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Krzysztof Klenczon

Born in Pułtusk, Krzysztof Klenczon spent his childhood and youth in Szczytno, a small lakeside town. And it was sailing that turned him into a singer–his first fascination was the tradition of sailor shanties. The second was Elvis Presley.

He worked all summer to buy his first guitar. In fact, he was a self-taught musician. Having learned how to play the guitar, he became known for never parting with the instrument. His initial plans for adult life did not include music, though. He wanted to be an engineer. In 1960, Klenczon was admitted as a full-time student to the Technical University in Gdańsk. He quit after just one semester, and then–a year later–decided to become a teacher instead. After graduating with a degree in Physical Education, Krzysztof returned to Szczytno and was soon teaching children at a local primary school. But he didn’t betray his music.

Together with his colleague, Karol Wargin, Klenczon took part in an amateur singing contest. Their song Teddy Bears was awarded first prize and the two PE teachers were given a chance to appear on stage with the popular sixties band Czerwono-Czarni. When this summertime music adventure was about to end and Krzysztof was getting ready to resume his teaching career in Szczytno, a rather unexpected offer reached him. Another Polish bigbeat band, Niebiesko-Czarni, were looking for a guitarist and invited Klenczon to join them.

He made up his mind fast. He quit his job and became a professional musician overnight. Klenczon was not the frontman type at first. In fact, he was famous for hiding in the darkest corners of the stage during concerts. Everything was new for him, everything was intimidating. Then came the studio recordings, the concerts abroad (including one in the famous Olympia concert hall in Paris), the popularity. The band even recorded for the French music label Decca! At the peak of what seemed a perfect career, Krzysztof Klenczon suddenly said goodbye to the band, the reason being a trivial misunderstanding. His reaction was typically fast. Too fast.

He joined a band Pięciolinie that half a year later, in 1964, changed their name and turned into the most influential Polish group of that time–Czerwone Gitary. Their famous poster proclaimed: “We play the loudest music in Poland.” The five years to follow was a time marked by considerable success and even more popularity. Czerwone Gitary gained fame and appreciation, both among audiences and music critics. They were five talented artists who formed a group rather than a group of five talented individuals. They formed a genuine team and that was their special strength. However, in time, the two strongest personalities–Krzysztof Klenczon and Seweryn Krajewski–started to clash. And it was Krzysztof who left the band. He made up his mind fast. Too fast again.

Two months later, in March 1970, he announced a new project. The band Trzy Korony was set up in a hurry and without much preparation. After a year and a half of ambitious attempts to introduce some new, refreshing ideas to the music scene, Krzysztof Klenczon dissolved the group. Even though Trzy Korony were rather well-received, he felt they would never match the popularity of their archrivals–Czerwone Gitary.

Klenczon felt bitter and misunderstood. He decided to leave Poland. He moved to Chicago with his wife and daughter, leaving behind well-deserved fame and appreciation, the two things that America was never to offer him. In the States, he earned his living as a taxi driver and a bookbinder. He lived on Lake Michigan, a place that reminded him of his native lakeside town. He also sang in some Chicago clubs, first solo and then with his own band. He even managed to record one album for the American studio Clay Pigeon International but he didn’t have funds for advertising and the LP went unnoticed.

Klenczon never stopped regretting his decision to leave Poland. He found some consolation in composing–his Chicago songs include The Show Never Ends and Suddenly. In the early 1980s, when the Solidarity movement reached America and the first wave of Polish political refugees arrived in Chicago, Klenczon got actively involved in charity campaigning. On February 26, 1981, he gave a concert at the Milford Club and all the proceeds went to Polish immigrant children. On the way home from the show, he had a car accident. A drunken motorist was driving too fast, hit his car, Klenczon was seriously injured and died in hospital forty days later.

Poland was the place where the sad news of Klenczon’s death hit his fans the most. On April 8, 1981, Polish Radio broadcast a special program in his memory. It was his musical epitaph. Another Polish artist, Stan Borys, said: “Your show never ends, return to your lakes to find your peace there.” The urn with Krzysztof Klenczon’s cremated body was laid in the fa mi ly tomb in his native Szczytno.

His records remain, his fans still listen to his oldies. Interestingly, his songs are being rediscovered by younger generations. Now and then, you can still hear his hits on the radio. A statue of Klenczon has just been erected in his hometown. His relative Jerzy Klenczon runs the Szczytno Music Society organizing regular events that commemorate the town’s famous son. Sopot boasts the Association of Klenczon Music Lovers, Olsztyn boasts the only MA dissertation devoted to the artist (written by Iwona Malinowska-Bartko), Warsaw boasts the only Krzysztof Klenczon Street in the world.

He died 25 years ago. Too fast.

Ryszard Wolański

 

translated by Jerzy Chyb

 
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THE SHOW NEVER ENDS
music K. Klenczon lyrics V. Beleska

Wake me in the morning
Please give me my guitar
‘Cause the show never ends

Put me on the plane
Got to make the next town
‘Cause the show never ends

We feel so very very tired
And there’s still
Such a long, long way to go

Get me to the people
Please make sure I’m not late
‘Cause the show never ends

Tell me when to sleep
Make sure I get rest
‘Cause the show never ends
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