First posted on Mark Is Cranky:
During the mad week approaching Christmas 2004, a padded envelope arrived in the mail. It looked very much like lots of the review material that I receive, except that I didn’t recognize the return address.
So, I cut open the envelope and out slips American Polka. Old Tunes & New Sounds.
Hmmm….did I order this CD? A fairly strong sense of deja vu was hovering about. Did I read about it somewhere? A magazine? Website? A mailing list? Was there a segment on it on NPR? One ‘clue’: alongside Polka greats like Frankie Yankovic, American Polka had selections from The Happy Schnapps Combo, Los Lobos and (here’s the ‘clue’)…Elliott Sharp with Guy Klucevsek. The presence of those names, veterans of the downtown New York scene, really made me think that I’d read about this compilation from a post to the John Zorn mailing list.
But still…no recollection of placing an order. After a few days I had to accept the fact that just maybe I’d begun to lose it. Yep, the big slide had officially started. First I’m ordering stuff on the internet (and losing track of that fact), soon to be followed by forgettin’ to put my pants on before leaving the house in the morning.
Then, last Friday afternoon, my old friend Greg calls to invite me & the wife down for dinner. In the middle of our conversation he says something like “Hey, how’d you like that polka CD?”. Well, for gawd’s sake, there’s nothing so satisfying as relieving a two-month tip-of-the-tongue experience. Mystery solved. Apparently, Greg and his wife Carleen were doing some music spelunking using the ethnic origins of their relatives as a guide. When they got around to polka music (Greg’s side of the family) they thought that this CD would be right up my alley (plus, it was a pretty good bet that I didn’t already own it). Right on both counts. More than they knew.
Now, despite the fact that I’ve known Greg for almost twenty years, one thing he didn’t know (until our conversation) is that one of my uncles, Stanley E. Saleski (who passed away in 1993), used to be a polka DJ at radio station WMMW in Meriden, Connecticut. I kid you not. He was even inducted into the International Polka Association Hall of Fame. Uncle Stanley was quite the character. He used to show up at my grandmother’s house on Christmas day, tape recorder in hand, to do a live play-by-play of the proceedings. My dad came from a family of twelve kids (six girls, six boys), so there was a lot of comings and goings on that day.
I’ve got a cassette tape of one of those holidays. There’s a funny bit on it that sort of foreshadows my musical/audiophile nerddom: “…and here comes little Mark Saleski…”. Uncle Stanley tried to get me to say something but all I wanted to do was play with the tape recorder and eat the microphone (I was not even two years old at the time).
So anyhoo…this here CD is worth definitely worth a listen or two if you’ve got any interest at all in the polka genre (heck, maybe even if you don’t!) There’s traditional polka, novelty tunes (“You Can’t Teach The Japanese To Polka”) and even some Tex-Mex. Good clean fun.
Well, we couldn’t make it down to Greg and Carleen’s for dinner (the wife was on call over the weekend), but something tells me we’ll soon be sharing a few martinis with ‘em along with the soothing sounds of Frankie Yankovic, Polkacide and Whoopee John Wilfahrt & His Concertina Band.