National Cleveland Style Polka Hall of Fame and Museum
605 East 222nd Street Euclid, OH 44123
Toll Free: 1-800-66POLKA
Johnny Vadnal is the standard bearer of a Cleveland-Style music tradition that dates
back over 50 years. Just as Minnie Marx (mother of the Marx Brothers) was responsible
for launching the career of her famous sons, such was the contribution of Anna Vadnal
in forming the Vadnal Quartet in 1938. Featuring Johnny on accordion, Tony Vadnal
on violin, Frankie Vadnal on banjo, and Valeria Vadnal on piano, the forerunner of
the Vadnal Orchestra that would bear Johnny's name as leader for all but a few years
during the 1970s was born. And it is still thriving today!
The Johnny Vadnal Orchestra
really came into its stride after World War II with a unique, contemporary style
that, probably more than any other Cleveland-Style Polka Orchestra, had universal
appeal. In its heyday, the Johnny Vadnal Orchestra was a dance and show band teeming
with personality. Smiling, singing, swinging, and swaying, Tony and Frankie Vadnal,
along with a series of talented sidemen, filled the air with a contagious spirit
of fun while Johnny Americanized the polka with jazz licks and the waltz with haunting
sentiment. Johnny's popular weekly television show ran continuously from 1949 through
1961 surpassing by far the longevity of any U.S. polka television show anchored by
one orchestra. Likewise, his weekly Bowl Ballroom performances were broadcast over
the Mutual Radio Network.
In addition to their impressive broadcast career, the Vadnal
Orchestra maintained a long and successful recording relationship with RCA Victor
followed by releases on the Imperial and Mlay labels. The "Yes, Dear Waltz," which
sold 50,000 copies in its first week, was Vadnal's biggest hit among many others
including "Wayside Polka" (his theme), "Two-Timing You," "Slap Happy Polka," "Prairie
Polka," "Mountain Climber," "No Beer on Sunday," "Blame It on the Waltz," "Clap Hands
Polks," and, more recently, "My Alice Waltz" and "Jazz Time Polka."
With the momentum
of fifty years behind him, Johnny Vadnal is now the dean of the Cleveland-Style Polka
musicians active in the area. And his award-winning orchestra is the unquestioned
band of choice for any organization whose event calls for nostalgia.