Our Show's History
When Jim first started in the polka business back in the summer of 1987, he never expected to be involved with Internet Radio, let alone polka music. "When I first started out in polkas, I was having a hard time trying to learn Lil’ Wally songs. Radio was the last thing on my mind. I didn’t expect I would last very long in this business.", Jim once remarked.
However, when one day he got an opportunity to tag along with his friend and mentor: Bill Gula to a taping of his POLKAMANIA show which aired on WCEV 1450AM at the time, Jim was intrigued. He was fascinated by polka radio, and dreamed of having his own show someday. However, financial limitations kept his dream of having his own show…….well……a dream.
That would eventually change. In September of 2000, Jim got a call from Bill informing him about a new website that was streaming polka shows on the Internet. It was called 247Polkaheaven.com. Intrigued by such a prospect, Jim e-mailed the Program Director and offered a concept of a new show, and put together a pilot which he submitted. Two weeks passed, and Jim heard nothing from the Program Director, until one day he received an e-mail telling him that his "pilot" aired over WELW in Cleveland. Jim nearly fell off the couch!
"Chainsaw’s Polka Madhouse" debuted on 247Polkaheaven.com Tuesday, October 17, 2000. It originally aired as a one hour program on Tuesday nights at 10:00pm Eastern Time. The program aired with a format of the best hit polka music with less talk and all English language vocals so that listeners can understand the words to all the songs. It soon became a popular show with listeners.
However, while listeners liked the format of all English vocals, many bandleaders did not, and withheld sending their new CD releases to his show. Despite that, Jim’s program continued on, however his show would be involuntarily silenced in a dispute over Internet Radio royalties, forcing 247PolkaHeaven.com and virtually every Internet streaming site to go dark in August of 2002.
The Internet Radio royalty controversy was resolved (abeit temporarily) by Congress in November of 2002, and 247PolkaHeaven.com returned to the air on January 11, 2003. "Chainsaw's Polka Madhouse" returned to the air four days later on January 15th. The show moved to a new time slot on Wednesday nights at 8:00pm Eastern Time. However, new federal regulations forced 247 to start charging it’s IJ’s for airtime. Fortunately, Jim was able to pick up a sponsor to offset this new fee.
Around the same time, Jim received an e-mail from his long time friend: Jack Baciewski, who met Jim while he was playing with Stas Golonka at a CT gig back in 1990. It just so happened that Jim was looking at the IJ directory when he noticed that Jack had a show on 247. Jim decided to e-mail Jack to see if he would remember him. Jack e-mailed Jim back & offered an invitation to join a new Internet polka streaming site he was starting up which Jack entitled: "Polka Jammer Network".
At the time, the Polka Jammer Network was webcasting in mono and had a limited capability. However, the prospect of having a 2 hour show with freedom to experiment with format and content was too good to refuse. Jim accepted Jack’s offer, but decided to use a different name for this program. Jim would call this show: "The Artistic Firestorm".
"The Artistic Firestorm" debuted as a two hour program on the Polka Jammer Network Saturday, January 4, 2003. The format expanded on the popular "Chainsaw’s Polka Madhouse" program on 247, adding Polish vocals and live music in an exciting "Top-40" style presentation. Being that this program was "experimental", Jim did not openly advertise this new program. However, many people, especially polka musicians quietly began to tune in.
In July of 2003, Jim was instrumental in helping the Polka Jammer Network achieve something that he believed polka music should be heard in: STEREO. "The Artistic Firestorm" became the first program to air on the Polka Jammer Network in STEREO.
In 2003, "Chainsaw’s Polka Madhouse" on 247PolkaHeaven.com was his flagship show, while "The Artistic Firestorm" on the Jammer was his "experimental" show. However, by the end of that year, the format of “Chainsaw’s Polka Madhouse” had evolved to a point where it was no longer compatible with the format of 247PolkaHeaven.com. In addition, Jim was becoming frustrated with a general lack of support from station management. As a result, Jim made a painful decision to leave 247PolkaHeaven.com. The final edition of “Chainsaw’s Polka Madhouse” on 247Polkaheaven.com aired on Wednesday, February 25, 2004.
Jim combined the formats of “Chainsaw’s Polka Madhouse” and “The Artistic Firestorm” into an exciting “Top-40” presentation. Jim kept the name: “Chainsaw’s Polka Madhouse”, and added Polish vocals, as well as listener requests and dedications.
Jim ran the Polka Jammer Network behind the scenes on a "pro-bono" basis for several years earning a promotion to Program Director in 2005. However, he soon became frustrated that he had put in time, money, & effort without seeing any return on his investment. By the Fall of 2008, that frustration level had come to a head. On October 21, 2008, Polkaman Jack Baciewski resigned from the Polka Jammer Network after 6 years. His final show aired on Friday, October 24, 2008, after which Todd Zaganiacz took over his time slot.
In January of 2009, Polkaman Jack started a polka oldies network called Polka Legacy. That network lasted until August 30, 2011 when Jack was forced to take a leave of absence due to health issues. On Saturday, June 16, 2012, Polkaman Jack returned to the network he originally started at: www.247PolkaHeaven.com. That lasted until December of 2012 when he took another hiatus from the polka world. In October of 2014, Jack returned to FM Radio with the retirement of Johnny Prytko Jr. Polkaman Jack hosted a live program called "Capitol City Polka Time" on Saturday mornings from 6-9am ET over WWUH 91.3FM in Hartford, CT from October of 2014 until September 14, 2019 when Jack retired from the polka field altogether.
