|News & Editorial Archives,
Gigs are Coming
July 11, 2021
Although my online schedule looks ominous by the way it says, "We have
no public dates for the month of July," gigs have returned for many
area bands, and many will be returning for mine. Just by the luck of
the draw, almost all of the public dances and festivals my band would
have played this summer happened to be the ones that decided earlier in
the year to cancel or postpone. So, while many bands' schedules have
been mostly or completely restored, my band's schedule is unfortunately
looking like it will remain sparse for most of the remaining summer.
When the Oktoberfest
season kicks into full swing around mid September, we'll be busy –
perhaps not quite as busy as 2019, but we'll be grateful for the volume
of work nonetheless. Most of the Oktoberfest events that annually hire
my band will be taking place, plus we'll have some new venues to let
you know about. I wouldn't rule out the possibility that this
Oktoberfest season could turn out to be our busiest on record as
post-COVID attendances at dances have been excellent. Anything could
Assistance will continue helping me out through July and August, until
it is discontinued on September 6th. Fortunately, the timing is
perfect, because September 6 is around the time Oktoberfest kicks in.
I'll once again be able to rely entirely on my self-employment income
as a musician, and believe me, I'm looking forward to that!
My main concern, however,
is what will happen after
Oktoberfest. The Oktoberfest season ends around mid-October, and that's
when things really slow down. Before COVID, public dances, performances
at retirement communities, and a holiday party or two paid the bills
during the off-season, but there's no way of knowing how or if those
venues will rebound from the COVID shut-downs and current labor
Come November, will those jobs even be there?
Let's all hope for a safe
and speedy return to normalcy.
July 9, 2021
Tonight, Snickers is in the hospital. Trips to the ER have
unfortunately become a regular stint for him. He was diagnosed last
year with a digestive disease, and every few weeks he gets blocked up
and is unable to pass digested food. He becomes sick and has to be
taken to the ER for treatment. These treatments can be expensive. His
vet bill on Monday was $265. His vet bill tomorrow will be $965. To
date, his lifetime healthcare bills total over
I am planning to take him
to a specialty clinic to see if surgery would be an option for him. If
he is a good candidate for surgery, then I'm probably looking at a bill
upwards of $6,000.
To many people,
especially those who are not that close to animals, the obvious option
would be euthanasia. After all, what cat – especially one that's 12
years old – is worth $25,000?
Snickers is not just any
cat to me. When he first started encountering health problems a few
years ago, that's when we started to bond, and to my surprise, he
eventually became as close to me as my dear Kittling was many years ago.
The photo above captures his adoration for his papa. That's how he
looks at me when he's on my lap or in my arms. I can feel the depth of
his dependence on me to take care of him. And I believe his guardian
Kittling, led him to me because she knew from experience that I was the
one person who would make sure he got the care he deserved.
If Snickers is approved
surgery, I will most definitely hold a fundraiser dance. I
did this once before to benefit a couple of local cat shelters. People
will be able to freely attend the dance and donate whatever amount
consultation is set for October 19.
Booking an Oktoberfest...
June 25, 2021
I apologize for sounding
like a broken record, but this bears repeating every year.
If you are a private
party or public venue looking to hire a polka band on a Saturday from
mid-September to early October, your odds of finding an available band,
especially a good band, are slim. Experienced venues have learned to
hold onto the same band every year for their Oktoberfest, but other
venues often run out of luck as there are literally not enough polka
musicians in the circuit to meet the demand.
I created this chart to
show how the demand for polka bands exceeds the supply on three
Saturdays every year. This chart is based on my 25 years experience as
a bandleader. The green area represents the total number of polka bands
available. The purple bars represent the number of venues seeking live
polka music. Every weekend of the Oktoberfest season is shown.
Please consider booking
your Oktoberfest event on any other day but those peak Saturdays. If
you book your event on a peak Saturday and happen to find a band that's
available, hang onto them for next year.
New Polka Album
June 18, 2021
I'm well into the
production of a new Cleveland-style polka-variety album. To date, I
have over a dozen new songs written and will be writing a few more yet.
album, I'm doing something I've never done before — I am
teaming up with another musician and splitting the billing with her.
She will be taking center stage on the album cover.
She's a vocalist who hails from the pop/rock side of the music
business. This will be her first polka venture.
