David M. Zychowski – Living Category – Inducted 2020

Portfolio Categories: 2020 and Z.

David M. Zychowski was born on October 9, 1953, to John and Catherine Zychowski of Ambridge, PA. His parents met at a Frank Wojnarowski dance in 1949 and later exposed their children to the rise of polka greats such as Li’l Wally, Marion Lush, and Eddie Blazonczyk. It was a given that their two sons, Jan and David, would learn to play polka music.

At the age of six, David began taking saxophone lessons and soon learned the clarinet and trumpet. In 1968, his brother formed the Polka Aires with David and two of his high school friends, Rich Benkowski and Pete Zawosky. Soon they were playing all the clubs and festivals in what was known as the Penn-Ohio polka area. At this time, a major venue was Idora Park in Youngstown, Ohio, run by Polka Hall of Famer Larry Walk, who was a special mentor to the group. Through this friendship, David met Del Sinchak, owner of WAM Records at the time. After the Polka Aires disbanded, David continued to play as a member of many prominent bands such as Ray Jay and The Carousels, The Sounds, The Trel Tones and The Invictas. He was also often sought after to fill in for other polka stars when bands would tour in Western Pennsylvania. David’s most significant accomplishment in the polka industry besides playing on-stage has yet come.

In 1975, Del Sinchak was looking to sell his WAM record company and found an eager buyer in the 22-year-old David. Dave assumed the role of record company Owner, Producer, Distributor, Promoter, and Marketer. He quickly formed a partnership with Polka Hall of Famer Gary Rhamy of Peppermint Studios to leverage his engineering expertise and the modern capabilities of his studio. Dave’s feel for polka music and what people wanted to hear combined with Gary’s creative recording and mixing techniques would create a polka recording legacy second to none. Back when David purchased WAM records, polka bands’ few recording options included recording on record labels in Chicago or on the East Coast. Many of those labels were often owned by high-profile bandleaders who would be competing with client bands for record sales and awards. High recording and production costs at the time prohibited groups from creating and recording on their own label. So, by purchasing WAM Records, David gave these bands a new and independent option that would avail them to state-of-the-art 16-track recording capabilities. WAM Records also provided a central recording location in Ohio that allowed bands to record without significant travel costs and time. David’s mission was to provide polka recordings that were of the highest quality and were in high demand within the polka market.

While he certainly needed A-list talent on his label, he was also keen to secure new and upcoming bands to give their material first-time national exposure. Even though The Dynatones were already featured the WAM label, David went to work immediately and added The New Brass. In 1976, The Dynatones’ Six Million Dollar Band won the IPA Favorite Album. In 1977, The New Brass won IPA Favorite Album and Song with Roll Out the Barrel. Within two years, David established WAM Records as a new force in the polka recording industry. He continued to aggressively sign emerging bands such as The G-Notes, The Brass Connection, The Sounds, The Brass Works, Ray Jay, and the Carousels, The Boys, Stas Golonka, Lenny Gomulka, Toledo Polka Motion, Canadian Fiddlestix, Krew Brothers and The Dynasticks, to name just a few. Many of these bands were recording on other labels but were drawn to David’s WAM label because of its impact on the polka field.

The crown jewel of Dave and WAM Records’ recordings came with Live Wire by The Dynatones. Knowing the presence, the band could generate on stage, Dave focused on capturing the energy in the recording. Working with Gary Rhamy, they were able to synergize the live magic of Scrubby’s personality interacting with the audience and their incredible reaction to the music of the band. It was also Dave’s idea to layer Scrubby’s antics and crowd participation on Zosia from Livewire into The Dynatones’ segment of The Sounds’ Up In The Attic Once Again Medley. With Dave’s insight and Gary’s technical expertise together, they seamlessly fused the two different recordings creating an amazing, innovative listening experience.

In the late 1980s, David received an offer he could not refuse from WRS records to buy the WAM label. This would relieve him from the record distribution responsibilities, but as a testament to the value, he brought as a producer and talent evaluator, Ron Shafer of WRS Records kept him on as the producer of all Polish polka recordings for his label. A producer’s role is not always understood, but its value to the final quality of a recording is paramount. David’s responsibility included reviewing the songs bands planned to record, suggesting material deletions and additions, mentoring bands needing direction, and sometimes delivering the tough message that a group’s performance wasn’t up to the required quality standards. In the case of the latter, Dave would afford the band the opportunity for additional rehearsals before recording, patiently allow musicians to recut tracks, or invite other artists to participate in the session to ensure the best possible final product. For the A-list bands, David would become more of a coach by suggesting embellishments to an arrangement or an individual’s performance to coax the very best out of the artist. Thanks to his roots in polka music and his instincts as to what “sounded good,” David helped polka bands create some of the finest recordings over decades.

