Was reading an article online…in defense of accordions. A writer in San Francisco touched upon the obvious….like how hard it was to take Myron Floren of the Lawrence Welk show seriously in his tangerine colored leisure suit. And the words cheesy, corny, schlock, the sound of polka…associated with this instrument. The writer also described a performance he had been privileged to observe, in a quirky art space in Ocean Beach. A variety show performed by sex workers (strippers, prostitutes, phone operators). A chunky phone girl played Fat Bottom Girls with enthusiasm and energy and skill (on the accordion). He said he was the only straight male in that packed, sweaty audience. Having read his essay, I am approaching the two Easter songs I’m learning on my 12 bass, one secular and one sacred. I’ve been practicing Peter Cottontail and I Love to Tell the Story.
Hey, have you ever watched Big Joe’s Polka Show on RFD TV? It’s probably the worst produced musical show on the air, but also the most fun. The show is filmed in what looks like an airplane hangar and the sound is really bad. So are some of the polka bands. On the other hand, some are really good. The camera work is humorous. It shows mostly non-professional dancers from their most unflattering angles (such as their rear ends).
But a lot of the bands have singers who perform in what I would call “Old Country” languages…Czech, Polish, German…I’ve even heard Norwegian and Swedish a time or two. Young people, even little kids, are introduced to their heritage and to a musical style that isn’t “cool”, which I think builds character. A good time is had by all .
My parents didn’t care too much for country music, to which they ascribed the term “hillbilly”. And they most certainly didn’t like rock. Not that they were snobs or anything. They listened to the popular music of their era, which was Big Band. And once in a blue moon they would turn on the polka show, called Heel and Toe Time. I guess they watched Lawrence Welk now and then but they could take it or leave it. My dad said he liked the violin music of Fritz Kreisler and my mother said she went to the symphony in Chicago. And they both liked marching bands. But we were very poor, and we never went to concerts and the only records we owned were political satires. I guess I had a small record player and kid songs on bright colored vinyl. Piano lessons for me were a complete waste. I didn’t know what music was supposed to sound like. I was told by my mother that people either like serious music such as symphony or opera, or junk popular music, and hardly anyone likes both. I was the only kid in school who didn’t know the latest Elvis songs. And I so very badly wanted to watch a country program where some of the participants sat on hay bales. But I knew I would have been ridiculed if I expressed interest and besides, the tv was switched off immediately when that show came on. My parents had both played clarinets in a community band, and had gone to dances and stuff like that. In fact, my mother had played in a dance band. I was always told to learn how to dance but nobody ever showed me how.