Frank Yankovic In Memoriam:

Frank Yankovic

...America's Polka King

laid to rest.

Cleveland, October 19, 1998.

On a bright, warm, and sunny day befitting his music, Polka King Frankie Yankovic was laid to rest. In the Collinwood neighborhood proud of his fame, signs that read, "Free Parking for the King", greeted an estimated 300 cars that processed from the Zele Funeral Home to St. Mary Catholic Church.

The The funeral Mass began at 11AM with St. Mary pastor Fr. John Kumse concelebrating the Rite of Christian Burial with two well-known "polka priests". The Mass included three eulogies (by Yankovic grandchildren and polka promoter Tony Petkovsek ) and traditional English, Slovenian, and Latin songs. The Ave Maria was sung by Cleveland celebrity Rocco Scotty.

An accordion serenade honored the casket as it left the church for the hearse, and Frank's wife Ida, the families, and the 700 Mass attendees happily sang Just Because and the Blue Skirt Waltz in tribute. Frank had told Ida he wanted no tears at his passing, and the singing continued all the way to Calvary Cemetery, where 250 mourners celebrated Yankovic's life in song.

Cards and expressions of sympathy, joy, and remembrance may be sent to

Ida Yankovic
403 Ashwood Court
Greensburg, PA 15601
(724) 771-4754

Top Left: The King is serenaded on his final road trip.

Middle Right: Wife Ida, comforted by grandson
Matt Smodic, arrives at St. Mary Catholic Church.

Below: Ida singswith family members and friends.

Above: Fr. John Kumse, St. Mary pastor, incenses the casket during Mass.


Frankie Yankovic 1915-1998

FRANK YANKOVIC, "America's Polka King," is personally responsible for catapulting Slovenian Cleveland-Style Polkas from an obscure ethnic art form into national prominence as a mainstay of American musical culture.

Beginning his professional music career nearly sixty years ago, Frank began promoting Cleveland-Style Polkas nationally after World War II and, in the process of dedicating his life to this endeavor, has literally been "on the road" ever since.

Of course, Frank's greatest triumphs were his 2 million-seller hits, "Just Because" in 1948 followed shortly by the even-bigger "Blue Skirt Waltz." At that time, gold records were a rarity for any artist, let alone a purveyor of polkas. In recognition of the long and successful career that ensued, Frank received the first Grammy Award in the polka category in 1986.

In a lifetime of barnstorming and whistle-stops, Frank has appeared in major ballrooms throughout the United States performing side-by-side with the likes of Duke Ellington, Spike Jones, and Bob Hope. His travels have taken him from regular engagements on the West Coast/Nevada Circuit including Las Vegas, Reno, and Lake Tahoe, to remote auditoriums in the far reaches of Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania.

Frank's prolific recording career began on his own "Yankee" label before his rise to prominence. Later, in 1946, Frank signed with Columbia Records to commence what would turn out to be a twenty-seven year relationship followed by contracts with RCA and Polygram Records.

Likewise, Frank has established a proud record of promoting Cleveland-Style Polkas on national television appearing with David Frost, Fay Emerson, Patti Page, Kate Smith, Arthur Godfrey, Jackie Gleason, Doris Day, Phil Donahue, Johnny Carson, and Lawrence Welk.

Frank's very successful approach has been to make everyone comfortable with Cleveland-Style music by translating the original Slovenian lyrics to English and applying the traditional Anglo-European polka beat while retaining the beautiful Slovenian melodies as a base.

In deference to his Slovenian heritage and constituency, however, Frank always performs at least one polka in his native tongue. Over the years, the result has been to share our beautiful ethnic heritage with literally millions of happy folks who might otherwise have never had the opportunity.

In Frank's own words, "Polkas make you forget your troubles.. . it's the happiest music this side of heaven."

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