So why am I bringing a
new vocalist into the fold? There are a couple of reasons:
I've worked with this
singer before, so I am familiar with the breadth of her talent and
impressive work ethic. Singing polka music professionally is not as
easy as one might think. You can't take just any pop, rock, or country
and expect them to deliver a polka, but she is unique. She has
the chops. And I wouldn't disregard the notion that
her ability to cross over to polka may be inconspicuously rooted
somewhere in her Slovenian ancestry.
The other reason I'm
bringing her in for this album is that new, young artists are always
welcome in polka music. Polka people are notably kindhearted and
welcoming toward new musicians. We love our current stars, but there's
in the polka industry for fresh talent.
Speaking of current
stars, this album will feature several A-list guest vocalists,
including Mollie B and Steve Meisner. The instrumentation will feature
some of the industry's top musicians as well.
Polka fans are going to
be given a unique opportunity to contribute to the production of this
album. I'll be posting more information about that later in the year.
My goal is to have the
finished by the end of the year and distributed in time for the
Illinois Polka Fest in February, as that would be the perfect
opportunity for everyone to come out and meet the new singer. I don't
foresee anything delaying the project, but just to be safe, I'm not
making any promises, either!
The album will be
released on compact disc. Now I know what you're thinking... "Tom, you
vowed that you were done with CDs and would only release music
digitally from here on out!" Yes, I did say that, and if this were
going to be a typical polka album created mainly to sell at gigs, that
would most definitely be the case as CDs just don't sell locally like
they used to. But this particular album with the new vocalist is going
to be exceptionally marketable, and I'll be doing more advertising and
distribution, taking the album well outside my local area and reaching
as many people as possible through multiple retailers.
June 2, 2021
Since the release of
my Country Christmas Collection EP, I've frequently been asked how I go
about recording vintage-sounding music. I've just released a new 1950s
rock and roll single, so I thought this would be the perfect time to
write and post an article explaining my process.
To replicate the sound of a particular era, you have to educate
yourself on the instruments and gear that were available at the time as
well as the instrumental/vocal stylings and recording techniques that
were popular. Let's use "Cruisin' in My Crown Vic" as an example,
because I created it to sound like it came from the 1950s. What
instruments, amplifiers, and recording techniques were rock & roll
musicians using back then? I listened to a lot of recorded music and
followed up with some research about music, bands, and the recording
industry in the 1950s.
For the instrumentation on my song, I chose to go with guitar, bass,
piano, drums, sax, and vocals. Not just any instruments, however, would
work, because musicians in the 1950s were not playing acrylic drum
kits, digital pianos, Schecter guitars, or using solid state
amplification. Those tools were either not yet invented or not yet
I had to make sure the instruments and gear I used existed more than 60
years ago, so the guitar on "Cruisin in My Crown Vic" is a Les Paul
with dual humbucker pickups run through a vintage tube amp. The drums
are an early 1950's Gretsch Cadillac drum kit. The bass and piano are
I also had to take into account the recording techniques and gear of
the 1950s. Recording studios back then didn't have digital technology,
so I had to restrict my choices of gear to what they had available at
the time. My track only uses effects like plate and spring reverbs,
tape echo, tube compression, and tape saturation.
Stereophonic sound did not become popular until the late 1950s. I chose
to mix the song in mono to give it an earlier '50s sound.
So where on earth did I acquire these old instruments, amplifiers, and
vintage recording gear? I didn't borrow or rent any of the gear I
mentioned above, but I do own software-based versions of them. Over the
years, I've invested thousands of dollars in virtual instrument libraries
and plugins. I have such an
extensive collection that I can create pretty much any style of music,
from Renaissance music of the 1500s to contemporary pop music.
When creating a song to sound like it's coming from a past era, hiring
the right musicians and vocalists can't be overlooked. An
authentic-sounding song from the 1950s can't have a guitarist
fingertapping like Eddie Van Halen or an Indie-girl vocalist butchering
the pronunciation of words like Jessie Reyez.
Some of the software-based instruments and gear I used are shown below:
Christmas Collection" EP was especially fun to produce because after
studying several eras of country music, I ended up using every kind of
software-based tool I own — acoustic and electric guitars, vintage and
modern amps, tape echos and digital delays, plate and digital
algorithmic reverbs, electric pianos and modern synths, tube clipping
and side-chain compression, and the list goes on.
One of the difficult
aspects of recreating vintage music is that you have to train your mind
to willingly wreck the audio. Unlike normal recording where you aim to
get a pristine, full-bodied sound, you have to use techniques and tools
to intentionally thin out, squash, and distort the sound. It's not very
intuitive to, for example, roll bass frequencies off a bass instrument,
make an acoustic guitar sound like it's playing over a phone, or add
noise over the top of a mix, but in the quest for vintage sound, all of
these ideas must be explored.
