Saturday, October 25, 2008

Frank Toplak and John Vidak

Two of the great early tamburasi who deserve to be remembered are Frank Toplak and John Vidak. They each arrived in the United States from Yugoslavia at about the same time, John in 1912, and Frank in 1913. Frank Toplak was playing tambura from the age of seven and was teaching and arranging orchestras very early on. John Vidak lived in the same boarding house as Frank and by 1915 they were playing together in one of their first tamburitza orchestras in Cleveland, Ohio. By the 1920's they were both living in New York and performing together in the Royal Tamburitzans, along with Joe Kuharic and Ilija Miskovic. In 1931 the Royal Tamburitzans even toured Europe with such legendary musicians as Mirko Kolesar and Rada Stojic.

Back in New York, Frank Toplak organized the famous Balkan Mountain Men in 1931. It included such greats as Milan Verni, Jim Kovacevich, Matt Vucin, and of course John Vidak. They played for the NBC Radio stations, did Vaudeville shows, and recorded such memorable songs as Kolika Je Javorina Planina, Cujes Mala, Alaj Gigi, and many more.

During WWII John Vidak moved back to Cleveland where he continued to play music with Jim Kovacevich. Together they arranged music for the Cleveland Junior Tammies, and John even began building tamburas for them and other groups as well, including many of the great tamburasi of the day. They eventually went on to form the Cleveland Symphony Tamburitza Orchestra.

Frank Toplak and John Vidak are definitely two musicians who's contributions were enormous.

This was recorded in 1929 in New York.

Click the photos to listen or download...

Crna Zemlja I Zelena Travir

Ne Gledajte Mene

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