Johnny Krizancic: The Polka World Will Miss Him.

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

Copyright (c) 2009, The Herald, Sharon, Pa.

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