Saturday, September 22, 2012

Know Your Polka Kings

Oktoberfest is here and we wouldn't want you to be at a loss for polka facts to add to conversations around the dance floor. Especially if  if there is any debating about who is the true polka king. 
L'il Wally vs. Whoopee John.

Walter "Li'l Wally" Jagiello, "Mały Władziu" (August 1, 1930 – August 17, 2006), was an American (of Polish background) polka musician and songwriter from Chicago, Illinois. A self-taught Chemnitzer concertina and drum player, who sang perfect Polish as well as English in many of his songs. His most famous compositions include "Pukaj Jasiu" "No Beer in Heaven" and "I Wish I Was Single Again". 
His song "Let's Go, Go-Go White Sox", as recorded by Captain Stubby and the Buccaneers underwent a resurgence in 2005.
Originally starting out at the age of 8 singing with the Eddie Zima Orchestra performing up and down "Polish Broadway" in Chicago, Wally soon struck out on his own and formed his own band "The Happy Harmony Boys". He was a pioneer in the concept of the independent record label, starting his own Jay-Jay Records in 1951 after a brief career recording stint on Columbia Records, at the age of twenty. He was renowned for his drumbeat and slower and more danceable tempo, which became a mainstay of "Chicago Style" Polish polka sound. His arrangements of many popular Polish folk tunes, and many originals as well, are those used today by polka bands all over the United States. His nickname was derived from his short stature (5 foot 6 as an adult), especially during his youth, when he would stand on a picnic table to sing.

The highlight of Jagiello's career was performing for Pope John Paul II in 1984, who requested Wally to continue playing after his initial song, "God Bless Our Polish Pope". The pontiff blessed him after his performance, telling him "God will reward you for all your hard work."
He also appeared several times playing his concertina on The Lawrence Welk Show. He was one of the first two inductees into the International Polka Association's Hall of Fame in 1969. All total, he has collected 17 gold and 4 platinum records. In his later years, he retired to Miami Beach, Florida, but continued to perform and record and please audiences nationwide. Li'l Wally died in 2006 in Florida at the age of 76. - From Wikipedia

John Anthony Wilfahrt, (May 11, 1893 – June 15, 1961), the eldest son of John Wilfahrt and Barbara Portner, was a professional polka musician who recorded with Decca Records. He went by the moniker "Whoopee John." Wilfahrt was born in New Ulm, Minnesota and got his start playing the accordion at local gatherings and concerts in and around his community. In the 1920s Whoopee John and his band relocated to Saint Paul, Minnesota where they became regulars at live shows and on the radio. 

Wilfahrt first began recording commercially in the 1920s and would sign with the newly-formed U.S. division of Decca Records in 1934 as the label's second act. (The first act signed to the label being Bing Crosby.) Wilfahrt and his band enjoyed popularity through the 1940s and 50s on the polka circuit.
Over the course of his professional career Wilfahrt would record nearly 1,000 songs, some of the most popular being “Mariechen Waltz” and “Clarinet Polka.” -  From Wikipedia

After you listen to the Chug-a-lug polka and enjoy the accompanying vintage images there should be no doubt in your mind about who deserves to wear the crown. Long live Whoopee John.

Chug A Lug (Chug A Lug Drink It Down) by Polka_holic7839

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