A LISTENER'S GUIDE TO DOCTORS OF POLKA-OLOGY
Doctors of Polka-Ology is the latest offering from San Francisco's premier polka band, Big Lou's Polka Casserole. Showcasing Lou's trademark love of variety, the latest CD features originals and classics, with American, Norteño, French and Viennese stylings.
"Never a Dull Moment" - Inspired by a five hour marathon session of listening to Walt Solek records while reading Neal Gaiman's “ The Anansi Boys”, this is a Big Lou original. It features several guest stars, among them Beth Custer on clarinet, Zach Spellman from the San Francisco Opera on tuba, and Glenn Walters from the Hoodoo Rhythm Devils belting out the lyrics.
"Let Me in" - We are always on the lookout for polkas that were on the rock-and-roll charts. We had to change this hit for The Sensations a little bit, but it really didn't have far to go to become a rocking polka.
"Medley - Vamos al Baile & Viva el West Side" - this is a medley of two of our favorite Norteño polkas. The first is a traditional classic, the second was a hit for Fred Zimmerle. We had the extreme good fortune to have Lauro Guajardo play with us on this one.
"Wien, du Stadt meiner Traumer" - our good friend Joe Shmiel always plays this waltz, and we fell in love with it. Joshua Brody did the wonderful horn arrangement of this Rudolph Sieczynski classic, and also played the piano part. That's Beth Custer playing the bass clarinet.
"Hey, Mr. Travel Agent" - this is Big Lou's homage to the Andrew Sisters. She only wishes that she could have sung the song wearing a World War II WAC's uniform. Our good friend and neighbor, Kathleen Enright-Salvia sings the harmony part, her husband Henry Salvia tickles the ivories, and that's Chris Grady playing trumpet. Lou tried to include as many polka playing locales as she could, and apologizes to the ones she left out.
“Cyganie Włóczędzy i Złodzieje (Gypsies, Tramps, and Thieves)" - we think this Cher classic was born to be played as a polka. We have to admit, however, that Cher owns the song, which is why we didn't try to sing it. Still, we think the melody is lovely. Our version features special guest Eric Lenchner on the electric sitar.
" Hooray for Captain Spaulding" - everybody thinks the polkas from their native land are the best, and Big Lou is no exception. From her home of Hollywood comes this song that was originally featured in "Animal Crackers". In the movie it was sung by Margaret Dumont, Groucho Marx, and the chorus (the instrumental version later became the theme to Groucho's TV show.) We are fortunate to have Glenn Walters singing, with some wonderful horn parts written by Nik Phelps, of Sprocket Ensemble fame.
"Open the Door" - perhaps our favorite polka ever recorded is Johnny Prytko's version of this song. We know we could never top him, but we sure had fun playing it. This features one of the world's great tuba solos, by Zach Spellman, and also some harmonica from Sam Barry (brother of humorist Dave Barry).
"Padam, Padam” - this is a French waltz originally recorded by Edith Piaf. If you listen carefully, you can hear Kit Robberson playing viola da gamba. This is about a woman driven mad by her lost loves. She hears the song of her past – “padam” is the sound it makes, beating in her head like a wooden heart.
"Clari-nyet Polka" - it is a requirement that all polka bands play this song. Really. They make you do it. Hoping to avoid hefty fines and possible jail time, we recorded this song even though we have no clarinet in the band. Hence the title.
"Madre de un Soldado" - this was originally recorded as "Padre de un Soldado" by Flaco Jimenez. Written during the Vietnamese war, it is timely again. It is the song of a mother praying for the safe return of her soldier son who is fighting in a foreign land. Arwen de Castellanos sings the harmony vocal, Val Romero, Jr., adds some button accordion, and Jorge Liceaga plays the baja sexto.
“Sakkijarven Polka” – a little something for the Finnish surfers in the audience. We had Eric Lenchner add some surf guitar to this Finnish folk song, and we like the combination. A little historical note: the Smithsonian claims that the Finnish Army used this song to jam Russian radio signals during the Finno-Russian wars. At one point they played it for three days straight. We like the song a lot, but frankly, we're glad we weren’t there.
"Boys in the Back Room" - this is another polka from Hollywood. Marlene Dietrich sang it in the immortal "Destry Rides Again".