Lifetime Achievement Award Recipients

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Bright, Roger

The Cleveland-style polka took on a Swiss lilt when Roger Bright added his inimitable mellow touch to the music. Roger grew up in America's Little Switzerland, the town of New Glarus, Wisconsin. One-time drummer and vocalist, Craig Ebel, said, "If it weren't for Roger Bright, New Glarus wouldn't be on the map.

Roger played the accordion at age 12, and formed his first band at age 15. Four years later he made his first recording.

He favored Slovenian-style polkas, as played by Frankie Yankovic and Joey Miskulin, Roger's friend of 40 years. In spite of the influence of the legendary accordionists, Roger left his imprint on Cleveland-style polkas and waltzes. Hit songs on Roger's 35 albums include "Everywhere You Go" and "Come to the Mountain." He also featured yodeling on tunes with Robie Schneider.

Roger was a fixture on weekends at the New Glarus Hotel restaurant, and served as bar manager as well. But he managed to perform in 33 states, Canada, and Europe. While on tour in Slovenia, he met the great Slavko Avsenik, whose music Roger adapted to his own style. On tour, he played with Frankie Yankovic on Johnny Carson's "Tonight Show" and the Phil Donahue Show also performed with the St. Louis Pops Orchestra.

Roger's achievements were also acknowledged by the Iron Range Polka Hall of Fame and the Wisconsin Polka Hall of Fame. The town of New Glarus celebrated Roger Bright Day on June 4, 2001. Within months, Roger was struck down by a fatal heart attack while playing at a Colorado polka festival. At a memorial for Roger, bandleader Spike Micale said, "There are bands who can copy Frankie Yankovic, but I can't see anyone else coming along who can duplicate Roger's style.

Roger was survived by his wife, Barbara, and five children, including son Kevin, who played on Bright's last album, "Last Dance," released after his death.

Inducted in 2002

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