Don Lucki – Living Category – Inducted 2002

Portfolio Categories: 2002 and L.

Don Lucki

 

Don Lucki was born July 18, 1933 to Michael and Janet Lucki.  Don’s polka career started as a teenager with the original Li’l Wally Orchestra.  The ensemble consisted of Li’l Wally on the drums & vocals, Eddie Noga on clarinet & alto sax, Casey Siewierski on concertina & Don Lucki on trumpet.  They were playing in excess of 300 dates per year.

 

During those years Don recorded such classic hits with Li’l Wally as “Lucky Stop Waltz”, “Going Ahead Polka”, “Merka Merka Polka” and “Leaving for the Service Polka”.  In fact, they recorded the band’s first four 78 RPM sides in Don’s parents house with one microphone hanging from the living room chandelier over Wally’s drum in front of his face so that he could sing, as the other three musicians formed a circle around Wally playing at the mike.  The memories of those days still mean a lot to Don.  The “tape recorder” itself was a brand new technology that Wally had bought so that they could make their own recordings.  Now, it doesn’t sound like such a big deal but at the time it was mind boggling that you could do that and that there was such a tool.  It was a Revere tape recorder, mono of course, that was die cast so that only a 5 inch reel could be used on it.  This was truly an integral part of polka history.

 

Don’s magical trumpet sound was the next heard with the Naturals.  The players all had a young spirit and the music just flowed marvelously with a whole new feel and sound.  The fantastic rhythm section of Eddie “Whitney” Pawola on drums, Chester Kowalczyk on Bass, the crisp clean exacting sax and clarinet work of Casey Samczyk and Eddie Swiderski, the solid even accordion bellow shake and chordal structures laid down by Joe Swiderski, all under the leadership of a young trumpet player by the name of Don Lucki.  The sound was just fantastic.  Two 78 rpm records on Al Michel’s Polka Artist label were put only out by the band and later released on Li’l Wally’s Jay Jay label as both 78 rpm and 45 rpm records.

 

The first long play album was released September 1, 1957 on Chet Schaffer’s Chicago polka label.  Under Don’s tenure as leader of the Naturals two great L.P. albums were recorded and released on Chet Gulinski’s Ridegemoor polka label and two more released on Ampol Records.  Don in his own right has proven himself to be a master arranger in both the Polka and Pop music venues.  The Naturals appeared regularly on the Ron Terry Polka TV Show.  The band made numerous radio appearances on both Chet Gulinski’s live weekly radio remote broadcasts as well as on Chet Schaffer’s.  Lucki also produced his own polka radio show “The Polka Bandstand” heard for many years on WTAQ in LaGrange, IL.

 

In reviewing the Polka Guide Magazine, which was published in the early 1960’s, Don Lucki’s name can be found whenever there was a gathering of the leaders of the Polka Bands.  Also during this time period Don was a member of the very elite assemblage of polka musicians, “The Polka All Stars”.  This ensemble made 5 significant LP recordings that continue to stand the test of time.

 

Don’s early experiences on radio influenced major career choices in his life.  He attended and graduated Suma cum Laude from Columbia College, School of Broadcasting with a Bachelor’s degree in Speech and the Communication Arts.  By the year 1966 Don had honed his broadcasting in such a degree of proficiency that he was offered the position of Personality host of the legendary “Nightwatch” show from midnight to 6am on Chicago’s top radio station WIND.  This major career opportunity resulted in Don giving up his band “The Naturals” which was probably the hardest thing he ever had to do.

 

Don recorded so many other significant polka albums, 45s and 78s.  On almost all of them he was the arranger and trumpet player and sometimes even vocalist as well.  He recorded with Casey Siewierski, Li’l Richard Towalski, Joe Walega, Don Jodlowski just to mention a few.  He has played with Lou Prohut (of TV Fame), Steve Adamczyk, Johnny Bomba, Mattie Madura, Eddie Zima, Marion Lush, the High-Notes, Joe Pat, Wesoly Stas, Casey Homel, Leon Kozicki, Gene Mikrut, George Stevens and many others.

 

As a DJ and polka promoter, he played polkas on many of Chicago’s Polka & Pop radio stations over the last 40 years.  Don also taught Advanced Broadcasting Classes at Columbia College for six years while The Don Lucki Show on Satellite Music Network, SMN, was being heard live, simultaneously on 150 stations across the U.S., Hawaiian Islands, Bermuda, The Virgin Islands and Anchorage Alaska.

 

Don gave of himself to enhance and preserve Polkas. Now deceased, he is classified as a giant in the Polka industry.