1998 IPA Hall-Of Fame Inductee – Matt Wasielewski
As far back as Matt can remember, he had a love for polka music. When he was just a small boy, there were polkas playing in his home on the radio from morning to night. No one in the family played a musical instrument, but Matt had a love for the accordion and was able to get his first accordion while in his teens. With a lot of perseverance, he taught himself how to play.
Matt Wasielewski….musician, band leader, vocalist, song writer, composer, master of ceremonies, radio disc jockey, promoter and record distributor, started his polka career in 1957 when he formed his Polka Jets band. Seven years with the same musicians, his group was playing three to four jobs a week. Through the next few years, Matt added more musicians to the group which eventually grew into a six-piece band. Much in demand, the bookings for some of the jobs were one to two years in advance. In 1968, they cut their first album.
Matt Wasielewski & The Polka Jets won many awards through the years including four trophies for first place at the Battle of Bands, along with two second place trophies over six years at ldora Park Ballroom, a very popular polka spot in Youngstown, Ohio. They also played 11 consecutive festivals at this same ballroom. The band traveled to many states; entertained on a cruise to the Virgin Islands; a trip to Disneyland in Florida, and also a trip to Hawaii.
In 1982, Matt joined the Bud Hundenski Orchestra as a featured vocalist and traveled with the band for seven years. He also regrouped the Polka Jets and performed for several more years before finally disbanding the group in 1990. Between the two bands, Matt performed in about 10 states and also in Canada. Matt recorded six albums with his Polka Jets and did the vocals on three albums with Bud. His band made several TV appearances over the years. He was a guest vocalist on a recording with the New Tradition and then did another guest spot on their latest recording.
Matt has been an emcee many times, including such polka festivals as Seven Springs in Champion, PA and the Jimmy Sturr Christmas Show in Pittsburgh, PA. He, along with his band, volunteered on many occasions to contribute their time to worthy causes such as Children’s Hospital, cancer benefits, and personal benefits for fellow musicians. He was also a record distributor of polka recordings; held polka dances at several different halls in the Western Pennsylvania area; and was one of the most visible personalities at polka functions in the Pittsburg area. Matt is a member of the International Polka Association, United States Polka Association, Pennsylvania Polka Association and Polka Ambassadors Club. Matt Wasielewski was inducted into the IPA Hall Of Fame in 1998.
Matt started his first radio show in 1992 at WWCS 540AM in Canonsburg, PA. MATT’S POLKA PARTY with Matt Wasielewski and his right hand Vi, aired LIVE every Saturday from 12-2 pm ET. His program quickly became one of the top shows in the area and built up a very large listening audience. After nine years at the station, they arrived there one Saturday morning and with no advance notice were told that would be their last show. Behind Matt’s back, the owner sold off all of the station’s air time to Disney who unceremoniously eliminated all ethnic programming. (In January of 2012, that station changed its format to sports talk and today is an affiliate of Fox Sports Radio.)
The word got out very fast to other local stations and Matt was lucky as within one week, he was contacted by four stations to do his polka shows with them. Only losing one weekend on the air, Matt went with WKHB 620AM in Irwin-Pittsburgh, PA, and aired his show on Saturday afternoons LIVE initially from 3-5pm ET and later from 2-4 pm ET. Back in those days, Matt & Vi would travel 40 miles each way to and from the station to do their LIVE show. However, health issues forced Matt to give up that drive to the station and he would have to pre-record his shows for WKHB. He continued to solicit sponsors for his program as well as run a monthly dance at the Moon Run Fireman’s Hall in Moon Run, PA to help defray the cost of airtime. By the end of 2012 however, attendances at his dances began to wane as many of the loyal followers who had been with him for many decades had passed away and were not being replaced. Shortly after Thanksgiving, Matt made a difficult decision to leave the terrestrial radio business after 20 years on the air. The final edition of MATT’S POLKA PARTY on WKHB 620AM aired on Saturday, December 29, 2012.
In the mid-1970’s, Matt met Vi at a polka dance he played at when he had the Polka Jets, and she would follow his band. They married in December of 1982. Matt has one son: Todd, from a previous marriage.
Matt & Vi live in Evans City, PA, about 30 miles north of Pittsburgh, where he operated his own woodworking shop for thirty years. A few years ago, Matt suffered a cancer scare which forced him to retire from the woodworking business. The chemotherapy caused permanent damage to the muscles in his legs, and to this day needs a walker and a scooter to get around. He most recently had a stair lift installed to his basement studio.
You’re wondering how Matt came to the Polka Jammer Network? Polkaman Jack Baciewski was a great admirer of Matt, and he would always talk about him during his time on the Jammer. In February of 2006, Jack called Jim Kucharski to tell him that Matt was interested in coming on the Jammer and wanted him to get Matt hooked up to do a LIVE show. Jim had heard about Matt Wasielewski, but never met him. He gave Matt a call and was astonished to learn that Matt already knew about him! As you can imagine, Jim liked Matt right away. Jim asked him at the time: “Are you sure you would like to do Internet Radio, being that our network is so small?” Matt told Jim that the only feedback he was getting on his AM show was when he would run into a fan at a polka dance. Matt was intrigued when Polkaman Jack and the other LIVE show hosts would get e-mails from listeners during their shows in real-time. More importantly, Matt believed in what Polkaman Jack & Jim were doing. Matt came to the Jammer in March of 2006. Matt has stated that the e-mails he gets from his listeners are therapeutic; those e-mails are better than any medicines a doctor could give.
Matt has assured us that as long as (the LORD willing) he is in good health, he will continue to air his show LIVE on the Polka Jammer Network on Wednesday nights from 6-8pm Eastern Time playing the best in polkas, waltzes, and lots of obereks which are Matt’s specialty along with plenty of 78RPM records which he affectionaltely calls the “fried bacon”.
And as Matt always says: “Polka Music Makes People More Beautiful!”
MATT’S POLKA PARTY with Matt Wasielewski plays the best in classic polka oldies from years gone by, along with the latest in polka music.