Polka Grammy Preview: Walter Ostanek and Fred Ziwich

Walter Ostanek and Fred Ziwich: Good Friends Good MusicWhile Frankie Yankovic reigned as “America’s Polka King,” another polka monarch was flourishing north of the border. Walter Ostanek, “Canada’s Polka King,” grew up idolizing Yankovic and eventually became a close friend and frequent collaborator (for instance, Ostanek played accordion on Yankovic’s first Tonight Show appearance). A three-time Grammy winner with numerous recording, radio, and TV credits to his name, Ostanek is best known for playing Cleveland-style polka with a country/western twang.

Fred Ziwich may not be royalty, but he’s been the recipient of multiple honors from the National Cleveland-Style Polka Hall of Fame, including “Musician of the Year”, “Button Box Musician of the Year”, and “Recording of the Year.” A classically trained clarinetist, Ziwich honed his accordion style in the ethnic halls and polka clubs around Cleveland. On Sunday, he could become the first Cleveland-area polka musician to win a Grammy since Yankovic himself.

The songs on Good Friends Good Music are divided between Ostanek (playing with his band) and Ziwich (playing with his “International Sound Machine”). The late Gaylord Klancnik, Joey Miskulin, and Igor Podpecan & Zlati Zvoki from Slovenia also make appearances. No matter who’s playing, though, the emphasis is on Cleveland/Slovenian-style polka music and the accordion is always front and center. Which explains why not one, but two accordion tuners (Don Krance and Jerry Balash) are credited in the liner notes!


  1. Fred,
    where do I find your schedule of appearances, and are you available Aug 10, 2008.


    ~ from St. Sergius Church, a long time fan, I still have one of your first albums with Andy playing bass guitar!

  2. Alla, this isn’t Fred’s site and, unfortunately, I don’t know where to find a list of his appearances. Last I checked, though, he has a weekly show on 247PolkaHeaven.com (online polka radio) — his email address is listed in their directory:


    Hope that helps!

  3. I host the LUNCHTIME POLKA SHOW on WPNA, the top polka station in Chicagoland.
    If you could send a promo copy of your latest CD, I’d be happy to consider it for airplay.

    OAK PARK, IL. 60302