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News

 

Wisconsin Polka Hall of Fame Salutes
Ralph Thull for Lifetime Achievement

(Hubertus, WI) The Wisconsin Polka Hall of Fame (WPHF) is proud to announce its presentation of the "Lifetime Achievement Award" to Ralph Thull in recognition for his outstanding contributions and dedication to the Polka music industry throughout the State of Wisconsin.

 The event takes place Sunday November 10th 2013 at the Sterling Chalet (formerly the Richfield Chalet) in Hubertus, Wisconsin. The WPHF will present the award at its annual Award Ceremony at 2:30PM in conjunction with a dance featuring the "Don Peachey Band" from 1-5:30PM.

Wisconsin Polka Hall of Fame Annual Awards Ceremony

 SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 10th, 2013

1-5:30 PM

AWARDS PRESENTATION 2:30 PM

STERLING CHALET
(Formerly the Richfield Chalet)
1271 Highway 175 Hubertus, WI
(262) 268-4080
Food and Refreshments Available

Music by the... DON PEACHEY BAND
Admission $7
Admission only $5 for WPHF MEMBERS
(Guests of WPHF members $5)

 

 ___________________________________________________________________________

Laack's Hall in Johnsonville is reserved for our Annual Membership meeting and dance on Thursday May 1st, 2014

Membership metting 5PM


The Wisconsin Re-Union Band will be playing
"In the Gosz Style" 6-9 pm.

Admission only $7 for WPHF Members - $9 for Non-Members

 

 

LISTED BELOW ARE BIOGRAPHIES SUBMITTED BY NOMINEES FOR POSSIBLE INDUCTION

 

LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT NOMINEES

 

Ralph

Ralph Thull

   For Ralph, his love for polka music began at an early age soaking up the talent of his father, Bill Thull, who was also a musician and a band leader.  Growing up in the Thull family in Kewaskum, WI was all about farming and polka music. 

  At age 11, Ralph played his first gig on drums with his father’s band at Lake Ellen Resort in Cascade, WI.  Ralph continued to play drums with his father’s band until he discovered his love for the accordion, at age 14, after watching musicians such as Don Peachy, Dick Metko, Norm Edlebeck and Bernie Roberts.  His mother, Cyrilla Thull, realized his dedication and bought him a new accordion.  Soon, Ralph was playing the accordion and later, the alto saxophone with his father’s band, Bill Thull Orchestra, along side of his brothers and sisters.  In addition to playing with BTO, Ralph  played drums with Normie Dogs for over 15 years and also helped out other bands such as Bernie Fechter, Bill Sackett, Tuba Dan, Mike Yettri, Justy and the Key Benders, Chuck's Family Three, Julida Boys, Jerry Schneider, Ray Konkol and Erwin Suess. 

   In 1991, together with Mary Lou, his wife and mother of his children, Ralph formed The Goodtime Dutchmen, which consisted of their five children (Randy, Michelle, Melissa, Russell, and Marcia), his niece (Lynn) and a friend (Dave Heuer).  From their first show on WTKM at the Dodge County Fair, good things started to snowball, and The Goodtime Dutchmen were in business playing polka music with their family for polka fans and festivals in WI, MN, MI, IA, SD, NE, IN, IL and TN. 

In 1997, The Goodtime Dutchmen won the Horizon Award, which is rewarded to the best young band by the Wisconsin Polka Hall of Fame.  In 2001, Ralph was recognized as the Orchestra Leader of the Year by the Wisconsin Orchestra Leaders Association.  In 2002, The Goodtime Dutchmen were recognized as the Band of the Year by the Wisconsin Polka Hall of Fame.  In addition to these accomplishments, The Goodtime Dutchmen were also viewed on national television, “Today” show with Mike Leonard. 

 After 49 years of performing and 15 recordings amongst The Goodtime Dutchmen, Bill Thull Orchestra, Normie Dogs Trio, and Mike Yettri and the Music Mates, Ralph Thull’s passion for polka music continues to grow.  He is very thankful to be a part of the polka community and for all the support from polka fans, like you, throughout the years..... He wouldn't trade it for anything!

  

 

STEVE MEISNER is a multi-talented musician, entertainer, composer & arranger. He began playing the accordion at the age of 5 and has been earning a living in the music business since the age of 16. Steve's family has a rich musical heritage and he is a second-generation full time working musician. His father, the late Verne Meisner, had a successful music career for over 50 years. Steve’s brand of music is extremely versatile and appealing to a wide audience. He has made a name for himself by taking the music he grew up with from his father and adding his own imagination and feeling. He has brought his brand of traditional American polka into the 21st century with a fresh spark & swing while retaining the roots of this music.

 

From a young age, Steve has been on task to promote quality music that can be accepted by all ages. His main goal has been to persuade the general public's stereotypical view of polka music to bring a new awareness to the masses. "I believe that good music is simply good and I believe people know the difference. They may not always understand what the mechanics of it are, but they feel it. And that is where I've always placed my faith in people. They too feel that good music is simply good and it makes them feel good."

