As a young boy of nine in 1958, my connection with popular music and the rock and roll of the time was keenly astute. I could name all the songs and the artists as well as most of the lyrics of the hits that rang out over WLS, WJJD, and WCFL AM radio. So I was quite surprised when my mother came home from her job at the telephone company with three tickets she had received free at the office for the “Polka Go-Round”, with Bob Lewandowski!
Polka Go-Round was a Chicago-based program that aired over the ABC-TV network from June 23, 1958 to September 28, 1959. It was produced at WBKB’s 190 North State St. studios and broadcast locally over WBKB Channel 7. I knew that it was a show that both my mother and my grandmother (who lived with us) enjoyed watching,
Bob Lewandowski himself along with other stage hands prepared the audience prior to airing the program. Applause lights were used and I remember everyone being asked not to “cat-call” or otherwise interrupt the show while it was in progress. The breaks were rolled in “real time”, and the announcers were placed at their own sets off to the side of the sound stage to await their cue from the director.
After a few musical numbers, Bob scoured the audience picking people at random to talk with. Walking through the aisles of folding chairs with a stage hand in tow to keep slack in the microphone cord, he settled on a woman seated a few chairs down from me. I was a chatty sort of boy who wasn’t easily embarrassed. I was proud of my appearance and especially of my long, wavy hair, which I kept well lubricated with “greasy kid stuff”. As I watched and listened as Bob spoke with the woman, I noticed him periodically looking at me.
After concluding his conversation with the woman, “Hello young fella” or words to that effect were Bob’s unexpected greeting to me as he placed the microphone towards my mouth. “Hi,” I replied and he immediately turned his attention to my hair. When many other kids were sporting the “flat-top”, or “crew-cut”, I preferred to lean closer to the Elvis or Johnny Cash “waterfall” style with a “DA” in the back. Bob asked me to stand-up so the TV audience could have a look at me! Everyone in the studio audience had quite a laugh out of it and I did too! After all, I was the star of the show for a moment!
My mother and my grandmother got a big kick out of it all and during the ride home after the show, we listened to polka music on the radio. I remember it well because, from then on, I have enjoyed listening to old-time polka music. In fact, during the years I spent in Wisconsin radio, I had the opportunity to host two old-time polka shows and had the pleasure of meeting many other great polka band members from all over the country!