National Cleveland Style Polka Hall of Fame and Museum
605 East 222nd Street Euclid, OH 44123
Toll Free: 1-800-66POLKA
Eddie Habat led one of the five outstanding, Cleveland-based orchestras that achieved
national prominence recording and performing Cleveland-Style Polkas and Waltzes.
Like Frank Yankovic, Johnny Pecon, Johnny Vadnal, and Kenny Bass, Eddie drew upon
his Slovenian musical heritage in developing a unique orchestral style that enjoyed
Eddie began playing accordion at age seven, listening intently to Heinie Martin Antoncic's
radio transcriptions of Joe Sodja, Pecon, and Yankovic and duplicating what he heard.
By age eleven, Eddie was playing for weddings and parties. Progressing musically,
Eddie learned much from the works of Dr. William J. "Doc" Lausche and was strongly
influenced by Matt Hoyer.
Buttressed by allocades from Hoyer, Lausche, and Pecon, Eddie's reputation as a Cleveland-Style
accordionist flourished. In 1942, at age sixteen, Eddie was asked to lead the Johnny
Pecon Orchestra while Pecon was in the Navy. In 1948, after his own stint in the
Navy, Eddie teamed up with Pete Sokach and Kenny Bass to form the Habat-Sokach Tunemixers,
achieving a #1 rating on their weekly Cleveland radio show on WSRS and recording
eight hit tunes for Decca, three of them original Habat compositions.
Soon after, Eddie formed the Eddie Habat Orchestra which went on to become one of
the country's most successful Cleveland-Style bands. During thirteen years under
contract with Decca, the Habat Orchestra made over 150 internationally distributed
recordings, some of which were advertised in "Billboard, " the music industry's trade
publication. Eddie's original "Go Man Go" polka sold 50,000 copies in its first two
weeks, was recorded by Russ Morgan, and was called "the best football song of its
time" by Bill Randle, one of the nation's top disc jockeys. The Habat Orchestra performed
throughout the Midwest and in Western Pennsylvania, starred on its own television
show on WEWS in 1955, and appeared frequently on the "Old Dutch Polka Revue" and
"Polka Varieties. "
Eddie has influenced many Cleveland-Style accordionists, and over twenty-five of
his compositions, including "Riverboat Polka," "Hi Lee, Hi Lo," and "Strawberry Hill
Polka, " have been recorded by others. Eddie was named Ohio's Polka King in 1949,
Collinwood's Polka Prince in 1970 and Man of the Year in 1972, and POPP's Man of
the Year in 1988. In 1981, Chris Kotsos, former Cleveland-Style bandleader, coaxed
Eddie from retirement, collaborating with him to produce "From the Heart," an outstanding
reprise of the Habat legacy.
As Bob Dolgan of the Cleveland Plain Dealer put it, "Nobody could turn on the emotion
like Habat. He gave you the impression he would gladly play for free."