 

In Steve's 36 year musical career he has performed with the nation’s top accordionists, polka icons & musicians including Myron Floren, Frank Yankovic, Joey Miskulin, & Verne Meisner. He has amassed 21 LP/CD credits, 6 Single, and 7 Video releases with full production credits. He has performed nationally coast to coast and internationally averaging 200 performances annually including performances at the Lawrence Welk Theater in Branson MO, Stardust-Monte Carlo-Hacienda-Orleans & Plaza Casino's in Las Vegas. He was asked to record for and perform at the Library of Congress and the Kennedy Center, and the Smithsonian Folklife Festival on the National Mallin Washington DC. He and his music have filtered into television broadcasts and motion pictures including TNN's Crook & Chase Show and more recently the ABC Network 4th of July broadcast of "In Search of America, a 4th of July Celebration" hosted by the late Peter Jennings and folklorist Nick Spitzer. He and his music are featured in a full-length motion pictures "Chump Change" released by Miramax. He has been heard and seen on the film festival circuit including a short film called "The Pick Up Polka" and has an original composition in the independent full-length feature "Red Betsy". Writer/director/actor Steve Burrows from Hollywood CA call's Steve "the Motzart of Polka".

 

Steve has received numerous awards and nominations including "Musician and Band of the Year", "Favorite Polka Artist", “Lifetime Achievement award” by the National Cleveland-Style Polka Hall of Fame in 2012 and the Maryland Accordion Club, he resides as the 29th inductee to the Ironworld Polka Hall of Fame, and in 2005 an “Honor Roll” induction to the Wisconsin Polka Hall of Fame, he is the first of his generation to reside along side his father as a Lifetime Achiever" in the National Cleveland-Style Polka Hall of Fame. His original compositions are included on many best selling polka recordings and a Grammy nominated recording. He has many newspaper, magazine and textbook features and can be found in Wisconsin state libraries in both textbook and music categories. His recordings are used in preschool and kindergarten classes to teach the young and in nursing homes to bring back memories of care free days and the good life for the old.

 

"My main goal in life is to utilize my musical gift to make as many people happy as I possibly can while I can. Music is a large part of the soul of our society and I want to touch that part of people's souls...that part of their soul that makes a difference in their lives and show's them how music and dancing can excite, motivate and heal. There is nothing more gratifying than meeting a new fan who has just discovered my music for the first time. The expression on their face is like a child’s on Christmas morning...its priceless!"

 

 

HONOR ROLL NOMINEES

 

Lorenpolka

Loren Kohel

I have loved polka music since I first heard it as a child. About 1948 I started playing for house parties and picnics with my brother and uncles. Frank Casio asked me to play in his West Milwaukee Accordion School band which consisted of 50 to 100 accordions and one drummer, me.
After that I played I played in Spike Micale's band and with Verne Meisner, Tony Radamacher, Concertina Millie, Stan Nowicke, Eddie Vidmar, Frank Yankovic, Gary Frank and others. I was also Dick Kosmatka's number one substitute all the time he owned the Melody Bar.
My special achievement was to play and sing for the Louie Bashell Band for 20 years. During this time we traveled to Washington D.C. and Santa Fe, New Mexico where Louie received awards from the National Endowment of the Arts.
Polka music will continue to be an important part of many people's lives.

Lorenband

Lorem Kohel playing with Louie Bashell

 

_

 

 Jeff Heinz

 Jeff Heinz started playing polkas in a band at the age of seven and at 52 still is going strong. He has has a show on WDEZ 101.9, The Polka Jamboree out of Wausau going on 29 years and also has a Saturday morning show on sister station WSAU AM550, FM99.9 in Wausau. Jeff also has been an IJ on 247 Polka Heaven for over 3 years. He has been playing with Neal Zunker and The Music Connection now going on 29 years.

 

 

 

BAND OF THE YEAR NOMINEES

 

 

 

The “Goodtime Dutchmen”, a third generation family polka band from Kewaskum,Wisconsin.  Polkas, waltzes and fox trots are their specialty, expressed through several ethnic backgrounds, including Dutchmen, German, Polish, Slovenian and Bohemia.

Their love for polka music brought them to their first appearance, August 20, 1991, live on the air with WTKM  at the Dodge County Fair at the ages of ten through fifteen.  Through the years they have enjoyed playing throughout the Midwest for Polka Fests, Oktoberfests, German Fests, Firemen’s Picnics, Anniversaries, Weddings, Church festivals including Polka Services, and other engagements.  They are very proud of their accomplishments over the years, including several awards and an appearance on the “Today Show” with Mike Leonard

 

 

SIDEPERSON OF THE YEAR

 

 

Volksfest photos 019

Guenther Uhlig


At about the age of 6, Guenther's earliest and fondest memories are of his mother playing guitar as they, along with his six brothers and sisters, sang together. A fine wood craftsman and cabinet maker buy trade; Guenther emigrated from Dresden Germany to Sheboygan Wisconsin in 1958.
Upon arrival to the United States, Guenther joined the "Gesangverein Concordia" or "Sheboygan Concordia Singing Society" which is one of the oldest German singing groups in Wisconsin (since 1860).

At a concert in 1979, the Concordia Singing Society held a "Sängerfest" or "Singing festival" where Guenther met Ernie Broeniman, then music director of the Plymouth High School and founder of their German youth band "Junge Kameraden". While grilling bratwurst, Guenther heard Ernie singing German vocals with the newly formed Junge Kameraden and decided to help with the German pronunciations. Guenther joined in and they have been performing together ever since.

 

Guenther continued to sing with the "Junge Kameraden" until Ernie Broeniman formed the band "Dorf Kapelle" in 1988. "Dorf Kappelle" translated "Village Band" has 17 members. Dorf Kapelle is known to perform some of the finest authentic folk music of Germany, Austria, Switzerland & the Czech Republic with Guenther at vocals. In 2013, Dorf Kapelle celebrates its 25 Anniversary. It also celebrates its 25 years of performing its "Fasching" (a German carnival similar to Marti Gras) held yearly at Laack's Ballroom in Johnsonville. Performing with Dorf Kapelle, Guenther has recorded 10 CD's including his special CD "Guenther Sings".

