Walt Solek got his first break with the “Krakowska” orchestra organized by his brother Henry. In 1939 after recording with them on the RCA Victor label, he organized his own polka band mixing good polka music and good comedy. In 1940 Uncle Sam called him into the Navy and got the first Sailor who could sing “Anchors Aweigh” in Polish. After his hitch in the service the band regrouped and cut “Julida Polka” on Columbia records.
The hit vaulted him right to the top of the polka world. The band was booked into dance halls all over the eastern states, billed as the “Polish Spike Jones”. He followed with hits like “Pierogi Polka”, “Green Parrot”, “Coal Miners Polka”, and “They’re Always In The Way”. When the bottom fell out of the polka business in the 50’s his band made the switch to cutting records with English lyrics. A new hit “Who Stole The Keeshka” resulted. In his 35 years in the business Walt Solek recorded for Columbia, Harmonia, Dana, Reprise, Starr, and Rex Records.
When asked about the greatest places he ever appeared, he replied that the band drew their biggest crowds at Lakeside and Lakewood Ballrooms in Barnesville, Pennsylvania numbering over 3,000,000 polka lovers.
“When rock and roll came on the scene, the kids forgot all about polkas” Solek stated, but was quick to add: “Polka music is now on the way back stronger than ever.” He pointed out that disc jockeys who run polka programs must play more tunes with English lyrics. Walt has been a D.J. at WMMW in Meriden, Connecticut since 1947. “Youngsters doing the polka today do not have knowledge of foreign languages, so give them what they understand,” Solek said.
Walt Solek was often been called “The Clown Prince of Polkas”. He wore funny get-ups when he performed and was a talented, creative big-hearted man. He filled more sad hearts with joy and laughter, even at the expense of sometimes being ridiculed by a minority of pompous people.
Walt lived at home with his wife, Marilyn, and son, Joe, the drummer in his dad’s orchestra. They also had a son, Tom, and a daughter, Anita, both married.
He has passed away.