Since the start of www.bestpolkabands.com a few years ago I have had the duty of reporting on the passing of a few of polka's greats. None, however was so close and personal to me than the passing of Al Bachmann on August 29, just a few months shy of his 90th birthday.
If it were not for the music of Al Bachmann I would not have discovered the wonderful world of polka and www.bestpolkabands.com would not exist.
It was about 15 years ago that I first had the pleasure of meeting Al Bachmann. At the time, for my record label which I had just started, www.djcompanionrecords.com , I was looking for artists that were interested in creating background music that DJs could play at weddings and other such events.
While creating a jazz cd with the Lloyd Peach Duo, Bill Geekie, who has also since passed and who owned Creative Arts Recording Studios where the recordings took place, thought that Al would be a great match for what I was seeking out, and he was.
Al Bachmann was a truly amazing man in the musical field whose artistry was simply phenomenal. He was a multitalented and unique individual, a composer, writer, arranger, producer and musician. There was a wide variety of music in Al's compositions, from ballad to polka, from waltz to serenade, everything well written, performed and recorded.
Al started playing the piano at the age of 6 and never looked back. Originally from Germany, Al moved to Canada in 1956 and has lived in Caledonia, Ontario most of those years. One of the highlights of his career was on June 28, 1997 when he was commissioned to play music for Queen Elizabeth II while she was visiting Canada.
Al had already recorded a number of LPs and tapes. For 4 years Al hosted his own “REVERIE” program on CKLH-FM and he appeared on CHCH- TV 11’s The Best Is Yet To Come for 2 seasons. Al’s own love of music was obvious as you listened to him play. Al also had his own German band, "Edelweiss" which regularly played the clubs of southern Ontario.
In the ensuing years, Al made 4 albums for DJ Companion Records, "Background Piano Music", "Background Ballroom", "Background Showtunes" and "Christmas Background". However, in 2006 Al gave me some of his former LPs and suggested I transfer them to cd and market them. Al had also recorded with 2 well known singers in the area, Elizabeth Stein and Fern Viola. He had created a lot of German music with Elizabeth Stein which I released as “GERMAN OKTOBERFEST” and Italian music “ITALIAN FESTIVAL” with Fern Viola.
German Oktoberfest had a number of polkas on it, so I did a search on the internet to see where I could market this music and one of the places I encountered was www.247polkaheaven.com. I emailed to 12 of the ijs at the station whose music sub-genre was listed as either “German or Variety” and 8 of them responded back that yes, they would be interested in receiving a reviewing a copy of the cd.
While I was listening to Al's music at 247 and other stations I found out just how much great polka music there is out there. So, as I said before, were it not for Al's music, I would not be sending you this email today.
It was obvious to me that after his family, it was music that Al loved the most. In the ensuing years I had the pleasure of creating with Al and Fern Viola still another 3 albums, "My Faith", "Anthems" and the "Best of Fern Viola" and as well re-releasing "Muriel - The Little Mouse That Lived In A Piano", a wonderful story that Al told with music of the great composers about the history of Classical music.
Al had joked with me a long time ago that many of the world's greatest composers were not really discoverd until after they had passed away. Al made music his life and was extremely successful in the field, but he has a ton of compositions that still have not been released or covered by other bands. Walter Ostanek has already used 2 of Al's compositions on his albums, and I have about 30-40 of his songs that are still awaiting release, but it is my hope (and I know it is his) that someday, somewhere, one of Al's compositions does bceome the next "Beethoven's 5th" or "Beer Barrel Polka".
