Playing the accordion keeps you young

Sometimes a blog post writes itself. And on occasion, someone writes it for you–like my sister Peggy. Thanks, Peggy! When sorting through the mail yesterday, I found a bill, 10 offers for credit cards, a Crate and Barrel catalog, and a letter! My sister is one of three people on our planet who actually still send letters (yay!).

Inside the envelope was a typewritten note and a news clipping from the Obit section of the Washington Post. I’m going to share both. Oh, Merv Conn, how I wish I had known you.

And here’s the obit. Or you can read it online.

Merv was 91. And he didn’t even die of old age; he died of complications from prostate cancer! Jesus. You don’t have to drink from the fountain of youth–just pick up an accordion and stroll through life with it.

May you squeeze in peace, Merv.

Christmas at the Happy Dog

Since it’s technically still the Christmas season–there are 12 days of Christmas after all–I thought it only appropriate to showcase this holiday video created by a friend to polka lovers everywhere, the Reverend DJ Kishka. Na Zdrowie, brother!

How the Kishka Saved Christmas, the not quite authentic Polish folk tale, was experienced firsthand by everyone lucky enough to be in Cleveland on December 16. For those unlucky folk among us, including me, here’s a 3 minute teaser of what you missed.


Polka on, Christmas elves!

gifts for all the accordion lovers on your list

I don’t want to freak you out, but there are only nine shopping days left until Christmas–five before Hanukkah. A fruitcake might suffice for your grandma; your accordion-loving friends are going to expect a bit more. Here are some awesome ideas. Merry Merry!

kickass cds and stuff

Carnival of Sound by Happy Lucky Combo –Richmond’s own accordion maestro Barry Bless and the fab sounds of bassist Dave Yohe and drummer Pippin Barnett–in a word, awesome.

Main Squeeze Orchestra –the unique sounds of the fabulously talented NYC all-girl accordion orchestra led by Walter Kuhr. Stop by Walter’s Shop, The Main Squeeze in Soho, for all your accordion needs.

The Last of the International Playboys –when he’s not conducting the girls, Walter Kuhr is leading his own band. You’ll dig their Vegas-Jazz and Latin Lounge sound.

Ice Cubes and Beer Mix Tape by DJ Kishka–If you can’t experience Cleveland’s Polka Happy Hour in person, then listen to this in your living room. It’s more fun than 10 shots of tequila! Na Zdorovie!

Fresh Off Boat by Golem –6 piece Eastern European folk-punk band from Brooklyn–it’s not your father’s Klezmer band;it’s sooooooo much better! Other albums to search for include Citizen Boris and Homesick songs. Check iTunes for digital versions.)

Kagero — another Brooklyn band (and one of my new favorites) led by Kaz Fujimoto. Japanese Gypsy Rock. It rocks!

Once and For All by Gregory Page–this English born, San Diegan is one of my recent favorites. And his albums are accordion friendly. Check out his magic.

Panorama Jazz Band–one of my all-time favorites. This New Orleans band, led by master clarinetist Ben Schenck, has a jazzy, global, second-line kind of sound that blows you away and just makes you want to dance. Don’t miss them at the Spotted Cat on Frenchmen Street the next time you’re in New Orleans!

Accordion Plus — Retired teacher and accordion evangelist Dale Wise has a variety of accordions for sale as well as educational CDs, tools, and accessories.

3 vol. set of instructional DVDs–learn to play accordion from performer and teacher Debra Peters from Austin, TX!

unique vintage accordion-themed jewelry

Visit the Clabber Creek Studio Etsy site for vintage costume jewelry and vintage inspired handmade jewelry. Guess what? There are some kickass accordion pieces and other cool stuff too.


learning the accordion makes you smart…I didn’t make this up

For well over a year now, I’ve been praising all things accordion in post after polka-loving post. If I haven’t yet convinced you of the absolute fabulousness of this incredible instrument, then perhaps I can sway you by promising to add a few points to your IQ.


