- Associated Press - Sunday, May 3, 2015

BRISTOL, Conn. (AP) - Though almost forgotten today, two brothers from Bristol formed one of the great polka bands in America and each earned a spot in the International Polka Association’s Hall of Fame.

Stanley and John (Stas and Jas) Przasnyski, performing under the name the Connecticut Twins Orchestra, put out 16 long-playing albums for the Stella Label beginning in 1952 when they were 26 years old.

One music historian tagged them “the last great” Eastern-style polka band, a fast-paced, jazz-influenced style that reigned supreme during polka’s glory days.

Stanley’s one-time neighbor, Dominic Pasquale, recalled that “he was an icon, a legend.”

Pasquale, who sometimes played with him, said the man- an accordion player -had amazing talent.

“This guy could play ‘Three Blind Mice’ backwards,” Pasquale said.

As the two brothers told the story on one of their album covers, they “were walking along Broadway in New York City” when they spotted a ballroom where a famous polka band led by Bernie Witkowski was set to play. They walked in, listened and introduced themselves.

Always on the lookout for polka talent, Witkowski, who worked for Stella, “asked the boys to sit in with the orchestra.”

“Bernie didn’t waste time” in signing them to a contract and suggested the name Connecticut Twins to them. He set up a recording session and the new act took off.

Using an orchestra with only six men, rather than the nine or 10 in most bands, the brothers also relied on a trumpet and clarinet in the lead, a styling that made their polkas faster and easier to dance to.

The pair put out a string of albums and secured “dance bookings galore,” according to the album notes. Stanley took care of the bookings while John took care of the polka fans “crowding around the bandstand”- “mostly girls,” they pointed out.

The two named one album “Jaka-To-Kara”- “Oh what a car” -to honor the vehicle that logged more than 250,000 miles taking them to gigs from Buffalo to Boston to Baltimore.

At their height in the early 1960s, the Connecticut Twins were so much in demand that they could set aside only one night a year for a gig in their home state.

Polka, whose popularity in the United States dates from the release of the Beer Barrel Polka in 1939, was a genuine craze in the 1950s and well into the 1960s, a time when the Polish American Citizens Club in Bristol was a major hot spot with its Friday night polka dances that sometimes included the Connecticut Twins.

Stanley typically played the accordion in the band while John banged the drums. Their orchestra also featured crisp saxophones and triple-tonguing trumpets, a legacy of the Big Band era.

James Sigman, a polka fan, called Stanley, who died last year, “a beast on the accordion and a polka legend.”

Stanley began playing the accordion at age 10 while attending St. Stanislaus School, according to a biography posted by the polka hall of fame. By age 13, he played professionally and started his own band at age 18.

In 1948, he married Genevieve Sieruta. They had two sons who sang in Polish on some of his later recordings.

From 1962 until 1982, he also served as a disc jockey for Bristol’s radio station, WBIS, which is no longer in town.

In addition to their music careers, Paquale said, Stanley put in years at Superior Electric while John worked for Connecticut Light and Power.

John attended the Hartt School of Music in Hartford, where he learned to play the drums. His heart, the polka hall of fame said, “was all music.”

He met his wife, Florence, at a dance at the Polish National Home in Hartford and married in 1955. They had two daughters.

In addition to his long stint with the Connecticut Twins, John performed as a member of the Merry Makers and later led his own bands under the name John Przasnyski and then Johnny Praz Orchestra for more than two decades.

Under his own name, John made two more albums on the Starr label and another for J.P. Records. He died in 1996.

___

Information from: The Bristol Press, https://www.bristolpress.com

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