2023 Leon Kozicki Trustees Award Winner: Rich Zebrowski

2023 Leon Kozicki Trustees Award Winner: Rich Zebrowski

Richie Zebrowski was born into a family deeply immersed in Polish tradition and polka music. His father, IPA Hall Of Fame inductee A.W. Zebrowski, a nationally known polka promoter, musician, and disc jockey in Cleveland Ohio, ensured that the entire family was raised knowing their heritage.

As might be expected, he eventually started to play and sing the music he loved and had been surrounded by. At age six, he began playing the accordion and drums. As a young child, he had the fortune of sitting in with local Cleveland area bands and national polka legends such as Frank Wojnarowski, Joe Oberaitis, and Wanda & Stephanie.

On New Year’s Eve 1976, he played his first polka job as a full time member of his first band, The Grand Masters. Even though he had not played bass before that night, with some luck, a rented guitar and a need for a bass player, he did. From that night on he has played and sung polka music at every opportunity. His desire to continue performing Polka music lead him and lifelong friend Ray Budzilek Jr. to later put together a new band called The Dynasounds. During the next few years, he played with other local Cleveland area bands and then with Bruno Mikos & The Harmony Stars, and later Jimmy Weber & The Sounds. It was during this time that he learned to play the concertina, guitar and keyboard

In 1983 Richie resigned from The Sounds and enlisted in the United States Marine Corps. Upon discharge from active duty, he picked up right where he left off musically and began playing polka music again. It was then that he joined The Brass Connection. Since that time with TBC, he has also been a full-time member of The Trel-Tones, Henny & The Versa J’s, The NuTones, and Lenny Gomulka and Chicago Push.

During his music career, he has performed with some of polka music’s greatest individuals and bands, including; The Ray Budzilek Orchestra, Eddie Blazonczyk and The Versatones, Scrubby and The Dynatones, The Knewz, The Boys, Jan Cyman, Stas Golanka and His Chicago Masters, Fred Bulinski, Ray Jay and The Carousels, Alvin Styczynski, Buffalo Concertina All Stars, The Burgh Boys, Lil John’s ATM Band, Polka Family, Polka Country Musicians, Jersey Polka Richie, Jimmy K, Dynasonics, Bud Hundenski, John Gora and Gorale, New Brass Express, Marion Lush, and Lil Wally. He also appeared and performed in a live theatre production of “Evelyn And The Polka King” with polka music by Bob Lucas and Carl Finch of Brave Combo.

Richie’s recordings and original compositions include studio and live sessions with The Dynasounds, Bruno Mikos, The Sounds, The Brass Connection, The Trel-Tones, energy, Ray Jay, The Versa J’s, Party Time, The NuTones, “Honky Heaven,” and again most recently Lenny Gomulka and Chicago Push.

Richie is currently performing with The NuTones and touring with Lenny Gomulka and Chicago Push, He continues to promote and contribute to the preservation of polka music as an IPA Director, entertainer, sound man, emcee, and promoter hosting polka dances and festivals. The holidays are also times when he volunteers at various locations performing songs of the season. He has donated his time and use of his pa sound equipment, helping to mentor and support young polka musicians in new youth polka bands and the ProAm Jam at various polka conventions.

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