This is a 3-CD collection of Frankie Yankovics early recordings from 1938, 1939, 1942 and 1944. This is the first time they are offered on CD. It is a 3-CD Limited Edition Numbered Collectors Set. Once the Numbered sets are gone a regular edition will be issued. It also includes CD booklet with history and some pictures of Frankie and his early band.
This recording is historic because these are the first songs that Frank Yankovic ever produced - after being rejected for recording contracts by both Columbia and RCA in 1938! So, Frank instead put out his own records from 1938 - 1946, which include the songs on this album.
And it was these songs that helped Columbia to "reconsider" it's earlier rejection of Frank Yankovic and instead sign him to a recording contract in 1946!
Two years later Frank was crowned America's Polka King at a contest in Milwaukee...and the legendary career of this polka music icon never slowed down from there, eventually leading to his induction into the IPA Polka Hall of Fame in 1969 (he has the honor of being one of the first 2 people ever inducted into the IPA Hall of Fame) & also having the distinction of winning the first ever GRAMMY Award for "Best Polka Recording" (for his album "70 Years of Hits").
(Excerpt taken from www.soundfountain.org)
Frank Yankovic (1915-1998)
Born July 28, 1915, in Davis, a small town in West Virginia, accordionist Frank Yankovic grew up in the Slovene-Italian section of Collinwood, Ohio. His parents were Andy Yankovic and Rose Mele.
According to the liner notes on Columbia CL 6307, Frank began playing the accordion when he was seven, and he acquired his first "piano-accordian" when he was 15 as is stated in the liner notes on the back of Columbia 10" LP CL 6307, though other sources mention that his mother gave him that piano-accordion when he was 17.
Frank's first enlarged polka group consisted of Albert Naglitch (piano), Johnny Hokavar (Hocevar) (bass), Bill Dunlavey (sax), Frank Skufka (banjo), and Lee Novak (drums). They became the most popular band in Cleveland performing at weddings and all sorts of parties.
Already in 1938, then 23 year old Frank Yankovic asked Columbia and RCA to make recordings of his band. Both companies turned him down. So Frank decided to produce two 78 RPM records under his own "Yankee" label. It was Heinie Martin who took Frank and his band to the Cleveland Recording Company Studios, in Downtown Cleveland. Fred Wolf owned the studio. Since Frank was not thinking of a music career yet, he used "Slovene Folk Orchestra" for his band name. Frank put up all the money for his first records. All 4,000 copies were sold by Mervar's Music Co. of Cleveland, Ohio, in just a few weeks.
#421 Silk Umbrella Polka/ Always Jolly
#422 Hooray Slovenes Polka/ Waltz Medley
The success of these records led to the recording and release of two more 78 RPM discs in 1939, but this time, they were on the "Joliet" label and the name of the band was "Joliet Jolly Jugoslavs". The band members were the same as for the first releases. I could not find the reference numbers of the following 1939 recordings.
#??? Free Spirit Of Slovenes Polka/ Joliet Illinois Waltz
#??? How Good For Me Polka/ Girl In The Garden Waltz
Again, these records were quickly sold out.
Although Frank had achieved some success, he still was short of cash. This was the more serious since he also had a family to raise. To earn more or less a regular income, Frank joined the tavern business and opened the "Yankovic Bar" in November 1941. He bought a tavern at 528 East 152nd Street. Frank's sister, Rose, and her husband, Tom Milakovich, were his business partners. Everyone thought he was crazy and predicted that his music career would soon come to an end. Because of the uncertain situation Frank Skufka and Lee Novak decided to quit the band.
Lee Novak was replaced by Henry "Hank" Bokal who played with Frank from 1941 thru 1947. Despite this fact, Frank had a recording session with Albert Naglitch (piano), Johnny Hokavar (bass) and Joe Miklavic (banjo) in 1942. In the recording the drummer was not replaced.
Frank's band recorded 10 tunes which were released only five years later, in 1947 that was, and the label was Don Gabor's Continental label. Here are the record numbers and tunes that were released on Continental 78's:
#413 Detroit Polka / Jolly Fellows Polka
#414 Don't Flirt With My Gal/ Herkulovic Waltz - also found as Herkulovic - Watw - Treba ni, treba ni
#415 My Wife's Chirping Voice Polka/ To The Left, To The Right Polka - also found as Moje zenke glas - Na levo, na desmo
#416 Darling, Who Will Take My Place Waltz (featuring vocals by Dorothy and Rosie Kravos, Frank's nieces)/ My Darling-When You Go Wandering
#417 Dizzy Day Polka/ Happy Minutes Polka 413 Detroitska polka /Dizzy day polka
Like so many immigrants, also Frank had joined the Armed Forces in 1943. When he was on leave for two weeks in the following year, he decided to make a few more recordings.
