Band keeps the music alive
By Denise Baran-Unland Correspondent February 21, 2013 12:28PM
Kurt Ganzer (from left) of Blue Island, Greg Watrack of Crest Hill, Terry Zigrossi of Joliet and Eddie Korosa Jr. of Burr Ridge. Band member Ramblin' Russ Musselman of Homer Glen is not pictured. | photo courtesy of www.susanryanphotography.com
If you go
What: Eddie Korosa and the Boys from Illinois
When: 6:30 p.m. March 22
Where: The Timbers of Shorewood, 1100 N. River Road, Shorewood
Etc: The public is welcome to this free event.
For information: Call Shelly Goggins at 815-609-0669 or visit www.timbersofshorewood.com
Updated: March 23, 2013 6:04AM
Back in 1948, Russ Musselman, 81, of Homer Township, took his first guitar lesson at the former Honolulu School of Music in downtown Joliet, a move that put Musselman on a music-performing path.
However, not until Musselman retired did he find the time to play on a regular basis, which he does as a member of the polka band Eddie Korosa and the Boys from Illinois. The public is invited to hear that band March 22 at the Timbers of Shorewood.
“If you like good music and you like to dance, come on out,” Musselman said. “Eddie’s good at entertaining everybody. He’s got a great sense of humor and he likes to joke around. We always have pretty nice crowds.”
Since 1976, popular accordion and keyboard player Eddie Korosa Jr. and his polka band, the Boys from Illinois, have performed locally and globally. Credits include polka fests in Germany, Austria, Switzerland and France as well as portraying a fictional polka band in the movie “Home Alone.”
At the 2012 Chicago Music Awards, Korosa was named Best Polka Entertainer and a Lifetime Entertainer recipient for more than 45 years of polka entertainment. Korosa’s father, Eddie Korosa Sr., wrote and recorded “The Baby Doll Polka” in 1951; he also appeared on many polka radio shows.
In 1954, Eddie Sr. built the Baby Doll Polka Club at 73rd and Western in Chicago. For decades, Eddie Sr. entertained polka fans and furthered the careers of many other bands and musicians, including Gregory Watrack, 71, of Crest Hill, the current band’s saxophone player.
Watrack, who grew up in Chicago, was 8 years old when he received his first music lesson, on the accordion, not the saxophone, after enjoying a cousin’s performance on the instrument. Watrack picked up saxophone in high school and has played it ever since.
Although Eddie Korosa and the Boys from Illinois are known primarily as a polka band, Watrack said they do perform quite a bit of other music, such as Big Band hits and popular songs from the ’40s, ’50s and ’60s. It’s the audience’s enjoyment that keeps Watrack interested in playing music.
“When I see them having a good time,” Watrack said, “it makes me feel good.”
Other band members include Terry Zigrossi of Joliet on drums, Kurt Ganzer of Blue Island on trumpet and Korosa of Burr Ridge on accordion. One past member, Jimmy Chamberlin of the Smashing Pumpkins, played with Korosa’s band for five years. In 1979, Chamberlin recorded “The Chicken Dance” with the band, which was released on a “45” record.
As much fun as everyone experiences either listening to or playing with the band, Musselman has discovered one additional benefit.
“It’s good for the brain,” Musselman said. “All musicians will tell you that. Music keeps your brain working.”