July 28, 1915: Polka King Frankie Yankovic Born

Frankie Yankovic

America’s Polka King, Frankie Yankovic, was born at Davis in Tucker County on July 28, 1915, to Slovenian immigrant parents. But just days after he was born, his father was caught bootlegging and moved the family to Cleveland.

Yankovic learned to play the accordion from lodgers at his home in Cleveland. By age 16, he was playing polka music regularly on a local Slovenian radio show.

After serving in World War II, he returned to the states and did more to popularize polka music than any other performer. He was the first polka artist to score a million-selling single, the first to perform on television, and the first to win a Grammy for Best Polka Album. His hits included “Just Because,” “Beer Barrel Polka,” “Too Fat to Polka,” and “In Heaven There Is No Beer.”

Although he’d lived in West Virginia for only a few days as an infant, he returned to the Mountain State frequently in the 1980s to perform at the Vandalia Gathering. Frankie Yankovic died in Florida in 1998. A decade later, he was inducted into the West Virginia Music Hall of Fame.