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IPA Hall of Fame Biography
Richie Gomulka was born on February 6, 1942, in Chicago, Illinois to first generation American-born parents, Ted and Mary (Owca) Gomulka.
Richie is the oldest of four children. He has two sisters, Angie Gomulka and Dianne (Steve) Paliga, and one brother Lenny (Estelle) Gomulka.
Richie is happily married to his polka sweetheart of 35 years, Suellen. Together they have five wonderful children Gary, Ronnie, Michelle, Karen and Mary Sue. They boast proudly of their many grandchildren, nieces and nephews.
As early as Richie could remember he loved polka music. Older people would frequently ask him to sing for them even before he learned to play an instrument. At the young age of 12, Richie taught himself to play the accordion. A few years later, after watching with admiration the late Li’l Wally, he taught himself to play the drums.
Richie was given the opportunity to begin playing professionally by a musician he admired from Chicago, namely the late Lou Jedlowski, Sr. Lou was a drummer locally with various Chicago bands and a dear friend of Richie. At the age of 13, the first band Richie performed with was known as the Lucky Boys. This band featured Lou Jedlowski, Jr., on drums, Jerry Jendreas on clarinet, along with Fred Hudy and Richie Gomulka on double accordions. As he pursued his musical career Richie performed with Chicago bands known as The Sharps and The Harmony Jesters. Richie especially enjoyed the many occasions when he did substitute drumming for the late Li’l Wally. Later he went on to perform and manage The Eddie Zima Orchestra until the passing of Eddie in 1966. Richie performed with some of Chicago’s all time greats, many of who are no longer with us, such as Casey Siewierski’s Polka Band, Eddie Korosa, Li’l Richard, Danny Sadowski & the Imperials, Eddie Cnota’s C Notes, The Tones Orchestra, which he dubbed the "Cadillac Sound," The Paliga Polka Dots, Casey Homel, Jim Homel & the Changing Times, Tommy Altenburg & the Hap-ENotes, Don Jodlowski’s Vibra Sounds, The Ampol Aires Orchestra and Lenny Gomulka & the Chicago Push. For a brief time Richie also made appearances with Eddie Blazonczyk, Sr., & the Versatones, and Chicago’s own Harmony Kings.
Richie performed in town and on the road, for private functions and public events. He enjoyed the excitement of playing the ever-popular lounge circuit throughout Chicago 4-5 nights per week. He often would be featured at Jake’s Hop-Cyk-Cyk, the Polka Palace, Club Mono, Lucy’s Wisconsin Rendezvous and Mary & Murph’s Le Polka Den, where Richie helped manage the entertainment. He enjoyed the friendship and advice of those that he admired and respected such as the late Gene Lind (Lipczynski), Joe Jarosz, the late Lou Jedlowski, Sr., the late Steve Adamczyk, Johnnie Bomba, Leon Kozicki, the late Jolly Ted Rogalski and the late Mattie Czech.
During the late 1960s and early 1970s, Richie Gomulka recorded 45 rpm singles and 2 LP albums on Bel-Aire Records. His singles and first LP had that solid Chicago-style sound, which was no doubt prominent on those recordings, and Richie's drumming brought back to life the honky-style sound of Chicago’s old Division Street days. Then Richie's 2^d LP album featured his brother-in-law Steve Paliga along with Steve's brothers and their band called the Paliga Polka Dots, an outstanding, notable polka band throughout the country. Richie's brother Lenny also played on this LP making it most probably the first ever complete family project. This LP was called "Richie Gomulka Meets The Paliga Polka Dots." The national popularity of all those early recordings has earned Richie Gomulka the title of "Chicago's Polka Tradition." They are all compiled on a collector's edition CD on Bel-Aire Records called "Richie Gomulka Chicago’s Polka Tradition."
Beginning in the 1970s, Richie co-hosted the Polkarama Radio Show with his good friend Don Jodlowski, which aired throughout greater Chicagoland. He produced many remote radio shows and also made several television appearances. His first TV appearance, at the age of 13, was on the Morris B. Sachs Amateur Hour in Chicago, which resulted in him becoming a prize-winner. Richie is credited for serving as the inspiration and role model to his younger brother, Lenny, who from a very young age admired Richie’s efforts and emulated his every move.
Today, Richie prides himself in making special appearances with his son-in-law Bobby Piven on concertina and several chosen musicians. He still travels into key areas around the country including the east coast singing his favorite honky-dyno style songs. Richie proudly records for Chet Schafer on the Chicago Polkas record label. Currently, The Richie Gomulka Polka Show is broadcast every Sunday from 11:00 a.m. to 12:00 noon (CST) on radio station WPNA (1490 AM in Chicago) and simultaneously on the world wide web. His co-host is Chet Schafer and his loyal engineer is Jerry Wantroba.
Richie also produces weekly shows via the Internet on the Polka Jammer Network [http://www.polkajammernetwork.org] with his engineer, Jim Kucharski.
Richie is a member of the International Polka Association, American Polka Association, Senior Polka Association and Let's Polka USA. In addition to polka music, his other interests and hobbies are antique cars, older model cars, as well as being an avid fan of the sports of boxing and martial arts. Richie enjoys visiting various Catholic churches and he has a strong devotion to Our Blessed Mother and The Blessed Sacrament. Richie is sincerely thankful to St. Cecilia, who is the patron saint of musicians, for all his accomplishments in music and for his installation in the Polka Hall of Fame.
His ultimate goal is to make people happy. Richie’s lifelong dream has always been to share his love for polka music with all music loving people. Richie Gomulka, "Chicago’s Polka Tradition," is also noted by many as the "Polka Icon," a title given to him by another IPA Hall-of-Famer, Billy Belina.