Frankie Yankovic (July 15, 1915 Davis, West Virginia - October 14, 1998) was a Grammy Award-winning polka musician. Known as "America's Polka King," Yankovic was the premier artist to play in the Slovenian style during a long and successful career.
Of Slovene descent, he was from South Euclid, Ohio. Yankovic released over 200 recordings in his career. In 1986 he was awarded the first ever Grammy in the Best Polka Recording category.
Yankovic seldom strayed from the Slovenian-style polka, but did record with country singer Chet Atkins, pop singer Don Everly, and a version of the “Too Fat Polka” with comedian Drew Carey, who was from Cleveland, Ohio. Frankie Yankovic also had a longstanding relationship with accordion virtuoso Joey Miskulin.
Yankovic enlisted in the armed forces in 1943, and cut numerous (believed to be 28 'sides') 78 rpm records while on leave, prior to his departure for Europe. He fought in the Battle of the Bulge, where a severe case of frostbite nearly resulted in the amputation of his hands and feet; fortunately, he was able to beat the gangrene before that became necessary, and was awarded a Purple Heart. The doctors urged him to have his fingers amputated, but he refused, since that would mean he would not be able to play the accordion.
Frankie Yankovic hit the national scene when he earned two platinum singles for Just Because (1947) and Blue Skirt Waltz (1949). Frankie Yankovic obtained the title of America's Polka King after beating Duke Ellington in a battle of the bands in Milwaukee at the Milwaukee Arena.
For popularity, longevity, records sales, radio airplay and TV appearances, Frank Yankovic was the undisputed "Polka King" for decades. He had appeared on the Lawrence Welk Show as well as The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson. The state of Wisconsin adopted the 'Polka' as its official dance, with the encouragement of Yankovic.
Yankovic also hosted the television series Polka Time for Buffalo, New York-based WKBW-TV for 26 weeks in 1962. He commuted from Cleveland to host each episode, which aired live. He also hosted a similar show at WGN-TV Chicago at about the same time.
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