M. Darlak has devoted his whole life to the promotion of polka music.
In his thirty-seven years as a working musician, he has performed
and recorded with the nation's most prestigious polka orchestras.
Today he continues this tradition with his own band and work as
too often, musicians like Jerry Darlak are overlooked for honors
that are bestowed upon the industry's most identifiable names. However,
Jerry has been much more than a professional sideman: for over thirty
years his sole occupation was that of a polka musician.
Darlak was born in Chicago on September 22, 1946. He began his musical
career behind a drum set a the age of 7. By age 12, he joined his
first polka band. Within two years, at the age of 14, he was playing
polka music three nights a week with his own band, The Lucky Stars.
by the great polka legend Li'l Wally Jagiello, Jerry took interest
in the concertina and began lessons on that instrument at age 11.
1962, at the age of 16, Jerry joined Li'l Richard Towalski's band
as a concertina player. He spent over a year and a half with Chicago's
"Polka General" learning the ins and outs of the Windy
City's polka circuit.
after, at the famous Caldwell Woods on Chicago's North Side, he
was introduced to the international polka star, Marion Lush. Learning
that Lush's Musical Stars would soon be in need of a full-time drummer,
Jerry asked Lush for an audition. Impressed with both the talent
and enthusiasm that Jerry had to offer, Lush chose the high school
junior to be the back beat of the Musical Stars.
played drums with Lush's band until 1965, when he was drafted into
the U.S. Army. While stationed at Fort Hood, Texas, he flew back
to Chicago every weekend to perform with the Lush orchestra. He
also played drums with the 5th Army Band, which was assigned to
Fort Hood. He soon received orders that he would be stationed in
Germany. This, however, would not keep him away from his beloved
polka music: with his duffel bag and mess kit came his concertina.
a member of the 7th U.S. Army, he auditioned for drummer with that
division's band. He won the position and performed throughout Germany
and parts of Europe. However, when it was learned that he was a
full-time polka musician-and had brought his concertina with him-he
soon was a featured artist with the group, playing Polish, German
and other polkas at the Band's numerous shows.
returned to the United States in February 1967, and was again a
member of Lush's Musical Stars. In addition to working as the band's
concertina player, he also served as Lush's booking agent and handled
all the band's business arrangements.
nearly a decade as Marion Lush's drummer and concertina player,
Jerry became a member of the award-winning Eddie Blazonczyk's Versatones,
joining that group in 1972. Like Lush, Blazonczyk's achievements
and accomplishments were astonishing.
the next 15-plus years, Jerry played concertina with the Versatones,
performing as a full-time polka musician forty-two to forty-four
weeks of the year. During this period, both the Versatonesand Jerry
chalked up countless awards, citations and other commendations for
their sound and their dedication to the preservation and continuance
of polka music.
retired from the Versatones in 1987, and moved to Cheektowaga, N.Y.,
a suburb of yet another polka capital --Buffalo, New York. The move
marked the first time in twenty-five years that his livelihood was
not that of a full-time musician. ...But not for long.
by the Town of Cheektowaga, the administration of the Town's Annual
Polish American Arts Festival soon learned of Jerry's move, and
asked him to be a member of the committee. The Polish American Arts
Festival Committee sought Jerry's years of experience to make this
already-highly successful event even more so. He also joined the
Bellares, one of Buffalo's most respected polka groups, led by area
polka legend "Big Steve" Krzeminski.
has recorded over 600 songs on nearly 60 albums in his career, and
has among his numerous citations two Grammy awards. He has performed
across the continental United States and Hawaii, Canada, Poland,
Germany, and Austria.
years of experience have allowed him to continue as a fill-in member
of such groups as Lenny Gomulka's Chicago Push, The Ampol Aires,
Li'l Wally, Jackie Libera's Classics, the Dyna-Tones and countless
others. He was also a regular member of many ad hoc groups, such
as Chet Kowalkowski's Polish Carolers, and the Polish American Journal'sPolish
1995, when Big Steve Krzeminski decided to retire, Jerry again proved
his love for polka music by forming his own band, Jerry Darlak &
The Touch. The band has quickly become one of Buffalo's most popular
orchestras, as it concentrates on providing the solid "pod
nogi" type of polka music that Jerry was raised on.
Kohan ----Buffalo, New York
Touch received the "Favorite Band Award" at the
POLKAS ON THE HILLS FESTIVAL in Fairpoint, Ohio.
Back Polka" voted #1 song on Matt's Polka Page on the internet.
Jerry Darlak elected into the IPA Polka Hall of Fame in Chicago,
Among the highlights of Jerry's career are the two Grammys that
he won for "Polish Celebration" and "My Mary Lou,"--
both with Eddie Blozonczyk's Versatones and also Jerry's induction
into the IPA Polka Hall of Fame in 1998.
(the concertina artist) sings traditional Polish--Chicago Style
polkas --that everyone of all ages enjoys. His band --The Buffalo
Touch --has released 5 album CD's (Touch This ,For Our Friends,
Polkas For Christmas, Let The Good Times Roll) and currently releasing
their 5th album. The popularity of the Touch has taken his band
to perform all over the country from California to Florida and from
Vegas, Nevada to the Mardi Gras in Louisiana. Looking at Jerry's
busy schedule makes you realize that everyone is "touched"
by his music.