French bagpipe polka music?

I came across this strange video tonight. It features a duet with French bagpipes and accordion doing a polka suite. OK, it’s a bit off the beaten path. What’s really strange though, is the video is full of bizarre visual distortion –  the background around the players is constantly shifting. I was starting to feel sea-sick watching it.

It would be interesting to explore some of the various bagpipe traditions around the world. For the longest time I thought the only bagpipes were the Scottish Highland pipes, but not so.  I bet trying to trace pipe traditions would also teach a lot about world history.

Polka time on 27th Street

Here’s the fabulous Ampol Aires from 1991 performing the Circus Polka. I only know one person who maybe knows who these guys are and that’s my pal from Chicago Anthony Stagg, so this one goes out to him.

….and since we’re on a roll, here’s another polka blast from the past – the 80s that is – featuring Dave “Scrubby” Seweryniak and that great polka band from Buffalo, the Dynatones, performing the Helen Polka.

She likes kielbasa better than fish…

Somebody entered “she likes kielbassa better than fish” into a search engine and came up with this blog. You asked for it buddy, you got it. It’s polka time on 27th St.

Here are Buffalo’s own Scrubby and Trojak

But while we’re on a Polish foodfest post, let’s not stop there. Here are Stanky and his Pennsylvania Coal Miners Polka Band performing Who Likes Pierogi

How about the Original Ampol Aires performing Polska Kielbasa. I love the dancing in this video…

OK OK, here’s Papa Crow performing Walt Solek’s masterpiece, Who Stole the Kishka

And finally, an old Czech commercial celebrating the virtues of kapusta.

Who Stole the Kishka?

I’ve been teaching my button accordion student a little polka called the Bertha Polka and I wanted him to get a feel for some of the different approaches to attacking a polka, so we took a few minutes to surf around YouTube listening to some examples. We came across this delightful video that includes a brief interview with Walt Solek, known as the Clown Prince of Polka – and his big tune, Who Stole the Kishka. Kishka (there seem to be several spellings) refers to a kind of sausage and in fact the word is Slavic and means gut or intestine, and sausage is just a filling or stuffing in a casing made from intestine.

You can have my shinka
Take my sweet krusczyki
Take my plump pierogi
You can even have my chernika
Take my long kielbasa

But damn it all, bring back my keeshka.

Walt Solek was a popular performer and bandleader who mixed comedy and polka music. He died in 2005 at 94. His motto was “bringing people together through music.”

I think I’m going to go out and get some sausage.

Americas Polka Sweethearts

I’ve been enjoying listening to Chemnitzer concertina music lately and that led me to Wanda and Stephanie, who were a mother-daughter team known as America’s Polka Sweethearts. They were polka performers but in the polka world that is broken down into styles. The style Wanda and Stephanie performed is called Honky. Stephanie still performs today. Her mom Wanda passed back in the 90s.

Here’s Zosia, one of my fave polkas

The Cial Bym Ja Polka

Seven Days and Seven Nights Polka

And finally, here’s Stephanie on her own performing the Wanda Polka.

Wanda was my mom’s name, and also I have a cousin named Wanda. Cousin Wanda, this one’s for you if you’re out there…

A note to readers….
When I set up this post, nothing on YouTube (at least that I saw) told me that embedding was restricted. And so, when you try to watch two of the videos above, you get a “watch on YouTube” message. Just click on the YouTube symbol and you’ll be transported to the YouTube page where you can watch the videos at will.  I’m happy with whatever restrictions the uploaders and YouTube put on any videos on the site. I just wish they would make the intention obvious. In other words, if you don’t want me to embed the video, don’t give me a share link to use.

Everything you ever wanted to know about….

Everything you ever wanted to know about the Chemnitzer Concertina but were afraid to ask can be found at

One of the places I like to visit is the for sale section of the site, which features ads for a number of these beautiful instruments. I can assure you that should I win a small lottery, I’ll be visiting this site with more serious intent.

Another feature I love about the site is the sheet music library. It contains an alpha-listing sheet music, many with special Chemnitzer concertina fingering notes. Now I don’t own a Chemnitzer concertina and so the fingering notation has no meaning to me, but none-the-less, here is a fantastic collection of polkas, obereks, waltzes and all kinds of other tunes as well. Some hand-written scores may be a little difficult to read, but I’ve stumbled across some excellent music browsing through this collection. Here’s an example of a piece from the listing.

There’s even a section of the site that lists some Chemnitzer concertina music with links to where you can purchase it.

And for those who are completely lost in the world of Chemnitzer concertina, there is even a section on concertina/polka humour, the link to which I will spare you because I like you.

Here’s an example of the instrument in action. Here is Stephanie & Mitch Kempinski performing the Ice Cream Polka

Johnny’s Knockin’

It’s Friday night and I could use a polka about now. How about you?

Here’s a video I’ve posted before but it’s so good I just can’t resist posting it again. It features Li’l Wally live on the Lawrence Welk show, playing concertina and singing in Polish. When I was a boy, my mom had a little stash of Li’l Wally records, including one in which he sang “blue” tunes in Polish. Whatever he was singing, it made my mom’s face turn beet red and it made her laugh like I’ve never seen her laugh.

Walt Solek, the Clown Prince of Polka, recorded a song I knew as a kid, called Who Stole the Kishka. Here’s a different take on it by the Polkaholix

OK, not to everyone’s taste…here’s Papa Crow with another version…

Finally, here’s the mighty Flaco Jimenez with Max Baca, performing In Heaven there is no Beer, a song that must have come from either the Czech or Dutch sections of San Antonio.

A Polka Town

Chicago is was a polka town

Here’s the late polka king Li’l Wally