Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Some people think I'm weird....

That applies particularly to my taste in music, I guess. When I was I was in high school - like in 1942 or 3 - I would time my dash for the school bus to the playing of Der Fuhrer's Face on the radio. It seemed to be broadcast at precisely the same time every morning and I never missed my bus. The song was performed by Spike Jones and the City Slickers - a group that performed with every kind of kitchen or workshop implement possible - including tumed Smith and Wesson pistols. My mother (especially) thought I had a warped mind when it came to music - but even today I get a laugh out of Spike Jones arrangements. He and his band, by the way, were some of the greatest individual musicians of the time --- it took highly skilled musicians to do their songs - which were described by some as exercises in musical depreciation.

There were others - Mrs. Miller, for instance. She had a touch of opera singer in her records and was particularly noted for her off-key rendition of Downtown. Then there was Stan Freeburg who did some great parodys of top tunes and TV shows of the day. In the country field, there were - and are - singers - or at least performers - who came up with off-beat music selections.
For instance, Ray Stevens of The Streak fame (By the way, around the time that song got popular we had a streaker run through our apartment complex one night.)

I was generally successful at convincing people to leave the room at times. Likewise, I continue to enjoy some success at convincing people to leave when one of "my" music programs come on the air. For instance, of late it is Big Joes Polka Show which is on RFD TV every Wenesday evening. It's just what the name implies - a program featuring down to earth polka bands from all over the country. Minnesota. Wisconsin. Michigan. Texas. Alaska. Connecticut. And all points in between.

To understand where this interest came from one needs to realize the environment I grew up in. We had a very small group that played for square dancing after our monthly Grange meeting. A piano, a saxaphone, drums, and maybe a fiddle. Nothing fancy but they made a joyful noise and we had a great time dancing. (By the way, I learned to square dance before I knew there was any other kind - all you had to do was keep time to the music and follow the caller who told you what step to take.)

Later, when I moved to Pittsfield, Massachusetts I would go down the street from the YMCA where I lived to go to the weekly dances at the Eagles Club. Then it was regular dancing but especially a lot of Polish music - polkas, waltzes, obereks, and so forth. I got pretty skilled at
Polish/German/Czech dances and sometimes we would even look up Polish weddings to crash.
Lots and lots ofdancing and as I remember, all it took was pinning a dollar or two on the bride's dress.

So, Big Joe takes me back to the old days. Some of the bands are good. Some leave a bit to be desired. Bands from Round Top Texas often have a Tex-Mex sound with a bit of mariachi thrown in for good measure. A band from Alaska has 20 or more members and for the most part it is limited to 'button-box" accordians as compared to piano accordians which may be more evident in mid-west bands. One of my favorite bands is Jim Busta's band from Minnesota featuring his daughter Molly B who sings and plays the accordian, trumpet, trombone, and saxaphone. (Jim Busta, by the way, is a superintendent of schools when he's not on the bandstand.) And there are family bands with children singing or playing instruments. Big Joe's slogan is "Happy Music for Happy People".

That's part of watching the Big Joe Show. It also involves watching a lot of people - young and old - having a lot of fun. When I say old - I wonder at times how some of them even get out to the dance floor much less dance a polka. But they do it and they flaunt smiles on their faces and seem to relish life when they do. There are lot of young people and children on the show as well and some people are on most every week as well. I think some others might not see much sense in the program - but hey, it presents a positive outlook on life - something we sometimes miss in today's world..

So, I guess my wife will go play cards Wednesday night - while I sit back for an hour reflecting on some great times in years past as I spend an hour with Big Joe and lot of people just like I used to know when I was much, much younger.

One last thing. One time when I was working in radio I had an unusual Sunday morning series of music programs. An hour each starting with the Greek program at 8 a.m., thence to French at 9, Italian at 10, and a full hour of Polish music at 11. Do you wonder that I have an unusual outlook about music? But maybe that's a story for another time.

No comments:

Post a Comment