 

To this day, Guenther entertains crowds across Wisconsin and the USA. Between his busy schedules, Guenther still finds time for his hobbies of repairing antique furniture and antique clocks. He also wishes to thank the Wisconsin Polka Hall of Fame for his nomination of Sideman of the year and is truly honored.

 

 

 

(Cashton, WI) The Wisconsin Polka Hall of Fame (WPHF) is proud to announce its presentation of the "Distinguished Service Award" to Gary Gilbertson and Lou Allen in recognition for their outstanding contributions and dedication to the polka music industry throughout the State of Wisconsin.

The event took place on Saturday April 20th,2013 at Brian Brueggen's Cashton Bash, Cashton Community Hall Cashton, WI.

 

ANNUAL
MEMBERSHIP MEETING

Wednesday April 17th, 2013

Westward Ho - Oshkosh 6:15 PM

 Music by the
Ralph Thull Trio
7-10:30 PM
(Admission $5 for WPHF Members)

 

 

 

Wisconsin Polka Hall of Fame

DISTINGUISHED SERVICE AWARD

GARY L. GILBERTSON

Born in Viroqua Wisconsin, schooled at Coon Valley & Westby High, Gary Gilbertson graduated from the Brown Institute of Broadcasting.
Gary began his career at WISV in 1965 and joined the US Army in 1966. Gary served his tour of duty at Fort Leonard Wood Missouri being assigned to the Armed Forces Network – EUROPE. Gary broadcasted in Kaiserslautern, West Germany from 1966 to1969.

In 1969, Gary resumed his radio career back in Wisconsin as an announcer, starting the local sports department. Gary not only does play-by-play, he also handles the announcing duties on WVRQ AM & FM, doing daily sportscasts. He also has a daily "old time" polka show, along with the weekly "Brian Brueggen Show" on Saturdays. The weekday "polka show" is also shown on Vernon Telephone Community Cable - Channel 14.

Gary married his wife Judy Opsahl in 1971. They have 5 children; Andrew, Nicholas, Lara, Martha and Ahna, and have two grandchildren.

Gary's love of old time music began at an early age, having parents who grew up listening and dancing to polka music. It was the music of their generation, and Gary inherited the 'love' of it. Gary remembers that he always enjoyed listening to "Syl Leibl and the Jolly Swiss Boys" from the Hotel Stoddard in La Crosse on WKTY-RADIO. He also enjoyed watching the "Jerry Gilbertson Band" from West Salem, and the "Dick Rodgers Band" performing Green Bay on television.
Gary enjoys almost all types of music, but the old time Polkas, Waltzes, & Scottisches are his favorites. Amazed at the musical ability of many Wisconsin bands he is impressed that there are so many good polka bands right in this area like Gary & Brian Brueggen. Gary also finds himself a "lucky guy" due to the fact that he lives so close to the polka heaven of New Ulm, Minnesota and the music of Whoopee John, Six Fat Dutchmen, Babe Wagner, the Wendingers and so many more like Jim Busta and "Skipper Berg and his Viking Band". "There are so many local musicians who work so hard to keep this "special brand" of music alive, especially now with Mollie Busta hosting the "RFD-TV Polka Show" - bringing a "new level" to polka music".

Gary loves playing "old time music" and entertaining so many listeners for so many years.
He hopes to keep going until he is 90 or older, like Leo Greco did on the Cedar Rapids radio station for years. Gary quotes "Polka music always brightens my day whenever I hear or see it".

 

Wisconsin Polka Hall of Fame

DISTINGUISHED SERVICE AWARD

Louis E. (Lou) Allen

Back in the 1930's, Lou Allen first remembers his Norwegian grandfather, a violin maker, playing Scandinavian polkas and waltzes at family gatherings. Laendlers and mazurkas were Lou's favorites, as his mother and her sisters chimed in on the upright piano, playing by ear, since none had music lessons.

 His mother insisted that he take violin lessons, playing in the grade school orchestra. However, Lou's true interest was in the low brass and he took up the trombone and tuba, with lessons from a teacher in high school.

Things were fun in the 40's Lou remembers, enjoying "old time" on a radio station which featured bands such as "Whoopee John" and The Six Fat Dutchmen"

In 1951 with the Korean War at hand, Lou enlisted in the U.S. Navy and was assigned duty as a "Sonar-man". After training at the Great Lakes Naval Station, Lou was transferred to the Fleet Sonar School in Key West, Florida. There he had the opportunity to play with the base band.

His next duty station was in Norfolk, Virginia and the Destroyer Tender - U.S.S. Grand Canyon, which sailed to the Mediterranean for a six-month tour of duty. While there, he was assigned to a U.S. Navy Unit Band out of Washington D.C. where he performed for a number of events ranging from small combos up to a full concert band.

 Upon return to Norfolk, the band was reorganized for a Caribbean Tour, where he visited Cuba, Puerto Rico, Jamaica and the Dominican Republic. There he performed at a wedding dance for the Dominican President.

 Leaving the Navy in June, 1954, Lou returned to Madison with his new wife Fern, to continue his studies at the University of Wisconsin. The 'old-time' music business was very popular with a dozen local dance halls and just as many bands performing throughout the week for weddings and other occasions. Some of the working bands were: 'Uncle Julius and His Boys' (a ten-piece group), 'Joey Tan-tillo and the Biggest Little Band in Wisconsin' (5-piece); 'The Sloppy Five", and 'The Shamrock Band', a German-style group similar to the 'Six Fat Dutchmen".