On the afternoon of Wednesday, February 2, 1944, Frank called in Miklavic, Naglitch and Hokavar to do a marathon recording session for the "Jolly" label. He recorded 32 songs on 16 78 RPM discs at Carnegie Hall Studios of the Cleveland Recording Company Studios.
These records were also the first Yankovic recordings with the Solovox (electric organ). The recordings were produced by "Heinie" Martin Antoncic and studio owner Fred Wolf. There was no time for rehearsals and no time to fool around. If they hit a wrong note they just kept on playing. In fact, Frank even brought in Seagram's "to keep the boys happy". If you listen to some of these recordings, they do sound like everyone had a good time!
These are the 16 Jolly 78 RPM records, which give credit to "Frankie Yankovic's Slovene Orchestra":
#500 My Honey Polka/ Give Me My Heart Back Waltz
#501 Jolly Polka/ Vadnal Waltz
#502 Don't Forget Me Polka/ Yankovic Polka
#503 Be Mine, Be Mine Polka/ Slovene Waltz (No.1)
#504 Don't Flirt With My Gal Polka/ Kukavica Waltz
#505 Jolly Fellows Polka/ Herkulovic Waltz
#506 Be Happy-Polka/ Bye Bye Baby Polka
#507 Wifey's Chirping Voice Polka/ Playful Boys Polka
#508 Three To The Left, Three To The Right Polka/ Orphan Waltz
#509 Cherry Polka/ My Honey Is Wandering In Tirole Waltz
#510 Happy Minutes Polka/ Venitian Waltz
#511 Daisy Polka/ Jingling Tingling Polka
#512 Golden Stars Polka/ Detroit Polka
#513 Where Is That Fly Polka/ Summer Night Waltz
#514 St. Clair Polka/ I Know Of A Sweet Little Girl Waltz
#515 Clap And Turn Slovene Folk Dance-Polka/ Yours Polka
Continental 78 RPM:
Fred Wolf sold all the copyrights and some masters from the 1942 and 1944 cuts to Don Garbor for $3,000. Gabor began re-releasing these from 1948-1949 on. There have been many more, but this is all that I have found so far of "Frank Yankovic and his Orch." on Continental 78's:
#??? "Poppy Polka" (B-side is "Slovene Polka" by the Lausche Trio)
#418 Daisy Polka/ Jingling Tingling Polka
#420 Clap And Turn Polka/ Venetian Waltz
#422 "The Oak Tree Polka" (B-side is "We Won't Go Home" by the Lausche Trio) What's funny is that "Oak Tree" is actually a reissue of Frank's 1939 Joliet recording "How Good For Me Polka". Which is very odd that Gabor also got a hold of this.
#1201 Be Happy Polka/ Bye Bye Baby Polka
#1203 My honey Polka - Happy minutes Polka
#1204 Yankovic Polka/ Fly Polka (This was also released in an album set "Frank Yankovic In Polka Time" on Continental #49)
#1205 Jolly Fellows Polka/ Yours Polka (NOTE: These two 78's could have been also released in an album set, Continental #49. But I have not yet been able to find the others and I don't have the album for this.)
#1206 Golden stars Polka - Cherry Polka.
#1214 St. Clair Polka/ My Honey Is Wandering In Tirole
#1219 Playful Boys Polka/ Orphan Waltz
#1220-B Jolly Polka (A-Side is "Too Fat Polka" by Jimmie Dale and his Prides of the Prarie")
#1231 Don't Forget Me Polka/ Vadnal Waltz
#1239 Give Me My Heart Back/ Cukoo Waltz "
Many of these recordings had either the beginnings or the ends chopped off . On the majority the annotation "Arr.: Don Gabor" in between brackets was printed below the song title. Did Gabor mean that he really had arranged the music or just did arrange for the release? In most cases it was Frank himself who wrote the songs. Manipulation was another Gabor's trademark. He even had vocals dubbed in by Scotty MacGregor and Patsy Garrett who of course were not on the original recordings. I am not sure if Gabor did this himself.
#1249 What's-A Gonna Be? (which is really Daisy Polka)/ Mountain Wedding Polka (Jingling Tingling Polka) with vocals by Scotty MacGregor.
#1254 Tinker's Song/ Whistling Sweethearts Polka. This record was issued on red shellac with black spots over it, with vocals by Scotty and Patsy. A reference number is yet unknown to me.
Soon after the introduction of the 45 RPM disc by RCA, Gabor transferred several titles to 45 RPM Continental records in 1949-1950. So far I have found three, but I have also spotted others.
