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Gaylor Klancnik
Gaylord Klancnik
Photo courtesy of Klancnik family

Gaylord Klancnik
2011 awardee, Posthumous award, formerly of Carleton (Monroe County), Slovenian polka musician and band leader

This posthumous award honors the leader of one of Detroit’s finest and most popular groups, The Gaylord Klancnik Orchestra, known for its Slovenian or “Cleveland-style” polka. Gaylord was introduced to polka music at the young age of four after his parents took him to see America’s Polka King, Frankie Yankovic, at the Slovenian Home on Detroit’s east side. Gaylord was inspired to play the accordion and he quickly began studying the instrument with several local teachers. While still in college, he joined two different variety bands that performed for weddings, dances and parties in the Metro Detroit area. When the Slovene American Club in Melvindale opened, Gaylord returned to his ethnic roots and, together with his brother Ken, founded the Klancnik Brothers Orchestra in 1976. The group enjoyed immense popularity and was awarded trophies proclaiming them as Michigan’s Best Polka Band and Gaylord as Michigan’s Polka King. His son, Edward, joined the band in 1986 and the group officially became known as the Gaylord Klancnik Orchestra in 1996.
Gaylord made numerous recordings and performed at a wide variety of venues during his 40-year career. He played accordion on two Grammy Award-winning albums with Walter Ostanek; their joint collaboration, Polkas United, also received a nomination in 2005. Gaylord appeared on several radio and television shows and is credited on the Emmy Award-winning Life of the Polka King. Gaylord Klancnik is widely recognized as one of the major contributors in popularizing the Cleveland-style of polka music throughout Michigan and beyond. He was named to the State of Michigan Polka Music Hall of Fame in 1999 and was given the prestigious Lifetime Achievement Award by the National Cleveland Style Polka Hall of Fame in 2007. Shortly before Gaylord’s death in a car accident in 2005, his son, Ed, recorded some accordion tracks of his father and later produced a CD, Gaylord Klancnik, as a tribute to him. Gaylord’s love of music and family was evident throughout his entire career and Ed continues to carry on the Klancnik family’s Slovenian polka tradition with his own band, Klancnik and Friends.


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