Monday, August 11, 2008

The Polka Man of Woodside

Polka is the world to Mr. Procanyn, who lives in the same two-story brick house on 61st Street that his grandparents moved into during the early 1900s.

Woodside is no Greenpoint, long home to many Polish-Americans and seemingly one of the more likely places in New York to find polka fans. Once dominated by Irish and Italians, Woodside has seen recent immigrants from South Asia and Latin America. Mr. Procanyn, whose roots are Polish and Ukrainian, stayed in touch with his heritage through visits to a now-defunct Polish National Home in Woodside, where polka bands were ever present.

But polka is hardly a booming business these days. The genre’s most ardent fans are aging, and their numbers declining.

The House Where Polka Lives

Mr. Procanyn picked up the accordion at age 8, performed in a band while in the Navy in the late 1950s, and later toured the country with a changing cast of polka musicians before forming the Walt Procanyn Orchestra, the band he leads today.

While the genre continues to struggle, Mr. Procanyn believes that one answer to polka’s woes can be found in his basement.

“You’re in for a very special treat on today’s show,” he was promising listeners the other day as he prepared for a broadcast that would feature music from his latest album, “Big Band and Polka on Broadway,” newly released on his independent label, Eastwind International Artists.

“We hope you will enjoy listening to it as much as we did recording it,” he said. Edging closer to the microphone, he added: “And away we go!”


georgetheatheist said...

I follow the Polka scene pretty closely. Just WHERE does the Procanyn Big Band ever appear? Beats me.

BTW How many of you were at that "kick-ass" Jimmy Sturr concert in Maspeth last week?

Queens Crapper said...

I think he retired from performing due to health problems. But he still records and has the radio show.

Anonymous said...

I luv polka music.

The Austro-Hungarians always handled the simmering Bulkans very cleverly.

Took the parties to a beer garden, gave them pilsner, had them dance the polka, and everyone went home happy.

When that fell apart that region was never the same.

Polka musicans share something with jazz musicans: everyone that plays the polka looks so happy.

Anonymous said...

I am no fan of the Mexican culture, but there is a store near my home that plays music on the sidewalk (yea, THAT helps property values in the area)

But on occasion they play Tehana music that has polka as a mainstay.

Man, its great!

Anonymous said...

Oh. My. God.

I actually know this man. I used to play with his kids years and years ago at his house in Woodside. He used to invite my family to these Polish festivals to watch him play with his band. We had so much fun! This brought back some really nice memories.