HFC alum Tom Kopeck inducted into Polka Music Hall of Fame
HFC alumnus Tom Kopeck was one of three individuals inducted in the 2019 Michigan State Polka Hall of Fame on Sunday, Oct. 6, at Z.C.B.J. Hall in Owosso.
“Who would have thought all those years and shows ago, it would lead to this?” said Kopeck, of Farmington Hills, who’s spent more than 33 years on the radio.
Kopeck began playing the accordion at age 10 and won many competitions with his ability to play by ear. His love for polka music came from listening to his parents’ records and the polka shows on the radio, including Big Don Martin, Dan Coppens, and Johnny Sadrak.
Brightening HFC students’ day
When he came to HFC, Kopeck hosted a polka show to brighten the students’ day, long before the days of WHFR. There was a small studio that was “no bigger than a broom closet,” where Kopeck – who transferred to what is now the University of Detroit Mercy after a year at HFC and earned his bachelor’s degree in radio and TV communications – broadcast his polka program during the evenings called “The Tom Kopeck Club.”
At that time, Big Don Martin had a radio program on WCAR 1090 AM that aired Monday through Friday. In 1978, Big Don asked Kopeck to be his substitute, which transitioned into a permanent slot on WCAR during the mornings, and then on Sundays until 2011. Susan McGraw, HFC Academic Coordinator of Telecommunication and Journalism and WHFR General Manager, filled in for Kopeck when he was on vacation or ill.
“Some of the fondest memories I have from my time working at WCAR Radio before coming to HFC involve Tom Kopeck,” said McGraw. “I learned a great deal from him about media and radio, most importantly to always treat your listeners with respect and to stay positive no matter what issue might be going on behind the scenes.”
Detroit’s Best Happy Hour
In those 33 years on the radio, Kopeck produced and a hosted a program that featured a variety of polkas and waltzes from music acts across the nation, including Marion Lush, New Brass, Polka Family, Toledo Polkamotion, Brass Express, as well as some Big Band music of the 1940s. His collection of music grew to more than 1,000 recordings as people tuned into listen to “Good Time Polkas” in the mornings, which was later renamed “The Tom Kopeck Club.” Readers of The Detroit News voted his show as “Detroit’s Best Happy Hour.”
With more than 5,000 polka shows under his belt produced for the Detroit market, WCAR changed ownership in 2011. Its format changed to an all-sports station.
Kopeck also worked as a mail carrier and as a postal inspector police officer for the U.S. Postal Service in Metro Detroit for more than 30 years, retiring in 2018. Currently, he is on the staff of the Flint Firebirds, a junior ice hockey team, managing their video and analytics.