In the fall of 1956, Lou moved to Milwaukee to continue engineering school. There he found the polka music scene very active, with a variety of German, Polish, and Slovenian bands working halls throughout Milwaukee County.
Over the next twenty years, Lou worked with bands led by Elmer Marks, Bill Landowski, 'Little Johnny' Wornardt and with Ray Dorschner - traveling around Wisconsin and into Iowa and Minnesota.

 Demands of his family business required leaving the "traveling" polka bands for several years - but Lou came out of retirement to play with Dixieland jazz bands in the Madison area. In the late 1980's, Lou did a stint with Ray Konkel's Polka Band, followed by ten-plus years with Brian Brueggen's Mississippi Valley Dutchmen. With Brian, Lou traveled Wisconsin, Iowa and Minnesota with tours to Washington D.C., Las Vegas and Arizona.
Before retiring from music in 2010, Lou played with several Dixieland jazz bands performing at clubs and various events around Madison.

 Among the highlights of his 50 years in the music business and just as long as a Corrosion Engineer, Lou includes a concert band performance for some 1,000 Arabs in North Africa; playing on the National Mall in Washington D.C.; a "one-night stand" filling in for Harold Loeffelmacher and the "Six Fat Dutchmen"; and sitting in with Turk Murphy's Jazz Band in San Francisco.  

 
 

 Thank you for helping make the 2012 Wisconsin Polka Hall of Fame Awards Ceremony & Dance a huge success! Your membership, support and participation are greatly appreciated! Now in our seventeenth year of existence, the Wisconsin Polka Hall of Fame has recognized, honored, and inducted almost 200 individuals!

 

 

Wisconsin Polka Hall of Fame Inducts
Ray Konkol for Lifetime Achievement

(Black Creek, WI) The Wisconsin Polka Hall of Fame (WPHF) is proud to announce its induction of Ray Konkol for "Lifetime Achievement" in recognition for his outstanding contributions and dedication to the Polka music industry throughout the State of Wisconsin. The event took place on November 11th at Romy's Nitingale in Black Creek with almost 300 people in attendance.

The Wisconsin Polka Hall of Fame is a Non-Profit, Wisconsin based corporation formed in 1995. It is dedicated to recognize and honor individuals who have excelled in the performance, preservation, and promotion of "Polka Music" throughout the State of Wisconsin. The WPHF historically maintains these various ethnic backgrounds of the traditional music of Wisconsin for generations to come. The WPHF has inducted almost 200 individuals to date.

Konkol was born in Fancher and first remembers wanting to play the concertina after listening to "Whoopie John" on his grandparent's old wind up Victorla. Ray earned money doing farm work such as digging potatoes and working at the feed mill to purchase his first concertina. Ray joined the Navy in 1951, serving on the aircraft carrier USS Randolph. While aboard ship he played in shows for the crew, using the forward plane elevator as a stage. While in the Navy, Ray fittingly met his wife Germaine at a polka dance and married her. In 1958, Ray recorded his first record as the "Ray Konkol Recording Orchestra" recording "Old Time Wisconsin Style "in 1961. Konkol also played concertina with Ray Dorschner's "Rainbow Valley Dutchmen" for almost 20 years.
In 1986, Ray formed his current four-piece band "The Ray Konkol Band". This latest band has performed throughout the Midwest and in 11 States and has recorded a number of albums including nine CD's.
In 2002, Ray Konkol was inducted into the Wisconsin Polka Hall of Fame for "Senior Achievement" and inducted into the World Concertina Congress Hall of Fame in 2003. In 2004, the Wisconsin Music Archives at the Mills Music Library of the University of Wisconsin-Madison accepted three of Konkol's original compositions and is now part of Wisconsin's musical heritage.
Ray feels he's lived the best of several worlds—a happy marriage, a great family, an excellent professional career, and a musical vocation that has both fulfilled a life-long ambition as well as brought him many enduring friendships. "Polka music and dancing" as Ray puts it, "is good, clean fun!"

IMGP0225

Ray Konkol displays his Hengel Concertina & Lifetime Achievement Award

 

2012 WPHF NOMINEES & INDUCTEES

(Inductee*)

Lifetime Achievement
Norm Dombrowski           Ray Konkol*

Honor Roll
Carl Laack*                 Romy's Nitingale*
Brian Brueggen          Duane Westphal*

Support & Promotion
Aaron Schuelke           Gary Brueggan*

Side Person of the Year
Brian Seehafer*           Cliff Penniston
Bob Skornicka        Marty Nachreiner
Mike Cielecki*        Mark Dombrowski
Don Hunjadi*

Cultural Heritage Award

Dozynki Harvest Fest        Bob Ziegenbein         D'Oberlandler        Jerry Voelker*

Band of the Year

Mark Jirikovec Orchestra

Brian's Mississippi Valley Dutchmen*

Neal Zunker & the Music Connection

Youth Mentor

Ernest Broeniman*

Youth Achievement

Derrick Ziegenbein*

 

CONGRATULATIONS TO

ALL NOMINEES AND INDUCTEES!

 

Election results of Officers and Board by unanimous and unopposed positions for a term of two years ending December 31st, 2014 are:

             “Tuba Dan” Jerabek  ~ President     

             Mark Hildebrand ~ Vice President

             Tom Schneider ~ Treasurer                 

             Greg Laabs ~ Secretary   

 Directors:

     Kevin Hemb  Gary Brueggen 

         Aaron Schuelke   Tim Baumann

     Marlin Zellmer    Cecil Piper     Todd Reuss      

 

*Please contact us if you are interested in serving on the Board of Trustees or as a Chairman / volunteer. Just email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.  

