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The California Polka Scene

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Last updated November 7
, 2020

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RainballPolka Bob's Brief Music Bio Rainball


(Original Entry, September 20, 1997)

I was born in Cleveland Ohio and raised in the suburb of Parma Ohio. I graduated from St. Ignatius High and EXCELLED at football to the extent that I received a letter of interest from Ara Parseghian, he was then head coach at Miami of Ohio. (I still love football).

Our parents (Polish mother & Slovak father) encouraged the musical inclinations of my older brother Jack and me.
(I still remember the ethnic radio programs on the radio every Saturday and Sunday mornings).  We grew up with Jack 'proficient' in clarinet/tenor sax, leading his own dance/polka band while in high school and me 'not proficient' in accordion after 4 years. Thankfully, when Jack's drummer went into the Armed Forces, he needed to fill the void. Jack convinced me to play drums, we purchased the drums, I took lessons and became 'proficient'.

Jack entered the Navy, the rest of the family (with younger sister Joyce) moved to California. Musically, Jack and I got back together in California in the early 60's, after his Navy tour, joining the Slovene band of Eddie Bell. We then formed our own trio with Eddie Pankowski on accordion, previously with Ted Maksymowicz, and brought Bernie Witkowski and eastern style polka music to California.

In the mid 60's, I and four other musicians started a group known as The Cavalier's and for the next 25 years entertained polka lovers of all nationalities with what was considered 'the most popular band'. With California being the melting pot it is, the band played at Oktoberfests, at the 'Polish Parish, the 'Sokols', the 'Sons of Italy' and many ballrooms where international music (including Latin) was required. We produced 4 LP's and several singles (most out of print now), were featured on KNBC-TV from Busch Gardens (no longer here) and performed for some of the organizations that are still featured on my 'Polka Organizations' Page. 

Employed in aerospace all these years, I've not lost my love of polkas. After leaving the Cavalier's in the early 90's, I've returned back back to polkas and in April, 1995 started to host the 'Polka Power' program as 'Polka Bob' on radio station KUOR 89.1 FM from the University of Redlands every Saturday morning from 6:00 am to noon. Toward the end of June, I began to share this pleasure with "that Polka guy" Tom Haslett with Tom on from 6:00 until 9:00 while I finish from 9 until noon. Because of a medical condition I have, Tom now does the full shift until I'm back. Much thanks to him, a great guy!

On April 8, 1997 I went to an otolaryngologist and subsequently was diagnosed with cancer at the base of the tongue as well as a tumor on my neck below my left ear. An 11.5 hour surgery was performed on May 8 that was somewhat radical because it required tongue reconstruction using my chest pectoral muscle. What a bummer for a DJ. All my polka pages continued to be updated during my recovery. I have since completed 6 weeks of radiation treatments. I feel physically well but still am frustrated with my difficulty in speaking. I have, however, improved enough to allow me to return to my three hour segment on our Saturday polka program on KUOR-FM sounding like "Gabby Hayes". My wife Gail has assisted me in this return by doing some of the longer PSA announcements.

Thanks to the prayers and support from my family and friends, both at work and listeners of KUOR.

(Revision, December 3, 1998)

Here it is almost a year and seven months since the surgery and I'm doing super . My listeners on the KUOR-FM Polka Program call and comment how improved my diction is (Although I have difficulty with words that start with "G"). About three months ago I threw my "Polka Drummer Available" hat into the ring. Since then I'm playing fairly regularly with the Dave Miron Band, presenting polkas and ballroom music, and am free lancing occasionally with Bohemian accordionist Frank Lenz, a Polish Band "Roger & The Villagers, and Slovenian bands "Dick Suhay" and "Eddy Bell". Often my brother is included in the gigs. Just last October I played 7 gigs. My stamina is 100%

I still work full time in Aerospace (Boeing, Inc.).

A most recent highlight was participating in a fashion show in October where the models were cancer survivors. This event called "A Walk With The Stars" drew about 500 attendees at $45 a person to support the St. Jude Crosson Cancer Center. I got to wear a golf outfit, a business suit with a $110 Versace tie and a tuxedo. The walk down the runway was 96 feet long. What a great time. You could feel the energy from the participants.

(Revision, September 20, 1999)

And now for another update. I'm still doing the KUOR-FM Polka Program and enjoying the phone calls and letters from listeners who are like family to me. I am also gratified with the response I receive from  playing Walt Groller's inspirational song, "Heavenly Father, Teach Me To Pray"almost every Saturday. It's special to me as I continue to improve and I now know that many of my listeners who have lost loved ones or have suffered inflictions take solice from it. For those who call seeking this cassette or CD or other songs heard on-air, I am a distributor although I don't advertise this fact on-air yet.

