Wesoły Stas was born Stanley Joseph Lyskawa in Chicago on March 15, 1920, to immigrant Polish parents. He grew up in the Back of the Yards community and attended St. John of God, St. Joseph, St. Casimer and St. Pancratius grade schools. He went on to graduate from Kelly High School, where he met his future wife, Irene Majewski. After marrying in July of 1945, they resided in Chicago’s Brighton Park area where they raised their three children.
Stanley had a good ear for music. At the early age of nine, he taught himself to play on a small button accordion. But it was in high school that his interest turned to drums. With drumsticks in hand, a self instruction book and help from the high school band director, he began his career.
Before long, Stanley was called upon by various bands to play at weddings, parties and dances. In the 1940s, he was a drummer and vocalist with the Joe Pat Band. With this experience he started his own band—Wesoły Stas [Polish for Jolly Stan], a name bestowed upon him by many of his followers who enjoyed his jovial spirit.
Throughout the years, Stas incorporated various gimmicks, gags and humor along with his music to the enthusiastic approval of his audiences. Who could forget those flashing blue Mars lights and police siren attached to his drums going off at various times to get the people motivated. Stas loved entertaining the large crowds that followed him. He was often referred to as the Polish Spike Jones, the Polish Mitch Miller, the Polish Red Skelton, on which many of his antics were based.
Wesoły Stas was always proud of the many places his band performed, such as Polonia Grove, Club Mono, Aragon, Trianon, just to name a few. Throughout the years, he and his band were heard on various radio stations, WLEY, WBEZ, WOPA, WTAQ, WJOD, WGN and WLS. He also frequently appeared on the Ron Terry TV Show (WGN-TV), the Polka Party (WCIU-TV) and the Pic-A-Polka TV show (WGR-TV) in Buffalo, N.Y.
His band performed in New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Ohio and Nebraska with numerous engagements in Michigan, Wisconsin and Indiana, as well as the Chicagoland area.
Stas fondly remembered being presented with the 1977 Mr. Personality tribute award in Chicago. However, the highlight of his life was in Omaha, Nebraska, where he was proclaimed and inaugurated as the Nation’s Polka President. He received a flag that was flown over the White House in Washington in his honor.
Wesoły Stas made many recordings on Chet Schafer’s Chicago Records. His “Sing Along With Stas” albums and CDs were extremely popular, as were his “Happy Birthday” polka and “Do You Remember” song. He composed many of the songs.
Stas was a natural born comic and appeared in several productions of the popular Chet Schafer stage shows and skits along with Zosia (Helen Dudek).
Stas’ greatest supporter and fan was his wife, Irene. In all of their 57 years of marriage she either accompanied him on his gigs or kept up the home front. Stas usually ended his performances singing “Goodnight Irene” to her. Unfortunately, Stan (82) and Irene (81) were killed after being hit by a SUV as they crossed a street together on the southwest side of Chicago in September, 2002. They passed on within hours of each other.