Let’s Polka! Or How Polka Can Save The World — WMBriggs Podcast

Let’s Polka!  Or How Polka Can Save The World — WMBriggs Podcast

The Polka Police say, “Let’s Polka!” And there’s no better way to polka than with the Schmenges, a.k.a. The Happy Wanderers, who are a must for any polka lover. That’s really Eugene Levy playing the according, though John Candy fakes (excellently) the clarinet. We’re listening to the whole piece…

Cabbage Rolls & Coffee

My first ever meal out, when I was still fresh, was cabbage rolls sans coffee at the Sanders on Michigan Avenue, right off Telegraph in Dearborn, which was still there, at least ten years ago. I’m scared to go back and see if it’s disappeared.

Polka isn’t, like most dance music, the sort of music you sit and listen to. There are exceptions, some of which we’ll meet here. There’s scarcely any intellectual component, yet it’s fun and perfectly harmless. A huge selling polka album was entitled Music for Happy People. And unlike most modern dance music, polka is always melodious and joyful.

Machine-generated music

There’s hours of that sort of thing, which sounds like a robot factory gone sour.

Unlike other people’s, or folks, or volks music, polka has a lot to say about food. It is the music to drink beer to. And, judging by the number of tunes devoted to the subject, the music to eat sausage to.

Who Stole the Kiska?

What goes on sausage? Besides mustard, I mean. Right: sauerkraut. Just a taste of this next one:

Sauerkraut Polka

Meals are not made of sausages alone. There are also dampfnudelen. We’ll eat the whole thing here.

Dampfnudel Polka

Everybody knows In Heaven There Is No Beer, which we heard a few seconds of, but perhaps you weren’t aware that the best rendition is by Da Yoopers. Da UP is north of the Mackinaw Bridge, eh, and people who live above it are Yoopers. I was one myself, having lived in the Soo (Sault Ste. Marie). Eh.

Plenty of cold and clouds in the UP, which might explain this classic from Da Yoopers, The Second Week In Deer Camp.

The Second Week In Deer Camp

Skipped right past the adorable little German girl yodeling. Saying “German girl” conjures in your mind an image which is now politically correct. As is yodeling. Who remembers this from a couple of years back? “Austria: Judge Rules That Yodeling Offends Muslims.

Austrian man fined after his yodeling offends his Muslim neighbor.

It seems as though in Austria, the popular yodel is an insult to Muslims.

An Austrian court has recently fined a citizen for yodeling while mowing his lawn, according to a report in The Kronen Zeitung newspaper.

The citizen, 63-year-old Helmut G., was told by the court that his yodeling offended his next-door Muslim neighbors, who accused him of trying to mock and imitate the call of the Muezzin…

Unfortunately for Helmut G., his neighbors were in the middle of a prayer when he started to yodel. The Kronen Zeitung reported that he was fined 800 Euros after judges ruled that he could have tried to offend his neighbors and ridicule their belief.

In honor of that judgment, here is an honorary Austrian man yodeling. Don’t try this at home.

Bert’s Yodel

Yodeling isn’t confined to the hinterlands of Bavaria and suchlike places. A goodly number of Germans settled in the hill country of Texas; places like New Braunfels and Fredericksburg. This accounts for the glory that was Don Walser, yodeler extraordinaire, who reigned in Austin and died in 2010.

Rolling Stone From Texas

Is yodeling political, then? The answer must be yes. Go back in time seventy-some years and we find this: “Fair Enough” by Westbrook Pegler, from the Evening Independent, 15 April 1938. Story opens:

Der Fuehrer Is Queerly Indifferent About Those Germans Who Are Suppressed by Mussolini

No sensible person would doubt the sincerity of [democratically elected] Chancellor Hitler, but there is something strange about his indifference to the plight of the 250,000 conquered Austrian Tyrol, where Mussolini more than a decade ago forbade the native yodel as a subversive expression. The unhappy German yodelers were terribly distressed by this cruel and unusual edict, and some them daringly continued to yodel in cellars at night in very subdued undertones, but the nervous strain was almost unbearable, nevertheless. A Tyrolean forbidden to use his natural means of expression is like a dog forbidden to bark. Tyroleans tried yodeling to themselves, yodeling in their sleeves and yodeling in their pillows at night, but Mussolini’s police seemed to be everywhere, and the captive minority were cruelly harassed.

