Eddie Habat

Article - #2 (2011)











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Eddie Habat was born in Cleveland, Ohio on September 16, 1926. Habat led one of the five outstanding Cleveland-based orchestras (the others being Yankovic, Pecon, Vadnal and Bass) that achieved national prominence recording and performing Cleveland-Style Slovenian polkas and waltzes. He began playing the accordion at the age of seven and by the age of eleven was playing weddings and private parties. As a child, he had listened faithfully to Martin Antoncic and his transcriptions on the radio of Yankovic, Pecon and Joe Sodja, and was soon able to play exactly what he heard. William (Doc) Lausche and especially Matt Hoyer were his inspirations. In 1942 at the age of sixteen, Eddie was asked to assume leadership of the Johnny Pecon Orchestra while Pecon was in the Navy. It was a tremendous honor for teenage Eddie to be asked to take over one of the best bands of its time. After being called to serve in the Navy himself, Eddie rejoined the Pecon band, but later left to work on his own. In 1948, along with Kenny Bass and Pete Sokatch, he formed the Tunemixers who were given on WSRS a weekly half-hour radio show which was an instant hit with a #1 rating. A Decca recording contract followed and eight major hits were recorded, three of them original Eddie Habat compositions. After the Tunemixer’s contract, Decca offered Eddie an exclusive contract which lasted for thirteen years. He made over 150 records and albums, some of which were advertised in Billboard, a national publication of the music industry. The Eddie Habat Orchestra was one of the country’s most successful. His original composition of Go, Man, Go Polka sold 50,000 records in the first two weeks after it was released and was distributed internationally. Cleveland’s Bill Randle, one of the nation’s top disc jockeys, called it the best football song of its time. His playing style was and is still imitated by many others, including Canada’s Polka King Walter Ostanek, who used to drive to Cleveland from Canada just to hear Eddie play. Over 25 of Eddie’s original polka and waltz compositions, big hits like Riverboat Polka, Uncle Nick's Polka, Hi Lee, Hi Lo and Strawberry Hill Polka have been recorded by many other groups. As Bob Dolgan of the Cleveland Plain Dealer said, "No one could turn on the emotion like Habat. He gave you the impression that he would gladly play for free." His last album, "From the Heart" certainly describes his love of Slovenian music. Eddie Habat died in Cleveland on May 13, 2005