Eric Noltkamper Bio
Born in St. Louis, Missouri, on May 21, 1972, Eric became interested in the accordion and began taking lessons from St. Louis accordionist, Larry Hallar at age 13. At age 14, Eric began teaching himself the plectrum banjo, then began playing at picnics, and dances with the founder of the St. Louis Button Box Club, Art Treppler, and his band.
At age 15, Eric played his first job with "America’s Polka King", Frank Yankovic. Eric continued playing engagements, off and on, at such places as the National Eagles Convention in Spokane, Washington, Polkafests in Rock Springs, Wyoming, Los Angeles, California, Pueblo, Colorado and other events throughout the midwest up until Frank’s passing in 1998.
Frank Yankovic was and continues to be the single most important influence on Eric's career.
At age 16, Eric began playing engagements with St. Louis’s Herb Eberle and his band. Shortly after that he went to Nashville, Tennessee with them and recorded Herb’s "Come Dance with Me" release.
After finishing high school, Eric left St. Louis, Missouri and moved to Madison, Wisconsin to go to college, and started playing second accordion with Gordon Hartmann from Madison, Wisconsin. For three years, Eric enjoyed playing Gordon’s fancy fingered "Polkaholic" music.
At age 21, Eric started performing with the Jeff Winard Band from Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Eric met Jeff, when Eric was 14, when Eric first sat in with Frank Yankovic at the Crystal Ballroom in Staunton, Illinois. They have been friends ever since. Jeff had Eric record on his "Silver Collection-25th Anniversary" release, and shortly after that on Frank Yankovic’s "One More Time" retirement, CD and Video set.
In 1993, Eric performed with the "All Star" band in the National Cleveland Style Polka Hall of Fame, award show.
In 1994, Eric released his first CD recording entitled "Reflections of Cleveland". On this recording, he played almost all the instruments, himself, in honor of some of the greatest Slovenian Style polka bands.
In 1995, Eric was nominated for 4 awards from the National Cleveland-Style Polka Hall of Fame. He was the only one nominated in that many categories, all in one year. But his love for polka music was not limited to Slovenian Style alone. That same year he joined Eddie Blazonczyk’s Versatones from Chicago, Illinois and began traveling the country, almost every week. Eric’s stint with the Versatones’ lasted almost 5 years, during which he recorded on Eddie’s "Better than Ever", "Music, Music, Music", "Shakin’ not Stirred", and "Smokin’ Polkas" releases.
In 1996, Eric teamed up with another long time friend, Grant Kozera from Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Together they produced the CD entitled, "Yankovic Classics" for ERREM records in Holland, the Netherlands. This recording features the 1940’s style of Frank Yankovic, whom greatly influenced both Grant and Eric.
In 1997, Eric released a CD entitled, "The Sidemen-Busting Out". This recording featured a more modern sound with such great musicians as Don Hunjadi, Gary Hendrickson, Bobby Doszak Jr., Mike McIntyre, and Tom Brusky, along with Eric. As a band, the Sidemen played at polka festivals such as the Oakbrook, Illinois Polkafest, the Rocky Mountain Polkafest in Denver, Colorado, and Gemuitlikeit Days, in Jefferson, Wisconsin, and other various dances in Ohio and Wisconsin. The Sidemen won the "Best New Band Award", from the Cleveland-Style Polka Hall of Fame, in 2000.
In 1998, Eric married Nancy Hlad. Together they run one of polka music’s largest web sites, Nancy’s Place for Polkas, www.polkas.com. Nancy also plays the button box accordion and frequently performs with Eric.
Now settled in Cleveland, Ohio, Eric started his own recording studio, called GreenGuy and began teaching button accordion lessons. He also started playing with Mark Habat, Rudy Kershishnik and Joe Shumar, as the "Force of Habat". They specialized in straight forward Slovenian Style music, and in 1999 released the CD entitled, "It’s a Force of Habat". They won the "Best New/Young Band" Award, from the Cleveland-Style Polka Hall of Fame, that year (1999).
In October of 2001, Eric and Nancy traveled to Nebraska to be a part of "Polka Passion", a PBS Special about polka music that aired nationally. They performed at the Sokol Hall in Omaha along with Eddie Blazonczyk, Karl and the Country Dutchmen, and the Polka Family. Even though the response was good, PBS decided not to use Eric and Nancy’s portion in the final airing, with the promise of use in the future.
Eric spends a lot of time in the studio both performing and engineering. Jeff Winard’s "Thanks for the Memories" and "Polka Paradise" releases were recorded and mixed by Eric, as well as releases by Lud Hrovat, The Third Generation, Mike Wojtila, and The Band INTENSE.
Eric’s own recordings keep him busy as well, "A Merry Christmas Wish" with Eric Noltkamper and Friends, features Steve Meisner, Jeff Winard, Grant Kozera and Nancy Noltkamper, 2001. "I Don’t Wanna Mambo!" with Grant Kozera features a song written by Jazz accordionist, Ken Kotwitz , called "Frank and the Yanks" completed in 2002. There are 20 different artists taking turns singing this wonderful tribute to the "Polka King". Also in 2002, "The Eric Noltkamper Button Box Collection" was released featuring 17 songs all played on the diatonic button box accordion.
Eric has performed in at least 27 different states, Mexico and Canada. He has performed on 3 polka cruises and toured the country with bands such as, Frank Yankovic, Herb Eberle, Gordon Hartmann, Verne and Steve Meisner, Jeff Winard, Grant Kozera, Bob Doszak, Jack Tady, The Versatones, Lynn Marie, and countless others. He has appeared on at least 20 recordings outside of his own, performing on the bass, banjo, button accordion, drums, guitar, piano accordion, chromatic accordion, and piano.
Eric continues to play 100 plus dates a year as a bandleader, soloist, and sideman. The band performs at county fairs, dances in IL, MI, OH, PA and WI, the annual Slovenefest in PA, corporate company parties and Oktoberfests.
In 2003, Eric was named "Sideman of the Year" by the National Cleveland-Style Polka Hall of Fame.
In 2004, Eric teamed up with musician, composer and broadcaster, Bruce Burger. Together they revived the original "Doc" Lausche style of music was the beginnings of Cleveland-Style polkas. The recording entitled "Rosy Cheeks" takes us back to when polkas were the rage and several band were recording on major record labels.
In 2006, Eric was named "Musician of the Year" by the National Cleveland-Style Polka Hall of Fame.
Eric has recorded on the following Grammy Nominated recordings:
1995 Better Than Ever
1996 Music Music Music
1998 Shakin' Not Stirred
1999 Smokin' Polkas
2004 Highways & Dancehalls
2006 Good Friends Good Music