Walter Ostanek

Walter Ostanek

Walter Ostanek at Marineland in July 2011
Background information
Birth name Ladislav John Ostanek
Born (1935-04-20) 20 April 1935
Duparquet, Quebec, Canada
Origin St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada
Genres Polka
Occupation(s) musician, songwriter
Instruments Accordion
Years active 1936–present

Ladislav John "Walter" Ostanek, CM[1][2] (born 20 April 1935) is a Canadian musician. He is known as "Canada's Polka King." He has received thirteen nominations for Grammy Awards and won three.[3]

Early life

Born in Duparquet, Quebec in 1935,[4] his family moved to St. Catharines, Ontario, when he was a boy. A young Ostanek received his first accordion as a gift in 1944.[5] After several years, Ostanek became a popular entertainer in Southern Ontario, performing Slovenian-style (also known as Cleveland-style) polkas and waltzes. He could be heard frequently on the radio in St. Catharines and Welland. Walter began playing polka after his best friend introduced him to the accordion at age 5.


In 1957 Ostanek formed his own band playing Slovenian-style polka music.[6] In 1963, Ostanek and his band, the Walter Ostanek Band, would record their first of many albums. Over his career, Ostanek would record more than 50 albums and become known as Canada's Polka King.[7] He has received three Grammy Awards and he has been nominated thirteen times. His style has been compared to America's Polka King, Frankie Yankovic of Cleveland. Like the late Yankovic, Walter Ostanek is of Slovene descent.

Walter Ostanek.
Ostanek (right) appearing at the 2006 Kitchener-Waterloo Oktoberfest

Ostanek hosted his own television shows (one for fourteen consecutive years), radio shows, and polka tours. He has appeared on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, Phil Donahue, Tommy Hunter Show, Cleveland's Polka Varieties, and his own award-winning TV specials and telethons. He has appeared in concert with Roy Clark, the Oakridge Boys, Ronnie Milsap, Ray Price, Mel Tillis, Brenda Lee, Slim Whitman, Tom T. Hall, T. G. Shepard, Tommy Hunter, Lawrence Welk, Myron Floren, Frank Yankovic, Black Forest Band, and Weiss Blau.

Ostanek is a member of Canada's Walk of Fame as well as the Polka Halls of Fame in Cleveland and Chicago. Currently Ostanek does two main concert sets each year: one at Marineland in Niagara Falls, Ontario, the other during Oktoberfest in Kitchener, Ontario.

He is also the subject of the 2006 Bravo! network documentary The Cult of Walt: Canada’s Polka King. Ostanek is also cited as the inspiration for the Second City Television polka parody, the Shmenge Brothers.[8] and the Osler show.

In 2007, Ostanek was the recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award at the annual SOCAN Awards in Toronto.[9]

Ostanek currently resides in St. Catharines, Ontario. He was the owner of the popular music store "Ostanek's" until 1 April 2013, when the store was converted to a Long & McQuade's.[10] He still plays locally.


In July 2016 Ostanek was in the news when he won a million dollars in the London Dream Lottery, which raises money for hospitals.[11]

Awards and recognition



Walter Ostanek Band

Walter Ostanek and His Band

Walter Ostanek and His Polka Band

Walter Ostanek and His Polka Kings

Walter Ostanek


  1. LaRoque, Judith A. (25 March 2000). "The Order of Canada" (PDF). Canada Gazette. Government of Canada. 134 (13). Retrieved 19 January 2011.
  2. Governor General of Canada (25 March 2000). "Canada Gazette Vol. 134, No. 13" (PDF). Government of Canada. Retrieved 19 January 2011.
  3. "WALTER OSTANEK 2001 INDUCTEE". Canada's Walk of Fame. Retrieved 19 January 2011.
  4. Charlotte Dillon (14 September 2009). "Walter Ostanek Biography". Allmusic. Retrieved 19 January 2011.
  6. Governor General of Canada. "Ostanek, Walter Biography". The Canadian Encyclopedia. Retrieved 19 January 2011.
  7. Ralf Hakenberg. "Artist: Ostanek, Walter Biography". Sun Media Corporation. Retrieved 19 January 2011.
  8. "It's Polka Time on Bravo! -- The Cult of Walt: Canada's Polka King". 25 September 2006. Archived from the original on 21 October 2006. Retrieved 19 January 2011.
  10. Don Fraser. "The last polka song for Walter Ostanek". St, Catharine's Standard. Retrieved 25 October 2014.
  11. "Roll out the barrel: Polka king Walter Ostanek wins $1M lottery".Toronto Star, Geoffrey Vendeville, July 13, 2016
  12. "New Appointments To The Order Of Canada". Governor General of Canada. 11 January 2000. Retrieved 20 April 2015.
  13. "Various Artists". MusicBrainz. Retrieved 19 January 2011.
  14. Library and Archives Canada. "AMICUS No. 11934611". Government of Canada. Retrieved 13 January 2011.
  15. Library and Archives Canada. "AMICUS No. 33553580". Government of Canada. Retrieved 13 January 2011.
  16. Library and Archives Canada. "AMICUS No. 33553570". Government of Canada. Retrieved 13 January 2011.
  17. Library and Archives Canada. "AMICUS No. 32117984". Government of Canada. Retrieved 13 January 2011.
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