National Cleveland Style Polka Hall of Fame and Museum
605 East 222nd Street Euclid, OH 44123
Toll Free: 1-800-66POLKA
Lojze Slak is Slovenia’s most popular button accordion player and folk music ensemble.
He has written over 400 songs and his albums have all earned “Gold” status. Lojze’s
original compositions reinvigorated the Cleveland-style with new melodies and touched
off the buttonbox craze that is still enjoyed today.
Lojze was born near Mirna Pec in theDolenjsko region of Slovenia. He started playing
the button accordion as ayoungster and is self-taught. No doubt he was influenced
by his uncles, whowere village musicians. Lojze started playing for weddings at age
15, andreceived his first public acclaim when he won first place on a Ljubljana radiotalent
His first band, the Slak Brothers Ensemble, included his brothers, Matija onclarinet,
Stane on bass, and Tone on trumpet. The band broke up when Matija wasdrafted into
the Army. Lojze then formed the Slak Trio with his friend, NikoZlobko on guitar and
clarinet, and Ciril Babnik on the bass. In 1964, the trioadded the vocal quintet,
“Boys From Praportno” (Fantje S. Praportna). A newmagical music combination was created
with the close harmony of the fivesingers and the folk music quality of the instrumentalists.
With each album, Slak introduced new polkas and waltzes that have become standardsin
Slovenia and Slovenian communities abroad. Aside from writing the music,Lojze created
a lot of interest in the button accordion following his firstvisit to the United
States and Canada in 1970. Women and children began playingthe button box and 40
button box clubs were formed across the U.S., and enjoyedplaying songs such as “Ej,
Prijatelj,” “Glas Harmonike,” and “VisokoNad Oblaki,” and dozens more became standards
in Cleveland-style polka bands.
The S lak Ensemble toured in the U.S. five times, most recently in 1990. Othercountries
where they have performed are: Australia, Sweden, Germany, andAustria. In 1990, the
Slak Ensemble performed on stage at Nashville’s Grand Ole Opry, with his “Save the
Last Dance” (Ne Prižigaj Luci) sung in English with the vocal quintet. They also
played at Disneyworld in Florida that year.Through his appearances, Lojze has been
awarded many honors such as the key tothe City of Cleveland in 1980. In 1985, Lojze
received his first Platinum Record for record sales totaling one million copies.
Although some of the original ensemble members retired in1991, the Slak Ensemble
continues to perform throughout Slovenia with a vocaltrio and the band. Lojze and
his wife have two sons, Slavko and Robert. Lojze enjoys nurturing his vineyard in
the country, pressing grapes, and producinghis own wine. The polka world is grateful
to him for reaching new heights inthe field of popular Slovenian folk music.