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BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. (CBS) — Eddie Blazonczyk, the man known as Chicago’s polka king, has died at the age of 70.
A news release says Blazonczyk died Monday.
He was born in Chicago to Polish immigrant parents, and in 1986, his album, “Another Polka Celebration,” won a Grammy award.
Blazonczyk was also awarded a National Heritage Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts in 1998.
Blazonczyk became a polka artist and founded the Chicago-based Bel-Aire Records in 1963, according to the release. Before that, he recorded rockabilly and novelty songs for Mercury and Lucky Four records under the name Eddy Bell.
The best known of Blazonczyk’s pre-polka releases was “the Great Great Pumpkin,” released in 1961. But soon afterward, Lucky Four Records owner Lennie LaCour said Blazonczyk, then 22, should focus instead on polka music.
“I took his advice, and never regretted it,” Blazonczyk said in the release.
Blazonczyk was a member of the International Polka Hall of Fame and the Broadcasters Hall of Fame. He retired from performing in 2002, and turned over responsibility for his band, the Versatones, to his son, Eddie Jr.
The Versatones ended their run after a performance this past New Year’s Eve.