Dave exited his producing responsibilities for WRS in 2003, but his legacy continues now and into the future. He was responsible for recording over 100 albums, several of which received Grammy nominations, and many won IPA ad USPA favorite album and song awards. Equally important, David provided the opportunity for so many bands across the country, both new and established, to capture their sounds and songs in truly high-quality products. For nearly 30 years, David’s producing direction and Gary’s Rhamy’s engineering expertise maximized bands’ musical talents in the studio, creating memorable recordings. Their efforts fostered emerging talent in one decade to become the top-shelf talent of the next. Countless polka artists are grateful that their successful careers bear the fingerprints of Dave Zychowski.

 

Instruments played: Clarinet, Saxophone, Trumpet

Bands of which Dave Zychowski was a member (1968 – Present):

Band, Instruments

Polka Aires* Clarinet &saxophone

Ray Jay & the Carousels* Clarinet, saxophone, trumpet

Invictas Clarinet, saxophone, trumpet

Sounds Clarinet, saxophone, trumpet

Trel Tones* Clarinet, saxophone, trumpet

Party Time* Clarinet,saxophone, trumpet

*David has also performed on these group’s recordings as a band member.

Years Played 1968-1974

1974 -1976,1979-1984,1995-1998 1977 & 1978,1985, 2002-2008

Bands with whom Dave Zychowski played full jobs (1974 – Present):

Band Instruments Played

Casey Siewierski Clarinet, saxophone, trumpet

Charlie Tansek & Chicago Tradition Clarinet, saxophone, trumpet

Happy Polka Richie Clarinet, saxophone, trumpet

Li’l Wally Clarinet, saxophone, trumpet

Lenny Gomulka & The Chicago Push Clarinet, saxophone, trumpet

Marion Lush Clarinet, saxophone, trumpet

Polka Jets Clarinet, saxophone, trumpet

Stas Golonka & The Chicago Masters Clarinet, saxophone, trumpet

Stephanie Clarinet, saxophone, trumpet

Wanda & Stephanie Clarinet, saxophone, trumpet

Dave Zychowski’s history as record producer (1975 – Present):

Probably the most significant contribution that David Zychowski is known for in the polka industry is that of the owner of WAM Records (1975 – 1985), as he produced and assisted IPA Hall of Famer, Gary Rhamy, with engineering a very popular polka music sound. He continued to do the same at Peppermint Studios from 1985 – 1995 after selling WAM Records to Ron Shaffer, owner of WRS Records. It is interesting to note the following from IPA Hall of Famer, Hank Guzevich’s IPA biography:

“The first polka album he recorded was “All In a Day’s Work.” By 2007 Hank had recorded over 50 polka albums and received 8 Grammy nominations. Hank recalls being at Seven Springs in 1986 and meeting Dave Zychowski and Gary Rhamy, who greatly influenced him in the producing and engineering part of the business.”

WAM Records made history in 1982 with the first-ever live polka recording, which featured Buffalo’s Dynatones entitled, “Live Wire.” Produced and engineered solely by Dave Zychowski and Gary Rhamy. his album set a precedent for all future live polka recordings. The recordings that Dave Zychowski and Gary Rhamy produced at Peppermint Studios in Youngstown, Ohio, have garnered “Album of the Year” awards from the International Polka Association and the United States Polka Association.

During the recording process, many of the bands wrote original songs for their WAM albums, which David published under his newly-formed “Zy-Da Publishing” company.

In the late 1970s, as WAM Records was recording quite a few of the major Buffalo, New York bands of the day (Dynatones, G-Notes, Krew Brothers, Modernaires), Dave held two “WAM Polka Days” in Buffalo featuring these bands. As a resident of the Pittsburgh area, he held two of these in that area featuring WAM bands as well.

Following is a list of the majority of the recordings that Dave Zychowski produced and assisted with engineering for WAM Records, WRS Records and Trel Records from 1975 – 2003:

