VRAZELS’ POLKA BAND: 1953-2008
Contributed by Alfred Vrazel
Vrazels’ Polka Band was organized in 1953. Anton's & Alfred’s interest in music started early in their life. At the age of 10, Alfred talked his parents into buying him his first accordion, a two-row Hohner button accordion for $32. A short time later, Anton began playing the piano accordion and Alfred switched to playing tenor & alto saxophones and guitar. The band was originally known as the “Vrazels’ Playboys” with their three cousins, Leo, Louis, and Ladis Vrazel. They began playing at small venues around the Cameron area. Shortly after this, Anton & Alfred changed the name of the band to the “Vrazels’ Polka Band”, with a third brother, Lawrence Vrazel, Jr. joining them playing the drums for the next 12 years.
As their popularity grew, they found themselves playing for larger crowds at picnics, weddings, polka dances, and festivals. In the early years they performed at over 100 events per year; still finding time to take care of their farming and ranching interests.
In 1955, radio station KMIL in Cameron, Texas came on the air and Vrazels’ Polka band was engaged for a Sunday afternoon program. In those years, since the band had no recordings, they gathered at the radio station to play on the radio show live. The radio program was initially only 30 minutes long, but due to its popularity, it kept increasing. It is now heard every Sunday from 12-2:30 PM and is in its 63rd year of continuous broadcasting with Alfred Vrazel as host. It is believed to be the longest running Sunday weekly radio polka show with the same host in the nation.
The band made its first recording in 1960 and since has recorded 20 – 45 RPM records, 13 – LP albums, 9 – 8 track tapes, 6 – cassettes, 10 – Cd’s, and 3 – videos.
In addition to their many performances in Texas, the band was invited by the Smithsonian Institution in 1976 to perform at the American Folklife Bi-Centennial celebration in Washington, D.C. Also, in 1991, they were invited to perform at the Texas Festival held at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. In the following years they performed at polka festivals in Kansas, Arizona, Virginia, and Las Vegas, and on several polka cruises.
The Band has been honored as recipients of many awards and proclamations throughout the years. The most recent honor came earlier this year as the band was inducted into the Polka Hall of Fame during the South Texas Polka & Sausage Festival in Hallettsville. In 2014, Alfred was inducted into the International Polka Association Hall of Fame honoring his work as a polka DJ for 60+ years.
The Texas Polka Music Association honored the band with the following awards:
1991 – Band of the Year
1992 – Most Requested Band; Most Requested Song of the Year “Once on a Sunday Waltz”; Alfred received Texas Polka DJ Lifetime Achievement Award; Band member George Strmiska received String Instrumentalist on the Year
1993 – Band of the Year; Song of the Year “From Tabor to Us Polka”; Alfred received Vocalist of the Year
1996 – Song of the Year “No One Knows Waltz”; Alfred received Vocalist of the Year
On April 27, 2008, Anton & Alfred Vrazel released a prepared statement announcing the following: “After 55 years, thousands of performances and who knows how many miles traveled, we have decided to retire the band. Over the years, we have met many wonderful people who have touched our hearts and we sincerely hope that in some small way we may have touched their hearts as well. We would like to take this time to thank first and foremost, our families for their support, patience, and understanding, we would also like to thank our current band members: Thomas Strmiska, Albert Heselmeyer, David Trojacek and Patrick Strmiska for their talent, dedication, loyalty and commitment. We would also like to thank all of the former musicians who have contributed to the Vrazel sound. Lastly, to our many dedicated fans who have supported us throughout the years – we could have not done it without you. You have given us wonderful memories to last a lifetime, thank you from the bottom of our hearts.”
Vrazels’ Polka Band final performance was held on Saturday, January 24, 2009 at the Mayborn Civic and Convention Center in Temple, Texas with over 1500 fans in attendance.
The Texas Czech Heritage & Cultural Center is proud to present The Legacy of the Vrazels’ Polka Band at the Muziky, Muziky, the finale to the Heritage Fest & Muziky on Saturday, October 20, 2018. The performance will begin at 7PM in the Sanford Schmid Amphitheater followed by a huge fireworks show to close the festival.
The Heritage Fest & Muziky begins at 4 PM on Friday, October 19th with the Polka On! Octoberfest on the Deck, music by the Dujka Brothers. Preceding the Muziky, Muziky event on Saturday, October 20th will be musical performances by Enzian Buam Band and Jerry Haisler & the Melody 5 in the Hospoda from 11-6 PM, along with Antique Tractor and Car Shows, demonstrations, children activities, and much more all day.