The words Polka Music and Johnny Haas are synonymous. It is rare that one is said without the other, for this man of worldwide fame was polka. But let’s find out more about this legend.
Johnny Haas said he was half-Polish and half-Pennsylvania Dutch, and he used his background to its best advantage. Having been bitten by the “Music Bug” at an early age. Haas began playing the drums at age 9. As he grew older, he joined several bands in the Philadelphia area. But feeling the need to go further, he started his own band in 1949. Haas made sure that his musical library consisted of both the top tunes of the day as well as the old favorites, and was always aware of what tunes received the best response. He found that the Polkas were favored and thus, The Johnny Haas Polka Band was born.
In 1955, perhaps the most significant event of Haas’ life, both personally and professionally, occurred with his marriage to Ann Lebid, of Coatesville. Johnny had a warm smile when talked of his “bride” and attributed much of his success to Ann. Together they worked to overcome many of the difficulties and lonely times that some musicians and their families experience. When she couldn’t be with him, Ann kept the home fires burning while Johnny was on the road.
Two children, RoseMarie and Ronald came from Johnny and Ann’s marriage. And, of course, the real star of Johnny’s life was his grandson, Nicholas.
Just as Johnny Haas’ family grew, so did his band’s popularity and the diversity of its bookings. Gradually, The Johnny Haas Polka Band was beginning to travel outside of the local area and was being booked with many of the other big name bands. Haas found these dates to be both enjoyable and competitive.
These varied band dates led Haas into another interesting arena. In 1968, he and Leon Fornel joined together and began promoting polka weekends. using the Haddonfield Ice House as their first hall, the “Cherry Hill Polka Spree” was the first of many weekends. From there, they were signed as the first event to take place in the Wildwood Convention Center with their “Polka Spree By The Sea” weekend. Many more followed, including Polkabration, Polkamotion, Seven Springs, Erie Polka Days, and most importantly (because he is the hometown boy) the Sunnybrook Polka Spree.
An individual, known to all as “Happy Louie,” was instrumental in helping Johnny Haas spread his talents internationally. When invited to go with Happy Louie to Poland, Johnny’s first reaction was “No.” But in thinking about it, and discussing it with the family, he and Ann decided to go. This first trip led on to four others to Poland. The World Polka Fest made Haas a Polka Ambassador.
In 1972, Johnny and Ann Haas, and their friend Josephine Delicat, began giving polka dancing lessons at Sunnybrook Country Club, in their hometown of Pottstown, Pennsylvania. Johnny’s “Polka Explosion” woke up the people of southeastern Pennsylvania to the marvelous polka dances. Sometimes 50 to 100 or more people attended the dance classes, and Johnny relished the friendships he gained from this area of his career.
He has passed away, mourned by his any fans.