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Gaylord with Father

KBO 1976

Gaylord wins award

Gaylord with Button Box

Gaylord with Panaccordion

Gaylord 1991

Gaylord with Howie Mandel

Gaylord with Mother

Gaylord in High School

Gaylord in Colorado

The Klancnik Family




  Gaylord Klancnik  

Gaylord Klancnik’s interest in playing the accordion began at the young age of four after his parents took him to a dance at the Slovenian Home on Detroit ’s east-side. Frank Yankovic was performing that night and captured the interest of young Gaylord. He was so inspired by Frank that as soon as they returned home, he pulled two telephone books out of a closet, using one for sheet music while opening and closing the other like an accordion. The following week his parents visited Matt Pink, a family friend who owned a music studio, where they purchased a small twelve bass accordion. It was difficult finding an accordion teacher for Gaylord due to his young age and the fact that most teachers would not accept students who could not read. However, at his father’s insistence, one consented and Gaylord began his formal music training at the “Art Circle Music Studio” in Detroit. He would go on to study with Joe Dannon, Rudy Bernick and finally Matt Pink, perhaps the biggest influence in directing him toward the Slovenian-style of Polka music.

In 1964, while still in college, Gaylord joined the Ed Radke Trio and later the John Butkins Combo, performing for weddings, parties and dances in the Detroit area. He continued to play until 1972 when he “hung up his straps” just before his son, Edward’s birth. The Slovene American Club in Melvindale, Michigan opened in November of 1974, and Gaylord began participating in the after hour jam sessions at the club. He and his brother, Ken, were so inspired by the Slovenian music that on March 6, 1976, the Klancnik Brothers Orchestra was founded. Gaylord was also instrumental in organizing the “Slovene American Club Button Box Band” where he served as co-director and president.

The Klancnik Brothers Orchestra enjoyed immense popularity through the years and was awarded trophies proclaiming them as “ Michigan ’s Best Polka Band” and Gaylord as “ Michigan ’s Polka King.” In 1983, he was honored by the forerunner of today’s National Cleveland Style Polka Hall of Fame. His son, Edward, joined the band in 1986 and began playing the banjo, guitar and drums. The KBO had many fans and even their own booster club which consisted of several hundred members. The group was together from 1976 until 1996 when they parted ways to pursue different musical paths. It was at this time that The Gaylord Klancnik Orchestra was formed.

Gaylord has appeared on numerous recordings and played a wide variety of venues during his 40 year career. He has performed all across the United States (including Hawaii ) as well as Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean, Brazil and The Netherlands. Gaylord has played accordion on over a dozen Grammy nominated albums for Walter Ostanek with credits on two winning projects. Their joint collaboration, “Polkas United,” was nominated for a Grammy in 2005. Gaylord’s two most recent albums, “Direct from Nashville ” and “Polkas United” were nominated for “Recording of the Year” by the National Cleveland Style Polka Hall of Fame. His photography skills have been featured on countless album covers including those for Frank Yankovic and Joey Miskulin. Gaylord has also made many radio and television appearances and is credited on the Emmy Award winning “Life of the Polka King” and a performance skit on “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno.”

Gaylord Klancnik is widely recognized as one of the major contributors in popularizing the Cleveland-style of music throughout Michigan and beyond. He has been a consistent presence at many of the major polka festivals, some for decades, supporting his heritage by playing the style of music that he loved. On October 24, 1999, Gaylord was elected to the State of Michigan Polka Music Hall of Fame. On November 24, 2007 he was given the coveted "Lifetime Achievement" Award by the National Cleveland Style Polka Hall Of Fame in Euclid, Ohio.

Many musicians and supporters have developed a special relationship with Gaylord. His love of family, friends and music were displayed everywhere he went and were expressed by the way he played accordion and treated others. A close musical family, his wife, Anna, and children, Ed and Laura, accompanied him to almost every event. Gaylord Klancnik’s tragic death on December 19, 2005 was felt by the entire polka community, but his positive impact on so many lives will never be forgotten.

Personal History

Gaylord Klancnik was born on August 2, 1945 in Detroit, Michigan. The son of Edward and Elizabeth Klancnik, Gaylord excelled in school and developed several hobbies during his formative years. He was always interested in music, but also received awards in woodworking and photography. After graduating from Detroit ’s Southwestern High School , Gaylord went on to earn degrees from both the Detroit Engineering Institute and Henry Ford College in Mechanical Engineering and Automotive Chassis Design.

Working his way through college, Gaylord was employed as a journeyman tool and die maker at the Tyghem Tool Company. He supplemented his income by being a musician and also a photographer. On July, 8, 1969, Gaylord took a job with the Ford Motor Company. Employed as a draftsman and technical designer in their Heavy Truck Division, Gaylord spent over 33 years with the company, retiring in 2002.

Another of Gaylord’s interests involved the Masonic lodge. He became a Mason on October 22, 1971, joining Findlater Lodge #475. He eventually went through the Scottish Rite and also joined the Shriners. On December 20, 1974, Gaylord was installed as the lodge’s Worshipful Master, making him the youngest ever to serve at this position. In addition to his Masonic work, Gaylord volunteered his services as a musician and photographer at many of Findlater’s functions. It should also be noted that his father, brother and son all became members of the lodge.

On October 24, 1969, Gaylord married Beverly Knapp. They settled down in Allen Park , Michigan, and had two children. His son, Edward, was born in 1973, and his daughter, Laura, was born in 1979 . Although the marriage lasted only 13 years, Gaylord was always a loving and supportive father. Each of his children became excellent students and both graduated from Michigan State University .

In September of 1983, Gaylord married his “Polka Lovin’ Gal”, Anna Wallace. Their wedding was attended by over 500 guests, including 76 fellow musicians. Gaylord and Anna shared a devoted relationship, and the couple was nearly inseparable for the 22 years they were married. Anna also proved to be a caring stepmother to Ed and Laura. Gaylord and Anna maintained a strong bond with both of their children, allowing the family to become very close.

During his later years, Gaylord developed interests in both ornithology and lawn care. He and Anna purchased a 7 acre parcel of land in Frenchtown, Michigan, and began to plan their dream home. Over the next 12 years, the family planted in excess of 3,000 trees, giving it a park-like setting. Gaylord built several birdhouses and took meticulous care of the property. A house was built and the Klancnik's officially moved into their new home on March 18, 2002.

Gaylord Klancnik lived an extraordinary life. A love of family and his kindness toward others lead to many lifelong relationships. Gaylord’s career, hobbies and various interests provided him with several unique experiences as well as many fond memories.

Musicians and Friends


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