 

 

Dear Members of Wisconsin Polka Hall of Fame, Inc.

 

_________________________________________________________


WISCONSIN POLKA HALL OF FAME
Distinguished Service Award to

Jerry Goetsch
&
Don Zamzow

Saturday October 27th, 2012
Rib Mountain Oktoberfest
Wausau, Wisconsin

Don Zamzow with "Tuba Dan" Jerabek and Jerry Goetsch's son Terry - accepting the WPHF "Distinguished Service Award"
_____________________________________________________________________ 

 

 

Wisconsin Polka Hall of Fame Salutes

Laack’s Ballroom 100th Anniversary

 

 

Receipiants of the WPHF-DSA 

Donald, Audrey and Carl Laack 

 

(Johnsonville, WI) The Wisconsin Polka Hall of Fame (WPHF) proudly presented the “Award of Distinguished Service” to Laack’s Ballroom for their family owned and operated business, supporting polka music for 100 years! The event took place on Saturday May 5th at Laack’s Ballroom - Hwy JM- Johnsonville, WI (7 miles Northeast of Plymouth). The WPHF presented the award in conjunction with a free dance for WPHF members featuring “Polka Potion”.


Laacks Hall - Johnsonville, Wisconsin - ca. 1912

 




 **** APRIL  21st, 2012 ****

The Wisconsin Polka Hall of Fame proudly presented Wayne Solberg & Syl Liebl Jr. with our "Distinguished Service Award" at Brian Brueggan's "Cashton Bash" in Cashton, Wisconsin.

 

WISCONSIN POLKA HALL OF FAME

 

SPRING DANCE

 

WAS HELD:

 

SUNDAY – April 29th - 2012

Music by…

 The Hayes Boys & The Kingsmen

1-6 PM

     REDEKER’S RUSTIC INN

1233 Main St. Kellnersville, WI

 (920) 372-3306

 

 The WPHF presented the “Award of Distinguished Service” to Elroy Berkholtz and Art Nickels

 

Art Nickols accepts Award of Distinguished Service form WPHF President "Tuba Dan" Jerabek

 

Mrs. Elroy Burkholzt accepts WPHF-DSA for "Tuba Dan" Jerabek

 


MEMBERSHIP DRIVE DANCE?

Tell us what you think about...

 

 A FREE DANCE FOR WISCONSIN POLKA HALL OF FAME MEMBERS!!

 

That’s right! A dance that is FREE to all Wisconsin Polka Hall of Fame Members!

 

 

The WPHF presents annually a MEMBERSHIP DRIVE DANCE in efforts to show appreciation to the WPHF membership and in attempts to increase its membership. The dance is open to the public, but we are asking you to spread the word and sign up NEW MEMBERS! Bring in your friends and family and get them join the organization! For as little as $10 (cost of yearly membership) - sign them up - and the DANCE IS FREE!

Another special we are offering that day is a 3- year membership for only $20 which includes a WPHF CD!

That’s a savings of $13 (a 40% discount) + FREE CD!  Take advantage! Renew or extend your own membership and get this savings too! Come join in the fun!

 

 

______________________________

 

Jerry Voelker inducted for

Lifetime Achievement!






Jerry Voelker




Jerry Voelker’s began his musical career at the age of eight. His parents sold a cow for $85, bought Jerry a 48 bass accordion, and hired Leo Valenta to give him his first lessons. Playing polkas was always Jerry’s passion but it was Ed Parmentier, owner of the “Music Mecca” in Green Bay, who insisted that Jerry practice the accordion daily.

It was 1961 when Jerry joined the “Red suspender Band”, a four piece group. Seven years later with the support of his wife Rosie and Ed Parmentier ,  the “ Jerry Voelker & The Jolly Gents Orchestra” was formed.

In 1970 Jerry recorded his first LP - “Dance Time” on the KL label.

With the help of Sister Jeanette Peplinski, Jerry Voelker and the band are credited to being one of the first groups to start playing ‘Polka Masses” in Wisconsin.

During the mid 70s, “Jerry Voelker & the Jolly Gents” made numerous television appearances on the “Polka Variety” show on WBAY, Green Bay.

Joining the Wisconsin Orchestra Leads Association, Jerry served as Secretary/Treasurer and later President. He was voted Wisconsin Orchestra Leads Association’s “Band Leader of the Year” in 1975.

The Band has 18 CD’s available at this time.

For over 43 years, listeners continue to tune in to the “Jerry Voelker Polka Show” on WAUN Radio AM1360 every Sunday morning.

Highlights with the band, Jerry notes playing at the “Hofbrau Haus” in Munich-Germany, Russia, China and Mexico. Jerry also recalls the great times playing in Hawaii and across the country. He also can’t forget the many cruise ships he played. The fondest memory is the band’s 40th Anniversary Dance at the Riverside Ballroom in Green Bay, with over 850 in attendance.

Married to his wife Rosie for over 53 Years, with whom they have five children – three girls and two boys. His sons Jim & Jeff were 10 years old when they started to play in the band. Jeff continues to play with the band to this day. Jerry is also proud to have Ralph Kraynik, his first lead trumpet player, still playing with the band.

Jerry would like to thank the entire musicians who have played for him over the years. He would also like to thank his current band members: Ralph Kraynik, David Kopetsky, Tim Flaig, and his son Jeff Voelker.