Here is the obituary that appeared in the local paper upon Al's passing:
BACHMANN, Alfons Wilhelm December 11, 1922 - August 29, 2012 "Hey Pop, who didn't you touch with your music..." Al, as he was affectionately known, was "a fighter to the end". He was a WWII Soldier who "dodged many bullets" and then came full circle to face yet another battle. The courage, strength, tenacity and wisdom with which he faced every challenge is a true testament to how he made it this far, his 90th year. He joins his devoted wife, Friederike, of 64 years on their next journey. He leaves behind his proud children, Rainer, Friedemann, Dieter and Cindy, Ulrike, and Alfons Jr. He also leaves eight grandchildren, Terry, Craig, Lisa, Ryan, Shawndel, Paige, Lindsay and Kristie and eight great- grandchildren, Riley, Connor, Rachael, Claire, Janelle, Zachary, Owen and Emmie. He was a tool and dye maker by trade in his homeland of Augsburg, Germany, but his passion was writing, playing, composing and teaching music. From the time he was a young boy he could use his talent in music to not only entertain but, as he put it, "save him and his wife from life and death situations at the end of the Second World War". Many community members in and around Caledonia will remember him for his deep desire to instil this passion and love of music through the lessons they received from Al and the music store he owned and operated in his younger years. He never tired of working on his next project, making and producing many CD's with the help of friends and family. He always had a desire to see his name in "lights", but in the end was a devoted family man, who wanted to be recognized for doing the best he could in spite of all the challenges. The family thanks the many nurses, home support workers and case managers from CCAC and doctors and nurses from the Juravinski Cancer Clinic and West Haldimand Hospital, who cared for him and grew to love his sense of humour and his endearing qualities. It is Al's request that we remember him in spirit, therefore no funeral or visitation will take place. "Music is the mediator between the spiritual and the sensual of life" Ludwig van Beethoven
Al's final recording session with me was just a couple months ago on June 25, 2012. At that time Al was still quite upbeat and was making plans for future albums which we would be releasing. The last 3 songs he ever recorded, solo on a single piano were, "Romance for Marianna", "Serenata A Rebecca" and "Ballad for Rebecca". It is my intention to release these songs and other previously unreleased songs as soon as I reasonably can on two cds, "The Final Sessions" and "Tribute To The Great Composers". Unknown to Al, I will be adding Al's songs to the list he had presented to me as the songs of the Great Composers. Of course I am sure Al won't mind.
In the days and weeks and months ahead, I will be making more of Al's music available at the www.bestpolkabands.com and www.djcompanionrecords.com websites and will do one or more tribute shows of his music at www.247polkaheaven.com . Music, especially good music, lives forever. Rest in peace Al.
Born July 12, 1941, Grammy award-winning polka legend and founder of the band The Versatones, Eddie Blazonczyk Sr. passed away on May 21, 2012.
To quote Ed Guca from Facebook:
Eddie Blazonczyk was Polka Music. He was the one we all looked up to. He promoted Polkas to the world. You can hear Eddie's influence in almost every Polka band today. His songs, his sound, his voice made Polka music what it is today. His recording did, do and will bring joy and happiness for ages to come. I have lost a brother of the music I love and cherish. Rest well my friend.
Val Bakowski has also put together a very nice tribute:
A very nice tribute to the life and times of Eddie Blazonczyk Sr. has been posted to Youtube. It was forwarded to me and I would like to forward it again:
The Frankies are a National Service Award, through Polka America Corporation, which recognizes those who provide exceptional service to polka music, and whose contributions and service to polka music has been instrumental in sustaining the polka genre. Nominees are selected and voted on by the Polka America Corporation Officers and Directors.
This award program and use of Frankie Yankovic's name and image has been authorized by Ida Yankovic, and is endorsed by the Yankovic family.
There are two 2012 Frankies Winners. Congratulations.
Jack Baciewski grew up with polkas all his life and his love for polkas continues to this day. He is known in the polka world as Polkaman Jack. He started playing drums with the Jolly Aces Polka Band in 1968, he was the first drummer for the Polka Country Musicians and later player with Eddie Zavaski Jr. and the Generations Polka Band.
Jack's love for Polkas continued with numerous radio programs beginning in 1972 on WICH in Norwich, CT. He later was on the air with Karen Olzewski on WMLD, West Hartford, CT from 1984-‐1986. He later teamed up with Eddie Zavaski Jr. on WBIS in Bristol, CT and they were also on the air on WNTY in Southington, CT.
Jack with Eddie finally moved their show to WMRD from Middletown, CT from 1996 to 2002. In November of 2002, Jack decided that he wanted to do some type of polka broadcasting on the growing Internet. He came up with the concept of the Polka Jammer Network and in early in 2003 he asked Peter J Danielczuk to join him and thus became the Polka Jammer Network which is still going strong today.
Jack left the Jammer and later started a new network entitled Polka Legacy which aired on the Internet until 2011. This new network was in part dedicated to the great polka music of the past. Jack has truly been a person that has dedicated a majority of his life to bringing people happiness through Polkas.
