The Roman Catholic priest who popularized the Polka Mass and two bandleaders are to be inducted into the National Cleveland-Style Polka Hall of Fame at the annual awards ceremony on Saturday, November 24, 2012. Father Frank Perkovich of Chisholm, Minnesota, Steve Meisner of Whitewater, Wisconsin, and Eddie Vallus of Youngstown, Ohio, were voted for their lifetime achievements in polka music by Hall of Fame members and trustees. The announcement was made at the October 11 semiannual membership meeting of the American Slovenian Polka Foundation in Euclid City Hall in Euclid, Ohio.
Meisner and Vallus are accordionists. Steve Meisner has led one of Wisconsin’s most popular polka bands since 1976. He has released nineteen albums and seven videos. Eddie Vallus began his polka music career in 1950 and organized his first band in 1965, based in eastern Ohio and western Pennsylvania. He recorded seven albums and published five accordion songbooks. Father Frank Perkovich first celebrated the Polka Mass in 1973 and toured with his unique service combining favorite Slovenian, polka and waltz melodies with lyrics from the Liturgy. The Polka Mass is now a key event at Slovenian, nationality and church festivals in the U. S. and Canada. His Polka Mass recording has sold more than 100,000 copies.
Two Cleveland-Style polka standards were chosen All-Time Hits by voters. “Red Lips and Red Wine,” based upon a Slovenian folk song, “Kaj pa ti, pobič,” was first recorded in the 1920s and, with English lyrics, became a hit for the Ernie Benedict Orchestra in 1949. The “Tick-Tock Polka” was written by Italian composer Gaetano Lama in 1920 as “Tic-ti, tic-ta.” The bouncy tune has been popular ever since, especially in a 1949 English-language version recorded by Frank Yankovic, America’s Polka King.
The Board of Trustees added ten individuals to the Polka Hall of Fame Honor Roll for their achievements: Pittsburgh saxophonist Jack Frohnhofer, Cleveland accordionist and bandleader Lud Hrovat, Cleveland polka promoter and videographer Ken Tomsick, and Cleveland vocalist Ray Young. As “Zeke and Charlie,” brothers Eddie Vertovsnik and Charlie Vrtovsnik, led the quintessential Cleveland-Style garage band for 30 years. Tops Cardone, Buddy Griebel, Al Leslie and Carl Paradiso received group recognition as members of Frank Yankovic’s show band, performing and recording in Hollywood and Las Vegas in the 1950s.
The 25th annual National Cleveland-Style Polka Hall of Fame awards ceremony takes place at 2:00 p.m., Saturday afternoon, November 24, 2012, at Euclid Auditorium, 711 East 222nd Street, in Euclid, Ohio. This year’s program features an all-star salute for the Hall of Fame’s silver anniversary, featuring Steve Meisner, Canada’s Polka King Walter Ostanek, and Nashville’s button-box sweetheart Lynn Marie Hrovat Rink. Annual polka awards will be given in categories including Musician of the Year, Band of the Year, Album of the Year and Slovenian Cultural Achievement.
The Awards Show is the high point of the Polka Hall of Fame’s annual Thanksgiving polka music marathon weekend with three days of dancing, Thursday, Friday and Saturday, November 22, 23 and 24, 2012, at the Marriott Hotel on Public Square in Cleveland, Ohio. Father Perkovich will celebrate the Polka Mass with Bishop Edward Pevec in the Marriott Ballroom on Saturday, November 24, at 6:00 p.m.
The Polka Hall of Fame and Museum was founded in 1987 by musicians and leaders of Slovenian and ethnic organizations. The Cleveland style of polka has roots in Slovenian folk music with influences from country and western, jazz, show tunes, and other nationality sounds. The lively dance music was especially popular in the decade following World War II when artists like America’s Frank Yankovic scored million-selling hits. More than 200 bands perform this style of American dance music today.
The museum features audio exhibits, photographs and original instruments tracing the Cleveland-style polka to its origins in the city’s Slovenian neighborhoods in the 1890s. The Hall of Fame portrait gallery pays tribute to significant musicians and prominent individuals, as voted each year by the membership. The archive preserves 5,000 Slovenian and Cleveland-style recordings, dating to 1917. Each year members nominate and vote for polka musicians and achievers in categories ranging from best orchestra and best album to promotion and Slovenian cultural heritage.
The National Cleveland-Style Polka Hall of Fame and Museum is located at 605 East 222nd Street in Euclid, Ohio, in the historic former Euclid City Hall. Hours are Tuesday through Friday, noon to 5:00, and Saturdays, 10:00 to 3:00. Admission is free. Polka recordings are available in the museum store.
Tickets for the Awards Show and the evening dances are $15 each. For information, call (216) 261-FAME, toll-free (866) 66-POLKA, or order on the Polka Hall of Fame website, www.polkafame.com.
Joe Valencic, President