ASTROS Polkas With a Blast WAM4033

BRASS WORKS Living & Loving Polkas WAM4066

Bruno Mikos & The Harmony Stars: Old Country Polish Polkas WRS 20080

Bud Hundenski & the Corsairs Power Packed Polkas WAM 4071

Bud Hundenski & the Corsairs Polkas of Distinction WRS 20083

Happy Richie’s Polka Band: Happy Richie’s Polka Band WRS 20084

Harmony Tones Over the Rainbow WAM 4056

Heavy Chicago Mighty Heavy Polkas WAM 4025

Henny & the Versa J’s Home Style Polkas WAM 5061

Canadian Fiddlestix Half Na Pol WRS 20040

Canadian Fiddlestix Only the Beginning WRS 20036

Canadian Fiddlestix Blazing Fiddles WAM 4068

Canadian Fiddlestix Under the Influence of Polkas WRS 20048

Canadian Fiddlestix Polka Workout WRS 20081

Holy Toledo Prosze Pana WAM 4045

Joe Oberaitis Pan Josef Meets the Polish Fiddler WAM 4047

Johnny Bogus & the Melody Kings Presents the Special One WAM 4019

Judy and her Suchy Brothers Polka The Sky’s the Limit WAM 4041

Krew Brothers Yes We Are All Brothers WAM 4037

Detroit Polka Authority If I Had a Wish WRS 20062

Dynasticks Back on Track WRS 20100

Lenny Gomulka & The Chicago Push Where Were You Back Then? WRS 20110

Lenny Gomulka & The Chicago Push Join the Polka Generation WRS 20092

Lenny Gomulka & The Chicago Push For Old Times Sake

Lenny Gomulka & The Chicago Push Home Is Where the Heart Is

Lenny Gomulka & The Chicago Push Irrisistable You

Lenny Gomulka & The Chicago Push Lenny “Live” (co-produced)

Dynatones Just A Little Bit More WAM 4016

Dynatones We Like Polka Music WAM 4023

Dynatones Buffalo Is a Polka Town WAM 4027

Dynatones Six Million Dollar Band WAM 4032

Dynatones Down at the Friendly Tavern WAM 4039

Dynatones Live Wire

Dynatones Chapter VII WRS 20050

Dynatones Live Wire II WRS 20086

Dynatones When the Band Plays a Polka WRS 20105

Dynatones Vintage Dynatones WRS 2808

Magitones Made In New York WAM 4063

Energy Get Energized WRS 20115

E Z Tones Coming Your Way Soon WAM 5060

E Z Tones Turn It Up WRS 20089

E Z Tones Second Time Around WRS 20070

Freddy K Band Polka With Me WRS 20117

Mark Janson and The Brass Express Brass Expressions WRS 20099

Mark Janson and The Brass Express Turning Point WRS 20126

Mark Janson and The Brass Express When We’re 64 WRS 20108

Mark Janson and The Brass Express 15th Anniversary WRS 2804

Mass Brass Coming Your Way Soon WRS 20101

Modernaires Live On Stage WAM 4028

New Brass Rolls Out the Barrel WAM 4035

New Brass Solid Brass WAM 4051

New Brass Brass Magic WAM 20057

G-Notes At Last WAM 4029

G-Notes Encore WAM 4034

New Tradition A Matter of Time

Peppermint Stix Swing Along With the Peppermint Stix WAM 4024

Polish Friends Just Between Friends WAM 4054

Polish Friends We’ll Sing for You WAM 4065

Polka Barons We’re Here to Stay WAM 4022

Polka Country Musicians Fiddlin’ Man WRS 20095

Polka Country Musicians Polka Country’s In Town WRS 20122

Polka Dots Going Places WAM 4046

Polka Happiness Polka Happiness WAM

Polka Jets Pride of the Jets WAM 4008

Polka Jets Sing-N-Swing WAM 4012

Polka Jets Polka Fans and Polka Jets WAM 4021

Polka Jets Polka Fun for Everyone WAM 4030

Polka Tones Polkas With Steam WAM 4020

Polka Towners Polska Zabawa (Polish Party) WAM 4038

Ray Jay and the Carousels Polka Showcase WRS 20026

Ray Jay and the Carousels Put on Your Dancing Shoes WAM 4069

Ray Jay and the Carousels Party Time WRS 20072

Ray Jay and the Carousels Polkas From the Heart WRS 20088

Ray Jay and the Carousels Seems Like Old Times WRS 2809

Stas Golonka Hooked on Honky WRS 20082

Stas Golonka King of Honky WRS 20096

The Boys Boys Night Out WRS 20091

The Boys Boys Will Be Boys WRS 20102

The Brass Connection TBC III WAM 4059

The Brass Connection New Vintage In Polkas WAM 4049

The Brass Connection A Winning Combination WRS

The Brass Connection Down Through the Years WRS 2807

The Pole Cats Introducing the Pole Cats WAM 4031

The Sounds Sounds Like Old Times WAM 4058

The Sounds Polka Music That Sounds Good WRS 20044

The Sounds Soundsational Polkas WRS 20087

The Sounds Sounds From A Polka Party WRS 20090

The Sounds Alive WRS 20097

The Sounds Sounds From the Heart WRS 20104

The Sounds Great Polka Hits

The Sounds Polka Night Life

The Sounds Open Up Your Heart and Let the Sounds Come In WAM4052

This-N-That A Little of This N A Little of That WRS 20093

Toledo Polkamotion Party All Night WRS 20116

Trel Tones Celebrating 25 Years WAM 4055

Trel Tones Polka Encounters of a Honky Kind WAM 4043

Trel Tones Polka Extravaganza Trel Records

Trel Tones 2005 Pittsburgh Steeler Super Bowl Fight Song Trel Records

Uniontown Cavaliers Beers & Cheers WAM 4018

Vinny and the New Soundz Soundz New

Various A WRS Christmas

Various A WRS Polish Christmas 2

Various WRS presents A Very Merry Polka Christmas