PART ONE – MICHAEL STANLEY
When Cleveland’s Michael Stanley passed away earlier this year, we included some of the content that Michael and I had been working on for a Goldmine article intended for later this year to coincide with the 40th anniversary of the national breakthrough album for The Michael Stanley Band, Heartland, along with his newest album, Tough Room, when that was ready. Sadly, his passing happened suddenly before the album was finalized, and now Tough Room has been released posthumously, mixed by his long-time friend Bill Szymczyk. In our Goldmine Fabulous Flip Sides In Memoriam article on Michael, we included his “10 Albums That Changed My Life” section and a tribute from fellow Michael Stanley Band member Jonah Koslen. That article is part of the links further below. Now, here are the final segments from my interview with my long-time Cleveland music friend Michael Stanley.
GOLDMINE: Congratulations on the 40th anniversary of finally reaching the national Top 40 with “He Can’t Love You” from Heartland. Donna and I had moved from Cleveland by then to Dallas and hadn’t heard Michael Stanley Band music repeatedly on the radio since “Nothing’s Gonna Change My Mind” in Cleveland. It felt like a radio homecoming for us.
MICHAEL STANLEY: Thank you. It felt good and having Clarence Clemons’ sax solo on the single really helped promote it, too. You know I am a big fan of Bruce’s Born to Run album with “Born to Run,” “Thunder Road,” and especially “Jungleland,” which to me is the single greatest rock song ever.
GM: After The Michael Stanley Band albums on Epic and Arista, I was happy that EMI America was able to finally breakthrough for the band nationally. With “He Can’t Love You,” it was Kevin Raleigh’s voice we heard, just like with “Nothing’s Gonna Change My Mind,” it was Jonah Koslen who we heard in the prior decade. When EMI released “Lover” as the next single from Heartland, I had high hopes for it, for all of America to hear your deep singing voice in the Top 40. I was surprised when it peaked below the Top 40. Then, finally I heard “My Town” on Casey Kasem’s American Top 40 show, with your voice from the You Can’t Fight Fashion album. I was thrilled.
MS: So was I. For the first time ever, I felt we were in a position of having a little more power than we previously had, where maybe we could call the shots, but EMI only offered a six-month extension on our contract rather than another long-term record deal.
GM: Well, during those months EMI released Kevin’s “Someone Like You” as the next single, with Tommy Dobeck providing a driving beat against his vocal, sounding a bit like Mickey Thomas from Jefferson Starship that year. Your song “Highlife” was on the flip side. What was its inspiration?
MS: Lyrically it was conceived after sitting next to a very strange lady on a flight from Cleveland to L.A. and I captured the in-flight conversation. Bob Pelander wrote all the music and Ricky Bell played some seriously gritty sax on the track. It was one that we did really well in concert.
Michael Stanley Band
Flip side: Highlife
A side: Someone Like You
Billboard Top 100 debut: December 24, 1983
Peak position: No. 75
EMI America B-8189
GM: That was the seventh and final Top 100 single for The Michael Stanley Band.
MS: Yes. When EMI offered us just a six-month extension, I turned it down, hoping for a better offer, and they dropped us. I was shocked! Not only didn’t they counteroffer, it was like, “Well, OK, then!” They pulled all support from the single and album and I have been releasing independent music ever since.
Michael Stanley’s posthumous album Tough Room, on the independent Line Level Music label, is among 2021’s finest albums. The fourteen tracks are performed by Michael Stanley and nine other musicians, some of who have been with him in his band The Resonators for years. Keyboardist Bob Pelander goes back to the third Michael Stanley Band album and drummer Tommy Dobeck goes back to the very first Michael Stanley Band album, augmented by Rodney Psyka on percussion, who we first heard with Jonah Koslen’s Breathless band. Vocalist Jennifer Lee shines on harmonies, with the first four songs flowing nicely together, beginning with “Hold On” through “Mistakes Were Made” where Bob Pelander’s piano and organ stand out.
The fifth song takes an unexpected turn, “I’m Pissed,” a bouncy rocker which is the favorite of Goldmine reader and long-time Michael Stanley fan Garry Grandstaff who said, “At that point, Michael knew about his failing health and what was coming, so he put out his feelings into this song about how he dealt with the way things are and that he may be losing at what he didn’t say or do. It just made him say ‘I’m pissed!’ He encouraged and warned us, ‘It’s your world. Pay attention.’”
Michael Stanley’s favorite song from the collection was “You’re the One,” a gentle ballad on par with America’s “Daisy Jane” and dedicated to his wife Ilsa.
The album closes with Tommy Dobeck’s drums and Eroc Sisinski’s bass anchoring “Red Skies” followed by Paul Christensen’s prominent sax on “Passing Tones.”
Tommy Dobeck has had a rough year seeing the loss of fellow band members Michael Stanley plus guitarist Dan Hrdlicka from his prior band, Circus. Tommy Dobeck, Jonah Koslen and others will be celebrating the life and music of Michael Stanley over three days early next month in a concert series named after one of Michael Stanley’s early songs “Among My Friends Again.”
Michael Stanley links:
PART TWO – FRANK YANKOVIC GIVEAWAY / INTERVIEW WITH JOEY MISKULIN
Cleveland International Records, which was relaunched in 2019 by Steve Popovich Jr., the son of the founder, has just released a double vinyl package and single CD format of two Grammy nominated albums from the 1990s, which have been remastered and combined called Songs of the Polka King – The Ultimate Collection by Cleveland’s Frank Yankovic & Friends.
