I was born in Yorkton, Saskatchewan on October 17, 1946 at the old Union Hospital. It was at my grandpa’s farm I when I first heard Ukrainian music. Grandpas’ old radio was tuned in to a Ukrainian program which played very traditional and authentic music. It was at summer camp at Madge Lake when I first heard of the Everly Brothers singing their big hit “Bye, Bye Love.” I spent many hours in church singing along with my dad and learned to sing the mass by memory. I grew up in Ituna, Sask. and to this date, I have many fond memories and have positive feelings about my childhood days there. We only had a radio in the house to listen to but we found many other ways to entertain ourselves. I would listen to the “mailbag show” on the radio from Moose Jaw which played many fiddle tunes and other old time music. I always wanted to be better in sports but I guess my talents were in music for which I am very thankful because my music talent gave my life a completely new direction later on and gave me opportunities that I wouldn’t have had otherwise. I admired and had a passion for the teaching profession ever since I was a child and I think the teachers I had were partly the reason for this passion developing. This was also when we began our music career. We played and sang for different occasions in Ituna and Dysart
After that, I was enrolled into St.Vlad’s College in Roblin, Manitoba. I sang in the choir, did some Ukrainian dancing and played in the college band. I do give St.Vlad’s credit for the training I received regarding my Ukrainian culture. We traveled a lot performing concerts in various towns and cities. After Roblin, I attended Ituna High School for my grade 12. Later on Dave and I moved to Winnipeg to begin classes in the fall of 1969, three and one-half years after working at the Farm Credit Corporation. For the first time in my life, there was hope for becoming a teacher.
Dave and I even played for a couple of dances at the Ukrainian Hall on Main Street with a couple of other guys. At that time Ukrainian music was very popular and many recording artists such as Mickey and Bunny played in hotels. This is when I met Bill Woloshyn and his Interlake Polka Kings. They were my idols and one day I built up enough courage to audition for them. They liked what they heard and I played with them a few times in hotels such as the Bell Hotel or the Kings Hotel. This was the beginning of the Panio Brothers Band because through Bill Woloshyn I met Herb Brittain with UK Records. One day I played a tape I made for him to see what he would say about making a record. The songs on the tape were “Play Oh Gypsy Play” and my own composition, “I Once Had a Girl.” He liked it and suggested I get the Interlake Polka Kings to back me up and record them. I discussed the idea with Bill Woloshyn and he wanted to record them under his band’s name. I could not accept his offer and decided to record these songs with my brothers Dave and John on a 45 RPM. Soon after that Dave and I moved back to Regina where we continued our education at the University of Regina and prepared to record our first record album, ”Songs of Joy.” This was a very thrilling experience. The record was made and Herb Brittain was satisfied. This was the beginning of a long musical career. When we returned to Regina we began playing for weddings and dances. I sent a copy of our record to some radio stations including one to Dan Chomlak in Camrose, Alberta. He liked the record and began playing it over the air on seven different stations. Then one day Dan needed a band to play for a dance after a cymbaly contest in Canora, Sask. Incidentally, I won a trophy during this contest for playing the cymbaly and mouth organ at the same time. I won in the “Novelty” category. Dan hired us for the dance and was impressed with our performance. We did a show and dance at the Bonaventure Hotel in Edmonton. The show began with the “Don River” song and there were over 800 people in the audience. You couldn’t hear a sound as we sang. This was totally unreal, unbelievable and wonderful.
I moved to Saskatoon to take my first teaching job at St. Edward School. I was assigned to a grade 4 classroom. I also taught Music and Ukrainian at various grade levels. I loved the job and the kids loved me. My students did well at concerts and festivals. . After a year, I decided to accept a grade 5 teaching position in Moose Jaw and drove to Regina for evening and summer classes. In 1975, after graduating with a Bachelor of Education degree, I accepted a position with the Wolseley Catholic School Division as a Principal of an elementary school. . In 1977, I was offered a teaching job in Humboldt, Sask. I taught grade 6 and Division 11 Music. The Panio Bros. Band played all over Saskatchewan as well as parts of Alberta and Manitoba. Even today I meet people who tell me that there aren’t too many people who haven’t heard of the Panio Brothers band. . I also distributed records and tapes all over Saskatchewan, Alberta and Manitoba. I recorded my solo album entitled “Ukrainian Country” on August 1, 2010. The Panio Brothers were given a “Legendary Achievement Award” which was a great honor and reward for all that I have done in the field of Ukrainian music. It all began when Brother Dave and I moved to Winnipeg to attend university. As I mentioned earlier, I played with the Interlake Polka Kings for a short time and eventually created the “Panio Brothers Band.” I must acknowledge that Aunt Katie and Uncle Peter Bulych in Winnipeg were a great influence in creating an interest in Ukrainian music in my life because they had a great collection of Ukrainian records which I listened to and since Uncle Peter played the violin, I had an opportunity to play music as a young kid. Also, it was Aunt Katie who gave me my first accordion, which enabled me to be a self, taught accordion player. On July 2, 2010 the Panio Brothers Band was invited to play for Ituna’s 100th anniversary so John and I performed a 2-hour concert at the arena with Dave, Bill Lewchyshyn Garnet Ripplinger and Leonard Romanson. It has been great performing with the Panio Brothers Band especially because of the great musicians we were able to get for our performances. I still get my musicians together once in a while to play at places like “Danceland” at Manitou Beach, Sask.
I am also very happy to be back in the classroom once in a while to do some substitute teaching.
Two of my high school friends, my brother John and I got together in 1963-64 to form a musical group to play for some school dances, anniversaries and so on. We did this for a while and then in 1969 my brother Dave and I decided to attend the University of Manitoba to become teachers.
It was during this period of time when Vlad met Bill Woloshyn and the Interlake Polka Kings. After Vlad played with the Interlake Polka Kings on a few occasions, he was introduced to the manager of UK Records and was given the opportunity to get together with his brothers to record a 45 RPM record. Vlad, Dave and John then got together and as a trio recorded their first 45 RPM single with the song “I Once Had a Girl” (written by Vlad) and “Play Oh Gypsy, Play”. UK Records was pleased with the recording and asked us to record a complete album. Vlad, Dave and John the recruited Bill Lewchyshyn and Henry Panagabko to create their first album in 1969 which was called “Songs of Joy”.
The record was played on several radio stations including Dan Chomlak's Ukrainian hour in Yorkton, Saskatchewan and Camrose, Alberta. This led to the Panio Brothers doing several concerts in Alberta and Saskatchewan as well as playing for wedding, cabarets and dances throughout the Prairie Provinces. The band played for hundreds of occasions over many years which led to The Panio Brothers Band receiving the Hall of Fame Legendary Achievement Award. Vlad and John, the remaining original members, have recorded another three albums together after “Songs of Joy” as well as recording a variety of music as solo artists. The band is presently together again and playing occasionally for their many fans.