Mark Vyhlidal was born in 1961 and attended District 14 Elementary School in Morse Bluff, Nebraska and District 92 Jr/Sr High School in North Bend, Nebraska. He graduated in 1980 with High Distinction Honors.
His music career began at age 8 playing polka music on the drums and has continued playing this music for over 42 years. Mark has played with several Nebraska Polka Bands such as: The Vern Belik Band, The U-Neta Orchestra, Adolph Nemetz Orchestra, Johnny Kucera Combo, Harvey Kucera Band, Ernie Kucera Orchestra, Al Grebnick Orchestra, Frank Kucera Orchestra, The Czechlanders Orchestra, Moostash Joe Polka Band, Jim Bochnicek Orchestra, Math Sladky Band, The Red Raven Orchestra, Duffy Belhorad Orchestra and other bands.
He started his own band as a Combo in 1973 at the age of 12. By 1976, the band grew to 6 members and is still performing and promoting polka music today. This talented musician plays several instruments: accordion, trumpet, valve trombone, tuba, keyboards, drums and bass guitar. He also arranges most of the music for the band which totals over 400 polkas and waltzes. Mark has to his credit “composed” several tunes: The Mountain Air Polka, Golden Years, Polka, Peaches and Cream Polka, Forever Yours Waltz, Danny’s Laendler, Warm Up Polka, Rosa Jean Polka, Long Live The Music Polka, Hey Ho Polka, Dance With Me Sweetheart Forever Waltz, Sunset Polka, A Little Wish Waltz and The Maryann Polka. The Maryann Polka was selected as the number one song in the country in May, 2000 on Chuck Stastny’s Polka Countdown Radio Show. Mark has also arranged music charts for several bands in Nebraska.
Since 1982, the Mark Vyhlidal Orchestra produced ten recordings that include all of his compositions.
The Mark Vyhlidal Orchestra was selected to perform on the Garrison Keillor “Prarie Home Companion Show” in May, 1993, playing for a live broadcast on National Public Radio with over 1 million listeners. The group was selected by Microsoft For Music on the Travel Page in 1996 and 1997. This talented band was chosen by the Smithsonian Institute that featured four songs on their Folkways National Recording: “Deeper Polka” in 2001.
Mark’s band has performed extensively throughout the Midwest and has traveled to: Texas, Colorado, Ohio, Michigan, Canada and the Grand Polka Festival in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Several polka videos have been made of the Mark Vylidal Orchestra by Big Joe Productions, Joe Cerveny Productions and the latest DVD recording on the “Mollie B Polka Party” recently seen on RFD TV.
Awards include the Ennis, Texas National Polka Festival Recognition of Czech Heritage Award in May, 2003, and Mark was honored and inducted into the Sokol Omaha Polka Hall of Fame in September, 2004.
The PACE Awards are a National Music Award, through Polka America Corporation, recognizing those who release significant recordings in their class in North America. Nominees are selected and voted for by experts in the field, and the public. Voting takes place at the www.bestpolkabands.com website. This is a combination "peer" and "fan" award.
The 2012 PACE Awards winners are:
BEST NEW ORIGINAL SONG
In My Old Polish Town - The Boys
BEST VARIETY ALBUM
Mollie B Christmas Special - Mollie B All-Star Band
BEST GERMAN ALBUM
Servus, Gruezi, und Hallo - Black Forest Band
BEST SLOVENIAN ALBUM
Polka Celebration - Walter Ostanek and Joey Miskuylin
BEST POLISH ALBUM
A New Day - The Boys
Individual awards presentations will be made to the winners by a member of the Polka America Corporation Executive Board. Details to follow.
Congratulations to all the winners and thanks to everyone who contributed to this process, from submitting album names, to promoting the awards, to verifying the results, and most importantly, VOTING. It's now time to get ready for an even larger and more inclusive 4th Annual Polka America Corporation Excellence Awards and we are already working on the 2013 list.
2012 Pace Awards Committee
Here are the nominees of the 2012 Polka America Corporation Excellence Awards. Congratulations to all nominees.
