Dick Tady Orchestra draws fans across genres and generations
For most musicians, it doesn't get much better than receiving a Grammy, the recording industry's highest honor.
But the Dick Tady Orchestra, members of the royal family of polka in Western Pennsylvania, found acclaim, too, as a featured band in a video at PNC Park during Pittsburgh Pirates games.
These Grammy winners bring baseball crowds alive with their toe-tapping, happy music accompanying the Pirate Parrot and his enthusiastic crew launching hot dogs into the stands.
The self-penned "Hot Dog Shoot Polka" — "Shoot those hot dogs what a show/Catch yourself some meat/Let's go/E-i-e-i/e-i-o" — plays at every few games throughout the season.
The Jumbotron video was shot in December at the Acmetonia Slovenian Club in Harmar. The video is one of the adventures of the orchestra, whose three core members have been together since their high-school days a half-century ago.
They marked the 50th reunion of their West Deer High School (now Deer Lakes) Class of 1961 by performing for classmates on June 25.
Leader Dick Tady of Springdale Township (vocals, saxophone, button-box accordion), and West Deer residents Bob McBride (guitar and banjo) and Joe Gill (drums) crooned to their former classmates a medley of '50s and '60s hits put together by McBride.
"Singing these songs with the same guys who I sang them with back then is a great gift and treasure," McBride says.
"It has been an unbelievable ride and experience, and a special blessing, to have had these two 'brothers' so close to me for so many years," Gill says.
The reunion was an opportunity to show their classmates that they have persevered not only as friends but also as entertainers for the past 50 years, Tady says. "Being a Pittsburgh performing group, you have to be very versatile," he says.
This part-time band — into its sixth decade — has performed across the country and in Puerto Rico, the Caribbean and South America, and earned induction into the Polka Hall of Fame.
Tady, 68, was a long-time instrumental music teacher in North Allegheny School District and earlier at Pittsburgh Public and Catholic schools; Gill, 68, is a retired optician, and McBride, 67, is a former sheet-metal worker. They are joined by Tony Grandovic, 68, of Coraopolis, a 35-year-plus member, on accordion and keyboards, who does a lot of the writing, arranging and recording; and Eddie Gould, 46, of Washington Township, a 10-year member, on bass and lead and backup vocals and the group's audio producer.
As musical styles change through the years, the orchestra has been able to adapt and perform everything from polkas and waltzes to rock and pop, swing to country to doo-wop and more, says Gill, who started singing with Tady in eighth-grade, with McBride joining soon after.
"The awards we have received through the years (including 2010's Band of the Year from the American Slovenian Polka Foundation) mean a lot, because it shows the music and entertainment that we provide is both recognized and appreciated by the people, as well as our fellow musicians," he says. "Most rewarding are the great memories of the three of us being involved in whatever we are doing."
With the Dick Tady Orchestra, "whatever" covers a lot of territory.
There was the time they backed Myron Cope in the late broadcaster's Kielbasa Sub commercial for the Subway restaurant chain.
And, how about beer and kielbasa at 6 a.m.?, Gill asks, laughing and quickly adding, "Ouch!" That was when the band was invited to do WDVE's morning show, while floating on the Mon River. They also were asked to perform live in 'DVE's "Coffee House" studio after the release of one of their CDs, which contained the "They're Always in the Way Polka," with new verses by McBride. "It's a party song that is a little suggestive," Tady says. Think, Dolly Parton.
The FM rock station played it "for about three years," the band leader says, "and you can still hear it occasionally today on the station. We sold a lot of albums because of 'DVE!"
Polka hall-of-fame inductee Bill Seles, formerly of Springdale, lauds the Dick Tady Orchestra as "the premier band in Western Pennsylvania."
Seles, known as the region's polka ambassador, hosted the "Bill Seles Polka Bandstand" for 28 years, airing on the former WKPA, New Kensington, and WHJB, Greensburg. His polka festivals were staples at Seven Springs resort for 35 years.
Tady played the first one and became a regular through the years. "The Dick Tady Orchestra always did a fantastic job. They were there to have a good time and make sure people had a good time," Seles recalls. "He never forgot his heritage."
Many people are coming to West Deer High's "Big Ten (the first 10 classes) Reunion" in September "just because he is playing," says Dan Angeloni, West Deer historian and former West Deer High School teacher. "He and his brother Jack brought a lot to the field." Angeloni taught both.
"I'm very proud of Dick. He started with my first band in 1958 when he was 15 or 16," says Jack Tady of Cheswick, also a Polka Hall of Fame member and Grammy nominee who fronts the Jack Tady Bears band.
The brothers play together the second Wednesday of every month at Wheeling Island Casino, and Dick joins his older brother on the annual Labor Day polka cruise on the Gateway Clipper Fleet. "Jack is a tremendous percussionist and drummer. His showmanship is outstanding," Dick says.
Jack Tady, a veteran host of his own polka show, "Jack Tady's Polka Place," now on WKHB (620 AM), taught music at Penn-Trafford and Deer Lakes school districts.
"Our music introduces people to their background, their heritage," Dick Tady says. "Today, many people do not have access to music from their grandparents and great-grandparents' lifetime. Our music enables them to have that access."
Dick Tady Orchestra
• website: www.dicktadyorchestra.com
• To see the Pirates hot dog video go to www.youtube.com/user/PiratesScoreboard#p/u/8/Krid8L-FLXM
• "That Polka Melody" (My Favorite Polka), penned by Dick Tady and Bob McBride, was part of the "When It's Polka Time At Your House," the 1990 Grammy-winning album in the best-polka category, by 18-time Grammy winner Jimmy Sturr and his Orchestra.
• In 1993, the Dick Tady Orchestra performed on the Grammy-winning album "Accordionally Yours" with "Canadian polka king" Walter Ostanek and his Orchestra.
• Dick Tady was the featured singer with the Polka All-Stars on the Grammy-nominated album "Songs of the Polka King" (Volume 1) by "America's polka king," Frank Yankovic & Friends in 1996.