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Joan Grauman, AAA Historian As the organization’s historian, I have been writing historical articles on events that led up to the creation of the AAA and were important for the AAA. This includes some of its influential members, as well as special events throughout the decades, and more.

Preface by Joan Grauman

Reprinted from the AAA Festival Journal 2019, Valley Forge, PA.
Joan Grauman, AAA Historian

Accordion Legend Joey Miskulin to Receive the 2019 AAA Lifetime Achievement Award

by AAA Historian Joan Grauman
The gifted and very personable accordionist Joey Miskulin has been delighting audiences for close to sixty years with his versatile musical skills. The American Accordionists’ Association (AAA) is so pleased to have the opportunity to present Joey with this coveted award at the September 8, 2019, Carrozza Dinner in College Point, NY.

Frank Yankovic, Joey Miskulin
Frank Yankovic and me, Promo shot from 1967.

It is always fascinating for me to hear how our renowned accordionists became interested in and chose the accordion as their career instrument. Joey’s story is such a sweet reminder that "moments" in our lives can be monumental life changers!

Joey Miskulin Painting from 2014
Painting from 2014

Joey’s story began in Chicago, Illinois in January, 1949. At the age of four, he showed early signs of remarkable musical talent when he picked up a tiny 12-bass accordion that his dad brought back from WWII. Joey began picking out songs with his right hand, to the delight of his parents. His formal training on the accordion began at age five.

His accordion teacher kept up Joey’s interest by presenting him with new pieces of music and teaching him how to read sheet music. However, he did not teach theory or chord progressions, and soon Joey's interest in the accordion waned. He took up the trumpet. Thankfully, his mom's workplace "Argo Corn Starch" was having a company picnic and wanted an accordion player. Joey, then 10 years old, played his accordion at the picnic, received a little money and a good lunch, so… it was "no more trumpet!" He went back to the accordion, so he "could make money and eat!"

WEWS-TV Show 1970
WEWS-TV Show 1970 (Cleveland Ohio) Yankovlc, Ostanek, Miskulln accordionists.

Joey, an almost completely self-taught child prodigy, joined the Ronnie Lee Band at the age of 11, and was soon discovered by Roman Possedi, known as "Mr. Chicago" in Cleveland-style polka music. When Joey was 12, he recorded his first album with Possedi's band. Possedi felt that his amazing young accordionist needed a better instrument, and put him in touch with Frances Margliss, an employee of Ernest Deffner, Inc. Frances was very impressed by Joey, and encouraged Ernest and Faithe Deffner to listen to him. Joey fell in love with a PanCordion, but felt that it was out of his price range. Faithe offered him an "artist’s discount" and let him pay out on this instrument.Joey and Patti Miskulin

Joey never forgot Faithe's generosity and encouragement, and right up to her death in 2014, Faithe never forgot the serial number of Joey's first PanCordion, purchased in 1962! Note: Joey remained faithful to the PanCordion instruments and amassed a large collection of them —17, at one point — throughout his long career. Faithe once remarked, "You know, Joey, you have more PanCordions than I have in the factory!"

"America’s Polka King", Frank Yankovic, heard Joey play with Roman Possedi's band. This was a tremendous milestone for the now 13 year old musician! As the only child of Slovenian and Croatian parents, Joey was taken with the premier Slovenian polka artist, and was delighted to be asked to play in Yankovic's renowned polka band. The topnotch musicians in this band helped Joey with theory and chords. Yankovic, who had a contract with Columbia Records, insisted that the 13 year old needed to record with his band. For Joey, "It was that first recording session with Frank that helped make up my mind to make music my career."

During the six years that Joey toured with Yankovic's band and recorded at Columbia Studios in Chicago, he met some of the great names in the music world, and all encouraged the young accordionist to pursue his musical dreams. Joey left the band when he was 19, but returned to record five albums for RCA Records with them. His close friendship with Frank Yankovic lasted for 35 years until Yankovic’s death in 1998.

Nashville Cats Article about Joey Miskulin

In the 1970s, Joey became a studio musician and producer, performing on bass, piano, banjo, guitar, organ, accordion and as a vocalist with greats such as Andy Williams, Doc Severinsen, and Charlie Daniels. He co-hosted Sunday variety shows, and had his own very popular show on WCLQ called "Polka Time USA". In 1985, he produced the first polka recording to receive a Grammy, "70 Years of Hits" with Frank Yankovic.

In 1987, Joey moved his family to Nashville. He felt that this was the place to be if he wanted to stay in the recording business. That same year, he began recording with the popular Grammy award-winning "Grand Ole Opry" quartet, "Riders In the Sky." In the early 1990s, Joey became an official member of this group and still tours with them today.

Riders In The Sky promo shot 2014
Riders In The Sky promo shot 2014

In 2018, Joey was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame for his extraordinary accomplishments with the piano accordion. In addition to his accomplishments mentioned above, Joey has had countless appearances on national TV and radio, in movies, and on video, plus hundreds of recording sessions, and four Grammy award-winning albums, and scores of international hit recordings. He created popular DVDs and videos — the first of their kind — that illustrate "accordion styles and techniques".
Album cover, Joey Miskulin and Walter Ostanek
Album cover...Walter Ostanek and me

Joey and his wife of 43 years, Patti, decided to leave Nashville, where they lived for 32 years, and move back to Ohio to be near their children. He still tours with Riders In the Sky and is still performing all over the US in major accordion festivals and conventions.