With the permission of all the involved bands, below is a music player that contains all 10 of the nominated songs for "BEST NEW ORIGINAL SONG" namely:
In My Old Polish Town-The Boys
Red Carpet Polka-Alex Meixner
Shake Up The Night-Alex Meixner/John Conchan
Three Ring Circus-Alex Meixner
In This Game Together-New Brass Express
Marylou Polka-Western Senators
Kayla’s Song-Alex Meixner
If You Only Believe-Bud Hyrzyk
Sydney’s Waltz-Western Senators
Polish Prince-Jimmy Sturr
Three Ring Circus-Alex Meixner
Mollie B Christmas Special-Mollie B All Star Band
People Change-Copper Box
Tribute To The Legends of Polka Music-Jimmy Sturr
Here Comes Christmas-Matt Rosinski
This One’s For The Ladies-Western Senators
A World of Music-Walter Procanyn
Czech-American Festival Favorites-Fred Ziwich
It’s Time To Meet The Polka Brothers-The Polka Brothers
A New Day-The Boys
Knewz Flash-The Knewz
In This Game Together-New Brass Express
Office Party-Craig Ebel
It’s A Family Affair-Polka Generations
Jammin’ At The Cabin-Polskie Swingmasters
Family Favorites #4-PFB
Intrigue-Twin City Soundz
Full Spectrum-Mark VI
Polka Celebration-Walter Ostanek/Joey Miskulin
Pint Size Polkas #2-Mike Schneider
If You Only Believe-Bud Hyrczyk
Something For Everyone-Bob Kravos
Carefree Polkas & Waltzes-Walter Ostanek
Sparklin’ Diamonds-Nancy Seibert
Polka Lust-Ron Pivovar
Rainbow of Music-Spetich
Polka Hooty Booty-Alaska Polka Chips
Our 24 Favorite Waltzes-Del Sinchak
In the words of Michael Ferrencz, one of my many facebook friends: "Polka music is soooo dynamic .........those who are not into polka....man....they do not know what they are missing!!!!! There is such a big population out there looking for for a "NEW AND EXCITING" music option.......POLKA MUSIC BABY!!!!!"
This site was created to assist you in your exploration of some of the best polka bands that are and were around. Unlike other sales sites which just present products for sale we are creating an interactive site where you can discover the stories, pictures and music of some of the best polka bands on this planet. Maybe even some videos. Join our mailing list and we will involve you in this interactive process. We will send you music reviews, new product announcements and let you know about happenings in the world of polka. Together we can live the polka experience.
If you are among the best polka bands and are not yet listed here, contact us and lets get you involved with this site. Similarly, if you have a polka event you would like to publicize (no charge) contact us and we will list it for you.
If you would like to order any of the products here and would rather talk to a live person rather than going thru the automated process, or if you have any problems in processing your order please call 905-325-3805. If the phone is not answered immediately we guarantee the call will be returned within 24 hours.
Now, a story from Mollie Busta from Spring 2003 to lift up your spirits about polka in the younger generations:
Hello POLKA Friends!
I just had to write and tell you something that might make you smile. As many of you know, I teach music both privately and in a school. At the school, I started 3 choirs (a swing choir, a show choir, and a women's choir). I've been wanting to share polka music with the kids since I took the position in the school 22 months ago. I now have. One of my students saw me dancing around in my room back in November (It was going to be a 15 hour day in school so I had to turn my music on and dance to keep me going). She thought it was awesome, so I asked her if she would like to learn... and maybe the whole show choir (8th-10th graders). When I danced the polka for them (to a great polka CD), they were very excited to learn how. And now, the whole show choir knows how and will be performing a polka at the next concert. Just now, I walked past the white board and saw written on the board: "I love polka!!!" "So do I!" "we all do " Isn't that great?? They honestly can't wait to have our next rehearsal. They're hooked -- I love it!
They have performed the polka twice at school, even received a standing ovation. After our first performance, I had to order T-shirts for kids (boys and girls) of all ages at our school that said “Peace, Love, and Polka” and “Polka – the dance of the new generation.” The show choir members now have shirts that say “Ms. Busta’s Polka Dancers.” And Gus Guzevich from “Polka Family” sent us “I Love Polka” stickers. The stickers are now in lockers, on instrument cases, on bumpers, on walls. These kids really are enjoying it. We have a bus trip lined up to go to the Minnesota State Fair to watch “Polka Family” on Labor Day. The show choir may even get to dance to them.
SMILE – our music is being passed on to the younger generation! ..................Mollie Busta
Looking for a great gift for the Polka Lover in your life?
More products will be added regularly. If you have any suggestions please email firstname.lastname@example.org .
