Adam Nowicki, born on February 6, 1921 in Conshohocken, PA was the oldest of five children. During the Depression the family moved to Trenton, NJ in 1926 with the hopes of finding work. As a student and parishioner of Holy Cross Church, he developed an early love for polish music and Polish radio programs. His father was the first clarinet player in the International Concert Band in Conshohocken, so there was always a clarinet around the house.
“But my first love was for the accordion. One day while my father was teaching me and I was practicing, I laid the clarinet down on the couch and my brother because of his weight broke it into five pieces. Since times were hard, his mother took a part-time job and took him to the only music store in town to purchase a new one. It was a Boehm System clarinet and was made of metal and we paid $2 a week until the instrument was paid for – $25. Because my father was not familiar with the Boehm system, I studied under Andrzej Wrobel who was a concert clarinetist who lived in the neighborhood.”
In the middle 1930’s, the great Bernard Witkowski and his band were playing on radio and making recordings, what a clarinet player he was. He set his sights on trying to imitate him and maybe one day become as great as he was. This guy was Adam’s mentor. They later became close friends and had a great rapport. His greatest dream came true when he performed with him and his band. “As time went on I learned that playing with a dance band I would have to also play the saxophone as well as the flute, for the many arrangements.”
In 1937 he formed his first trio. In 1940, his musical career was put on hold, as he was drafted into the Army, where they noticed he was a musician, and he auditioned for the 100th Infantry Band located in Ft. Jackson, South Carolina. “There were a slew of clarinet players, but to my advantage, a shortage of flute players.” It was his knowledge of a third instrument that assured him a position with the band. That was the beginning of his Army Band career. One of the memorable moments was performing the piccolo solo on “The Stars and Stripes Forever.”
“On occasional 3 day passes, I’d bring my polka records to play along with at the barracks”. His chief Warrant Officer was the leader of the Army band, and he taught me how to arrange and write music and this is how he spend much of his free time. As the War progressed, he was sent to Europe in a fighting division. He performed in many USO Shows with Ingrid Bergman, Jack Benny and Jascha Heifitz. He was asked to be the solo artist on such tunes as the “Clarinet Polka”, “Helena Polka” and “The Beer Barrel Polka,” for which the troops always gave him a standing ovation, (especially the boys of Polish extraction. He was back home and eager to gather up his former band members.
In 1948, his group made a promotional record and was signed by Columbia and through their vast distribution the bands popularity and workload increased. Also in 1948 he married Anne Kuliczowski and have two lovely daughters, who are also very fine musicians in their own right. After four years with the Columbia Label the Adam Nowicki Orchestra recorded for Epic, Rave, Musico, Request, Piknic and others.
Throughout his musical career he has worked with some of the greatest in the polka industry: Bernie Witkowski, Walter Dombkowski, Walt Procanyn, The Connecticut Twins, Jimmy Sturr, Stanky & The Coalminers and Johnny Haas. The only polka album ever recorded by Jimmy Dorsey contains his composition of “Licorice Stick Polka”. He was also a member of the Jan Lewan Orchestra for five years having recorded three albums and taping several television shows. After performing, writing, and teaching for these past 57 years, Adam’s induction into the Polka Music Hall of Fame is long overdue, for his undying efforts and heartfelt enjoyment that he has given to so many others.