Eddie Blazonczyk, Chicago’s ‘King of Polka,’ dies at 70


In 1998, first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton presented Eddie Blazonczyk presented him with a National Endowment for the Arts 1998 National Heritage Fellowship award. (Khue Bui/AP)
May 23, 2012

Eddie Blazonczyk, a Grammy Award-winning polka musician who began playing the lively music in the 1950s and went on to earn the nickname “Polka King” after starting his own band and record label, died May 21 at a hospital in the Chicago suburb of Palos Heights. He was 70.

His label, Bel-Aire Recordings, confirmed the death but did not disclose the cause.

Mr. Blazonczyk retired in 2001 after suffering a stroke, and his son Eddie Blazonczyk Jr. took over his band, Eddie Blazonczyk and the Versatones. The band formed in 1962 and toured North America and Europe.

The Versatones, which picked up a Grammy in 1987, played its last show on Dec. 31, 2011.

Eddie Blazonczyk was born to Polish immigrant parents on July 12, 1941, in Chicago. His parents operated music clubs in the city and he started playing in the 1950s with “Happy Eddie and his Polka Jesters,” performing at Polish festivities.

For a time, Mr. Blazonczyk performed pop music with Mercury Records and appeared on “American Bandstand.” But he returned to polka in 1962, forming the Versatones and going on tour. He started the record label in 1963.

Mr. Blazonczyk played many instruments but preferred the bass, and he sang lyrics in both English and Polish. Some of his biggest hits include “Angeline Be Mine Polka” and “Poor Boy Polka.”

Mr. Blazonczyk was named a National Endowment for the Arts National Heritage Fellow in 1998. The International Polka Association said on its Web site that Eddie Blazonczyk and the Versatones was “unchallenged in its height as America’s No. 1 Polka Band.” Mr. Blazonczyk was a member of the association’s Polka Music Hall of Fame.

— Associated Press

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