I don't know much yet about the groups featured in the next video which I linked from youtube:
According to the video the groups are: LADIES: Oberkrainer Polka Madells and GENTLEMEN: Murtal Express
I THINK THE VIDEO AND MUSIC ARE INCREDIBLE - If someone can get me in touch with these groups from Europe I would appreciate it as they certainly are among the best - I have watched the video now maybe 20 times in a row.
I want to thank John Ziobrowski for forwarding this video over to me.
I watched it and was blown away. A 6 year old drummer in a polka band. And a real good one too - just wait till this kid is 10. Buddy Rich and Jean Krupa watch out.
Not only is he extrmely talented but he is having a great time and it shows.
The band is Craig Ebel and Dyversaco. You can find out more about this band at their bestpolkabands page DyVersaCo .
1.The New Direction Polka
2.Little Carol Polka
4.It's Polka Time Somewhere Polka
5.Our Mary Waltz
6.I Go Crazy For You Polka
7.Hard Working Mary Polka
8.Zip Zip Polka
9.Lost My Shoes Polka
10.Only You Oberek
11.Our Breakup Polka
12.Sweetheart I'm In Love With You
13.Wilted Bush Polka
14.Nights Alone Polka
15.Tell Me Waltz
16.My Girlfriend Polka
17.New Caledonia Polka
Mollie B Polka Party CHRISTMAS SPECIAL 2011 DVD + 2 cd set
Shipping Included to US
This special package contains 1 DVD PLUS 2 Audio CD's of the Mollie B Christmas Special taped LIVE at RFD-TV The Theatre in Branson, MO. Features nearly 2 hours of Mollie B singing and playing your Christmas favorites with special guest performers Ted Lange, Fred Ziwich, Alex Meixner, Tuba Dan, Al Piatkowski, Rob Piatkowski, Kyle Mathis, Michael Morris, Deborah Bizon and Dawn Rosinski. This package contains 27 songs on CD PLUS the entire live stage show on DVD!
Alex Meixner is one of the busiest touring performers in the USA today. "Three Ring Circus" displays the current Alex Meixner Band, as well as a few guest artists (including Philadelphia singer/ songwriter- John Conahan and Orkerstar Junaci's Justin Greenwald) in their most dynamic and diverse recording date. From very traditional to all new- contemporary selections, this cd captures a wide range of polka sounds- mixed in with some expected and pleasantly unexpected pop, jazz, latin, country , world folk and other sounds that might defy description. If you've seen a recent show of The Alex Meixner Band you'll already know the good times about to explode through this music... If you haven't this cd is a great introduction!
Nominated for the 2012 Grammy Awards: Best Regional Roots Album
1. Ob-La-Di Polka
2. Go Jimmy Go Polka
3. Just Another Polka
4. Orange Blossom Special Polka
5. Polish Prince
6. Wink Your Eye Polka
7. Cracker Barrel Oberek
8. Polka About A Girl
9. Happy Fiddles Polka
10. Memory Waltz
11. Girls From New Jersey
12. Cheese and Crackers Polka
1.Let Me Play For You & Waltz In A Flat
2. Hi Society Polka
3. Riders In The Sky
4. Two O'Clock Jump
5. You'll Never Walk Alone
6. Good Times Polka
7.I Think You're Terrific Polka
8. Que Rico Mambo
9. El Rancho Grande
11. Polka Face
12. I Want To Dance With You
13. I Betcha Do Polka
14. Paper Doll
15. I Know I'm Gonna Dance
16. Mr. Sax Polka
18. You Made Me Love You
19. At Last
20. Mexacili Rose
21. Peanuts Polka
22. Theme: Let Me Play For You
1. Let Me Play For You (Walt's Theme) 2:18
2. Singing Sax Polka 2:48
3. Night Train 2:24
4. Put Something Back 2:31
5. Cab Driver 3:40
6. I'll Fly Away 2:52
7. Mr Schneider's Polka 2:05
8. Bring Back The Good Old Days 1:54
9. Cherry Pink & Apple Blossom White 2:52
10. We Love To Polka 1:58
11. Caliente 2:39
12. The New Red Raven Polka 3:30
13. Why Was I Born To Love You 3:39
14. Jazz Bo Polka 3:41
15. Columbus Blues Polka 2:19
16. New York Rumble 4:23
17. Let's Dance Polka 1:59
18. At Last 2:59
19. Now Hear This Polka 2:27
20. Shanty Town 3:05
21. In The Groove Polka 2:13
22. I Want A Girl 3:04
23. Let Me Play For You (Walt's Theme) 0:27
DyVersaCo is proud to announce their new recording entitled "Office Party"! Musicians on "Office Party" include: Craig Ebel, Lori Ebel, Gary Jasicki, Mike "Julio" Sariego, and Dana Lindblad. Special guests include: Lorin Ebel (age 1) on the "go's" on Fiddler's, Christopher Ebel (age 6) on the drums on Merka Merka, and Florian Chmielewski, Jr., on the "horse" on Horses, Cows, & Chickens.
