Keeping Up With the Blazonczyks

There was a fascinating profile of polka bandleader Eddie Blazonczyk Jr. in the Chicago Tribune earlier this week. For more than forty years, Eddie Blazonczyk’s Versatones have been the gold standard of Chicago polka bands. Eddie Blazoncyzk Sr. was a pioneer of the Chicago style, evolving the sound and promoting it around the world.

But after he suffered a stroke in 2002, the torch was passed to his son, Eddie Blazonczyk Jr., who had been playing concertina with the Versatones since the 1989. With “Junior” at the helm, the band continues to record and tour relentlessly, but the polka crowds have shrunk over the years and it’s difficult for even a top band like the Versatones to make a living. And for Eddie Jr.’s wife, Cheryl, it’s especially hard raising a family with a husband who’s always on the road:

“I’m impressed that he can play so well, but I always ask Eddie, ‘What’s the difference between a musician and a pizza? A pizza can feed a family of four.'”

Ouch. On top of all this, everytime he performs, Eddie Jr. must face inevitable comparisons to one of polka’s living legends: his own father. But Eddie Jr. carries the legacy proudly, and the Versatones’ latest record, Batteries Not Included recently earned a Grammy nomination (their 18th overall) for Best Polka Album. We’ll be reviewing that album — along with the other Grammy nominees — over the next few weeks.

Build Your Own MIDI Concertina

A MIDI controller shaped like a Hayden Duet Concertina

Paul Everett always wanted to play a Hayden Duet concertina, but new instruments can cost thousands of dollars and used ones are nearly impossible to find. So he did what anyone else would do: he built his own.

The result isn’t really a concertina — there are no bellows, reeds, or valves — it’s a MIDI keyboard with buttons arranged according to the Hayden Duet system. It’s no substitute for a real concertina, but it looks like a useful little practice gadget.

Check out Paul’s site for more photos and details, as well as some useful links if you’re interested in building your own MIDI device.

[Found via MAKE: Blog]

January is National Polka Month!

If you’re like me, you were probably up late on Sunday night, waiting anxiously for the clock to strike midnight so you could begin celebrating National Polka Month. Positioned far enough away from National Accordion Awareness Month (June) to avoid conflicts, National Polka Month encourages fans to support local polka shows during a time when attendance typically slows due to bad weather.

Among the big polka events scheduled this month are the International Polka Association’s Festival of Bands in Chicago and Benefit Dance in Ludlow, MA. For those hoping to escape the cold weather entirely, a handful of polka cruises are setting sail, including the Ultimate Polka Cruise and Jimmy Sturr’s Polka in Paradise.

If you can’t get out of town, tune in to one of the many Internet radio stations devoted to polka music, like, the Polka Jammer Network, or Prime Time Polkas. If you’re at work, pump up the volume and share the polka spirit with your co-workers.

So as you begin making plans for this special month, I leave you with this rumination on polka music by Carl Finch of Brave Combo:

“As nature and society become more unstable, humans will return to the basics and retreat from the overbearing self-consciousness of pop culture. Polka serves two purposes: good music and freedom from pretense in an environment where the hip and unhip freely mix and mingle.”

I think that’ll be our new motto — “Let’s Polka: Where the Hip and Unhip Freely Mix and Mingle.”

Classic K-Tel Polka Commercial

Remember those old K-Tel compilation albums — 22 Dynamite Hits, 20 Great Truck Drivin’ Songs — bearing the “as advertised on TV” label?

Check out this 1971 commercial promoting the very first K-Tel album, 25 Polka Greats. Frankie Yankovic, Myron Floren, and Six Fat Dutchmen play classics like “Pennsylvania Polka”, “Too Fat Polka”, and “Liechtensteiner Polka”… all for only $3.99! You may not be able to find it at Woolworths anymore, but we found a copy at Rasputin’s for $1.

Accordion Bus Advertising

Norwegian accordion bus advertising World Accordion Championships

What kind of ad would look best on an accordion (articulated) bus? An ad for an accordion competition, of course. This clever advertisement was created for the Coupe Mondiale — the annual international competition organized by the Confédération International des Accordéonistes (CIA) — held this past October in Asker, Norway.

[Found via I Believe in Adv]

Need more accordion? Follow us on Twitter, Facebook, or email.

« Newer posts