The most notable news is my early retirement from Boeing effective August 31, 1999. (No physical problems or reasons precipitated this action but it's merely an appropriate time to retire and receive the benefits that were accrued as a "Rockwell" employee before all plans are consolidated into one "Boeing Plan".  Boeing, who had acquired Rockwell and McDonald Douglas, is  combining all plans.)

My energy level is still positively out of sight if not better. How do I know? I'm often playing drums at multiple weekend dances or affairs (after doing the Saturday Polka program) without missing a beat (pun). I enjoying playing drums almost monthly at the Gibson Senior Center (almost everyone one is older than me) with Dave Miron and his piano/accordion player Dr. Stan Berger who is also releasing his first 'jazz' CD.

I didn't mention it before but I continue to write articles for several polka newspapers.  I have been publishing, for about two years, a monthly column in the "Polish American Journal" out of Buffalo, NY and several times a year I post articles in "The Polka News" out of St. Charles, MI.  Now that I'm retired I will be sending more articles to the "News" with stories and photos of our local dances and on-air interviews. This last year we interviewed, Lenny Gomulka, Eddie Blazonczyk (Sr. & Jr.), Frankie Liszka, John Gora, Mark Trezpacz and 'Scrubby' Seweryniak of the "Dynatones, Andy Nester, Gene Swick and Frank Vidergar.

With my increased free time due to retirement (when not doing yard work on our 5 acre spread), I will increase my activities promoting polkas and should very shortly be publishing my web page under my own domain, "www.polkabob.com".

And, oh yes, I again modeled in the fashion show on October 24 where the models are cancer survivors. The event called "A Walk With The Stars" supports the St. Jude Crosson Cancer Center. Inquires: (714) 992-3033.  At the end of the runway as I opened my jacket, as most stylish models do, everyone could see the sign fastened to my inner jacket, "POLKA RULES". God has truly been kind to me.

(Revision, June 15, 2002)

Again, another update. Many reasons for writing this update but best of all is that May 7th marked 5 years since my cancer surgery. I still get checked by my surgeon, now it's every 6 months, and at my visit to him this June everything was reported to be "OK". By reading my web page you know that I'm not broadcasting regularly since KUOR stopped their original programing but I do support and back up Tom Haslett on our new polka program on KMET AM in Banning. Although I still occasionally drum for Dave Miron, my primary band is now "The Frank Rote Band". I'm looking forward to traveling to Boulder Colorado with Frank to drum at the "Buttons and Ivories" Polkafest in August and meeting many friends that I have met the last several years drumming across the country. What's that? Yes, I have been traveling. For instance, a year ago last March I had the pleasure of joining Sam Pecorilla's Polka Gems out of Oregon for two weekends in Arizona with accordionist Larry Janes from Vista California and sax/clarinetist, Dick Kuciemba. Sam was the original accordionist with "The Cavaliers" that I mentioned above and Larry replaced him (for 17 years) when Sam went to Oregon. Then in June the opportunity arose for me to play drums again with Sam and Larry Janes at the 24th Annual Ironworld International PolkaFest at the Ironworld Discovery Center in Chisholm, MN. Congratulations to my good friend Roman Possedi for his induction into the Ironworld Polka Hall Of Fame, National-International category, and Richie Yurkovich in the Regional category. In July, accordionists Sam Pecorilla and Larry Janes and I on drums, performed in Kimberly, British Columbia, Canada for the 27th annual "Kimberly International Old Time Accordion Championships". Don Skuta from Detroit did join us on sax/clarinet and vocals. I was back in Arizona again this March and have been drumming annually at the Southwest Polka Party hosted by Ed and Lois Halvorson and held at the Orleans Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas. I'll be there again in 2003. This May I also enjoyed backing up many groups at the Fontana Button Box Festival, especially the "Alaska B.B. Band, the Ron Pivovar Trio from Pennsylvania and Roman Possedi from Vegas with Andy Nestor from Michigan.

On a sad note, last June I lost both of my parents but I am happy for them because they are together in a better place. They had been married for 67 years. When Mom had to be placed in a nursing facility and into a hospice situation, Dad visited her daily and passed at home on June 3rd, 2001. Twenty days later Mom passed and joined him on June 23. OF course, everyone is saddened by the events of September 11.

As though drumming and gardening/landscaping on our 5 acres isn't enough to keep me busy, I'm also trying my hand at Website Design. In addition to the site, www.radio4polkas.com, my latest endeavor is www.southwestpolka.com that I did for the Halvorsons in Arizona. I said this in a previous update and I'll say it again: God has truly been kind to me. I welcome your comments, questions and input, Polka Bob


(Revision, December 22, 2007)

Again, another short update. There are many reasons for writing this update including many email notes for one but the best of all is that this May 7th marked 10 years since my cancer surgery. I still get checked by my surgeon, now it's every 6 months, and at my visit to him this July everything was reported to be "OK".