Songs include Y'all Come, Green Parrot, Fiddler's, Wanda's, Polka No. 5, Iron Casket Oberek, King of the Beasts, Golden Slippers, My Best Friend, Merka Merka, Jailbird, Polish Lullabye, North, South, East, West, Chocolate Soda, and Horses, Cows & Chickens.
1.If You Only Believe
2.Stepping Up Polka
5.Evening on Lake Bled
8.Hop Scotch Polka
9.I Was Wishing Waltz
10.Riding High Polka
11.Evening Snow Waltz
12.Happy Go Lucky Polka
14.Echo Mountain Polka
16.Take the High Road Polka
17.My Sweet Harmonika
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,” their new CD features five new original tunes, some great cover tunes, and a few good old Polish-style melodies all performed in that familiar “Boys” style. The recording boasts 16 selections in all!
Jimmy Sturr - A Tribute to The Legends of Polka Music
Jimmy Sturr's LATEST RELEASE - In his own words:
"Growing up in the small village of Florida, NY, with a population of 1500 people, about 85 % were Polish. They came from Poland to work on "black dirt" farms, where they raised onions. Our local high school dances were all played by Polka Bands, our local radio station played Polkas every day and of course we had our 3-day Polish Weddings. This is how I fell in love with Polka Music. I never had a favorite, I liked them all. They were my "Legends". I really believe without these pioneers there wouldn't be a Polka Field as it is today. Of course there are many other Legends in the Polka Field, these are just a few. I hope you enjoy this CD and hopefully it will bring back some great memories! - Jimmy Sturr."
Some of the legends Jimmy Sturr pays tribute to on this cd are Frank Wojnarowki, Gene Wisniewski, Ray Henry, The Connecticut Twins, Walt Solek, Larry Chesky, Al Soyka, Bernie Witkowski, Joe Ressetar, Joe Rock and of course Frankie Yankovic.
These are incredible versions of some of the greatest polka songs from these polka artists in the era of the late 40's to mid 60's.
On October 24th, the Jan Lewan Orchestra reunited for their first performance in nearly a decade. In the typical tradition of a family reunion, the orchestra members were excited to get together for this one time concert and homecoming. Many of the musicians had not seen each other for nearly ten years, and this one time only concert afforded them time to renew their acquaintances.
Reviews of the show were fantastic. Here were a few comments from the show:
We just got back from Hazleton, and on the way home Nancy and I were discussing what a worthwhile trip it was. This morning, as we had our breakfast at the hotel, we saw you on the local TV station, as they featured snippets of the show. It was great seeing the guys as well. And your salute to our military was superb!
It's a great thing that you're on your way back!
Please stay in touch...
Wow! what a great show! Mary was talking about it all the way home and was telling her sisters about it this morning. I really enjoyed it too and meeting
again with some of the guys I played with. This should be a great ending to your book. Keep in touch.
Your friend always,
Alan asked me to be sure and email you soon...we both totally loved your concert Sunday night! He wants to bring his mom along (and me as well again ) to your next one, so be sure and let us know.
You are every bit as talented in person as on the DVD's I've watched. You have no idea how good it was to see you in person, doing what you do so well and enjoy so much. We loved the prison rap you did, and could hardly stop laughing with you as you did it! Thanks for just being you. You are truly an inspiration!
Cheryl is so sweet, and she blessed us by telling us how much we meant to you over the time...it was nice sitting near her and her husband also. Thanks for getting us such good seats!
I have some good photos that I'll email you as soon as I get them on my computer. The one of you and me came out especially good.
Are you still working on your book? I was hoping you would have it done so I could buy an autographed copy...don't forget about that, please.
Alan said to be sure and keep us both on your mailing list also...and he suggested you do a concert in Quakertown. I'd like that too!