 Jerry states …“It is a blessing to share this prestigious award with such other great musicians, and would like to thank the Wisconsin Polka Hall of Fame and its members for my induction for Lifetime Achievement. It has been because of my musical career that I and Rosie will be making our 36th trip to Europe next year. So as you can see, with music, a lot can be done…”

Here is to everyone out the!

 DO NOT GIVE UP YOUR DREAMS!

Thank You,

Jerry Voelker




 

   The selecting and voting for Nominees and possible Inductees into the Wisconsin Polka Hall of Fame is done by the membership at large, with each member (Officers and Board of Directors included), casting one vote. All Nominees are posted on a ballot in their appropriate categories and sent to the entire membership. At that time, the vote is cast is for induction. The tabulation process and resulting information is only known by a Certified Public Accountant. After the tabulation process has ended, only the result of the Lifetime Achievement Award Inductee is made public. All other award winners are known only by the CPA and kept secure. To keep us all in suspense, the sealed envelopes will be opened for each respective category at the Awards Ceremony held the second Sunday in November.






Dear Friends of Wisconsin Polka Hall of Fame, Inc.

Thank you for helping make the 2011 Wisconsin Polka Hall of Fame Awards Ceremony & Dance a huge success! Your membership, support and participation are greatly appreciated! Now in our sixteenth year of existence, the Wisconsin Polka Hall of Fame has recognized, honored, and inducted over 185 individuals!

LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT

Jerry Voelker

SIDE PERSON OF THE YEAR AWARD

Tom Schneider

Mike Marnocha

John Wudtke

HONOR ROLL AWARD

Gary Kuchenbecker

Mike Schneider

CULTURAL HERITAGE AWARD

Orv Konop and the OK Dance Band

SUPPORT AND PROMOTION

Wisconsin Polka Boosters

BAND OF THE YEAR AWARD

Jerry Schneider Band

YOUTH MENTOR AWARD

Craig Gall

YOUTH ACHIEVEMENT AWARD

Tyler Sawall

SIDE PERSON OF THE YEAR AWARD

Don Hunjadi (S. Meisner, M. Schneider, T. Brusky)

Tom Schneider (Jerry Schneider Band, "Tuba Dan" Band)

Mike Marnocha (D. Rogers, D. Schlies, OK Dance Band)

John Wudtke (Neal Zunker and the Music Connection)

Cliff Penniston (M. Schneider, J. Winard, D. Austin)

Dave Austin (R. Bright, Jeff Winard, I'ntl Main St. P.B.)

HONOR ROLL AWARD

Rick Gundrum (Musician, Radio D.J., Promoter)

Duane Westphal (Band Leader, Musician, Arranger)

Johnny Hoffmann (Band Leader, Musician)

Gary Kuchenbecker (Band Leader, Musician, Radio D.J.)

Mike Schneider (Band Leader, Musician)

CULTURAL HERITAGE AWARD

(S.V.E.V.) D'Oberlandler Schuhplattlers

River City Blaskapelle

Orv Konop and the OK Dance Band

Leon Ostrowski & Dozynki Harvest Festival

SUPPORT AND PROMOTION AWARD

Aaron Schuelke - WRJQ (WRJQradio.com – Internet D.J.)

Wisconsin Polka Boosters (Bi-Monthly news letter & lessons)

BAND OF THE YEAR AWARD

Jerry Schneider Band

Carol & the Keynotes

Mark Jirikovec Orchestra

Official Inductees of 2010

Lifetime Achievement Award: Alvin Styczynski

Support & Promotion: "Tuba Dan" Jerabek

Cultural Heritage Award: Pommersche Tanzdeel Freistadt

Honor Roll Award: Mark Jirikovec, Gary Brueggen

Side Person of the Year Award: Tom Schneider, Laurie Solberg, Denis Thull

Band of the Year Award: Neal Zunker and the Music Connection

Youth Mentor: Jason J. Sebranek

Youth Achievement: Emmitt Raczkowski




March 11th, 2011

 

Election results of Officers and Board by unanimous and unopposed positions are:

 “Tuba Dan” Jerabek  ~ President     

            Mark Hildebrand ~ Vice President

            Tom Schneider ~ Treasurer                 

            Greg Laabs ~ Secretary   

 Directors:

     Kevin Hemb  Gary Brueggen 

         Aaron Schuelke   Dan Jerabek Jr.

     Marlin Zellmer    Cecil Piper     Todd Reuss          

 

January 1st, 2011

 

Dear Members of Wisconsin Polka Hall of Fame, Inc.

 

Thank you for helping make the 2010 Wisconsin Polka Hall of Fame Awards Ceremony & Dance a huge success! Your membership, support and participation are greatly appreciated! Now in our sixteenth year of existence, the Wisconsin Polka Hall of Fame has recognized, honored, and inducted over 175 individuals!

 

Official Inductees of the 2010 include:

 

Lifetime Achievement Award: Alvin Styczynski

Support & Promotion: “Tuba Dan” Jerabek

Cultural Heritage Award: Pommersche Tanzdeel Freistadt

Honor Roll Award: Mark Jirikovec, Gary Brueggen      

Side Person of the Year Award: Tom Schneider, Laurie Solberg, Denis Thull

Band of the Year Award: Neal Zunker and the Music Connection

Youth Mentor:  Jason J. Sebranek

Youth Achievement: Emmitt Raczkowski

 

With your continued help and support of this organization, you will enable the Wisconsin Polka Hall Of Fame , Inc. accomplish more in 2011 and for generations to come!

