An Interview With Fred Bulinski


by Christy Krawisz, Editor of the IPA Newsletter
Reprinted from the IPA Newsletter with the Editor’s Permission

IPA: Please tell me about your family

Fred: I am married to the love of my life and best friend, Marsha. We have been married for just over 43 years and I still feel as though we are on our first date. We have one daughter, Karen. She is married and has two sons; Zachary age 6 and Jacob age 2. Karen, her husband, Scott, and our two grandsons are now the focus of our lives. We actually get withdrawal pains when we do not see the kids for awhile.

IPA: What age did you start playing instruments and what were they?

Fred: It was so long ago that I cannot remember exactly when I started lessons, but I think I was 8 years old. Our parish, St Stan’s in Niagara Falls, New York, had a drum and bugle corps and would play for all the feast days, holidays and communions. I saw the band marching around the church and begged my parents for lessons. I started out on a very old used trumpet that was dented up pretty badly. Soon however, my father found another newer “used” horn. I remember this one because it cost a lot of money ( $15.). Well back then that was a lot of money.

IPA: What made you decide to play Polkas?

Fred: I always listened to the radio, Stan “Stas” Jasinski on the Buffalo stations. By the way, Stan is in the IPA Hall of Fame. The music was motivating. But, I think what really pushed me over the top was when Li’l Wally and Marion Lush came to town. The entire family would go. My mother taught me how to dance the Polka and I enjoyed the music, the crowd and of course dancing. It was about 1962, when I got my first call to play a gig. One of the local bands needed a horn player. My instructor gave my name to the bandleader, not so much because I was a good player, but more so because I could read music really well and I could transpose from the “C” sheets on sight. Well, that worked out well because most of the bands back then only had accordion sheets and everyone else had to either write out their own parts or transpose off of the “Box” man’s music.

IPA: What bands have you played in?

Fred: I played with a few bands in Niagara Falls and when I was 15 I formed my first band, a four piece group called the Gorale. Everyone called us the gorillas .. I didn’t understand why. I played with some of the better known Buffalo bands, like the G-Notes and Wanda and Stephanie. But, when I returned home after serving four years in the army, I hooked up with the Jumping Jacks. This was the best band ever. Eddie Grabski and Bobby Nowicki really taught well, especially about how to run a band.

IPA: Please tell me about your “Favorite” or “Best” job you played.

Fred: I guess the most memorable gig was 1980 in Ocean City, Maryland. It was the opening number for my festival, Polkamotion By The Ocean. I was only 33 years old and I put this monster festival together, spent all of our savings to make it happen, and what do you know, It was a success beyond anyone’s expectation. My heart was bursting with happiness and a sense of accomplishment. There I was, surrounded by the legends of the Polka Industry and it was little old me who hired them to play. I felt like I just landed on the moon, especially when Eddie B came over and called me by name. He actually knew who I was. Wow! I finally arrived.

IPA: Who did/do you admire musically?

Fred: There are too many people in the field that I can say I admire and respect. Some for their talent, others for their accomplishment, and some just for being wonderful people. I could give you a list of names but there wouldn’t be any room left in the newsletter for anything else.

IPA: Could you please tell me about the year you were inducted into the IPA Hall of Fame. 1992.

Fred: It was such a great experience. My wife and daughter, my brother-in-law and his wife, and my sister and parents came all the way to Chicago from Niagara Falls to witness this great honor. And, was I surprised when my main guy, Dave Korch showed up, as well my dear friends Roger and Cindy Rohn who flew in from Hawaii to share the moment. And of course my dear friends Henry and Juanita Wronka who flew in from Phoenix, Arizona. These people really my made my special just a little bit better. I remember sitting at the head table next to Fred Hudy. What a great guy. He made me feel at ease as I felt like my feet were not touching the ground.

IPA: How do you think we can keep the music we all love so much going for years to come?

Fred: It is a tough question and many have and are still wrestling with this issue. It will take a new wave of young people to get involved and take some chances on running dances and perhaps even re-inventing polka weekends and festivals. It will be much harder for them than it was for me and my contemporaries simply because the audience has diminished significantly. But there are still a few of us “old lions” hanging around who will be more than willing to lend a hand, give advice or simply volunteer our time to help advertisement, promote and actually work at future events.

IPA: If you were asked the question: “Why should I join the IPA? What is in it for me?” How would you answer them?

Fred: I have been pushing the IPA on our show on the PolkaJammer Network. I have strong feelings for the organization and try to draw peoples’ attention to it by pointing out the events it sponsors, especially Ludlow and the IPA convention. I tell people that there is a real sense of belonging once you join and start meeting the other wonderful members of the IPA. As far as “what’s in it for me?” … well, I don’t address that because if someone is going to ask such a question, I don’t think they will join under any circumstance.

IPA: How do you think we can get more people interested in being a member of the IPA?

Fred: I think what the IPA is doing with little extras for joining are great. Every little bit helps and makes us stand out as a leader in the industry. I think we need to portray ourselves as a little bit more of a fun club to belong to. There are a lot of important things the IPA does, but the IPA needs to look friendlier to the outside public. Maybe this will attract them to our ranks.

IPA: Please add anything else you want to add. Thanks again!

Fred: I can only say that I take pride in being affiliated with the IPA and hope that I will still be able to make contributions that will lead to success for the organizations and the re-energizing of the Polka Industry. Thank you, Christy, for inviting me to do this interview. It is nice to be remembered. I hope to see you all in August for the convention.

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