Continental 45 RPM:
#009 Golden Stars Polka/My wife's chirping voice
#036 Herkulovic Waltz
#038 Playful boys - polka/Jolly polka
Remington 78 RPM:
#15009 (Golden Stars Polka/ My Wife's Chirping Voice Polka)
Remington 45 RPM:
#036 Herkulovic Waltz/ Daisy Polka
#1017 To The Left, To The Right Polka
#1061 "Fly Polka/ Daisy Polka"
#1062 Jolly Polka
Remington also 45 RPM box sets:
# RB-906 Bye Bye Baby Polka/ Yankovic Polka/ To The Left, To The Right Polka/ My Honey Polka/ Cherry Polka/ St. Clair Polka
#RB-921 "Polka Time" Daisy Polka/ Fly Polka/ Jolly Polka/ Playful Boys Polka/ Dizzy Day Polka/ Golden Stars Polka
Don Gabor often used the title "In Polka Time", especially for 10" LP's and Extend Play 45's. Often the same songs were released with different titles like "In The Plains" and "Joliet". Scotty MacGregor and Patsy Garrett on vocals could also be found on yet another release:
#1029 "Yankovic In Polka Time"
Continental Extended Play 45 RPM:
#CEP-3 Polka Parade Tracks: Jolly Fellows Polka/ Golden Stars Polka/ Be Happy Polka/ To The Left, To The Right Polka
#002 Daisy Polka/ Detroit Polka #004 My Wife's Chirping Voice Polka/ Clap And Turn Polka #005 Jingling Tingling Polka/ My Honey Polka #007 To The Left, To The Right Polka/ Golden Stars Polka
Don Gabor also released most of these recordings on his later labels in 1956. The earliest I could find was on the Paris label:
#6 "Frank Yankovic and Other Polka Stars" (side B is Victor Zembruski)
The same recordings of the same songs were released on both the Masterseal and Paris labels:
Masterseal #5009 "Frank Yankovic's Polka Party"
Palace #704 "Frank Yankovic's Polka Party" (both have the same exact covers, and both have V. Zembruski on the flip)
Frank's recordings, which were released on these albums were also issued on a 10" Lp on the Cadillac label, which was also related to Remington. Even late in the nineteen fifties these early recordings were reissued, for example on the Altone label:
#235 "Polka Festival" with Frank Yankovic.
This album has two selections with Scotty MacGregor, "Boarding House Polka" (which is the same as "Playful Boys Polka") and "Whistling Sweethearts Polka".
All of the albums mentioned here are related to Remington and Don Gabor. The back side of these albums say "500 Fifth Ave. New York 36, NY".
Don Gabor was a master in using the same recordings over and over again. He could do this because he was sure that there were a lot of Yankovic fans around.
The majority of the recordings mentioned on this page were also released on 3 cassette tapes (and possibly on record, I'm not sure) called "Frank Yankovic, The Early Years", on Sunshine Records around 1990-91. Johnny Hokavar later said about these recordings, "We all had a good time, especially Fred Wolf. He couldn't believe how many records we were cranking out!" Johnny passed away on July 20, 1991.
Albert Naglitch continued to record for Frank until about 1950. He even recorded Frank's hit "Blue Skirt Waltz" with the Sakach-Habat Tunemixers. He died in March of 1983.
I don't know what happened to Joe Miklavic.
As for Frank, when after his first success he had signed up with Columbia Records in 1946, he recorded "Just Because" which sold over a million copies. Following that was "Blue Skirt Waltz" which sold even more copies.
Frank Yankovic achieved national fame and was crowned "America's Polka King". He released countless amounts of recordings and hits. After the Remingtons and Masterseal reissues, he recorded several Columbia stereo discs like 'The All-Time Great Polkas' and 'The All-Time Great Waltzes'.
In 1986, Frank was the first polka star to win a Grammy Award. He is the only Slovenian polka artist to have a full length biography and a PBS documentary. Frank was inducted into the National Cleveland-Style Polka Hall Of Fame, and is a big legend in the history of polka music.
Frank passed away on October 14, 1998 at his home in New Port Richey, Florida. Johnny Pecon (vocals & accordion) was born in 1915 and died in 1975. As mentioned earlier, Hank Bokal lived from 1920 till 1982. Al Naglitch was born on May 30th, 1914 and died in March 1983. Data about Georgie Cook (banjo) and Hokie Hocevar (bass) are not known to me.
A special thank to Frank Smodic, Jr. for his book, "Through The Years" with Frank Yankovic. And thanks to Brian Juntikka for his notes from the tape set "Frank Yankovic, The Early Years". It is possible that some of the information which I give on this page and comes from my own research may not be 100% accurate. If you happen to have any addition and/or correction please click below on "Contribute" so your information can be included.
- Ryan Barna.
Ryan Barna - Research and original text.
Additional research, editing and updating - Rudolf A. Bruil.
Thanks also to Tom Bokal for additional information and black and white pictures.
Page first published in April, 2001.