At this time of year in particular I find myself thinking about my special friends who have passed on. Of course I think a lot about my good friend and America’s Polka King, Frankie Yankovic. But this year I’m lamenting about my best friend, Dr. Victor Roger Lalli who left us this past August.
Dr. Lalli was known to his friends and loved ones as “Doc”. He was born in 1922 in the South Buffalo area. Doc was an accomplished artist, a dedicated teacher named Amherst Teacher of the Year in 1970. He authored a secondary text book called Intermediate Perspective which was selected by the New York City Board of Education as well as Chicago for use in their schools.
When Doc retired he kept himself busy by restoring several older houses in the Buffalo area. In 1989 at the age of 67 Doc decided to display his love of Buffalo by painting a series of watercolours devoted to architectural scenes that characterized his city. This is the now famous “Buffalo My City Series”. Doc gave 10 years of his retired life to the project.
Doc was also an avid cyclist who road his racing bike until last year. At 88 years old he was very fit and strong as a bull.
Doc and I became very good friends in my early years of frequent travelling to Cleveland. It was a ritual to pick up Doc who would bring a supply of his own pepperoni and Italian bread for the trip. You could have a conversation with him about virtually anything. He was such a great conversationalist…so intelligent, yet he never made you feel inferior. He was always a source of inspiration for me.
I know I’m in good company of a lot of folks who will miss Doc this Christmas.
You can read more about my good friend Dr. Victor Roger Lalli here.
Johnny Krizancic, a friend for many years, passed away on Saturday. Johnny will be sadly missed by the polka world and his many friends.
Here’s a nice article about Johnny from The Herald in Sharon, PA., I thought I’d share with you.
Krizancic Made Mark on Polka
By Joe Pinchot, The Herald, Sharon, Pa.
Apr. 28–Johnny Krizancic was always looking to the next gig.
The Hermitage polka musician, producer, record company executive and promoter started his own record label — Marjon Records International — in about 1960 because he felt having a record would get him more gigs.
In 1990, following his trip to the Grammy Awards in Los Angeles, Krizancic turned down invitations to vacation with Jimmy Sturr in Florida and Walter Ostanek in Hawaii because he had a gig back home.
Tony Trontel, a polka musician who had known Krizancic since the ’40s, said Krizancic, who died Saturday at age 80, was one of the few local polka musicians who hadn’t hung it up. While Krizancic had “slacked off” in his recording in recent years, he probably had a good 10 years of quality music left in him, said Trontel, a Sharon native and former accordion player for the Trontel-Zagger Orchestra and the Norm Kobal Orchestra.
“There’s no doubt about it, we’re going to miss him,” Trontel said.
Krizancic got into polka music through his Croatian background. Trontel remembered meeting Krizancic as part of the “Croatian crowd.”
Krizancic and his wife, Martha, said in 1990 that Krizancic turned to music full-time in about 1960, when Krizancic was unemployed. They founded Marjon and recorded an album in the studios of radio station WPIC, later building a studio in their home on Easton Road.
“John was out of a job so we created one,” Mrs. Krizancic said.
Krizancic, who played guitar, saxophone, keyboards and tamburitza, recorded and released hundreds of albums and singles, some of which sold overseas.
He once noted that the Shenango and Mahoning valleys did not have an identifiable sound as Cleveland and Chicago do, but was an amalgam of Bulgarian, Polish, Slovenian and Slovak musical traditions.
This melting pot of music was in evidence on “Souvenir Edition,” the album made up of members of the Penn-Ohio Polka Pals, a polka promotion and fellowship organization. It was nominated for a Grammy in 1990, and was the reason Krizancic and some other Polka Pals were in Los Angeles.
He spoke of the nomination being as good as winning because of the recognition — and album sales — it brought to the area.
“Who would think our label would go to the top? he said. “Souvenir Edition” was released by Marjon.
At Grammy events, the Polka Pals were treated as well as Billy Joel or any of the other better-selling names, he said.
Krizancic got along well with people. Friends recalled his easygoing, friendly manner, whether they met him by chance or were working together in the recording studio.
