Jake Zagger

Jake's Story





Jacob J. "Jake" Zagger of Silver Ridge Court, Hermitage, was born on September 22, 1938, He's the son of Jacob and Mary A. Valentine Zagger. He spent his first 7 years as a young boy in Sharon and moved to West Middlesex when he was 8 years old. His family purchased the Golden Bear Tavern, a well known establishment in West Middlesex. He graduated from West Middlesex High School in 1956. A Veteran of the United States Army, he was stationed in Fort Carson, Colorado, and was honorably discharged in 1962. He returned home to manage the Golden Bear Tavern which he would eventually own from 1969 until 1994. Jake was active in High School sports and played independent basketball and softball after graduation. He was a member of Church of the Good Shepherd, West Middlesex. An outdoorsman, he enjoyed hunting, fishing, and a good round of golf. His greatest love was music and he was an accomplished accordion player. His love for ethnic music stems from an early age. His mother who was from Slovenia, loved Slovenian music and played Slovenian records and listened to Slovenian broadcast that they would sing along with. Having grown up in a Slovene music atmosphere, he started taking accordion lessons when he was near the age of ten and studied with a local teacher for about five years. During his childhood years, he shared his musical talents as a member of SNPJ Juvenile Circle, Sharon. Jake began his professional music career as a teenager, playing with several local bands. He had only played the piano accordion prior to 1969. In the spring of that year, he purchased his first button box from Proster in Yugoslavia and proceeded to teach himself to play. Along with his cousin Tony Trontel, he formed the Trontel-Zagger Orchestera and played many venues from 1965 until 1972. In 1973 Jake teamed up with Al Markic in Clevelland and formed the Makic-Zagger Orchestra and they played until Jake's retirement in 1985. Although retired, he still found time to play numerous times in various areas of the country. Since Cleveland was prominent in Polka music and featured many big named Polka orchestras, Jake was given the opportunity to showcase his talents on the button accordion and the Piano accordion when he and Al Markic joined forces. They played at picnics, dances, fests, and night spots in Ohio and Pennsylvania. They performed at the famous Bavarian Fun Fest in Sharon where they were one of the first bands to perform. Their group appeared on Channel 5 WEWS-TV, on "Polka Varieties" in Cleveland. They also made several appearances on television in Kitchener, Ontario, with Canada's Polka King, Walter Ostanek. They also appeared on national TV in Yugoslavia. His first album "Polka Express" was recorded in 1969 with the Trontel-Zagger Orchestra. He recorded three more albums with Markic-Zagger, "Penn Ohio Unite", " It's About Time", and "Button Box Special". He also teamed up with Walter Ostank and recorded the first "Hands Across the Border", which is the first in a series of releases. Jake also recorded other songs on albums for Marjon Records with John Krizancic. As a member of Penn Ohio Polka Pals he was instrumental in recording an album in 1989 which resulted in a Grammy nomination. One of Jake's most popular recordings, "Back Home in Pennsylvania", was recorded with the Markic-Zagger Orchestra. He recorded with the Bob Kravos Orchestra and the Hank Haller Orchestra, and Jake's latest CD, "Melodies from Back Home in Pennsylvania" featured Jake Zagger on his button accordion. During July of 1974, the Markic and Zagger Orchestra toured Europe for three weeks, and performed in five countries. Later in 1976, they returned to Europe to enjoy one more tour. On one particular tour, they played in various hotels and made an appearance on the popular Don Ho Show. The Markic-Zagger Orchestra extensively toured the United States, and they played on four Caribbean cruises. Jake has been honored several times in Cleveland for his musical ability and contribution to Slovene Polka music. In 1992 he was awarded the National Cleveland Style Polka Hall of Fame's annual Achievement Award. He was presented the Foundation's Crystal Award in the Button-Box Category for promoting and preserving Cleveland-Style Polkas. He won the same category again in 1997. In 1998, he was presented a plaque for his accomplishments in Polka Hall of Fame by SNPJ Circle Two, Cleveland. Jake was chosen as Penn-Ohio Polka Pals Man of the Year for 2000, one of the most prestigious awards in Polka Music. This prestigious group consists of honored band leaders and musicians from Pennsylvania and Ohio. In 2002 he won the Button Box individual Category at the National Cleveland-Style Ploka Hall of Fame's award ceremony. In that same year he won the Crystal Award for the CD of 2002 with his release, "Melodies from Back Home in Pennsylvania". On this CD he was accompanied by his three daughters and several other close friends and musicians. Ultimately, in 2006, Jake received the coveted Lifetime Achievement Award, the highest award that is given by the Cleveland-Style Polka Hall of Fame. Jake passed away of natural causes on 11-26-2010 in Nugent Convalescent Home following an extended illness. He was 72.









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