The collection includes two different versions of the fun novelty song “Who Stole the Kishka” with Kinky Friedman and “Weird Al” Yankovic, who is no relation to the late Frank Yankovic. The 23 tracks are filled with many fun polka standards including “The Beer Barrel Polka,” “In Heaven There is No Beer” and “The Pennsylvania Polka,” complete with hand claps for audience participation.
On “Too Fat Polka,” Yankovic is joined by Cleveland native Drew Carey, who jokes in the liner notes, “We did ‘Too Fat Polka’ and although I like to think I’ve grown as a person since then and no longer think it’s cool to fat shame, it’s not called ‘Fat Polka.’ It’s called ‘Too Fat Polka,’ so I sleep fine at night.”
“Play, Play Your Accordion” is a narration by Tony Petkovsek, who used to have a Cleveland polka radio show and polka record store on E. 185th on the border of Cleveland and Euclid, two major streets away from where the Polka Hall of Fame is now located on E. 222nd in Euclid.
GM: Joey, in Tony’s narration, he mentioned the local television show Polka Varieties. That took me back to watching the show on Sunday afternoons to see my cousin’s polka band and watch my relatives dancing, which looked like a fast waltz to me. I didn’t aspire to play accordion like my cousin or you but thank you for the mandolin lessons you gave me at Sodja’s Music in the mid-1970s.
JOEY MISKULIN: You’re welcome. You heard that Dick Sodja recently passed away, right?
GM: Yes. What a year of loss for Cleveland music icons. I have written Goldmine In Memoriam tributes on Michael Stanley and Dan Hrdlicka this year. Now let’s look back at another late Cleveland musician who passed away in 1998, your friend and mentor Frank Yankovic.
JM: Since Steve Popovich and I had produced the first ever polka Grammy Award album 70 Years of Hits with Frank Yankovic featuring Joey Miskulin, we decided to produce the album Songs of the Polka King and were choosing vocal guests. I was living in Nashville and a was member of the cowboy comedy group Riders in The Sky. Since we played “Hoop-Dee-Doo” as a musical skit in our show, I thought it would be a good pick for this project. We even had Frank come to Nashville as a guest on our long running PBS show, Riders Radio Theater.
GM: That one is like a fun hoedown. “For Old Times Sake” sounds like a cowboy song and I like when Frank said, “I’ll take the lead and Joey, you follow me.”
JM: By the time I put together the songs for Songs of the Polka King Vol. 2 Frank had grown older, and though I used vocals recorded for the first volume, I wanted to record “For Old Times Sake” with a new vocal from Frank. It ultimately turned out to be the last vocal he’d ever record. Steve found the song written by Lenny Gomulka. I loved it and, because of Frank’s frail voice, and our 36 musical years together, I decided to turn it into a ballad of reminiscence. It really tells the story of a 47-year- old Yankovic, at the top of his game, seeing something special in me, a 13-year-old accordion player from Chicago. Years had gone by, countless shows and dances were played, millions of miles traveled, scores of record albums, 45s, 8-Tracks, cassettes, hundreds of TV shows, and there we were, still together in the recording studio for the last song, for the last time.
GM: Let’s go back even further to a song on the collection which was originally recorded by Frank around the time when you were born, “Blue Skirt Waltz.”
JM: Yes. Frank’s "Blue Skirt Waltz" was originally released by Columbia in 1949 as a 78 RPM disc. The flip side was "Charlie Was A Boxer." Both were recorded at the same New York session with additional vocal guests, the Marlin Sisters. “Blue Skirt Waltz” was subsequently recorded several times by Frank, before my time with him. During my time with Frank until his passing we recorded “Blue Skirt Waltz” at least five more times.
Frankie Yankovic and his Yanks with The Marlin Sisters
Flip side: Charlie Was a Boxer
A side: Blue Skirt Waltz
78 RPM Debut: 1949
45 RPM Debut: 1951
GM: Congratulations on this new reissue. We have it as a Cleveland International Records Goldmine giveaway. Thank you for all your music over the years.
JM: You are very welcome, and I hope you’ve practiced your mandolin this week and are ready for your lesson!
A celebration gala will take place at 2 p.m.at Cleveland’s Beachland Ballroom on Sunday, November 28. Presented by Cleveland International Records, the Songs of the Polka King – The Ultimate Collection release party features album co-producer and Riders in The Sky alumni Joey Miskulin & The KTB. Tickets are available now at: shorturl.at/bxNR1
Cleveland International Records - Goldmine Giveaway – Frank Yankovic
To enter this double vinyl album giveaway of Songs of the Polka King – The Ultimate Collection, email firstname.lastname@example.org, and in the title of the email, type Frank Yankovic vinyl giveaway. In the body of your email include your name and U.S. address, in hopes of being randomly selected for this Cleveland International Records/Goldmine Giveaway. The deadline for the email is Thanksgiving, November 25, 2021, and the drawing will take place on December 1. Winners will be notified via email in the first week of December.
ALSO FROM CLEVELAND INTERNATIONAL RECORDS
Look for a review of the 25th Anniversary Edition of Joe Grushecky & The Houserockers’ American Babylon, featuring Bruce Springsteen, in the upcoming Goldmine January 2022 issue.
Look for Goldmine Fabulous Flip Sides coverage of the live album from Georgia Satellites Lightnin’ in a Bottle, including both sides of their Top 10 single “Keep Your Hands to Yourself”/”Can’t Stand the Pain” at goldminemag.com in March 2022.
Cleveland International Records link: