Stan Wolowic – Pioneer Category – Inducted 2022

Stan Wolowic was a renowned accordionist and band leader and teacher for over 65 years. He and his band produced numerous albums promoting Polkas and Polish and ethnic music over his decades-long career. I have included numerous items herein, including copies of the fronts and backs of covers of 5 of his most popular albums with Capitol Records and ABC Paramount. The backs of the albums tell the story of his musical prowess during those…

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Ellsworth “Babe” Wagner – Pioneer Category – Inducted 2020

Ellsworth Wagner, nicknamed “Babe” in his early youth, was a native of New Ulm, Minnesota, the “Polka Capital of the Nation.” He was born in Essig, Minnesota, on June 1, 1914. During his short life, music was his thing. His musical training began almost on the day he was born. His parents were accomplished musicians, and his maternal grandfather, who played the violin, assisted in giving him music lessons. Babe learned the piano, violin, saxophone,…

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Paul Wendinger – Deceased Category – Inducted August 2012

    When one hears “Wendinger,” it is difficult to think of Peter without Paul. “Peter and Paul,” the concertina playing duo, had been a household name in the polka industry for over 47 years. Their partnership began as children playing with their tractors, pretending to be farmers. As they became older, they farmed 400 acres of land, milked cows, operated a large hog set-up, raised their families and did what they loved most –…

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Jimmy Weber – Living Category – Inducted 2006

    The first time Jimmy went to Fiedor’s Grove to see and hear Eddie Blazonczyk’s Versatones along with Little Ronnie and the Carousels, Jimmy’s interest in polkas began. Starting to play the sax at age twelve, in 1970 at the age of fourteen, he found himself playing polkas with his brother Gary (of Trel-Tones fame) in a local band called the Polka Preps. After six months, the Preps disbanded and Jimmy joined the Trel-Tones.…

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Henry “Will” Wilczynski – Inducted 2000

  Henry “Will” Wilczynski has dedicated 53 years to music as an arranger, composer, teacher and musician. He has written and arranged for some of the greatest polka bands and shows of all time including: Jimmy Sturr (Jimmy’s 10 Grammy award recordings and Christmas shows), Myron Floren, Walt Solek, Dick Pillar, Ray Budzilek, Eddie Skinger, Ray Henry, Connecticut Twins, Rich Bobinski, Johnny Dyno, Mike Piorek, Polonaise Dancers, John Przasnyski and more.   He has also…

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Matt Wasielewski – Living Category – Inducted 1998

  *Deceased in 2017* As far back as Matt can remember, he had a love of polka music. When he was just a small boy, there were polkas playing the home form morning to night. No one in the family played a musical instrument, but Matt had a love for the accordion and was able to get his first accordion when in his teens. Through his life, he was covered just about every aspect of…

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Sylvester “Shep” Wolan – Deceased Category – Inducted 1995

    Sylvester Wolan was born in Salem, Massachusetts, on March 8, 1904. During his youth he studied violin and trumpet with his father, but was also under the tutelage of professors and symphony musicians where he learned not only to play but compose. In 1918 he started to teach and form his own band. While performing with his father, he met a piano player by the name of Katherine Miakiewicz whom he later married…

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Larry Walk – Living Category – Inducted 1994

  George Lesnansky, a business promotion student at Youngstown University had an idea for a new image in polka programming which he felt was needed to update the image of polka radio shows. In May of 1964, the radio career of Larry “Polka’ Walk was born. An idea and determination and a desire to make people happy was what ft took to take station management at WNIO Radio to realize that polkas could fit into…

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Lawrence Welk – Deceased Category – Inducted 1994

    The late Lawrence Welk is no stranger to millions of people. Through his efforts the polka and the accordion have become two items that have always been identified with making people happy.   Welk was born to immigrant parents in March of 1903, in a farmhouse near Strasburg, North Dakota. He was one of eight children. Early on, his father taught him how to play the accordion, and by the time he was…

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Pat Watters – Deceased Category – Inducted 1986

    The life of Pat Watters spanned a time period that included driving mules across Texas to jet trips to Europe. Music provided a living and a career for him and a brighter life for those he touched. Born in Dallas County, Texas in 1902, his childhood was spent in frequent moves between ranching and operating small businesses. After ninth grade, he went to Wyoming to dig silos. He then attended business school in…

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Joe Wojkiewicz – Living Category – Inducted 1985

  Joe Wojkiewicz was born in Hafa Park, Wisconsin.  By the time he entered school, he was already performing on stage.  As his desire grew to perform, so did his talents.  He became interested in the polka music field as his father had a band.   Joe got started with ballroom promotions, but was interrupted by WWII, while in the Army.  Any time he had a chance, he made a point to visit ballrooms, especially…

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“Whoopee John” Wilfahrt – Deceased  Category – Inducted 1976

    John Anthony Wilfahrt, better known as “Whoopee John” Wilfahrt, was born in 1893 on a farm near New Ulm, Minnesota.  His grandparents, Joseph Wilfahrt and Franzeska Hauser, migrated to America in March, 1867, with three of their children and settled on  a farm in Sigel Township, a few miles from New Ulm. The family came from the small village of Swarzach located in the Bohemian Forest of western Bohemia., then part of Austria.…

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Gene Wisniewski – Living Category – Inducted 1973

    Gene Wisniewski, was the son of Polish immigrants who settled in Connecticut where his dad, a tailor, worked in the weaving Mills in Manchester.  At the age of 15, with three months of instruction on the accordion, he played his first jobs at weddings and taverns with his two brothers on banjo and sax.  From then it developed into a nine-piece orchestra.  This new career was interrupted by World War II when he…

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Bernie Witkowski – Living Category – Inducted 1971

  Bernie Witkowski – Bernie Wyte – was born in New York, a fourth generation of clarinet players.  His talent didn’t stop with playing the clarinet; he also plays sax, accordion, flute, drums and organ, writes the words and music to songs, introduces new dances and finds time to conduct a successful radio show.  He studied music at New York University where he received an M.A. degree.   As an A & R Man of…

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Frank Wojnarowski – Living Category – Inducted 1970

    Frank Wojnarowski, a resident of Fairfield, Connecticut, was born in Sanok, Poland.  He started the Frank Wojnarowski Orchestra thirty years ago; his instrument was the violin.  His sister Eleanore was the original vocalist in the band.  Their first break, a recording session with Dana Records, came in 1947 – “Bije Mamcia” was their first record.   Shortly after came a big hit, “Jedzie Boat.”  This is the record that touched off the polka…

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Li’l Wally Jagiello – Living Category – Inducted 1969

  Li’l Wally has been one of the most important and influential polka musicians in America. He was responsible for creating the Chicago-style polka, a slower, more danceable, more improvisational sound, whose core appeal lay with Polish-Americans. Wally was a cottage industry unto himself, recording at an often frantic pace and releasing over 150 albums on his own Jay Jay label. He played both concertina and drums in concert, and performed good-humored dance tunes and…

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