God bless more and more.
Love and prayers,
The JLO Orchestra throughout the late 80s and 90's were famous for adding a "Big Show Band" type quality to traditional and original Polish Music. They were the band that lead the way performing at many prestigious showrooms throughout the United States and Europe. The springboard for the bands success was their sold out polka weekends at the Mount Airy Lodge Resort in the Poconos during the late 1980s. Much of the success of the Jan Lewan Orchestra is attributed to composer and arranger Stephen Kaminski www.stephenkaminskimusic.com who joined the band on the saxophone shortly after graduating from the Berkeley College of Music in 1987. Stephen has written and produced music for every major television network and continues to receive awards for his compositions. Just recently, Stephen’s orchestral composition, "Ten Emotions - A Tone Poem" was awarded 2nd place at the Washington Metropolitan Philharmonic's Composition Competition. Stephen's talent for composing and arranging music, fused with his Polish heritage made for a winning combination.
The Jan Lewan Orchestra was catapulted into some of the best showrooms in the country. In 1988, the band took polka music to a new level when they performed a combined concert with the Wayne Newton Orchestra at the esteemed Hilton Hotel Showroom in Las Vegas, Nevada. In the years to follow highlights for the orchestra included; combining with the Princeton University Symphony Orchestra for a "Symphony with Polkas" concert at the Avery Fisher Hall at Lincoln Center, New York, A concert with the National Symphony Orchestra of Utica, New York., a concert with the "Radio Warsaw Orchestra" in Warsaw., Poland, performed as the main act in the showrooms of numerous cruise ships, Recorded a weekly television show on the Fox TV broadcast from Scranton,Pa. performed as back up musicians for Bobby Vinton, Al Albert's and the Four Aces, Myron Floren from the Lawrence Welk Show, and many more, entertained literally thousands of people throughout the years at the Trump Taj Mahal Casino in Atlantic City, N.J. where Jan and the orchestra hosted their Polish Festivals, and many other events too numerous to mention. Tremendously popular were Jan Lewan's European Tours. As a Polish native, Jan was able to introduce tour groups to Poland like no one else could. Most groups were afforded the opportunity to meet the former President of Poland, Lech Walesa. Jan’s tour groups to Italy were truly astonishing. Each tour member was treated to a private audience and photo session with Pope John Paul II. A Red Carpet Poland reunion tour is currently scheduled for May 9th – 19th, 2012.
The band made many recordings but their biggest accomplishment was being nominated for a Grammy Award in 1995. The band was moving ahead with many new adventures when tragedy struck. In the early morning of January 26, 2001, the Jan Lewan Orchestra bus was making its way through Dillon, South Carolina en route to Florida when it drifted off the road and struck a concrete bridge. Tommy Karas, Accordion player, and John Stabinsky, Trombonist were killed instantly. Daniel Lewandowski, (son of Jan) trumpet player was seriously injured, and many other musicians suffered broken bones etc. The accident was a horrific tragedy which - combined with financial troubles, led to the demise of the orchestra.
Steve Saive, www.Saivelivemusic.com lead trumpet player with the Lewan Orchestra since 1986 devoted countless hours to this reunion project and when asked about his thoughts he had this to say; The fourteen years I spent on the road with the Jan Lewan Orchestra were undoubtedly the best years of my life. I saw the world and met many people. I was proud to be a part of such an awesome orchestra. We were not only an excellent "Polka" band, but a group of musicians that could perform anything - we really were not much a part of the standard polka circuit. However, we were always the band of choice for the Donald Trump organization for private special event parties at the Taj Mahal Casino because we could play an entire evening of Big Band music. Although the band performed several engagements following the accident, I could not bring myself to be a part of it. The tragedy was too overwhelming for me. I never wanted to play again. It took me years of therapy to cope with the catastrophe we had all experienced. I never had any type of closure with my close friends and fellow musicians. The bond that we had shared throughout countless performances and endless hours on the road made us a family - one which ended abruptly. I am really excited and ready to once again perform with the band, in fact I really can't wait. It's exciting for me to see that there are people out there who feel the same way. Jan and I are having so much fun receiving the ticket orders and reading all of the comments from fans of ours who are just as excited as we are. Each ticket order is accompanied by comments such as "We were with you in Poland and can't wait to see you guys", "We'll never forget our private audience with Pope John Paul II, we are so delighted to have the opportunity to spend one more evening with you.", and the sentiments go on and on. We have mailed tickets to Michigan, Florida, New York, New Jersey, and of course many to our local Pennsylvania fans. According to Jan, each letter brings a "smile to my face and a tear to my eye."
