In 1972, Henny & the Versa J’s formed with Henny, Dee-Dee, Dad Henry, and members of the Gibala family. Dee-Dee had taken piano lessons for 7 years when the band originated, and she began contributing piano and bass along with her vocals. Then at age 13, Henny’s son, Butchie, joined the band on drums. For the Jasiewicz and Ogrodny families, polkas were always the bond that kept them together. In the meantime, Staś, who played trumpet and sang, started performing with Ray Jay, his brother, and cousins who formed Ray Jay and the Carousels. Eventually Dee-Dee and Staś began dating, and each played in their own family bands every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Polka music has always been in Dee-Dee’s heart, and her love for the polka people was and still is unparalleled! Dee-Dee and Staś were married in 1979; and when the Carousels disbanded for a time, Staś began playing with the Versa J’s. The band continued to play together at venues throughout the country, and in May of 1985, Dee-Dee and Staś were blessed with their son, Ryan Joseph. Ryan was born with the love of polkas, thanks to Dee-Dee and Staś, and his Grandfather (Pappi) Henry started to teach him violin as soon as he was able to hold the bow. Dee-Dee also began to take Ryan to Suzuki violin lessons when he was 3 1/2, taking notes during each lesson that she would use to practice with Ryan everyday. Ryan played along with his Grandfather until Henry passed away in 1989. Dee-Dee then continued to work with Ryan on his fiddle, vocal, and other instrumental lessons, cultivating his musical knowledge each and every day. She also taught Ryan and many other family and friends to dance the polka, and gave Ryan a never-ending love of polka music that he cherishes deeply. Dee-Dee’s support, guidance, and love are the reasons why Ryan’s dreams have come true.
Henny and the Versa J’s with Ryan continued to perform locally, nationally, on cruises, and internationally including a tour of Poland. Many wonderful friends and family played with the band during those years. One of those dear friends, IPA Polka Music Hall of Fame Inductee Randy Koslosky, joined the Versa J’s in 1997 and teamed up with Dee-Dee, Ryan, and the band to produce many heartfelt recordings, including one along with the choir of their Parish of St. Mary Czestochowa in McKeesport, PA. Dee-Dee coordinated and produced all of the band’s recordings, bus trips, cruises, mailings, and promotion throughout the years. She was and still is always there for everyone with her larger than life heart.
Dee-Dee’s involvement in polka music is inseparable from family. This includes performing in bands with her father, brother, nephew, husband, and son. For many female musicians, having a family has replaced performing, but for Dee-Dee the two have gone hand in hand. As a devoted stay-at-home mom, she continued to perform and still be the devoted mom she wanted to be. So, her career in polka music was integrated with family life through playing in the band that included her family. And for those band members who were not related, she was a big part of making those members feel like family. That family sense extended beyond the band and band members to the friends and fans of the band and to polka fans on a national level. With Dee-Dee we have someone who has performed at the highest level in the world of polka music. In addition, beyond her talent, she represents the loving, welcoming, familial aspect of the polka world. Her humility, charity, kindness, friendship, care, compassion, selflessness, and inclusiveness are a force for good in the field of polka music. Everyone is welcome and brought in and feels the personal connection. In this way, Dee-Dee in an icon of what is best in our “polka family”.