Frank Sobota

Frank Emil Sobota was born on Nov. 20, 1941 to Eleanor (Svec) and Emil J. Sobota at St. Mary’s Hospital in Columbus, NE.   He is the oldest of 6 children having 3 brothers,  John, Emil D., and Joe, along with 2 sisters, Mary Ellen and Ann.

The Emil Sobota Family resided in rural Colfax County, NE, specifically the Schuyler, NE area.  As a child Frank attended country school which was located  all of 800 feet from the farmhouse.  Being the lucky individual he was (HA) and the proximity of the family well to the schoolhouse, he was soon “blessed” with the chore of hauling a cream can of water to school daily so that everyone had something to drink and water to wash with.

According to his mother, Eleanor, he came to fancy the day when she would be off to town for something during the noon hour and he might be one of the lucky kids who got to take along a lunch pail for the day rather than having to make the 800 foot-one way trip home for lunch then return for afternoon class instruction.

During his later grade school years, Frank’s musical career began as he started to take lessons on the piano.  As he progressed in skill he sometimes substituted for his mother as organist for Sunday mass as Holy Trinity Heun Parish north of Schuyler.   During the summer of 1955 he took up an interest in the cornet and began practicing in earnest for the coming marching band rehearsals with the Schuyler High School band.

You can imagine his disappointment when school began, as Frank  found out upon the start of the fall classes, that the band instructor Mr. Wurtz had lost all 3 of his bass horn/tuba players to senior graduation that spring and  in return for Frank playing bass, Mr. Wurtz offered to give him lessons on the cornet.   Fate playing the part it does, it soon turned out  that Frank was much more suited to playing the bass than the cornet. Although quite disappointed at the start, during the course of the year he soon became friends with a young trumpet player who was also starting his freshman year in the band. That being Kenneth Grebnick, son of the famous band leader, Al Grebnick.

The following summer in 1956, Al Grebnick found himself reorganizing his orchestra and for several months the band, along with new found bass player Frank Sobota, rehearsed at the Emil Sobota farmhouse prior to commencing public engagements.  Popularity of the band was tremendous from the start and at one stretch during the fall of 1957, Frank played 21 nights in a row, studying between sets and during breaktime to keep up his grades.

His friendship with the Grebnick family and Grebnick Orchestra continued after high school graduation in 1959.  Frank and Ken Grebnick joined the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. During the time he continued to play with the band and partook in numerous trips around the country.  Traveling to spots in Saskatewan, Canada, SD spots like Tindel and Tabor Czech days, and Gregory, SD – Peshek’s bar!!, ND, IA, OH, PA, NY, TX, OK, KS to name a few as well as numerous spots around NE such as Jugman’s hall in Ord, NE and of course, Sokol Auditorium in Omaha.  He was often heard to remark to his kid’s later in life that, “…if I had a nickel for every mile I ever drove with that band (Grebnick’s) I could retire!”

Upon graduation from College in 1964 Frank left the Al Grebnick Orchestra and entered the Army.  He was eventually stationed at Ft. Campbell, KY where he rose to the rank of full lieutenant.  It also happened during this time he met and began to court  his “better half,”  Jean Gilpin.  Finally on October 29, 1966 the two were married at the base chapel.  Upon discharge from the army shortly thereafter, they returned to Nebraska and Frank soon returned to playing music.

Once again Frank found himself on stage with the Grebnick band, this time on sax/clarinet and singing a variety of Czech vocals with Albert.  The band continued its tour / dance schedule, along with radio shows and for a time a TV slot in Hastings, NE.

For a time things then settled down and finally in April of 1968 with the arrival of their first child, son Stephen, things began to “get busy” again.   Followed shortly thereafter by daughters Michele, then Camille, Kristi, son Scott, daughter Katie, and finally last but not least Heidi. Frank soon found that his time was more and more consumed with the demands of 7 children and he decided to stop again as a regular member of the Grebnick band.

Throughout his polka musical career Frank played for a multitude of bands including John Vincik and the Keynotes (from St. Paul, NE.), The German Band (Putler’s old group), the “Solid 8” (from Howells, NE), Syl Boro and the Polka Gems (from Ord) Tony Sidzik and the Polka Knights(Grand Island), Dean Hansen, the Czechlanders, Jim Bochnicek,  Kenny Schuda, Al  Grebnick, Ernie Kucera, and the 6 Fat Dutchmen when they came through on tour, to name a few.

His playing continued until the late 1990’s when the onset of ill health forced him to retire after 40 years.

Source: Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony