Wanda S. Pietrzak was a singer who achieved national acclaim in polka music’s only mother and daughter team, “Wanda and Stephanie.”
As half of “Wanda and Stephanie”, known as “American’s Polka Sweethearts,” she recorded many albums. She scored a #1 polka hit in 1971 with a song she wrote, “Lover Oh Lover.”
Wanda Koziol was born in Lackawanna, New York and was raised in Chicago in the musical family of Frank and Stephanie Koziol. Wanda developed her love for Polka music as a child listening to her mother sing. In the ’50s Wanda and her mother sang and played at parties. Wanda was a versatile and various instruments such as the accordion, piano and bass.
Wanda and her family then moved to Buffalo, New York where she met her husband, Henry Pietrzak, then daughter Stephanie was born and showed the same musical talent. Wanda taught her how to play the accordion. Stephanie then taught herself the concertina and eventually her father developed the “Wanda and Stephanie Show”. This mother and daughter team soon became the “Golden Stars”. and were named “The Newest Sensation Throughout the Nation” and “America’s Polka Sweethearts.”
Their big break came when they were discovered by polka star Marion Lush at the Hearthstone Manor in Depew, New York during the 1967 International Polka Festival.
Proponents of the honky Chicago polka style, they soon became part of the contingent of the top Chicago bands that included: Marion Lush, Eddie Blazonczyk and Li’l Wally. They recorded their first album with Blazonczyk in Chicago on Bel-Aire records. There after many albums followed.
The first hit was a song Wanda wrote called “Come Back My Johnny”, and they had a number of polka hits that Wanda wrote after the success of “Lover Oh Lover,” such as “Kiss Me Sweetheart,” “My Polish Lover,” “Knock Knock,” “I’ll Be Back,” and the list goes on. Through the years she wrote a lot of great songs with Stephanie.
Wanda twice was honored as Best Female Vocalist by International Polka Association in Chicago. Throughout the years she received many awards, citations and plaques for their songs and entertainment.
Wanda was a bandleader, singer, songwriter, composer and entertainer for over 30 years. She knew how to get a seated crowd standing IO deep in front of the stage. Wanda always loved the performing end of the business. She was always out-going to her fans and loved being with the crowd, getting them involved in the music.
They toured extensively across the United States and Canada playing the largest ballrooms, polka conventions and festivals. They performed on numerous radio and television broadcasts and were featured entertainers on Caribbean cruises. They shared the stage with Bobby Vinton many times at Melody Fair in North Tonawanda, New York. Their outstanding talent was the topic of Buffalo’s leading new publication when it headlined “Wanda and Stephanie” on the cover and centerfold.
Wanda gave her last performance two weeks before she died suddenly on March 2, 1996.
Although this award was to honor Wanda it is impossible to separate the “Wanda and Stephanie” team in the mind of polka lovers. Wanda will always be remembered and loved for her songs, entertainment and great love of Polka music. The happiness she brought to the Polish Music lovers is Legendary, and will live on always.