Naturally, we have no choice but to hear from the Mitchell Trio (circa 1964). This one is for all you reactionaries listening.

I Was Not a Nazi Polka

So polka is politics. Well, everything is in a democracy. Don’t take my word for it. Polka saves lives. From the film It’s Happiness: A Polka Documentary. Polka saves the world!

It’s Happiness clips.

This security guard, who has been for many years watching over the annual Polka Festival in Bird Island, Minnesota agrees.

Security guard speaks.

Perhaps we are too serious. Not everybody likes the accordion, you know. The benighted are ever among us.

Hot Shots clip

The accordion is the window to the Russian soul! On the other hand, you can’t be serious enough!

Naked Gun clip

Did somebody say Al Yakonvic? Dr Demento surely did.

Demento documentary

Everybody knows Now-Not-So-Weird Al. But you’ve probably never heard this rare concert footage from, I think, 1984. Here is a snippet.

Weird Al

That’s it! We never had enough time. I couldn’t cover The Man Who Would Be Polka King, a film about Polka superstar, and associate of Donald Trump, Jan Lewan. Jack Black is rumored to play him in an upcoming movie. And don’t forget Polka Kings, the “reality” series about the Chardon Polka band, a group whose biggest success was to invent a polka for a mixed martial arts fighter to walk into the ring with.

We started with the Schmenges, we must close with the Schmenges. Ladies and gentleman and yaks,
The Last Polka.

The Last Polka

Update More Polka! Blonde Bombshell and I were in residence at the Hofbrau BierHaus on 3rd Avenue tonight. There may have been singing. Another benefit of polka. The Polka Brothers were there, playing all the favorites. They’ll be at Boyne Falls this August for the annual Polish Festival. Hope to see you there!


  1. BrianH

    From Larson’s The Far Side:

    St Peter: Welcome to heaven, here’s your harp.
    The devil: Welcome to hell, here’s your accordian.

    Drinking beer (lots of it) while listening to polka is the preferred method of self-inoculation against being driven insane.

  2. How can you not mention Brave Combo? “Polkas for a Gloomy World,” “Humansville,” and “A Night on Earth” are particular favorites of mine, along with (of course) the amazing, “It’s Christmas, Man!” polka Xmas album. My very first polka album was from a punk polka band called Polkacide, which is apparently still around. I heard their version of “The Happy Wanderer” on alternative station and loved it — it ends with literally screaming the “valderee – valdera” part. The album of the same name has it, as well as their “Who Stole the Kishka?” that ends “Who stole the kishka — let’s go kick his ass!” How can you not like that?

  3. Steve E

    How could you do a show on polka and leave out the true King, Walter Ostanek? A three time grammy winner for best polka album of the year, Walter was the inspiration for the Schmenges. This polka hall of famer is still going strong at age 81.

  4. Also the fantastic Riders in the Sky — featuruing “Joey the Cowpolka King,” who plays any song you name as a polka in their live shows. Here’s a yodel polka featuring EVERYONE yodeling and some great yodeling by Ranger Doug, the Idol of American Youth, from their album “Harmony Ranch.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nbO10VyurMs

  5. Briggs


    I’ve noticed the stream always cuts off the first 1 to 2 seconds of audio. This is despite my starting the stream some 4-5 seconds early. I have to figure this out.

    Today we missed the intro “Let’s Polka!”

  6. dalyplanet

    I look at your posts regularly without comment. But this one has me laughing so hard this morning I have to complement you. Thanks for all you do.

  7. Gary

    Will we get podcasts on zydeco, klezmer, and bluegrass music too? All have kinship as expressions of ethnic culture.

  8. I didn’t completely hate the techno beat. I could listen to it for a little while. I was able to listen to all the rest also.

  9. Briggs


    See the update.

  10. Joy

    From the time when two men living together was considered funny and not like AndyPandy and loobilloo.

    I defy this not to make people laugh.
    Watch out for those sausages! I love earners dressing gown dance.


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