 

With sincere thanks,

 

Wisconsin Polka Hall of Fame, Inc.

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2010 LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT INDUCTEE:

ALVIN STYCZYNSKI

 

75 Years ago Alvin Styczynski was born in a farmhouse 3 ½ miles west of Pulaski, Wisconsin. On his 13th birthday in 1948, received his first concertina (previous owner was that of Dick Rogers - its cost was only $25).

 

December 1948 was Alvin’s first performance at the Laney Grade School Christmas program.  His first “Paid” performance was on New Year’s Eve in 1948 at Tony’s Friendly Tavern, downtown Pulaski. Being only 13 years old, Alvin’s father Joe had to accompany him until 4:00 a.m. because Alvin was a minor. Alvin asked $5 for his 8 hour performance with its limited 2 song polka library. Tavern owner Tony Blezniak was so please with Alvin’s performance, he doubled Alvin’s salary to $10 - and gave Alvin’s father a bottle of Polish Blackberry Brandy to take home.

 

Alvin attended Pulaski High School. He played the trumpet with the school band and sang in the school chorus. Alvin started up his own polka band with Richard Hodkiewicz. Practice sessions began on the front porch of Alvin’s family farmhouse. The 2 piece band was becoming successful, so Alvin graduated to a 3 piece band by adding an accordion player.“Alvin Styczynski’s Jolly Trio” was born. Soon Alvin had a full fledged polka band numbering 6 musicians. Fame developed rapidly. Alvin’s’ breakthrough came in1966 with a letter From Joe Fiedor of Mt. Pleasant Pennsylvania.  The” Alvin Styczynski Polka Band” was invited to play at Fiedor’s Grove - in Mt. Pleasant, PA.

 

On July 28th, 1970 Alvin hit the Television screen, taping his first television polka show on WBAY TV Channel 2 in Green Bay, WI. That Sunday morning polka show ran for 9 years and was rated one of the highest polka shows in the United States. Alvin also had a syndicated polka television show for several years that aired on Channel 18 in Milwaukee.

 

In 1974 Alvin was voted “Band Leader of the Year” by the Wisconsin Orchestra Leaders Association.

 

In May of 1985, Alvin received personal invitation requesting the honor of the Alvin Styczynski Polka Band to  perform at the 4th of July, “Festival of American Folklife”  sponsored by the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, DC.

 

On November 11th, 2001 Alvin was awarded the prestigious “Senior Achievement Award” by the Wisconsin Polka Hall of Fame.

 

Alvin has enjoyed delighting crowds of polka fans throughout the years. After countless performances trough 15 States, the District of Columbia, the 8 European Tours are the highlights of his life (Beside his wife Sherry)! Alvin has toured the countries of Poland (where his Grandfather was born), Holland, Switzerland, Austria, Germany, and Czechoslovakia. Alvin had the honor of performing at the “International Polka Festival” in Prague, Czechoslovakia with even a greater honor of meeting Mr. Jaromir Vejvoda , composer of the “Beer Barrel Polka”.

 

Alvin- along with Dick Rogers, Don Schlies and Russ Zimmerman - originated, and served as chairmen for the “Pulaski Polka Days”.

 

Alvin served for 10 years as a Director for the Wisconsin Orchestra Leaders Association.

 

Alvin’s ongoing list of accomplishments include ballroom operator in Pulaski, for almost 20 years.Alvin is also the originator and producer of “America’s Polka Celebration” for 23 years.

 

Alvin Styczynski has now entertained listeners for 52 years as a polka DJ on radio station WTAQ – AM & FM in Green Bay. TAPSCAN ratings have proven this show to be the highest rated. Listeners on Radion Station WTCH – AM & FM in Shawano,WI  - have enjoyed Alvin’s programming for over 50 Years also!

 

Alvin has recorded 13 albums, released 11 cassettes, 3 CDs + 1 Video.

His biggest hit was done on the “American” label, which was none other than “Hup Sadyna”.



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2010 Wisconsin Polka Hall of Fame's

"Distinguished Service" Award Recipients:


 WPHF-VP Mark Hildebrand presents Duke Wright with WPHF-DSA

 

  Duke Wright was born in Wausau Wisconson on September 28th, 1939. His parents, Duey and Julia Wright operated Wright's Music Store on Third Street in downtown Wausau for over 40 years.

 

  Duke’s first band, the Rhythmaires, got their start in 1955.  Shortly thereafter, the band began a daily radio show on WHVF (now WXCO) in Wausau and recorded four sides for Polkaland Records.

 

  In 1956, Duke's band began playing a several year run on WSAU-TV, Channel 7 in Wausau. That year Duke also started Northland Records.  Northland’s first release, The Beer Polka and Country Waltz were recorded in September of 1956 at Northland's downtown Wausau studio. In late 1956 the band became known as the Duke Wright Orchestra. Shortly thereafter, in January of 1957, the first rock ‘n roll record ever recorded in the state of Wisconsin “Rock 'n' Roll Saddles”, was recorded at Northland.  Over the years many polka and rock bands recorded for Northland and its subsidiaries.  A new recording studio was constructed in the mid 1960s on North Third Street and the “Big Sound” label was added featuring Rock bands.