Joey MIskulin, 2014 Las Vegas Accordion Festival
Las Vegas Accordion Festival 2014

With all that he has accomplished in his career of 58 years, Joey has always remained very humble and appreciative. He has consistently reached out to the public, and to his fellow accordionists. He promotes the piano accordion wherever he goes, and never forgets to express his appreciation for those who have helped and nurtured him along the way. Known as the "Cowpolka King", Joey always maintained his love affair with Cleveland-style polkas and for his beloved PanCordions.

Riders in the Sky, at Grand Ole Opry
Riders In The Sky at the Grand Ole Opry with a fan 2019

In Joey’s words: "I learned so much during my years with Frank Yankovic. Mostly, I learned how wonderful it is to be kind to people." I think that all who know Joey would agree that he learned that lesson quite well! Please join us in September when we present Joey with the 2019 AAA Lifetime Achievement Award.

AAA Presents Lifetime Achievement Award to Joey Miskulin

by Rita Barnea, Editor Accordion USA News
Published 01 October 2019
Miskulin AAA Lifetime Achievement Award

This honor is in recognition of the exceptionally prolific contribution Joey Miskulin has made to the recording industry, having played on hundreds of albums with many of country and popular music’s best known names over many years. AAA Board member Dominic Karcic was the Chairman and Master of Ceremonies.

Carmen Carrozza Scholarship FundSince the 1970s, Joey Miskulin has recorded with the likes of Paul McCartney, U2, John Denver, Ricky Skaggs, Andy Williams, Ricky Van Shelton, Emmylou Harris, Frankie Yankovic, Garth Brooks, to name but some. Also a singer, arranger, and producer, Joey Miskulin is well known for performing country music as ‘Joey the Cowpolka King’ with the band Riders in the Sky and polkas with Frankie Yankovic, but his versatility extends into jazz, evidenced by his album, ‘The Other Side of the Fence’.

Also in 1990 for his ground breaking ‘Accordion Styles and Techniques" video/DVD, which was the first video of its kind. Miskulin’s production credits include ‘Toy Story’ for Disney/Pixar, and recently in Shanghai, China, where he spent two weeks working with the Walt Disney Company.

About 125 people enjoyed great entertainment, education, and a wonderful dinner with dancing. The program featured the Long Island Accordion Alliance who provided music.

The program began with the Welcome and Benediction given by Dr. Joseph A. Ciccone, President of the American Accordionists’ Association. Enjoyable dance music was provided by accordionists Mario Tacca, Frank Toscano, Dominic Karcic with Phil Battiston on percussion/vocals.

Everyone was delighted by the concert program presented by accordionist Mario Tacca and singer Mary Mancini. The two winners of the 2019 Carrozza Scholarship Competition performed. Gia Ciccone played “Carnival of Venice”. Nathan Chapeton who represented the USA at the 2019 Coupe Mondiale performed an emotional “Schindler’s List”. Nathan has studied for over ten years with AAA Board of Directors member and teacher, Mary Tokarski.

AAA President Joe Ciccone, Joey MiskulinHe recently placed 16th in the Coupe Mondiale Master Competition in Shenzhen, China in a field of 49 contestants. Gia Ciccone, 12 year old accordionist is a 7th grade student and presently studies with Mario Tacca. She started taking accordion sessions at the age of 5 with her Great Uncle, Maestro Carmen Carrozza. She has won many prizes. Read more details about Nathan and Gia in the October news.

Joey Miskulin’s award was presented by AAA President Dr. Joseph Ciccone (picture right) and the Board of Directors. Joey entertained everyone with a medley. Joey is friendly, engaging, and very modest about his musical gifts and many accomplishments in the musical world.

Dominic Karcic shares his thoughts; “The 2019 edition of the Carrozza Scholarship Fund Raiser took place on Sunday, September 8th at the Famee Furlane of N.A. in College Point, NY. This event also served as the venue for the American Accordionists' Association to present grammy winner and country music hall of fame member Joey Miskulin with its Lifetime Achievement Award.The event was a total success on many levels featuring great food, good wine, plenty of dancing, great camaraderie and most of all, plenty of talented accordionists creating great music.

The twelve noon arriving patrons were met with music supplied by the Long Island Accordion Alliance (LIAA) featuring members Joe Campo, Bob LaBua, Dominic Karcic, John Perno, Phil Pete, Frank Scardino and Greg Zukoff. They offered a diverse.mix of toe tapping continental style music (waltz, polka, tango, rumba,merengue). They were followed by lilting dance music supplied Mario Tacca, Mary Mancini and Phil Battiston who were following by Frank Toscano and later Dominic Karcic. Midway through the afternoon Carrozza 2019 Junior Division Scholarship winner Gia Ciccone played a great rendition of her teacher's (Mario Tacca) arrangement of Carnival of Venice and Carrozza 2019 Senior Division Scholarship winner Nathan Chapeton played Unforgettable.

AAA president Dr. Joseph Ciccone followed presenting Joey Miskulin with the coveted Lifetime Achievement Award. After acknowledging the award Joey treated the audience to several entertaining selections. More great dance music followed. A good time was had by all.

Pictures above: (left to right)
- LIAA Joe Campo, Frank Scardino, John Perno, Greg Zukoff, Joey Miskulin, Phil Prete, Bob LaBua, Dominic Karcic.
- Dr. Joseph Ciccone, Gia Ciccone, Mario Tacca, Ethel Ciccone.

Save the date for July 10, 2020 when Joey Miskulin will be the featured artist at the AAA Festival at the Holiday Inn Hotel & Suites in Alexandria, VA. The AAA Festival takes place from July 9-12, 202 and also features Cory Pesaturo and Sam Reider. Linda Soley Reed will receive the 2020 Lifetime Achievement Award at that time. More informations will be provided in future publications.

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