Interview with Stas Golonka – Hall of Famer and Bandleader
By: Christy Krawisz
IPA: Please tell me about your family ~ Your parents, your siblings, your wife, children and Grandchildren
Stas: I was born in a primarily Polish neighborhood on the West Side of Chicago. I lived with my parents and two sisters and music was always an important part of our house. My wife Sue and I have been married for fifty-two years and we have two children, Allan and Michelle. Our son-in-law is Bob, and we have three granddaughters of which we are most proud; Olivia, Madeline, and Faith.
IPA: What age did you start playing an instrument(s) and what were they? (if more than one)
Stas: I started playing music in my early teens, like a lot of guys in my neighborhood. I started out playing the accordion and then stuck with playing the drums the rest of my career. I always enjoyed singing and have been doing that for as long as I can remember. I used to sing along to the Polish music my mother played in our house growing up.
IPA: What made you decide to play Polkas?
Stas: My family was Polish, and we were very proud of that. I also grew up in a neighborhood where playing music is what all the “cool guys” did.
IPA: What bands have you played in?
Stas: When I was a teenager a lot of guys just played jam sessions in pick-up bands for fun. My first band was “Stas Golonka and the Polka Diamonds”. I am most known for my band “Stas Golonka and the Chicago Masters”, which lasted more than fifty years.
IPA: Who did/do you admire musically? Polkas and non polkas.
Stas: I have always admired the music of Elvis Presley, Dean Martin, Engelbert Humperdinck, Freddie Fender, and the Everly Brothers. I also am a big classic country music fan, such as Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, and Charlie Pride.
IPA: What was your most memorable moment on stage? What Year? What Town? And why?
Stas: Dyngus Day Festival, in the Old Train Station in Buffalo, New York. Myself, Marion Lush, and The Krew Brothers were the headliners. There were thousands of people enjoying our music and the Dyngus Day excitement. It was probably in the early to mid-1980s.
IPA: What was the biggest job you ever played? What band was it? How many people do you think were there?
Stas: The job I talked about above, at the Dyngus Day Festival, was probably the biggest crowd I have ever entertained. It was a great day and I enjoyed having my band, “The Chicago Masters”, share the stage with Lush and The Krew Brothers. I also played at “The Car and Driver Magazine” Convention in Chicago. It was at “The John Hancock Building” on the 95th Floor and quite a fancy affair. Perhaps one of the greatest and most historic jobs was at the original “Taste of Chicago” on Navy Pier, ran by Mayor Jane Byrne. It is there that I met one of my music icons, Freddie Fender, who was also a headliner that day!
IPA: How do you think we can keep the music we all love so much going for years to come?
Stas: I think it is important that we honor the past musicians that did such great things and created such great music, while at the same time be open and excited about the new musicians and sounds of today. Listening and sharing music through all forms of media is the best way to keep Polka music relevant and alive for next generations. It is especially important that we pass down Polish culture, traditions, and music to our families, because they are the ones that will carry our legacy and love of our Polish heritage into the future.
IPA: How do you think we can get more people interested in being a member of the IPA? Or interested in polkas in general?
Stas: I think it would be a good idea for the IPA to explore new groups or outings to sponsor or be a part of; such as charitable events, walks/runs, or community festivals that a wide variety of people attend. Music and dancing at such events may interest people, that are not necessarily Polish or know anything about Polka music, but that may enjoy the music and then want to attend other events. Especially outdoor activities where a lot of young people gather and socialize.
IPA: Stas, is there anything else you would like to add? You can say anything you would like.
I have enjoyed entertaining people for over sixty years and I am most grateful for all the wonderful people that Polka music has brought into my life… “Forget Me Never”.
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