National Cleveland Style Polka Hall of Fame and Museum

605 East 222nd Street
Euclid, OH 44123




Phone: 216-261-3263

Toll Free: 1-800-66POLKA

Fax: 216-261-4134


National Cleveland Style Polka Hall of Fame


Lifetime Achievement Award Recipient




1959  © National Cleveland Style Polka Hall of Fame and Museum, 605 East 222nd Street, Euclid, OH 44123, USA.







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Kathy Hlad was born in Cleveland, Ohio and given up by her Irish birth parents. Rudy and Florence Hlad took her in as a foster child at age 4 and she was formally adopted at 8. The Hlad’s also adopted two other children, Chris and Tricia. After a fifteen year search, Kathy located and met her biological family. She is the eldest of four siblings, Chuck, Larry and Lise.


The Hlad family raised Kathy within the traditions of the Cleveland Slovenian community. This included a deep-rooted involvement in the fabric of the Slovenian ethnic social life – its music, dance, cultural and social activities. On the radio and through recordings, polka music became a way of life for the young Kathy. Her natural musical ability became apparent when she picked out Frank Yankovic’s “Too Fat Polka” on a 12 key electric organ. Then her Father was puzzled by a long distance call on his phone bill and soon discovered that Kathy was playing songs on the touch tone phone. She began taking piano lessons and classical performance became her major throughout college.


At age 8 she joined the Circle 2 Slovenian Junior Chorus and, as a member, eventually became the piano accompanist, dance instructor, button box instructor and assistant musical director. It was here, through the guidance of Cecelia Dolgan, that Kathy began to learn and cherish the traditional songs of Slovenia. It was common to see her sitting in front of the record player listening and memorizing the beautiful music and lyrics as sung by legendary vocalist Eddie Kenik.


During a vacation in Slovenia she saw the famed Lojze Slak perform. Kathy was intrigued by the sound of the button box and Slaks musical style. Seeing Frank Novak perform that same year, she convinced her Father that she would like to learn to play. She took lessons from Frank and soon became a pioneer of females playing the button box in this male dominated community. Johnny Pecon, Lou Trebar and Eddie Habat were all powerful influences in developing her own musical style. She began teaching the button box at age 15 and appeared on TV Polka Varieties with Frank Yankovic, Circle 2 and other button accordion musicians. Kathy was one of the first winners of the button box contests that were promoted by Ed Grosel and Kenny Bass. In 1976 she led a tour hosted by her Father and Frank Sterle to 5 countries with her musical friends Phil Srnick, Frank Okiki and Rudy Pryately.

In 1978, Kathy was crowned Miss SNPJ, and also awarded the titles of Miss Talent and Miss Fraternalism. In 1994 she played at the Rose Bowl festivities in Pasadina. In 2004 she received the Button Box Player of the year award from Circle 2. The Federation of Slovenian Homes honored her in 2006 as their Slovenian Woman of the Year. The Trustees Honor Roll was presented to her in 2009 and she was given the Most Valuable Player award from the National Button Accordion Fest in 2015. The Polka Hall of Fame has awarded her 7 times in the best button box individual/duo category and as the music director of the Captains Crew, received the button box group award for 5 consecutive years.


Lifetime friend Joey Miskulin, the “Cowpolka King”, invited her and several students to perform on stage with the Riders in the Sky and Kathy also had the opportunity to perform with Jimmy Sturr. In 2014, the Button Box Diva’s appeared on the Molly B Show.


Kathy has been featured on a number of recordings. She sang with the Slovenian Junior Chorus on the “Slovenec Sem” album. She was included on the album “Polka Fun In The Sun” with Ron Luznar and on the “Button Box Classics” recording, both Al Meixner productions . Meixner also produced her “Signature Series” and “Stare Pesem” CD’s. She plays on the “Touch of Cilka” with Cecelia Dolgan and Joe Valencic. Peppermint recording released “Dear Friends” with Ron Likovic and “A Whole Life Long” with the Captains Crew. Kathy plays on “The New Kid in Town”, with Johnny Koenig and is one of 4 guest artists on the Fred Ziwich’s CD “Button Box Menagerie” . She plays the button box waltzes on “Don’t Svet It” with Frank Svet.

For the first time ever, Kathy played the button box, along with Julie Tabaj on trumpet, on international horse racing TV “Call to Post” at Northfield park.


Kathy remains active as a player, teacher and promoter. She continues to perform locally and at festivals throughout the country. She is always willing to play or lend a helping hand to promote the Cleveland- Style Polkas with her million dollar smile.



Inducted in 2017