July 4, 1948 – July 22, 2016
The night that changed David Lawrence “Scrubby” Seweryniak's life came in the mid 1960s, when he saw polka master Li'l Wally perform at a local dance.
Until then, he had been an accordion player in small wedding-type groups. Impressed with Wally's slower style and the way he used the concertina to drive the band, he quickly mastered the smaller squeezebox and made it his trademark during two decades as the leader one of Buffalo's most successful polka bands, the Dynatones.
Polka shows across the nation and on the internet paid tribute to him following his death July 22 in Mercy Hospital after a lengthy battle with cancer. He was 68.
Seweryniak and the Dynatones were nominated for a Grammy Award in 1992 for the album “When the Band Plays a Polka.” He was inducted into the IPA Polka Hall of Fame in 1994, along with bandleader Lawrence Welk.
In 1968, after leading his own group, the Dave Seweryniak Trio, he joined drummer Larry Trojak in a band that became Larry Trojak's Dynatones.
“Concertina players were at a premium at that time,” Trojak says. “He played like a dream and sang. He was the whole package.”
When Trojak went into the Air Force in 1971, Mr. Seweryniak became leader of the group and built a large following by touring extensively up and down the East Coast and throughout the Midwest. He became recognized as one of polka music's foremost singers, winning a number of Vocalist of the Year awards from the United States Polka Association and the International Polka Association.
When Trojak returned from service in 1975, Mr. Seweryniak remained leader of the Dynatones and the two shared vocal duties, becoming popular for their duets. Their jam-packed appearances at the tiny Broadway Grill on Buffalo's East Side were legendary.
The chemistry of the Dynatones was captured in “Live Wire,” recorded at a dance during a snowstorm on April 3, 1982, in the Col. J. B. Weber Veterans of Foreign Wars Post in Lackawanna.
Mr. Seweryniak also was noted for his bizarre costumes. Inspired, he said, by Liberace, he appeared on stage in everything from a Dracula cape to a muumuu.
“We never knew what he was going to be wearing,” Trojak says. “One time somebody gave him an outfit that was a banana. People thought that was the greatest thing. But he could go the other direction and come out in a white tuxedo. He was cut from a different mold.”
The original Dynatones era ended in 1987, when Trojak left to take a job in Rochester, then moved to Minnesota. Mr. Seweryniak stepped down as leader of the Dynatones in 1990, took a year off, then rejoined the group.
He continued performing regularly until 1999.
He also recorded with the Sunshine Polka Band and Happy Richie and sang on the “Polkas for Children” and “Polish Village Christmas” projects sponsored by the New York State Council on the Arts.
For a short time, he owned a polka music record label, JEN Records, and operated a record store in Buffalo's Kaisertown neighborhood. He also helped start the Buffalo Polka Boosters.
Fans from across the country flocked to Buffalo when he and Trojak reunited for duets at Broadway Grill reunions in 2007 and 2008.
Born in Buffalo, he grew up in a predominately Polish East Side neighborhood and began playing accordion at the age of 6, first by ear, then taking lessons. Nicknamed “Scrubby” in the fifth grade, he graduated from John F. Kennedy High School in Cheektowaga.
As a young man, he worked for several years at Worthington. A resident of West Seneca in recent years, he was a printer's apprentice at a shop in Kaisertown after he retired from the Dynatones.
Survivors include his mother, Gertrude; a brother, Gerald; a sister, Jennifer Maziarz; and nieces and nephews.
A Mass of Christian Burial was offered July 25 in St. Philip the Apostle Catholic Church, Cheektowaga. That evening, a celebration of his life in Polish Villa II in Cheektowaga was broadcast live on the internet on the Polka Jammer Network.