I read The News articles about the Buffalo Music Awards ceremony and the "Best Bets" column on the Polonia exhibit at the Buffalo and Erie County Historical Building. Since the latest census figures indicate one of three Erie County residents is of Polish decent, I wondered why polka music is not included in the Buffalo Music Awards.
Marsha and Rick Falkowski have done a wonderful job in organizing the Buffalo Music Hall of Fame and recognizing rock talent. They should be congratulated for their perseverance and realizing their dream of a Market Arcade wing for honorees.
That said, Buffalo has a wealth of talented polka musicians who also deserve recognition. Polka Hall of Fame members David "Scrubby" Seweryniak of the Dynatones and Jerry "Paco" Darlak of the Buffalo Touch Band have over 60 years of concertina-playing experience and are well-known throughout the polka world.
Other worthy candidates could include: Mark Przepacz, trumpet player and singer for the Dynatones; Mark Kohan, leader of the Steel City Brass on drums, bass guitar and concertina; and Ray Barsukiewicz, clarinet, trumpet and sax player with The Touch Band whose creative polka song-writing skills are well-known.
Also, Stephanie Pietrzak, concertina player who has fans across the country and sells out halls when her band plays; Robin Pegg, drummer, concertina, accordion, trumpet player who at one time skillfully played all the instruments on his polka cassette; and Gary Krupski, current leader of the G-Notes and one of seven family members of the fabulously talented Krew Brothers band.
This is, by no means, a complete list. Buffalo's depth of musical talent, both past and present, has long been a secret except to polka fans.
Many of the polka venues on the East Side have vanished, but their spirit lives on. The Polish Village, where the Jumping Jacks and the New Yorkers held court; the Warsaw Inn, where Wanda and Stephanie played; the Broadway Grill, where the ghost of Larry Trojek can still be heard playing the drums; and the Strand Ballroom, where the Dynatones and Krew Brothers carried on the battle of the bands.
Buffalo's polka musicians have kept a tradition alive and continue to set a high musical standard for other bands to follow. They have spent many hours on the road, playing in bars, bowling alleys, picnic groves, church basements, lawn fetes, American Legion halls, Knights of Columbus halls and Polish homes. They do this while holding down full-time jobs. They play on the road for low pay and are separated from their families because they have a love for the music and a desire to keep it alive. Buffalo polka bands are known for their blue-collar work ethic and unique driving sound. Whatever polka style they choose to play -- and there are many -- they play it well.
Obviously the awards ceremony was conducted to honor rock musicians and I applaud each selection. Now is the time to include another segment of Buffalo's music history -- polkas. The Grammy Awards Association has recognized polka music as a distinct category, and although a Buffalo band has not won a Grammy, it's only a matter of time. Maybe a separate section can be set up in the Market Arcade to pay tribute to a genre that combines elements of rock, blues, swing and country, and pay tribute to a class of musicians who stand tall in the polka field.
PATRICK F. COYLE lives in West Seneca.
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