“Of all the years I’ve known John, we’ve never had words,” said band leader Del Sinchak, who estimated he had known Krizancic 35 to 40 years. “He respected me like I respected him.”
Whenever Sinchak had a gig Krizancic was sure to be in the audience, Sinchak said.
“He’s one of those kind of guys who knew everyone,” said Paul Jacobson, of Hermitage, former guitarist with the Del Sinchak Orchestra and occasional session player with Krizancic. “He was very important in promoting polka music, or ethnic music, as I should call it. He knew people all over the world.”
“His Croatian (music) and his polka music was his life,” Sinchak said.
While polka musicians, like those in other genres of music, compete with each other for gigs, the area polka musicians thought that promoting polka music as a whole was more important than individual players. Krizancic’s personality fit well with the non-competitive aspects of the effort.
“Thirty-five years ago, we formed the Penn-Ohio Polka Pals,” Sinchak said. “The whole idea was to promote polka, but to promote fellowship among the musicians and band leaders.”
When Sinchak couldn’t play a gig, he’d recommend Krizancic or one of the other Polka Pal members, and Krizancic would return the favor.
They also played on each other’s recordings.
“He was really open for anything and any help he could give you, he would,” Trontel said working with Krizancic.
Although Krizancic will forever be linked to polka music, he released country music on his label and was friends with younger rockers, opening up his studios to acts as diverse as the Works, the Flashbacks, the Dead Boys and the Infidels.
Younger musicians helped him master the computers and synthesizers that came to play such a big role in the recording of music.
Sinchak said he’s having a hard time accepting that Krizancic is gone. He last saw Krizancic two weeks ago.
“I noticed that John had lost some weight, but I didn’t know anything was wrong,” Sinchak said.
To see more of The Herald, or to subscribe to the newspaper, go to http://www.sharon-herald.com.
Copyright (c) 2009, The Herald, Sharon, Pa.
Just a quick note to thank all the folks who were able to join us over the past month in Florida, Texas, and Arizona.
We had a great time and met a lot of friends.
Thanks for your support!
There’s a song on my latest Walter Ostanek Band CD, “Back to Back Hall of Fame Polkas”, called, “Waltz of the Angels”.
This is a beautiful waltz with Jon Libera on the vocals. I’m getting a lot of nice comments about this particular song and attention from several polka radio stations.
There’s a cute little story behind this song;
Jon Libera, former vocalist with the Walter Ostanek Band, brought this old Lefty Frizzell composition to my attention about 4 years ago and suggested that I record it. I liked the song and asked Jon if he’d like to do it. Well that was 4 years ago!
Last year while at Kravos Recording Studio in Cleveland with Murray McFadgen doing some vocal tracks I played “Waltz of the Angels” for Murray and Bob Kravos. They both loved it so I got Murray to record the harmony vocals to Jon’s original melody vocal. While Murray was doing the recording, Tony Petkovsek, (#1 Polka DJ in Cleveland), dropped in to visit. Tony really liked it as well.
So after sitting on the shelf for 4 years, “Waltz of the Angels” was finally completed and released on our “Back to Back Hall of Fame Polkas” cd.
I hope you enjoy Waltz of the Angels. I want to thank Jon Libera, not only for bringing the song to me, but for doing such a great job on the vocals.
You can click here to hear a sample of Waltz of the Angels.
Hey, send me a note, or comment on this post and let me know what you think of “Waltz of the Angels”.
Til next time, Keep Smiling,
Over the years I’ve been blessed with many friends and supporters. As a tribute, and to show my thanks, we’ve added a new section to our website entitled, “Friends”.
One of my dearest friends was “America’s Polka King”, Frankie Yankovic. At an early age I wanted to become just like Frank. He was afterall the superstar of in the Cleveland-Style polka world that I wanted so much to be a part of . As luck would have it, our friendship grew into a very special relationship. Imagine your idol becoming your mentor and friend. Well that’s how it was for me and Frankie.
It’s been 10 years since Frank passed away in 2008. I think about him a lot, especially when I’m in the Cleveland area.
I hope you’ll enjoy my special tribute to my special freind, Frankie Yankovic.