 

 Duke's other major interest, radio broadcasting, came into play with the founding of WRIG radio in September of 1958. In 1965, Orv Heinz asked Duke to play with his band the “Nut Tones”.  Duke played bass and later switched then switched to a Cordovox. The band played many festivals and a countless of weddings. Some of the past musicians that played with Duke throughout the years were: Jerry Starr, Roger Barnetzke, Kenny Utecht, Harley Stieber, Wayne Plant, Orv Heinz, Dick Nowak, Tommy Shimkus, Bud Christianson, Jack Bernard.Duke’s Band played until 1978. Traveling and playing with the band was taking up too much time. Duke wanted to focus more on this family and his radio career.

 

  Today, Duke remains active in radio broadcasting as president of Midwest Communications. Midwest Communications operates 47 radio stations. These stations are located throughout Wisconsin, Minnesota, Michigan, Indiana and Illinois. In addition to The Wisconsin Polka Hall of Fame recognizing Duke Wright with their “Distinguished Service " award, Duke has been inducted into the Wisconsin Broadcasters Association Hall of Fame and is a charter member of the Central Wisconsin Music Hall of Fame.

 

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Norm Dombrowski

 

 While growing up in Portage County Wisconsin, Norm Dombrowski attended many Polish weddings and parties. Norm got to see many of the local bands at that time. When starting high school, Norm, like many of his friends, was interested in rock and roll. At that time, Norm's school schedule permitted him to return home during the lunch hour where he would listen to polka music on the radio. Norm especially enjoyed many of the Li’l Wally songs that were played.  Norm discovered that Li’l Wally was to play in Peplin for two nights in a row. Norm decided to go with a friend and see Li'l Wally in person. Norm was truly impressed with the band and its great sound!  That was when Norm saw the “other side” of polka music. With the energetic Li'l Wally style, Norm was hooked on polkas! Norm and started drumming in February of 1957, playing with many of the local bands, mostly 3 piece in size.

In 1959 Norm met Jerry Halkoski and on May 7th, 1960 they started the “Happy Notes Orchestra”.  It was four musicians of equal partnership, Jerry Halkoski, Marvin Stencil, Ron Gruna and of course, Norm Dombrowski. They recorded the “Ashland Avenue Hop” and “Happy Notes Polka” on the Northland label. Duke Wright Jr. was the recording engineer and played the upright bass. Duke also recorded many more 45’s plus four more Albums for the “Happy Notes Orchestra”.

 In 1962 Jerry Halkoski left the band to pursue his teaching career. He was replaced by David Wanta.  Bob Organisack took over Marv Stencil’s spot.  Irv Kovalski also joined in. Even Gene Schulfer sat in for Ron Gruma while Ron served in the National Guard.  In time Gene Lorbiecki took over for Ron.  In 1972, Irv and Dave left, and Mike Piotrowski and Ken Camlek joined the team.  Joe Adams, Rudy Voica, and Marlin Schneider joined in at various times to help perform with the bands busy and demanding schedule. Don Chesebro even arranged sheet music when with the band.

In 1976 the band had other changes. While Ken Camlek stayed with the Band, Norm’s son Mark started playing the saxophone and clarinet.  Daughter Marie joined the band playing the concertina, piano, and violin.  Later, sons Jon would join with the accordion and Joe on trumpet. Daughter Jane made many singing appearances with the band, and also sang on some recordings. Joe Larson also joined at a later date playing piano and guitar. Norm has now been playing with his family for over 34 years!

In 1998, Norm Dombrowski and the Happy Notes had the honor of playing for 16 days in Washington, DC, at the Smithsonian Folk Life Festival.  They appear on the Smithsonian Institute-produced "Deep Polka" CD.  Also that same year, they performed in Madison, for the 150th Anniversary of the State of Wisconsin.  The band also has performed many times at the Milwaukee Polish Fest - the largest Polish Fest in the Nation, and for countless dances, weddings, picnics and other enjoyable events.

Some of their “Greatest Hit” songs include- Astronaut Polka, Sweet Violets Waltz, Will You Love Me When, Looking for a Sweetheart and “PLEASE, DON’T DRINK MY BEER!

Thanks to the 45 RPM record sales to Radio Doctors in Milwaukee, and to One-Stop Record Stores, the exposure gained from record sales and juke box plays from across the country has warranted several articles in the "Billboard Magazine".  The band has recorded 142 songs, many of which appear on their 3 CD's.

On May 7th, 2010 the band celebrated 50 years of playing polka, waltzes and variety music! 





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CONGRATULATIONS TO ALL 2009 NOMINEES AND INDUCTEES!!

(*Denotes Inductees)

 

Lifetime Achievement

*Bill Savatski - Alvin Styczynski - Jane Shirek - Neal Zunker - Ray Konkol - Duane Westphal

 

Support & Promotion

*Jeff Heinz (WDEZ) - Aaron Schuelke (WRJQradio.com)

 

Cultural Heritage

Pommersche Tansdeel Freistadt - * Peggy Mueller - D'Oberlanders -

Orville Konop and the OK Dance Band

 

Honor Roll

*Scott Lopas - Harold Otto - Duane Westphal - Gary Brueggen - *Don Schlies

 

Side Person of the Year

*Greg Laabs - *Tom Schneider - Mike Marnocha - Laurie Solberg - Dan Meyer -

*Nic Dunkel - Brian Seehafer

 

Band of the Year

Neal Zunker and the Music Connection - Mark Jirikovec Orchestra -

The Hayes Boys Orchestra - *The Mike Schneider Band

 

Youth Mentor

*D. Thomas Busch

 

Youth Achievement

*Steve Burclaw

 

THANK YOU TO EVERYONE WHO SUPPORTED THE

WISCONSIN POLKA HALL OF FAME

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