. Hundreds of friends, family, his loyal fans and fellow musicians showed up to send him off.  (info edited from various & Wikipedia. n.b a few sources give his birthdate as 15th July, but I have opted for the majority of 28 July)



boppinbob said...

Managed to find 28 mp3's of Frankie Yankovic from the web. Mainly polkas.

Go here:!8gZT0RTQ!XfTdIBm5EB_W2k7T9_MCQAzn2n95qdiDuOtfoPLmmsQ

zephyr said...

Thanks Bob He always plays such happy sounding music :)