Best of Let’s Polka 2007

No, we haven’t joined the writers’ strike; we’ve just been in hibernation for the past couple weeks. Now we’re rested and ready to squeeze into 2008 with more accordion news, reviews, and events than ever before!

But first, let’s look back at some Let’s Polka highlights from the past year:

And we have even bigger plans for 2008 — so stay tuned, keep squeezin’, and have a happy New Year!

The Octonauts

Captain Barnacles Bear playing accordionI recently came across a children’s book called The Octonauts and the Sea of Shade, by Meomi. I was delighted to find out that the main character, Captain Barnacles Bear, plays the accordion!

Check it out to see how the Captain and the Octonauts save the Sea of Shade. (I’ll give you a hint: the Captain’s accordion is involved!) This is a great book for kids. And definitely a great last-minute holiday gift for your favorite accordion-loving kid-at-heart, too!

It’s Polka Time with Walter Ostanek

While Frank Yankovic reigned in America, Walter Ostanek claimed the title of “Polka King” up in Canada. A three-time Grammy winner and longtime friend of Yankovic, Ostanek has earned a reputation as one of polka music’s hardest working and most respected ambassadors. Here’s a clip of Ostanek performing the “Snappy J Polka” on the Canadian TV show “Polka Time” in 1989:

Quick Links: Clifton, Creosote, Accordion Man

  • Honoring Zydeco’s King
    Remembering the King of Zydeco, Clifton Chenier, on the 20th anniversary of his death. “Sometimes, if I’m stuck on one of his songs and I can’t figure it out, I’ll go out there [to Chenier’s tomb] and just kind of play it,” said Corey Ledet. “In about 30 minutes, I’ll be playing it.”
  • Grand Royal: King Creosote Charms Up a Storm
    San Francisco Bay Guardian’s music blog profiles Scottish singer/songwriter King Creosote, known for “graceful accordion-and-piano-driven tearjerkers and quirky ’60s-inspired pop.” Check out the video clip, “My Favourite Girl.”
  • Mr. Accordion Man
    At age five, Walter Lawrence received an accordion for Christmas. More than fifty years later, he’s still playing — now serenading customers four nights a week at a local restaurant. “By day, he shuffles paper at an office job. ‘But this is what I am,’ he says. ‘This is my love.'”

Flickr Find: Accordion Santa’s Best Friend

Accordion Santa and his dogWe are not amused, uploaded by Ginger Sarah

I’ll admit — as much as I love an accordion-playing Santa, I feel a little sorry for that dog. I hope they make enough money busking to buy him a really tasty bone or chew toy. He certainly deserves it.

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Accordion Thieves Strike Again

Talk about an accordion crime. Police in Costa Mesa, CA, are on the lookout for thieves who stole an antique accordion from a crowded parking lot on Sunday. Gigi Rabe had the accordion in the trunk of her car when she pulled into the Plaza West shopping center. She got out of her car, opened her trunk, and then stepped away to greet some friends who pulled up. When she returned, her accordion was gone.

Rabe is an accomplished accordionist working on a Ph.D. in Ethnomusicology at UCLA, and the accordion — a rare, vintage Dallape — is valued at $10,000. Police think it’s an “opportunist-type crime” and doubt the thieves knew they were stealing an accordion. Keep your eyes peeled; if you see a classic Dallape accordion on Craigslist, eBay, or your local pawn shop’s window display, you might want to give the Costa Mesa police a ring.

Polka and Cajun/Zydeco Grammy Nominees Announced

The nominations for the 50th annual Grammy Awards were announced this morning and there are plenty of accordions in the mix. (Really!) First, the nominees for Best Polka Album:

It’s no surprise to see 16-time winner Jimmy Sturr nominated again, but he’ll face stiff competition from one of the few non-Sturr artists to take home the polka Grammy, Brave Combo.

Meanwhile, this year marks the first time the Best Cajun/Zydeco Album Grammy will be awarded. Here are the nominees:

Seven great albums and it’s especially fitting that Terrance Simien — who worked so hard to make the Cajun/Zydeco Grammy reality — is one of the inaugural nominees.

In other categories, Tejano accordionist Sunny Sauceda is up for Best Tejano Album, while the legendary Los Tigres Del Norte are nominated for Best Norteño Album again after winning last year. They’ll square off against Intocable, Conjunto Primavera, Pesado, and Los Rieleros del Norte.

Just like last year, we’ll have reviews and clips from each of the nominated albums in the weeks leading up the awards ceremony, which will be held on February 10 in Los Angeles.

New Marathon Accordion World Record

Thomas SchmelzleWe’ve seen people attempt to break world records for the fastest accordion player and largest accordion band, so it’s only natural someone would go after the record for marathon accordion playing.

Last week in Bochingen, Germany, Thomas Schmelzle set out to break the record of 28 straight hours of accordion playing set by Dutchman Hennie Hulk in 2002. Under the rules set forth by Guinness, Thomas could take a five minute break each hour, but could not repeat a tune within four hours. In the end, Thomas smashed the old record with a performance lasting 29 hours and 16 minutes. Of course, he won’t be able to feel his fingers for a few weeks, but it’s a small price to pay for enshrinement in the Guinness Book of World Records. At least, until the next marathoner comes along…

Flickr Find: Accordion vs. Boy

Boy with Accordion
uploaded by Brann
Ever have one of those days? The kind where everything drags, just getting out of bed is a chore, and when you pick up your accordion, it feels like a ton of bricks. Well, imagine how this poor kid feels. First, Mom makes him wear a tie and a pair of knickers. Then he has to stand out in the sun and pose for a photo with an accordion that’s nearly as big as he is. The grimace on his face says it all: “Hurry up and take the picture… I can’t hold this much longer…”