|Birth Day:||July 28, 1915|
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He served in the armed forces, fighting in the Battle of the Bulge, and almost losing his hands and feet to frostbite.
In 1940, he married his first wife June, and they began to raise a family. However, the expenses of family life quickly overcame the incoming money from his music career, so he opened a tavern, calling it the Yankovic Bar. It became a popular hangout for local musicians, and he continued to run it until he sold it in 1948, dedicating himself to the accordion.
Yankovic enlisted in the armed forces in 1943 and cut numerous records while on leave, prior to his departure for Europe. Yankovic was assigned duty in 1943 in the infantry as a flame-thrower operator. He fought in the Battle of the Bulge where a severe case of frostbite nearly required the amputation of his hands and feet. Fortunately, he was able to beat the resulting gangrene before that became necessary, and was awarded a Purple Heart. The doctors urged him to have his fingers amputated, but he refused, as that would have ended his music career. After getting out of the hospital, he and four other musicians were assigned to special services to entertain the troops, including General George Patton and his Third United States Army.
Columbia Records initially refused to record "Just Because", because other versions of the song had been around for years without much success; only allowing it when Yankovic said that he would buy the first 10,000 records. Yankovic obtained the title of America's Polka King after beating Louis Bashell, Romy Gosz, Harold Loeffelmacher and the Six Fat Dutchmen, Whoopee John Wilfahrt, and Lawrence Duchow in a battle of the bands in Milwaukee at the Milwaukee Arena on June 9, 1948.
Yankovic hit the national scene when he earned two platinum singles for "Just Because" (1947) and "Blue Skirt Waltz" (1949). Others who recorded the Blue Skirt Waltz were the Tunemixers and Guy Lombardo both in 1949, Lawrence Welk (Myron Floren) in 1958, Jim Ed Brown and the Browns in 1960, Hank Thompson in 1962, and Bobby Vinton in 1976. Yankovic found a Bohemian Waltz called "Cervenou Sukynku," (written by Vaclav Blaha) or loosely translated, "Red Skirt Waltz." Yankovic asked Mitchell Parrish ("Stardust", "Sleighride") to write new lyrics to the melody. Parrish changed "red" to "blue". Yankovic sold over 2.5 million records and with the Tunemixers version and Guy Lombardo's version, it sold over 4 million records total in 1949. It was the second Cleveland-style song to sell over one million recordings.
Yankovic also hosted the television series Polka Time for Buffalo, New York-based WKBW-TV for 26 weeks in 1962. He commuted from Cleveland to host each episode, which aired live. He also hosted a similar show at WGN-TV Chicago at about the same time.
In 1970, a house fire destroyed the gold records for "Just Because" and "Blue Skirt Waltz".
Born to Slovene immigrant parents, Yankovic was raised in the Collinwood neighborhood on Cleveland's East Side. He released over 200 recordings in his career. In 1986 he was awarded the first ever Grammy in the Best Polka Recording category. He rarely strayed from Slovenian-style polka, but did record with country guitarist Chet Atkins and pop singer Don Everly. He also recorded a version of the "Too Fat Polka" with comedian Drew Carey.
He won a Grammy Award in 1986 for his album 70 Years of Hits. He was the first winner in the Polka category. The NARAS (Grammy) organization dropped the category in 2008.
Yankovic died on October 14, 1998, in New Port Richey, Florida, from heart failure, at the age of 83. He is buried in Cleveland's Calvary Cemetery. Hundreds of friends, family, his loyal fans and fellow musicians attended his memorial service. At his peak, Yankovic traveled extensively and performed 325 shows a year. He sold 30 million records during his lifetime.
In Bob Dolgan's 2006 biography of Yankovic, Frankie's longtime drummer Dave Wolnik observed that "Yankovic didn't have a street named for him in his own hometown". This launched a campaign by the National Cleveland-Style Polka Hall of Fame and Museum and City Councilman Michael Polensek, and in a ceremony on August 21, 2007, the square at the intersection of Waterloo Rd. and East 152nd St. in Cleveland (41°34′08″N 81°34′31″W / 41.569°N 81.5752°W / 41.569; -81.5752), not far from where Yankovic grew up, was named in his honor.
Currently, Frankie Yankovic is 107 years, 2 months and 3 days old. Frankie Yankovic will celebrate 108th birthday on a Friday 28th of July 2023.
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