National Cleveland Style Polka Hall of Fame and Museum
605 East 222nd Street Euclid, OH 44123
Toll Free: 1-800-66POLKA
"Slovenian Soul" best describes Bobby’s original playing style. Born of Slovenian
parents in Westmoreland City, Pa., he always was surrounded by Slovenian button-box
music since his grandfather, father and three uncles also played. At age 11, he picked
up a borrowed accordion and taught himself. With heavy influence from his uncle John
Adamic, Frank Baloh and the Johnny Pecon/Lou Trebar recordings, he went on to perform
as a child and teen at countless polka events in the Pittsburgh area. During this
time, not owning an accordion, he would borrow accordions until he won money on an
SNPJ raffle ticket. At 17, he drove straight to Trebar’s home and they went shopping
for his first accordion. Another uncle, in ill health, then sold him a 1928 Mervar
that he plays to this day. Bobby’s heartfelt style brings a tear to the eyes of old-timers
just as it brings a tapping of the feet from the youngsters.
In 1960, he joined the legendary Al Morouse Orchestra, also playing the chromatic
accordion, delivered their first hit, "SNPJ Polka.” Many recordings followed, most
recently recording with the famed Bob Timko.
His contributions to Slovenian culture extend well beyond recordings. He performed
at concerts, picnics, festivals and funerals, most often for free, often at events
that had nothing to do with Slovenes, simply to spread the music. He was president
of his SNPJ Lodge and Slovenian Home at 19 and was past president of the American
Slovenes of Western Pennsylvania and the “Slovene Radio Program.” He was one of the
original directors involved in the purchase, building and development of the Westmoreland
SNPJ Picnic Grove in Evanstown-Herminie, Pa. In 1973, Bobby initiated the Grape Festival,
which continues to be the largest cultural event of the year. For 20 years he did
the Slovenian segmant , co-hosting with his wife, Vlatka, the "Sounds of Yugoslavia"
Bobby has also been a driving force within the Slovenian community, helping and encouraging
others to do as he has done. He has instituted several testimonials and benefits
for deserving Slovenes.
It remains easy to find Bobby and his button box at festivals and charitable functions.
Each year, too, he teams up with old friends Frank and Daryl Valencic at Slovenefest.