Lifetime Achievement Award Recipients

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Slak, Lojze

Lojze Slak is Slovenia’s most popularbutton accordion player and folk music ensemble. He has written over 400 songsand his albums have all earned “Gold” status. Lojze’s original compositions reinvigorated the Cleveland-style with new melodies and touched off the buttonbox craze that is still enjoyed today.

Lojze was born near Mirna Pec in theDolenjsko region of Slovenia. He started playing the button accordion as ayoungster and is self-taught. No doubt he was influenced by his uncles, whowere village musicians. Lojze started playing for weddings at age 15, andreceived his first public acclaim when he won first place on a Ljubljana radiotalent show.

Hisfirst band, the Slak Brothers Ensemble, included his brothers, Matija onclarinet, Stane on bass, and Tone on trumpet. The band broke up when Matija wasdrafted into the Army. Lojze then formed the Slak Trio with his friend, NikoZlobko on guitar and clarinet, and Ciril Babnik on the bass. In 1964, the trioadded the vocal quintet, “Boys From Praportno” (Fantje S. Praportna). A newmagical music combination was created with the close harmony of the fivesingers and the folk music quality of the instrumentalists.

Witheach album, Slak introduced new polkas and waltzes that have become standardsin Slovenia and Slovenian communities abroad. Aside from writing the music,Lojze created a lot of interest in the button accordion following his firstvisit to the United States and Canada in 1970. Women and children began playingthe button box and 40 button box clubs were formed across the U.S., and enjoyedplaying songs such as “Ej, Prijatelj,” “Glas Harmonike,” and “VisokoNad Oblaki,” and dozens more became standards in Cleveland-style polka bands.

TheSlak Ensemble toured in the U.S. five times, most recently in 1990. Othercountries where they have performed are: Australia, Sweden, Germany, andAustria. In 1990, the Slak Ensemble performed on stage at Nashville’s Grand Ole Opry, with his “Save the Last Dance” (Ne Prižigaj Luci) sung in English with the vocal quintet. They also played at Disneyworld in Florida that year.Through his appearances, Lojze has been awarded many honors such as the key tothe City of Cleveland in 1980. In 1985, Lojze received his first PlatinumRecord for record sales totaling one million copies.

Although some of the original ensemble members retired in1991, the Slak Ensemble continues to perform throughout Slovenia with a vocaltrio and the band. Lojze and his wife have two sons, Slavko and Robert. Lojzeenjoys nurturing his vineyard in the country, pressing grapes, and producinghis own wine. The polka world is grateful to him for reaching new heights inthe field of popular Slovenian folk music.

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