I'm still drumming but only with Frank Rote and Sam Pecorilla, when he comes down from Oregon to play at the Fontana Slovene Hall. I also have continued drumming to support the jammers at the Halvorson's Las Vegas Orleans Festival. (http://www.southwestpolka.com/). Sam is releasing his 6th CD and this one includes Larry Janes who took over as The Cavaliers accordionist after Sam moved to Oregon (1967) as I mentioned above and me. Most of the recording was done in Oregon where Sam used his son Tony on drums. I then received their tracks on hard drive, mic'd up my drums here at home in California, dubbed 5 more drum tracks then added upright bass tracks recorded at my home by Paul Tomazin. The CD, including Paul and me) will be out in January 2008 (email if you're interested in a copy). Another special gig this year was playing with the Frank Rote band at the "Way Out West Oktoberfest" in Tempe, AZ this year. (http://www.wowoktoberfest.com/)

My wife Gail is now retired and we have had great times traveling, including a round trip cruise from San Diego to Hawaii (3/05), from Los Angeles through the Panama Canal to Miami (11/05), Alaska Cruise/Tour, 7/06 and a 22 day China trip, 5/07 that took in everything (5 days in Beijing - Great Wall et al, Yangtze River Cruise, Terra Cotta Warriors, Shanghai, etc.). Greatest trip was our flight to CO Springs and a surprise for my Granddaughter's High School graduation party last September.

 (Revision, March 13, 2010)

Last February, 2009 at The Orleans Casino in Las Vegas, I played my last gig on drums with Frank Rote, Dick Kuciemba & Dale Buse. Check the YouTube videos.


In November 2009, Gail and I traveled to Washington state to see if we want to relocate there, (Whidbey Island, Camano Island or Anacortes). Looks interesting.

Due to recurring abscesses in my lower right jaw, I'm proceeding with HBOT (Hyper Baric Oxygen Treatment) for surgery of the site to preclude osteo necrosis.

I still do web hosting; www.polkabob.com & www.radio4polkas.com

(Revision, October 30, 2010)

Update on my HBOT (Hyper Baric Oxygen Treatment): I started with 20 dives (2 hours at 2.5 atmospheres of Oxygen per day, 5 days a week - see stock photo) on April 13 at Loma Linda Hospital. On May 14 I had surgery, performed by Maxillofacial Surgeon Dr. Dale Stringer, also at Loma Linda Hospital. To quote the surgery report: osteoradionecrosis was identified which was removed until healthy bone was seen. I finished with 10 more dives of HBOT ending on May 28. All is well now.

(Revision, February 23, 2013)

It' been 2+ years since my last update and things are still going great for almost being 75. Gail and I have been enjoying our stays at the Marriott Newport Coast Villas and doing quite a bit of travel. Most recently we took a European trip spending 17 days in Europe (Rome-3 days, 7 day Seaboune cruise stopping at Naples, Messina, Korfu Greece, Dubrovnek & Zadar Croatia and then ending in Venice for 2 days and finally to Paris for 3 days. We got back home on Nov. 1. Yes, we did a lot of walking tours, Old Rome, Vatican, Rome at night, Pompeii in Naples, St. Marks and Rialto Bridge in Venice, and two days at the Louvre and other sites.

(Revision, May 13, 2014)

Early in the morning, 17 years ago on May 7, 1997, I entered surgery for cancer of the tongue. I thank God for his compassion and for the prayers of family and friends for which I am still healthy and happy.

Much has happened in the past year. After 23 years in Southern CA, we decided that maintaining our 5 acre property, including the care and feeding of Gail's horse, Harley Earl, has become a bit much. In June of 2013 we placed a down payment for a home in Colorado Springs while prepping the existing house for sale. We closed escrow on the new home in December, 2013 and sold and closed escrow on our CA house on January 26. Towing our Acura auto on a car carrier with our Avalanche truck, we arrived at our NEW home on February 28, the day we celebrate our wedding anniversary. Since then we have completed installing all window coverings and the landscaping. We are in The Flying Horse Community and totaling enjoying life. http://flyinghorsecolorado.com/

(Revision, August 22, 2015)

Just a quick update. Enjoying visits to the attractions of Colorado Springs as well as all the benefits of our Flying Horse Clubhouse including "Senior Fitness over 50" classes 3 times a week. We especially enjoy our trips up to the Marriott Lodge in Breckenridge especially when the Aspen leaves change color.


(Revision, August 22, 2017)

Another quick update. Enjoying life out here in Colorado Springs more and more as well as continuing to travel. This May Gail and I took a 15 day Viking Cruise to Norway and the Baltic states to celebrate the 20 Year Anniversary of my cancer surgery. Thanking God. And in late September and October we cruised from Bosten to Montreal, Canada.


(Revision, December 31, 2019)

Doing well. Just thought it would be nice to wish all my family, friends and fellow muscians HAPPY NEW YEAR.

Again, I welcome your comments, questions and input.
Polka Bob

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