Hall of Fame – 2021
Charlie Tansek began his polka career by learning the accordion, piano, and drums and forming his own band fresh out of high school in Canton, Ohio. He purchased his first chemnitzer concertina from Star Concertina in Chicago, and taught himself how to play, emulating the sounds of the musicians he loved most, Li’l Wally, Eddie Zima, Steve Adamczyk, Casey Siewierski, and more. Together with fellow Canton, Ohio natives they played throughout the Midwest as The Harmony Knights. They were regulars in the Cleveland polka scene and communities of the Ohio Valley, the West Virginia panhandle, and Southwestern Pennsylvania.
The Harmony Knights recorded their one and only album in 1970 at Bel-Aire Studios in Chicago, recording Original Polkas and Obereks by Charlie Tansek and the Harmony Knights. As the name implies, the album was a collection of originals written by Charlie. The album earned the band plentiful airplay and name recognition, and the recording still receives regular airplay on radio stations and music streaming websites. In the 1980s Charlie formed a new band, The Chicago Tradition. With this band, he backed many of the Polish polka greats when they would perform in the Canton region, including Li’l Wally, Casey Siewierski, and Wanda & Stephanie. Charlie continued to write music scores during this period, two of which became Eddie Blazonczyk & The Versatones standards, Hey Pretty Girl Polka, and Back to Chicago Polka.
Charlie Tansek & The Chicago Tradition still play throughout the Penn-Ohio-West Virginia area where they have a loyal following. They recorded a new CD in the early 2000s, and their sound remains like a trip back in time to a 1950s Chicago polka lounge.
2020 marks 60 years that Charlie has been performing polka music. His contributions to the polka and concertina world are abundant, including many original compositions and several hits for his own band and others. He has also helped to foster a new generation of musicians by teaching the concertina and other instruments and giving many musicians their start by letting them sit in with his band. Charlie is well-loved and respected by his fans and other musicians. He is a loyal member of numerous polka organizations and a fan of many other bands and polka music styles and a frequent presence at other bands’ performances.