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Frankie Yankovic (July 28, 1915-October 14, 1998) did more to popularize polka music than any other performer. He was the first polka artist to score a million-selling single, the first to perform on television, and the first to win a Grammy for Best Polka Album.

Yankovic was born to Slovenian immigrants living in Davis, Tucker County. Days after his birth, his father was caught bootlegging liquor and moved the family to Cleveland. As a boy, Yankovic learned how to play the accordion from the lodgers at his house, and by age 16, he was appearing regularly on a local Slovenian radio show. Yankovic enlisted in the Army in 1943. Before shipping out, he recorded 32 songs, many of which became hits while he was overseas.

In 1948, he was voted “America’s Polka King” by an 8-to-1 margin in a contest sponsored by record companies. That same year, Columbia issued his million-selling hit “Just Because.” In the early 1950s, Yankovic moved his band to Hollywood where they made several short films. He went on to record many of the best-known polkas, including “Beer Barrel Polka,” “Too Fat to Polka,” and “In Heaven There Is No Beer.”

Yankovic hosted his own television show and appeared on many national TV programs. In 1969, Yankovic was one of the first two people inducted into the International Polka Association Hall Of Fame in Chicago. He was inducted into the Cleveland-Style Polka Hall Of Fame in 1988 and the West Virginia Music Hall of Fame in 2008.

Yankovic died in Florida.

This Article was written by Michael Lipton

Last Revised on December 14, 2017

Cite This Article

Lipton, Michael "Frankie Yankovic." e-WV: The West Virginia Encyclopedia. 14 December 2017. Web. 23 April 2024.


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