Hall of Fame – 1981
Joseph F. Czerniak (1923-2016) of Duluth, Minnesota has been long acknowledged as a pioneer in many aspects of the polka industry. Joe was born to Polish immigrant parents in Duluth, Minnesota, and lived his entire life there. He began playing professionally at age 14, and formed his own band the Duluth Polka Dots in 1939, at age 15. In addition to the concertina, the band used banjo and drums. They played Polish, Scandinavian, Slovenian, and German styles of old-time music. The band played every weekend until Joe was drafted into the Air Force in 1942. Of course, Joe took a concertina into the service with him. His band played for over 50 years.
Joe taught dozens of students in his basement studio steadily for 37 years, many have gone on to gain national notoriety as Concertina players and recording stars. These included son Bill, and frequent IPA award winner, Renata Romanek. He inspired numerous local polka groups to start up and his students to join the Silver Bay Concertina Club.
Joe copyrighted the scale and chord transposition chart for the chemnitzer concertina. For many years, Joe sponsored “Concertina Displays,” or concertina get-togethers, not only to promote sales of concertinas but to provide an audience for aspiring polka musicians.
One of Joe’s recordings, the “Concertina Hall of Fame,” commemorated his induction into the World Concertina Congress Hall of Fame in 1981. This prestigious event took place in New Ulm, Minnesota, when Joe’s peers in the concertina industry, from throughout the United States, recognized his unique contributions to the popularity and advancement of their favorite instrument.