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Cleveland’s Polka King - Johnny Vadnal

Article - #1 (05, 05, 1997)

 

 

 

 

 

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IN HONOR OF JOHNNY VADNAL
Mr. Kucinich. Mr. Speaker, I rise to honor the lifetime achievement of Johnny Vadnal—band leader, master of the accordion, and Cleveland’s Polka King. Johnny Vadnal and his family—mother, Anna; brothers, Tony, Frankie, and Richie; and sister, Valeria—brought the joys and rhythms of polka music to Cleveland and the country for the past 50 years. Johnny was the first polka band leader in the country to have his own television show in a major market. From 1949 to 1961, the Vadnals performed every Sunday afternoon at 1 o’clock on WEWS channel 5 in Cleveland. In the late 1940’s and early 1950’s, the Vadnals played six nights a week. Johnny and his band were regulars at all the famous establishments including the Superior Ballroom, Twilight Gardens, Aragon Ballroom, and the Bowl Ballroom. Johnny was so popular at the Bowl Ballroom that not even Louis Prima drew a crowd like Johnny could. At the height of his popularity, Johnny cap-tivated 64,000 baseball fans at Cleveland Sta-dium when he introduced ‘‘The Baseball Polka’’ in 1950. Recording for RCA Victor, Johnny’s biggest hits were the ‘‘Yes, My Dear’’ Waltz, which sold 50,000 copies in its first week, ‘‘Two-Timing You,’’ ‘‘The Slap Happy Polka,’’ ‘‘The Prairie Polka,’’ ‘‘The Mountain Climber,’’ ‘‘No Beer On Sunday,’’ ‘‘Blame It On The Waltz,’’ ‘‘Clap Hands Polka,’’ and his theme song, ‘‘The Wayside Polka.’’ In 1983, Johnny wrote ‘‘My Alice Waltz’’ for his wife, and it was named polka song of the year. Johnny‘s prodigious talent was matched only by the passion and sincerity with which he played. ‘‘All I can say is I play from the heart,’’ he has said. On May 7, the National Cleveland Style Polka Hall of Fame will salute Johnny Vadnal upon his retirement. Mr. Speaker, we are rich-er as a nation and more civilized as a people for Johnny’s contribution to the culture.

 

 

 

 

Johnny Vadnal (right) Paul Nakel (left)

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