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Summer Music Series: Judy and Her Suchey Brothers

Aaron Selbig
From right to left: Bob Suchey (saxophone), Steve Gwost and Mike Suchey (trumpet). They call Steve their "brother from another mother."

There are polka bands across the country, particularly in Illinois, Wisconsin, Ohio and Michigan.  Where there are Polish-American communities in Michigan, there is usually polka music and dance.


Judy and Her Suchey Brothers are a polka band from the Alpena area. They've been playing together for 45 years.

 Originally, the five Suchey brothers formed a band. Judy – the youngest Suchey – didn't play. But Judy says that didn't last long.

“And everybody looked at me – I was like seven – and they said, ‘hey Jude, you gotta pick up an instrument, what do you want to do?’ Well I said, ‘I have five brothers; they drive me nuts. I want to play drums.’ So it’s been history ever since that."

Judy says she played her first gig at about seven. By eight, she was a regular in the band. They recorded their first studio album when Judy was 11.


Credit Aaron Selbig
Judy Suchey on the drums.

They were a group of six young polka players touring the country.

“We would all pack up into a van with all of our equipment and hit the road," says Jim Suchey. "We would play in Cleveland on Friday night, Pottstown, Pennsylvania on Saturday and New London, Connecticut on Sunday."

Jim says their mother wouldn't sleep till they arrived back home safe and sound.


Credit Aaron Selbig
Jim Suchey on the accordion.

The Sucheys say it was their father who kept them in tune and in rhythm. He would also sit them down before a gig and make sure any conflicts were out of the way.

“You had a thing called the bull session," says Jim. "If you had a problem – which happens in all families, everyone sat around the table; everybody had to shut up. One person got his whole say and got to say everything, and you got it all out."

And after that, they let it go.

"There wasn’t no place for it on the band stand," Jim says. "We’re out there for fun."


"Uga Muschka" played by Judy and Her Suchey Brothers in Studio A.

These days, Judy and Her Suchey Brothers play in Michigan year-round at festivals, weddings, casinos and more, and they say they're still having fun. Jim says once the fun stops, you have to quit.

"Marishka Moja" played by Judy and Her Suchey Brothers in Studio A.

Credit Aaron Selbig
"Uncle" Al Zdan has been playing with the Suchey siblings in the band for over a decade.

Morgan Springer is a contributing editor and producer at Interlochen Public Radio. She previously worked for the New England News Collaborative as the host/producer of NEXT, the weekly show which aired on six public radio station in the region.