Mary was born Jan. 30, 1921, in Euclid, she had lived there before moving to Wickliffe
60 years ago. She was raised in a Croatian ethnic family. Her parents were Peter
and Mary Bastasic. The family lived on Cherokee off E. 185th St. There were seven
children in her family: Ann, Kenny, Martha, Helen, Katie, Carolyn and herself. Her
father brought a piccolo from Europe and as a family, they would sing songs while
her sisters Ann and Martha played the piano and accordion, respectively. They also
sang in the Croatian Singing Club.
While growing up in the 1930s, Mary would buy a
10-cent copy of the Hit Parade song sheets and learn to sing and memorize the songs.
She invited all the children from the neighborhood in her garage and gave them two
cents to hear her show. Mary also took piano lessons from her fifth grade teacher,
In the 1940s, her husband, Vince, also a musician, helped her get started
with an all girl Croatian Tamburitza Band for a short time, which included her sisters,
Carolyn, Helen and Katie. Shortly thereafter, Carolyn and Helen went to sing with
the Kenny Bass Orchestra.
During the 1950s, her husband, Vince and brother, Kenny
Bass, taught her to play the bass. Mary also took accordion lessons from Bill Sneller.
She practiced every day with the help of Frankie Yankovic's records. Shortly thereafter,
Kenny arranged for her work with Paula Lunde as the Polka Queens. They were the first
girl band promoting polkas and entertaining during the time the servicemen went to
war. Mary also played for the Polka Varieties Show in 1948, and for the veterans
at Crile Hospital in 1949.
After about four years, she created her own band called
The Melody Queens with Josephine Samsa. Mary Champa was one of the key people in
her band. After some time, Mary Champa went on to pursue other opportunities in the
music field and Mary continued with her band, changing the name from Melody Queens
to Mary and the Polkarinas, which included Mary on the bass, Gloria on the sax, Vera
and Marilyn on the accordion and Jean on the drums. Mary freelanced for five years
after the girls in her band were having babies. She also became a member of the Cleveland
Federation of Musicians Local No. 4 in February of 1951.
In the earlier years some
of the popular nightspots Mary played in were; Gorse's Tavern, Tino's Cafe, Stepse's
White Chimes Bar, Gaiety Bar, Fritz Tavern, Podboy's Lounge on Buckeye, Leo's Cafe,
Short Vincent downtown, Uptown Grill, Nottingham Tavern, Chatterbox Lounge, Kelly's
Ranch in Westlake, Recher Hall Club Room, Mellow Bar and Slovenian/ Croatian Halls
for weddings and other functions. Bill Randall heard her band and said it would go
places, and it did.
While Mary's brother, Kenny Bass was touring the Midwest in the
1960s, Mary took over some of his jobs in the Cleveland area playing with Art Perko,
Ralph Roberts, Harry Mayes and Hank Bokal.
Through the 1970s and 1980s, Mary worked
in many other establishments with various musicians including: Eddie Andres, Dolly
Kendall, Frances Klein, Don Kotnik, Joe Lasicky, John Medvesek, Jerry Pillar, Marcy
Richter, Josephine Samsa, Joey Tomsick, Joe Trolli and Dave Wolnik.
In the latter
part of the 1980s, Mary was a member of the Button Box groups, Buttons & Bows, Euclid
Squeezeboxers, Fairport Harbor and Holmes Avenue Buttoneers and Mary also played
with Simcic's Buttonbox Group for Cecilia Dolgan's yearly button box bash held at
Recher Hall. Mary was also a member of the Polka Boosters Club during this time.
the 1990s, on a part-time basis, Mary played with the Byron Grey Orchestra with Chuck
Ventura and Domenic Rainone at party centers and nursing facilities.
Mary also enjoyed
having jam session parties at her home with some of her musician friends, Dan Zall
Sr., Danny Zall Jr., Frank Rich and Chuck Ventura. She was a member of the Cleveland
Federation of Musicians Local 4 Union for more than 55 years.
Mrs. Bass-Zivador died March 16, 2009, in Euclid.
Mary is survived by her children,
Martha Jean Williams and Debbie (Bernie) Rietze; grandchildren, Michael (Tammy) Thompson,
Bobby (Carrie) Thompson and Terry Thompson; great-grandchildren, Melissa and Danielle
Thompson; her precious dog, Cora; sisters, Katie Matoh, Carolyn Dougherty and Helen
Cameron; and brother-in-law, Al Skok.
Her husband, Vincent Zivador; parents, Peter
and Mary Bastasic; sisters, Ann Moizuk and Martha Skok; brother, Kenny Bass; brothers-in-law,
Frank Matoh, Joe Dougherty and Don Cameron; and sister-in-law, Ronnie Bass, are deceased.