If there’s a name that’s synonymous with Oktoberfest, it’s Walter Ostanek, “Canada’s Polka King.”
Rather than the usual sound of country music, Maryhill’s Commercial Tavern will be filled Tuesday night with Ostanek’s accordion playing full tilt – it’s time to roll out the barrel, after all.
His first Oktoberfest appearance at the Commercial Tavern was a big hit, so owner Paul Weber was eager for a repeat visit.
Anyone who’s seen Ostanek live knows a good, rousing show is in the offing, said Weber.
“He’s such a great showman. He’s the consummate performer.”
At 79, Ostanek is showing no signs of slowing down. The polka legend will be backed by the Black Forest Band, another beloved fixture of Oktoberfest. That group, too, has gained elite status among aficionados of the genre.
“It’s going to be an Oktoberfest party,” said Weber of Tuesday night’s event. “Along with the lederhosen, we’ll be serving up sausages and sauerkraut and that kind of thing to go with the theme.”
Oktoberfest is prime time for Ostanek, of course.
He began button diatonic accordion at the age of 9. At 12, he received his first piano accordion, and only four years later, in 1951, he broadened his horizons and formed his own group, his first country-western/polka band. Two years later, he had joined with Abbie Andrews and the Canadian Ranch Boys, and was an instrumental part of their radio show (three programs a week). At age 21, he felt he was ready to proceed further on his own, and on Jan. 26, 1957, his new band played its first engagement at the German Village in Niagara Falls. His dream had come true – the Walter Ostanek Band was a reality.
Since then, there have been countless performances, including stops around the globe and numerous appearances on television, everything from Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show to a stream of telethons.
Ostanek has recorded 97 albums since “Gay Continental Dance Party” in 1963. Nominated for a Grammy Award 21 times, he’s got three of the trophies on his mantel. Then there’s the Order of Canada and a star on Canada’s Walk Way of Fame.
Along the way, he’s performed with some musical legends, including George Jones, Ray Price, Mel Tillis, Brenda Lee, Roy Clark, Charley Pride and another Canadian icon, Tommy Hunter.
The accolades are well deserved, said Weber. Ostanek takes his Polka King title seriously, and never fails to deliver.
“For people to get a chance to see an icon in the music industry in a small venue is a great opportunity.”
Weber notes that Conestogo’s Steve Richtaritsch, one of the founding members of the Black Forest Band, is no stranger to the venue, regularly dropping in for jam nights with his saxophone.
“The Black Forest Band – they’re legendary too. They’re not just about great polkas, they’re great musicians that really know how to put on a show.”
That fits with their description as a party band.
Walter Ostanek and the Black Forest Band take to the stage October 14 at 8 p.m. Doors open at 7 p.m. Tickets are $15, available at the Commercial Tavern, 1303 Maryhill Rd., or by calling 519-648-3644.