Check out this article and pay special attention to number 10. : )

Cleveland, a Polka Town–Part 2

It’s damn near impossible to top DJ Kishka’s Polka Happy Hour, but as polka tourists on the loose in Cleveland, we had to try. So, we set off for the Cleveland-Style Polka Hall of Fame in nearby Euclid.

Here’s the problem. We spent so much time goofing around in the Tremont neighborhood (eating breakfast, taking photographs, and checking out The Christmas Story Museum) that we didn’t arrive at the front door of the hall of fame until 3:04p.m. That’s when we saw the sign that it had closed at 3p.m. OMG.

I was devastated. Not wanting to spend an entire evening with a dejected and utterly pissed-off wife, Joe glanced around in a panic and caught what he thought was a glimpse of a head. So he knocked on the door politely, a few times. With a newly injected glimmer of hope, I banged on the door. And banged. And banged. I wasn’t going anywhere.

Then like an angel she appeared–Beatrice Jerkich, the volunteer employee on the schedule that Saturday. I hereby nominate Beatrice as the Cleveland-Style Hall of Fame’s Employee of the Month. Hell, make it Employee of the Year! She let Joe and me in to wander and take pictures and buy goodies from the gift shop. She said we could stay for 15 minutes, but she didn’t kick us out when we stayed for 45. I heart Beatrice.

The Polka Hall of Fame rocked! I only wish I could have spent two hours there so I could have read every placard in the place and watched Polka! The Movie from beginning to end. Ah well–that’s what you get for not checking the closing time in the guide book. I’ll never make that mistake again. Check out a slideshow of pics from the hall of fame and the accordion museum, which I’ll mention in a minute.

Next stop – Frank Sterle’s Slovenian Country House. Talk about a 180 degree departure from the night before. The median age was roughly 40 years older than the Kishka crowd, but the experience was every bit as kick ass. I loved it the moment I walked through the entrance. Wood paneling, Slovenian flags and murals on the walls; Chicken Paprikash, dumplings and Wienerschnitzel on the menu. But best of all–a polka band! Check out the dancers. At the very end of this video, you’ll see a wonderful couple doing what I learned was the Cleveland-style of polka known as “the hop.” I must learn how to do this–I dance the German-style polka myself. I was completely smitten with this wonderful gentleman and was ready to move in for a dance and toss his date aside, but my wrist was throbbing from all the polka dancing the night before. Plus, at the time I still had my orange cast on and I feared that during a spirited spin I might accidentally club him in the head. So, I settled for a short conversation instead and got to watch him dance again, without me. Heavy sigh.

Day 3 was a Cleveland Indians game (not part of our polka agenda, but come on, we had to make an exception). After the game and just before cruising out of town, our final polka tourist attraction was the Cleveland Accordion Museum. This was…er…a bit unusual. Visits are by appointment only (I’m most grateful that he let us stop by on a Sunday afternoon) and the museum itself is actually the basement of a guy’s upscale suburban home. But that’s not the oddest part. In addition to hello and goodbye, the guy spoke about 10 words total. That’s fine, but if you’re that much of an introvert, would your heart’s desire be to open up your house as a museum? He was a reluctant docent, to say the least. Although we tried our best to get this guy to engage, here is a sample snippet of conversation.

Joe: (looking around at the unbelievably impressive array of accordions that lined the walls) “Wow. This is amazing. Do you have any favorites?”

Museum owner: “Yes (pause), I have my favorites.” (Joe and I look at him expectantly)

Sound of crickets chirping.

The rest of the conversation was pretty much a variation of that.

But hats off to this former player who has assembled the most impressive collection of accordions I’ve ever seen, some of which dated back to the 1800s. Definitely a stop on the agenda for any serious polka tourist. Yes, Frankie Yankovic said it best: Cleveland, It’s a Polka Town. Drew Carey also said it best: Cleveland rocks!