Big Lou is currently the accordion princess, although she is also sometimes the yodeling seismologist. In her native country, Southern California, she developed a taste for a wide variety of musical styles. She moved to Austin Texas, and got a job waiting tables at The Broken Spoke, a notorious honky-tonk. There is a large German and Czech population in central Texas, and many of the country bands also played polkas. Lou fell in love with the music.
Lou moved to the bay area and began playing in C&W and rock bands, among them The Stir-Ups and Thee Hellhounds. She was a member of Polkacide and she founded Those Darn Accordions. Four years ago she assembled Polka Casserole with her husband and bass player, David Golia. The current lineup includes Gene Reffkin on drums, David Phillips on pedal steel and horn players Greg Stephens, Nik Phelps and Annelise Zamula. Dogs Playing Polka features guest appearances by vocalists Kathleen Enright and Katie Guthorn. It was produced by Scott Mathews at Tikitown Studios.
A Listener's Guide to "Dogs Playing Polka"
Cabbage Rolls and Coffee -If this song sounds familiar, perhaps you're a fan of The Shmenge Brothers' The Last Polka. It was written by John Candy and Eugene Levy, who play Yosh and Stan Shmenge, Lutonian polka greats. We're especially fond of David Phillips steel guitar solo, which comes in like a drunk falling through a doorway. Don't be fooled by the false endings - let it play until the end of the track.
Is Anything Better Than Beer - Big Lou's paean to her favorite beverage. We like to think that this might be the first song ever to use the word "Hefeweizen." (That's a wheat beer, but you knew that.) The awesome clarinet solo is played by Nik Phelps (Clubfoot Orchestra, Sprocket Ensemble). Nik is really famous in Belgium.
The Gay Ranchero - This is the title song from the Roy Rogers film of the same name. If you listen closely in the chorus you can hear soprano Kathleen Enright hitting some notes we never knew existed.
Love Theme from Madame X - This is the theme from the immortal Lana Turner movie. Waltzes and polkas are everywhere, my friend. Joshua Raoul Brody, who plays piano on this cut, also did the horn arrangement.
El Guero - Penned by the master, Flaco Jimenez, this song features one of the most awesome guitar solos ever. Eric "Professor Sludge" Lenchner (The Readymades, The Ultras) is the responsible party.
Cry of the Wild Goose - A hit for Frankie Laine, this song was written by Terry Gilkysen, father of folkie Eliza and rocker Tony.
Doggie Dance - The original (La-Di-Dah) was written by Matt "Big Daddy" Lackowski. We learned this version from a record by the G.T. Express, one of our favorites. The singer is bass player (and Big Lou's hubby) David Golia. The tune starts off with a tone that only dogs can hear.
Lover Oh Lover - We're the first to admit that our version can't touch the original by Wanda and Stephanie. But we sure had fun playing it. That's Annelise Zamula, our Polish-American saxophone player singing along. Recorded live at the "Sliwowitz A Go Go".
I Want to be a Polish Princess -You must never be ashamed of who you are, but after several years on the polka circuit, Big Lou can't help but wish that she could be Polish. The title uses the slogan from the T-Shirts at Chicago's Baby Doll Polka Club. "Hoopi Shoopi Donna" refers to the book by Suzanne Strempek Shea about a Polish-American woman with an all-girl polka band.
Indifference - This is a French standard. All French accordionists must learn it, so we did too. It features our awesome trombone player, Greg Stephens. Greg practices his trombone constantly - he even works on his technique with his mouthpiece while he's waiting at bus stops. And he wonders why people don't want to sit next to him.
Chu Chu Tren - When Big Lou isn't wishing she could be Polish she sometimes yearns to be Mexican, Mexico being the home of some of her favorite music and food.. A lot of people have recorded this song, but our favorite is Eleazar Gonzalez.
If I Could Only Learn to Yodel - this was originally a hit for champion yodeler Patsy Montana. That's Katie Guthorn (Big Bang Beat) yodeling along. Have you guessed by now that Big Lou used to play in C&W bands?
Two Guitars/Dark Eyes - This is a medley of two traditional Russian melodies. The arrangement is by Joshua Raoul Brody, who you may have once spotted on an episode of "Mork and Mindy", playing piano with Rick and Ruby.
Madame X reprise - we recorded two versions and couldn't decide which one we liked best, so we used them both.