315 Local Spotlight: Fritz’s Polka Band

Quick, what’s the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the words, “polka band?” Well, you’re wrong. Fritz’s Polka Band is a Central New York staple that turns that term on its head. Yes, they kind of look like your typical polka band but with their tie-dyed shirts and what they perform on stage, you’re seeing anything but your typical polka show. When you attend a Fritz’s Polka Band show, expect the unexpected.

The band celebrated its 40th anniversary in 2018 by playing over 70 shows everywhere from senior centers to the New York State Fair to the Cleveland-Style Polka Hall of Fame induction ceremony. Fritz’s Polka Band is one that appeals to people of all generations.

Fred Scherz, Sr. and Fritz Scherz. Fred passed away on Nov. 14, 2009.

Formed in Verona in 1978, Fritz’s Polka Band was founded by Fred Scherz, Sr. and his eight-year-old son, Fritz, the band’s namesake. One fact the band can hang its hat on is that Fritz’s Polka Band is still the only polka band to ever perform at Woodstock, playing their hometown Woodstock ’99 show.

The current lineup features Frank Nelson on guitar, Gabe Vaccaro (Scherz’s brother-in-law) on bass, guitar and vocals, Rick Szczyt on drums and Fritz Scherz on accordion and vocals.

Nineteen albums, several SAMMY and Cleveland-Style Polka Hall of Fame nominations and induction into the Syracuse Area Music Awards Hall of Fame later and Scherz and his band are still at it.

Frank Nelson, Gabe Vaccaro, Rick Szczyt and Fritz Scherz

The band’s latest album, Hey! was released in November 2018 and features a guest appearance from guitarist Todd Kearns of Slash featuring Myles Kennedy and the Conspirators on the title track. The album was also nominated for a 2019 SAMMY Award in the Best Other Style category.

Other style is the perfect descriptor for Fritz’s Polka Band. While Scherz is always front and center with his podium and accordion, the band is a rock and roll band at heart. Setlists often include a cover of Jimi Hendrix’s version of Bob Dylan’s “All Along the Watchtower” and a rollicking version of Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire” mixed with the band’s polka flair. Every show is an event.

The band’s music and images have also received the Hollywood treatment. It is featured in the 2004 remake of “The Manchurian Candidate” and has appeared in two episodes of the acclaimed AMC series “Breaking Bad.”

When Scherz is not rocking stages throughout the Northeast and Midwest, you can find him serving his community. He serves on the Verona Town Board and is also an adjunct professor at Mohawk Valley Community College. In 2010, Scherz established the Fred Scherz, Sr. Memorial Scholarship for Volunteer Community Service, honoring a Verona senior who is engaged in community service.

When things return to normal, you can surely expect Fritz’s Polka Band to resume its extensive touring schedule. Scherz and his band have an energy like few others. And that energy flows from the stage to the audience.

For an extensive history of Fritz’s Polka Band visit their website here. Several of the band’s albums are available on the streaming services and CDs can be purchased at any live show. or by emailing Scherz directly fpolkaband@aol.com. For the latest updates on what the band is up to, follow their social media at the links below.

Facebook // Instagram // Twitter // Spotify // Apple Music // YouTube

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