Patek, Joseph (1907–1987)

By: David DeKunder

Type: Biography

Published: December 5, 2006

Updated: October 4, 2015

Joseph Patek, Czech bandleader, was born on September 14, 1907, to John and Veronica Patek in Shiner, Texas. His band, one of the best-known Texas Czech polka bands, had its origins with John Patek, Sr., in the 1920s. When he was a boy in Czechoslovakia, John became an accomplished musician. In 1889, at the age of twenty, he immigrated to America and played in community bands. In 1920 he formed the Patek Band of Shiner. As the years went by, his sons took music lessons and joined the band. During the 1930s, John Patek turned over leadership of the band to his oldest son Jim.

The Patek Band first recorded in San Antonio for the Decca label in 1937, but members were unhappy with the results because Joe claimed the recording director had rushed the band. In the early 1940s Joe took over the band from Jim and later renamed the group the Joe Patek Orchestra. After World War II the Patek Orchestra found success by recording for Martin, an independent San Antonio label. The best-known piece on the Martin label was "The Shiner Song," a newer version of an old Czech ballad, "Farewell to Prague." "The Shiner Song" became the unofficial Texas-Czech anthem. The band also recorded "Krasna Amerika" ("Beautiful America") and "Corrido Rock," which became popular in the Mexican-American community. In 1995 "The Shiner Song" received special recognition from the Texas Polka Music Association as an "all time favorite song." This was only the second time such an award had ever been given by the TPMA. From the time Joe Patek took over the band, it recorded more than twenty-four 78 rpms, more than twenty-four 45 rpms, and several tapes and LPs. One of the Pateks' most successful records was the "Beer Barrel Polka," which sold more than a million copies.

The success of his recordings helped make Patek one of the most popular Czech polka bandleaders in Texas. The band played in rural towns throughout Texas and in larger cities, such as San Antonio, Corpus Christi, Houston, Dallas, Fort Worth, and San Angelo, or wherever a dance or social function was held. Starting in the 1950s, the Joe Patek Orchestra was booked every weekend a year or more in advance. Their increasing popularity can be measured by the way the band members traveled. In the early years under Joe, they used two cars to carry all members and instruments. Then, in the mid-1940s, the band members rode in the back of a panel truck on long benches. In later years, a station wagon was used to pull a trailer for the band instruments. The trailer, decorated with Shiner Beer emblems, became a well-known symbol of the band on Texas highways.

The Patek Orchestra had its own hour-long radio show on KCTI, Gonzales, starting in the mid-1940s. The broadcast was done live every Sunday afternoon for several years from Bluecher Park in Shiner. In later years, because of the orchestra's busy schedule and longer trips, the broadcast known as the Patek Hour continued with recorded music until 1985.

Patek is credited for establishing a different style of Texas polka with its harder sound and emphasis on swing. This style, characterized by martial brass band arrangements, differentiated the Pateks and Texas polka from the polka bands in other parts of the United States.

The Joe Patek Orchestra retired after playing its last performance at the Annual Fireman's New Year's Eve Dance on December 31, 1982, at the American Legion Hall in Shiner. Hundreds of people packed the hall to hear this final performance. The last song the orchestra played was "The Shiner Song."

Joe Patek married Emily Novosad on May 21, 1934. They were married until Emily passed away in the early 1980s. They had seven children. Patek died on October 24, 1987, in Victoria, Texas, and is buried in the Catholic cemetery in Shiner. He owned and operated a grocery store and meat processing plant in Shiner, both of which were still in business in 2011. The TPMA honored him posthumously in 1991 with its Lifetime Achievement Award for "development of a unique sound in Texas polka music." He is also an inductee in the Houston Institute for Culture's Texas Music Hall of Fame. Joe Patek's Orchestra can be heard on the Arhoolie Records compilation CD Texas Czech Bohemian–Moravian Bands, Historic Recordings 1929–1959.

"The Patek Musical Legacy," The Texas Polka News, February 2007. "The Pateks—A Passion for Polka," The Texas Polka News, May 2002. Mark Rubin, "Texas-Czech Bohemian and Moravian Bands: Historic Recordings 1929–1959," Music City Texas 55 (March 1994). Chris Strachwitz, notes to Czech–Bohemian Bands: Early Recordings 1928–1953 (El Cerrito, California: Arhoolie Records, 1983). Victoria Advocate, October 15, 1989.

  • Music
  • Genres (Ethnic)

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

David DeKunder, “Patek, Joseph,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed June 28, 2022,

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December 5, 2006
October 4, 2015

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