Keeping Up With the Blazonczyks

There was a fascinating profile of polka bandleader Eddie Blazonczyk Jr. in the Chicago Tribune earlier this week. For more than forty years, Eddie Blazonczyk’s Versatones have been the gold standard of Chicago polka bands. Eddie Blazoncyzk Sr. was a pioneer of the Chicago style, evolving the sound and promoting it around the world.

But after he suffered a stroke in 2002, the torch was passed to his son, Eddie Blazonczyk Jr., who had been playing concertina with the Versatones since the 1989. With “Junior” at the helm, the band continues to record and tour relentlessly, but the polka crowds have shrunk over the years and it’s difficult for even a top band like the Versatones to make a living. And for Eddie Jr.’s wife, Cheryl, it’s especially hard raising a family with a husband who’s always on the road:

“I’m impressed that he can play so well, but I always ask Eddie, ‘What’s the difference between a musician and a pizza? A pizza can feed a family of four.'”

Ouch. On top of all this, everytime he performs, Eddie Jr. must face inevitable comparisons to one of polka’s living legends: his own father. But Eddie Jr. carries the legacy proudly, and the Versatones’ latest record, Batteries Not Included recently earned a Grammy nomination (their 18th overall) for Best Polka Album. We’ll be reviewing that album — along with the other Grammy nominees — over the next few weeks.

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