Jim took over all operations of the Polka Jammer Network, and his colleague: Major Mel, was promoted to business manager. Major Mel stayed with the Jammer until health issues forced him to leave in September of 2009, at which point Joni Zychowski Minehart took over his job. That lasted until January 2011.
In January of 2011, Jim instituted a Board of Directors as the network had become too large for a single person to run. Jim stayed on as President/Program Director until June 6, 2013 after which he stepped down after 8 years at the helm. In his final act as President, he began the process of converting the Jammer into a 501c3 Not-For-Profit Corporation after learning what he had suspected all along since starting in this business.....79% of polka music followers are elderly people on a fixed income. The IRS approved the application on September 10, 2013. (All 50 states mandate the formation of a Board of Directors as a condition of having a 501c3.) He was succeeded by it's current President: Todd Zaganiacz.
In October of 2010, Major Mel helped Jim realize a long time dream of hosting a polka show on FM radio. On Sunday, November 7, 2010, Jim launched a "terrestrial" polka show on Saturday afternoons from 4-5pm Eastern Time over WERG 90.5FM in Erie, PA.
On March 13, 2011, Jim added an AM station to the roster.....every first, fourth, and fifth Saturday of the month from 9-10am EST over WHYP (later changed to WWCB) 1370AM in Corry, PA.
On Saturday, June 21, 2012, Jim joined the Polka Parade show in Milwaukee, WI taking over for Jerry Halkoski who retired after 38 years on polka radio. He did their Polish Hour on Saturday mornings from 10-11am Central Time over WJYI 1340AM in Milwaukee, WI (online at www.joy1340.com). He aired a show there until June 28, 2014.
On Sunday, November 17, 2013, Jim's CPM show was picked up by KCTI 1450AM in Gonzales, TX. The program aired on Sunday aftenoons from 4-6pm Central Time as part of a new polka block.
Unfortunately in the Spring of 2014, a combination of personal & financial issues resulting from the Great Recession forced Jim to take an involuntary hiatus from radio. Under a state of protest (along with several pieces of furniture thrown out the window), Jim was forced to give up the Polka Jammer Network after 11 1/2 years on the air with the airing of his final Saturday afternoon PJN show on May 31, 2014. His WERG show ended the following day; the WJYI Polka Parade show continued until June 28, 2014. His KCTI show was turned over to Todd Zaganiacz who hosted a show until that station went dark on August 31, 2015. (In the fall of 2016, Sun City Radio bought the rights to KCTI, and reopened the station on the FM dial under new management. Texas Public Radio purchased the rights to the 1450AM frequency & began broadcasting in January of 2017 as an NPR affiliate.) On July 26, 2014, two months after Jim's departure, WWCB management arbitrarily eliminated all polka programming.
On January 4, 2015, after several months of gentle coaxing by Major Mel, Jim returned to terrestrial radio on WERG in Erie, PA.
Two weeks later on January 18, 2015, Jim launched his first "local" show on a new LPFM station that went into operation in the Fall of 2014: "Huntley Community Radio" 101.5FM WHRU-LP in Huntley, IL. That program originally aired on Sunday afternoons from 2:05pm - 3:00pm Central Time. It is the only polka show on FM radio to air in stereo in the State of Illinois. By the Fall of 2016, an adverse change in station management forced Jim to leave that station. "Chainsaw's Polka Madhouse" on WHRU-LP ended on January 22, 2017 with management refusing to air the final show scheduled to air on the 29th. However, in December of 2017, the anti-polka management regime that pushed Jim out 2 years earlier had left the station. "Chainsaw's Polka Madhouse" returned to WHRU-LP on January 5, 2019 at a new time: Saturday mornings from 9:05am - 10:00am Central Time. In January of 2020, WHRU added an additional Friday night airing from 6:35pm - 7:30pm Central Time. (although this time slot has been pre-empted in the fall due to Huntley HS varsity football coverage. In 2020 though, their athletic program was suspended due to the COVID-19 global pandemic and the Friday show aired uninterrupted except for the occasional holiday station pre-emption.)
On July 11, 2015, Jim returned to the Polish Hour of POLKA PARADE over WJYI 1340AM in Milwaukee, WI after a 1 year absence with the departure of Terry Czajkowski. (In May of 2016, WJYI was approved for a FM translator and began simulcasting on 98.7FM)
After 29 years of performing polka music, Jim decided to retire from playing on August 7, 2016 with the final performance of Bill Gula's Chicago Image at Our Lady of the Snows Parish in Chicago, IL. He cites a nearly 20 year decline of available work in the polka field for his decision to give up performing polka music on stage.
On January 4, 2017, Jim returned to the Polka Jammer Network after a 2 1/2 year absence with a LIVE Wednesday morning show. Low listener traffic prompted a move to Thursday afternoons in January of 2018. On May 14, 2020, Jim's show moved to the current 6-8pm Eastern Time slot when Eddie Biegaj accepted a warehouse job which required him to work nights necessitating a swap in time slots.
In early 2020, a global coronavirus pandemic forced the suspension of the WERG polka block from March 22, 2020 until June 7, 2020.
In addition to his radio duties, Jim is involved in Music Ministry at the Church of the Holy Apostles in McHenry, IL. He began serving at their Sunday 10AM Mass on July 22, 2018. Prior to that, he served for the Saturday 4PM Mass at St. John Fisher in Chicago from July 6, 2002 until August 4, 2018 shortly after its music director: Mike Carso, had retired.
CHAINSAW'S POLKA MADHOUSE is a radio program that plays the best polka hits of the past & present. Give us a listen.................