Linda Lee Brown

Accordionist and Bandleader

1946 –

Linda Lee Brown is the star entertainer at the Bavarian Inn in Frankenmuth, Michigan.  She plays the accordion in her own band and has served as music director at the Inn since 1991. A native of Midland, Michigan, she started out in 1974 leading the Golden-Aires. With her own band Linda Lee has a long list of appearances at festivals in all of the Midwestern states, including the annual Thanksgiving Polka Party in Cleveland. To date, she has recorded eight albums and hosted two Michigan radio shows. Linda Lee was inducted into the Michigan Polka Hall of Fame in 1991.


August “Gus” Oswald



Gus Oswald is one of the most prolific drummers on the Cleveland-style polka scene, having set the rhythm on 900 songs and nearly 90 albums, mostly with with Hank Haller. Within a year after arriving in Cleveland from his native Gottschee (Kočevje) in Slovenia, Gus joined the Jake Haller ensemble. Hank took over the Haller band in 1957 and began his 44-year association with Gus. He appeared with the Hank Haller Orchestra at 80 to 100 dances and festivals each year, plus television appearances. Gus’ musical talent and work ethic enabled him to accompany many styles of music from German, Slovenian, Czech, Slovak and Polish to Latin and pop. Gus officially retired in 2001, but still performs at special events


Angela “Angie” Zabjek

Vocalist and Volunteer

1921 –

For nearly thirty years, Angie Zabjek sang harmony to Florence Unetich’s lyric soprano voice as the popular duet from the Jadran Slovenian Singing Society. They first teamed in 1972 and appeared with the chorus and as a specialty act around Cleveland and Slovenian communities in nearby states. The “Jadran Songbirds,” as they were known, recorded an album, “Echoes of Slovenia.”  Angie began singing at age 10 and graduated to the Jadran chorus as a teenager. As a soprano, she had the lead in the operetta, Die Fledermaus, and performed in regular concerts until the chorus ended in 2000.  Angie has served on the auxiliary of the Slovenian Workmen’s Home for 15 years, working at the weekly dinner. She was honored as 1994 Woman of the Year by the Cleveland Federation of Slovenian National Homes.


John R. Gerl

Drummer and Vocalist

1954 –

Drummer John Gerl has backed up some of the best-known Cleveland polka bands since the 1960s. He was also a founding trustee and past treasurer of the National Cleveland-Style Polka Hall of Fame and Museum. John began at age 12 with the Rivieras, a trio with Dave Wretschko and Mike Gazdek.  He played with the Wretschko orchestra for 24 years until Dave’s passing in 1991. John provided the rhythm for the Fairport Ensemble in the 1980s, Mike Wojtila and the Entertainers, and, for 15 years, with Bob Kravos and the Boys in the Band. He has accompanied the Mahoning Valley Button Box Club, Ron Pivovar,  Ron Likovic and Kathy Hlad, and Zeke and Charlie, among others. John has played in more than a dozen polka tours and cruises and has appeared on 20 recordings. Whenever the Polka Hall of Fame hosts a social event, John is likely to be on the scene to assist. He’s a popular figure at polka jam sessions and fund-raisers.


Ray Skovenski

Accordionist and Bandleader

1934 –

Ray Skovenski has been a high-profile bandleader on western Pennsylvania’s polka scene since the 1940s.  He grew up in a Polish family and listened to Slovenian-style polka music on records, the radio, and at dances. His first of three recordings was as a member of the Deltas. Among his original songs, one number, “Don’s Polka,” appeared on a Grammy-winning album by Walter Ostanek, Canada’s Polka King. Ray and his wife had five children and taught each one to play instruments. He formed the Ray Skovenski Orchestra in 1976 with members of the family. As adults, his children continue to play in various bands. “Polka music has kept me young,” says Ray. “And it will keep you young, too.” He was named the United Musicians Polka Association of Pennsylvania Man of the Year in 2005.


Bill Tomsick, Mike Dragas, Sr., & Ray Sterle

Art Perko Orchestra Side Musicians

1935 –             1935 –                1933-

For 32 years, Art Perko’s orchestra had a distinctive, cohesive sound, due to the fact that three of his sidemen, Bill Tomsick (sax and clarinet), Mike Dragas (bass) and Ray Sterle (drums) were members of the band all those years. Each musician played in polka bands previously. Bill, Mike, and Ray first met as members of the Joe Luzar band.  Soon after the break-up of the band Bill approached Art Perko in behalf of himself, Mike and Ray. The Art Perko Orchestra made its television debut on Cleveland’s syndicated “Polka Varieties” in January 1960, and was featured for 25 years, including the last telecast in 1985.  The group made appearances with Buck Owens, Dottie West, Gene Krupa, Bob Hope, Charlie Price, the Temptations, and Roy Clark. The band’s first album had a hit recording of the “Peanuts Polka” in 1965. Five more albums followed. The trio later joined Tony Fortuna’s band until they retired in 2005.


Al Strukel

Accordionist and Bandleader

1926 – 2000

Many top names in Cleveland-Style polka music got their start in the orchestra led by Al Strukel. The accordionist boosted the careers of future bandleaders Al Markic and Joe White and young performers, such as Paul Yanchar, Frank Mahnic, Bob Gospich and Mirk Yama. Al learned the button box at age nine and often jammed with childhood friend Johnny Pecon, his neighbor in Cleveland’s Collinwood district. After service in the Navy, Al organized his band featuring Polka Hall of Famer Al Markic. The group performed at local night spots, like the Welcome Tavern, the Bank Bar and the White Horse Tavern. Al’s orchestra was the very first to appear on radio station WSRS. In 1948, Al recorded tunes for the Continental label, including “Tonight by Candlelight,” “Rob ’em Blind,” and “A Night in May.” He opened and closed every engagement with his theme song, “Thinking of You.” Illness forced Al to sideline his entertaining in the mid-1950s, but he returned in the 1980s to host polka bus tours with Milan Racanovic. He was made a life member of the Cleveland Federation of Musicians.