National Cleveland Style Polka Hall of Fame and Museum
605 East 222nd Street Euclid, OH 44123
Toll Free: 1-800-66POLKA
Amid the musical talent abounding in the Vadnal family, Frank Vadnal may well have
had the most. Virtuoso banjoist and guitarist, vocalist, composer, arranger, translator,
teacher, promoter, and a key member of the Vadnal Orchestra for over 50 years, Frankie
Vadnal was the architect of the vocal harmonies that set the Vadnals apart.
Like his famous siblings, Frank began his musical career early, studying under Joe
Sodja and Frank Ovanin from age nine. With brothers Tony and Johnny and sister Valeria,
Frank was a charter member of Anna Vadnal's Vadnal Quartet, performing during the
mid-1930s in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Illinois, and headlining their own
concert at Slovenian Workmen's Home to a packed house. Frank performed with the Vadnal
Reveliers in the Slovenian Village at the Great Lakes Exposition in 1937. Active
in the performing arts, Frank belonged to the Anton Verovsek Dramatic Club, Sokols
gymnasts, and singing and dramatic groups as a National Honor Society student at
Collinwood High School.
Like most successful Cleveland-Style journeymen, Frank gained respect and experience
with name Cleveland-Style orchestras including Pete Sokach, Chuck Smith, Johnny Pecon,
Al Tercek, Eddie Habat, Kenny Bass, Ray Champa, Milan Rakonovic, Joe Luzar, and Joey
Miskulin after breaking in with local accordionists Edward Kovach and Frank and Ed
Throughout the Vadnal Orchestra's glory years, Frank was at the band's nerve center,
devising the unique banjo and guitar treatments that placed the Vadnals at the creative
edge of Cleveland-Style music in performances across the United States. Frank's originality
graces compositions including "String-A-Ling," "Little Theme," and "Happy Guitar"
(aka "Jukebox"). Paying meticulous attention to pronunciation and diction, Frank
and collaborator Jack Tomsic translated tunes such as "Summer Wind" and "La Paloma"
into popular Slovenian renditions while Anglicizing original Slovenian Iyrics.
Frank broadcast with the Vadnals from the Bowl Ballroom on the Mutual Broadcasting
System during the 1950s, the Vadnals"'Polka Parade" television shows from 1949-61,
"Polka Varieties," "Old Dutch Polka Revue," and their breakthrough TV performances
in Slovenia. Frank's stylings were captured in over 150 recordings on RCA Victor,
Imperial, Decca, Camden, Mlay, Delta, Cuca, Helidon (Europe), One M, and Jay Jay.
With brothers Richie and Tony, Frank co-hosted eight polka tours to Slovenia, tours
to Italy, Austria, Switzerland, Germany, Mexico, Hawaii, Las Vegas, and Nashville,
and five cruises to the Caribbean. Frank was the first banjo player to play Cleveland-Style
music in Slovenia, introducing this exciting dimension to the native music.
Always known as the "Quiet Vadnal," Frank was content to shun the limelight in favor
of his brothers. Discounting his own role, Frank summarized his own career accomplishments
by simply deferring to the Vadnal family's rich legacy and saying, "I was there."