Paul Gifford

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Types of polka music in U.S. today

Posted to by Paul Gifford on 1997/07/22. Reprinted by permission. 

The subject line says it all. How many types of polka music are there in the U.S. today? Here's a list and I welcome comments, criticism, corrections, etc. Maybe common repertoires should be the main division, rather than sound or instrumentation. 

  1. Chicago/Polish-American style. 1st trumpet, 2nd trumpet playing harmony, accordion bellows shake. Blazonczyk, Marion Lush, etc. Does the "East Coast" style deserve its own classification or is it better to regard it as a variety of Polish-American (Bernie Witkowski, etc.)? What about string- based groups, as "Orchestra Polonia," directed by Frank Kurzawa, of Detroit (1960s)? Same thing for concertina groups? How many current Polish-American styles are there? 
  2. Cleveland/Slovenian style. Accordion lead, tenor banjo accompaniment. Frankie Yankovic. Also button boxes. 
  3. Czech. Button accordion lead, tuba. Popular in Nebraska, elsewhere. 
  4. Bohemian. Brass bands, as Romy Gosz in Wisconsin and Baca Kapele in Fayetteville, Texas. Older style than #3. 
  5. Dutch Hop (Volga German). Piano accordion lead, dulcimer accompaniment, trombone - popular in Colorado, Nebraska 
  6. Scandinavian style. Piano accordion lead, repertoire includes a lot of schottisches. 
  7. "Dutchman" style. Brass band, tuba. New Ulm, Minnesota; Whoopee John Wilfahrt, etc. 

Maybe Italian-American music ought to be regarded as another type, not to mention Norteno music, but that might be stretching it a bit. The Bonetti Brothers Melody Makers, an Italian band, was marketed as a general polka band back in the '40s.