National Cleveland Style Polka Hall of Fame and Museum
605 East 222nd Street Euclid, OH 44123
Toll Free: 1-800-66POLKA
Slavko Avsenik's career accomplishments place him at the worldwide pinnacle of success
among ethnic popular musicians. Over forty years, the Avsenik Ensamble's original
"Oberkrainer" sound became the primary vehicle of ethnic musical expression for Slovenia,
Germany, Austria, Switzerland, and the Benelux countries, spawning hundreds of Alpine
orchestras in the process.
The Ensamble has performed before millions, including heads of state, on radio and
television, and in thousands of concerts. Selling over 30 million records, Avsenik
has earned thirty-one Gold, two Diamond, and one Platinum record. The "Johann Strauss
of the twentieth century," Avsenik collaborated with his brother, Vilko, to produce
nearly 1000 original compositions and an integral part of the Cleveland-Style legacy.
The Avsenik saga began in 1953 with a band formed in Slovenia, broadcast on the "Slovenian
Hour" from Austria, and dubbed the "Musicians of the Oberkrain" by a Vienna disc
jockey. Growing in popularity, they soon began appearing in broadcasts, movies, and
concerts in West Germany.
Landing a recording contract with Telefunken-Decca in 1960, the Ensamble rose to
meteoric heights throughout Europe. It appeared regularly on network television,
toured relentlessly (logging over 400,000 miles in 1967 alone), and recorded prolifically.
Milestones include a 1961 performance before over 80,000 in Berlin Stadium, tours
of the U.S. and Canada in 1970 and 1985, and a one-hour German television network
special in 1980.
Slovenia's most popular orchestra, the group has won countless awards including eight
consecutive television competitions, twelve from German network television, eighteen
as Germany's most popular band, the recording industry's "European Oscar" in 1975,
the Golden Rose Award (most requested on Austrian radio) in 1979, the Linhart plaque
(Slovenia), and the "Harmon Lons" award from the German Minister of Culture.
Avsenik's influence over Cleveland-Style music began in 1958 when Johnny Pecon's
English lyrics transformed Slavko's Tam Kjer Murke Cveto into a Greatest All-Time
Cleveland-Style Hit, Little Fella. Since then, Cleveland-Style orchestras have recorded
well over 200 Avsenik songs including nearly sixty by the Hank Haller Ensemble and
as many more by Fred Ziwich, Fred Kuhar, the Fairport Ensemble, Al Markic, Roger
Bright, Al Tercek, and Cilka Dolgan. Avsenik tribute bands in North America include
Duke Marsic, the Alpine Sextet, MarJan Kramer, and Iskre (Canada).
In sheer volume, Avsenik's compositions rank him with Slovenian folk music, Matt
Hoyer, and Dr. William J. "Doc" Lausche as the major tributaries feeding the Cleveland-Style
repertoire. But the breathtaking beauty pervading his waltzes... Slovenia, the Wind
Song, Cakala Bom, European Waltz, Na Svidenje, On the Bridge, and Argentina, to name
just a golden few... best characterize the profound nature of his impact.