(b Davis, WV, July 28, 1915; d New Port Richey, FL, Oct 14, 1998). American polka accordionist and bandleader. He is the polka musician who led the most prominent career in American popular music. His style of polka, called Slovenian-style, Cleveland-style, or Yankovic-style, has remained the most frequently played polka idiom. He used lead accordion, a second accordion playing riffs, a tenor banjo striking chords, and a string bass. Later bands included drums. Some Slovenian bands use saxophone, although Yankovic never did.
The son of immigrants from Slovenia, he was raised in the predominantly Slovenian Collingwood neighborhood of Cleveland, where his parents ran a boardinghouse for immigrant workers. He learned to play the button accordion from a boarder named Max Zelodec. In the early 1930s, he switched to the versatile piano accordion.
Yankovic formed a small dance band, and in 1938 and 1939 made self-produced records, which sold briskly. Before shipping out to Europe with the army in ...