It’s National Polka Day! I was familiar with polka music at a young age. I would watch Lawrence Welk every Saturday night with my grandparents. While I enjoyed the entire cast, the two acts I paid special attention to were Jo Ann Castle, the ragtime piano player, and Myron Floren, the accordionist. My German grandmother also ensured I grew up with polka and yodeling. When I heard it was national polka day, I knew I had to combine my love of polka with this month’s theme – fruit. With that, today’s #songoftheday is “Apple, Peaches, Pumpkin Pie” by Frankie Yankovic.
Frank John Yankovic was born in 1915 to Slovenian immigrant parents. He grew up entrenched in the Slovenian musical community, picking up the accordion when he was nine (Wikimedia Foundation, n.d.). He began making local radio appearances but was turned away by record labels. While serving in World War II, he suffered a severe case of frostbite which almost cost him both his hands and feet.
"It was a dreadful experience," he said in a 1995 interview. "My limbs were frozen. In Oxford, England, the doctors said they were going to have to amputate my hands and legs. I told them, `No way. I'd rather die.' What good would I be, an accordionist, with no fingers? But you know what happened? The gangrene started going away; it started clearing up. Then the doctors told me there was an accordion in the hospital that I could try practicing on, if I wanted to. So that became my therapy." (Eng, 1998)
His first hit came when he released “Just Because” in 1948 which sold a million records, and was crowned America’s Polka King. In 1970, he won the first Grammy awarded for polka music. Yankovic passed in 2008 from heart failure.
Photo credits: KMUW
Eng, M. (1998, October 15). FRANKIE YANKOVIC, 83, AMERICA‘S `POLKA KING.’ Chicagotribune.Com. https://www.chicagotribune.com/news/ct-xpm-1998-10-15-9810150112-story.html
Wikimedia Foundation. (n.d.). Frankie Yankovic. Wikipedia. Retrieved August 10, 2021, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frankie_Yankovic