This certainly was reunion to beat all reunions. The Atrium of the Philharmonic center was transformed into an exhibit of literally thousands of pictures and memorabilia from the Jan Lewan Orchestra. At 5:15 there was a special movie presentation of the highlights of the Jan Lewan Orchestra throughout the years. This movie is not the documentary which premiered at all of the film festivals this year and nationally on TruTV. It is a newly produced film of all of the highlights of the orchestra's travels and concerts. Jan's new book, "Suitcase Full of Dreams" is soon ready for publication and there are two Hollywood agencies already talking about a possible full feature movie.
Ania Piwowarczyk from Canada will be performed her classic hits made famous with the Jan Lewan Orchestra as well as several new songs from her newest recording (Life's Too Short) featuring Steve Saive and Stephen Kaminski from the Jan Lewan Orchestra.
Amber Lewandowski, (daughter of Jan) who we all remember as a little girl, is now 17 years old and has developed into a dazzling young lady with tremendous vocal qualities. She performed with her father's orchestra for the first time...a dream she always had but never thought would ever become a reality.
Bill Kuklewicz will be provided accordion accompaniment for dinner. He was the original accordion player for the Jan Lewan Orchestra.
Hank Guzevich of the Polka Family band, long time friend of the Jan Lewan Orchestra was over seeing the sound quality for the concert and recording. Hank performed with Jan during the finale of the concert, a brand new song written by Joe Zalenski entitled "Amigo Polka" This song tells the story of two long lost friends- Jan hired the Polka Family band to Atlantic City when they were living in California and the rest of the story is history. It was at that time when Gus, Hank's father, wanted to relocate his family to northeast Pa. They purchased a home and soon became the most popular polka band on the East Coast.
Daniel Lewandowski (son of Jan) who fought for his life following the accident and spent literally years of recovery made an appearance as well. We all remember him being on stage in the beginning with toy instruments and eventually as a trumpet player with the orchestra. Truth is, he has fully recovered from the accident and is an executive with a major hotel chain.
The entire reunion was captured on video and made available for purchase by John and Jo of Lightning videos. Many of you remember John Koterba who accompanied Jan on every tour and concert throughout a twenty year span making tremendous souvenir videos for everyone. John has continued his career as a videographer and recently won a prestigious award for his talent. Out of 14 nominees, John was voted the "Best Videographer of the Palm Beaches and Treasure Coast 2010." organized by Fox 29 TV of West Palm Beach. His video will make a terrific souvenir for reunion attendees. Don't miss this one and only reunion of the Jan Lewan Orchestra.
You can order the DVD here:
DVD - Jan Lewan and His Orchestra "Reunion Concert" 2010
Videotaped Live on October 24, 2010 at J.J. Ferrara Performing Arts Center, Hazleton, PA
Jan "Lewan" Lewandowski and his original 14-piece orchestra plus many more musicians, Special appearances from Ania Piwowarczyk , Stephen Kaminski – Music Director , Peter Danielczuk – MC and Amber Lewandowski.
This DVD has behind the scene footage and interviews with the Band Members, the total concert and more.
You can find out more about the Jan Lewan Orchestra, see some videos and buy other Jan Lewan cds and dvds at his bestpolkabands band listing by clicking here: Lewan, Jan
Jimmy Sturr 2009 PBS Broadcast DVD - Polka Party
If you are going to purchase only one polka DVD this year, this is the one to get. This is the actual show that was broadcast on most PBS stations in the spring of 2010, taped at Caesar's Windsor Casino in October 2009. Plus $4.50 s/h in US.
This is a double cd which contains all the songs contained in the Jimmy Sturr PBS special which was taped at the Colliseum at Caesar's Windsor Casino in October 2009 and shown on most PBS stations in the spring of 2010. No polka lover should be without this cd!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! $2.50 s/h to the US.
Get both the DVD and CD of the Jimmy Sturr 2009 PBS Special taped in October 2009 at Caesar's Windsor Colliseum and aired on most PBS stations in the spring of 2010. Special price when you get both. $4.50 s/h to US for both.