National Cleveland Style Polka Hall of Fame and Museum
605 East 222nd Street Euclid, OH 44123
Toll Free: 1-800-66POLKA
Mention Hank Haller and visions of oompah music and "lederhosen" - short leather
pants - come to mind. But Haller is more. He is a very prolific recording artist
in the polka field with 100 albums and 4 videos to his credit, with an estimated
one-quarter of a million albums sold.
While he is a leading proponent of German-style polkas, Haller is a big fan of the
Oberkrainer music of Slavko and Vilko Avsenik of Slovenia, and Cleveland-style polkas.
He has recorded many albums which feature Slovenian and English lyrics sung to these
polkas and waltzes.
His parents, Henry and Katherine, emigrated to Cleveland from a German settlement
in the former Yugoslavia, seven decades ago. Haller started playing the piano accordion
at age eight, but his teacher doubted his talent, so he switched to clarinet. He
picked up the accordion again at age 16 and joined his uncle Jake Haller's band in
1952. Within 5 years, Hank became the leader, and the Hank Haller band has had a
non-stop run for more than 60 years.
Haller started playing on a regular basis for his friend Steve Bencic, at the Sachsenheim
Club, in 1958. A few years later at the opening of Bencic's "Hofbrau Haus" restaurant
in Cleveland, he was the house band. The Hank Haller band was in on the ground floor
of the German beer festival "Oktoberfest", which Bencic introduced to United States
audiences. In the intervening years, the numberous Oktoberfest celebrations held
each fall created a showcase for Haller and his band. The events are an important
part of his more than 110 playing dates each year.
Haller numbers among his musical career highlights his annual performances, for 15
years, at the Bavarian Festival in Barnesville, Pennsylvania (near Allentown). He
said the first time he saw the festival, it was the biggest one he had ever seen.
He quickly became accustomed to playing for the 110,000 people in attendance.
Another highlight for Haller was the nomination of his album "Thank You Dear and
Give Her Roses," for a Grammy award in the polka category in 1987.
For 30 years he was joined on stage by his wife Maryanne, who sang with the Haller
Ensemble. Haller sings on many of his recordings,as well as featured vocalists Ray
Young and Ken Umeck. As an indefatigable polka promoter, Haller is a travel tour
leader too, inviting fans and friends, who to date have joined him on 34 cruises
and trips to Europe and Hawaii.
Another facet of Haller's energy and popularity was exhibited by the 200 appearances
the Haller Band made on the weekly "Polka Varieties" television program, during its
27 years on the air in Cleveland. He also found time to host a German radio show
in recent years.
Like many musicians, Haller had a day job. He earned a master's degree in aerospace
engineering from Case Western Reserve University. He worked at NASA for 20 years,
and 15 years for the U.S. Department of Defense.
Haller has also branched out into the polka music of other nationalities including
Bohemian, Slovak, and Austrian. One thread is a constant factor in his recordings,
Haller playis it authentically or as he says "authenticity is paramount."
He and Maryanne reside in Avon Lake, Ohio. The couple have four children, daughter
Hillary, and sons Henry Jr., Peter, and Conrad.