Frankie With Kurt Raichle

Memories Of The Polka King

My memories of the Polka King span a lifetime and a continent.  When I was a child, my aunt Jean in Altoona, Pennsylvania would swing me into the air and dance around the house to Yankovic and the Yanks.

When I was nineteen, I put my thumb out and landed in Cleveland, Ohio working at Pepper Pike Country Club.  On Saturday nights, I'd hop the Rapid Transit to Saxenheims on the West Side.  Once again, it was Frankie Yankovic or Johnny Vadnal.

In 1964, my wife and I taught in Homedale, Idaho.  On Friday, February 11th, Homedale celebrated its centennial and invited Frankie for the evening dance.  The gym was packed.  The farmers and ranchers came from miles around to see the Polka King.  They came from Wilder, Fruitland, Caldwell, Nampa, and Boise.  My wife and I danced every dance.  The next morning, our first child, Kurt, was born.  When Frankie heard this, he told his Las Vegas audience, "My music is so happy it's causing women to have babies."

In 1976, our family band performed at the Minnesota State Polka Festival.  Afterwards, Frankie came over to see the "Polka baby".  He gave Kurt an autographed record album.

This summer, I competed in a volleyball tournament at Clearwater Beach, Florida.   New Port Richy was forty-five minutes away, so I drove up to see Frankie.

That was the last time I saw the Polka King.   But, like everyone, I have his memory and his music in my heart forever.