I enjoy recreating the
sounds of bygone eras, because every song
presents an opportunity to learn about the past and meet new sonic
Mysterious Discrepancy Between Inflation and Musician Pay
April 1, 2021
the American Polka Music Federation released a statement on Tuesday
they've discovered an alarming discrepancy between what some musicians
are currently being paid and
the national rate of inflation.
"I am horrified beyond belief," said APMF President Stan Greschman,
"but our research has conclusively determined that some polka musicians
in the Milwaukee area have
playing for the same rate for the past thirty years! How did this
come to happen? And how long
been going on?"
"Oh, duh..." he
quietly added. "Can you edit that last part out?"
The APMF shared the
following data on their website:
Adjusted for Inflation
for Private Jobs
Adjusted for Inflation
for Public Jobs
Heinzinger, longtime polka bandleader from Milwaukee, seemed shocked to
discover what the APMF research revealed. "I've been playing music all
over town since the 1970s. I guess I just lost track of time.
Heck, before you know it, the new millennium will be here!"
We attempted to inform Heinzinger that the new millennium had arrived
more than two decades ago, but he was too preoccupied with trying
to wrestle a dime back from
a parking meter.
Organization Members "Take It Outside"
April 1, 2021
A police vehicle
dash camera recorded these images of
the scuffle in progress.
Police were called to the
Zwarzyńska Recreation Hall in South Milwaukee on Monday after receiving
a report of a fight in progress. An officer arrived to find Gary
Loughmiller (83), Fred Palowski (74), and Donald
Weiss (79) involved in a physical altercation outside the main entrance.
According to police
records, the men were attending a meeting hosted by a local polka
music organization when a disagreement erupted over whether or not to
postpone a spring dance over health and safety concerns.
Witnesses say as the argument heated up, Palowski grabbed a
microphone from Weiss and threatened to strike Weiss in the face with
it. That's when Loughmiller suggested they "take it outside."
Although none of the
thrown punches hit its mark, all three men were helped off
the ground by first responders and transported
by ambulance to area hospitals for treatment of broken bones, pelvic
fractures, displaced joints, contusions, abrasions, hypertension, and
cause of their injuries was officially listed as COVID-19.
One witness, Corrine
Richter, stated that Palowski has a history of threatening violence.
"He's been kicked out of dances before. I think he's a few lights short
of a Christmas tree. He walks around at festivals wearing a Milwaukee
Fire Department shirt and cap. I don't get it. The guy works at a
The police officer
the call, Martin LaVigne, said he was perplexed by what he saw when he
arrived. "I pulled up to the entrance and at first I couldn't tell what
was happening. I wasn't sure if they were fighting or performing Tai
Chi," LaVigne explained. "They had fire in their eyes
and they were yelling, but it was like their shirts had been starched
with molasses. I just sat there for a minute and watched it all unfold
in slow motion."
Ed Bowen, the polka
organization's president who was not present at the meeting, commented
Violence is NOT how we solve problems. We've always done things a
certain way, and when someone proposes changes, we don't get physical.
We just ask them to leave. #wistatedance
Bowen (@embowen53) March 28, 2021
Before being released
from the hospital, Palowski was charged with three counts of battery to
a health care worker, criminal damage to a vending machine,
of a medical professional, obstruction, disorderly conduct, littering,
lewd and lascivious behavior, trespassing, and public urination.
No charges were filed
Loughmiller or Weiss.
After viewing police dash
cam footage of the melee, we visited the residences of
all three men to ask why none was wearing a protective face mask. Weiss
was not at home and could not be reached for comment.
Palowski threatened to call the police if we didn't get off his lawn.
Loughmiller responded by saying they would have been wearing
masks, but Tom Brusky didn't have enough time to Photoshop them in.
Finally Earns One Dollar from Digital Streaming
April 1, 2021
feels like a weight's been lifted off my shoulders," exclaimed an
elated Mike Trepcza as he hoisted a celebratory beer.
Trepcza of the Delaware Dynaphonics
Trepcza, 38, is
a trumpet and concertina player from Delaware who leads his own polka
band, Mike Trepcza
and the Delaware Dynaphonics. Two years ago, he uploaded his
band's five albums to all the major music streaming services, such as
iTunes, Spotify, and YouTube.
"Every month I would
check the stats to see how our albums were doing. Most months we'd
make a few cents, but there were some months we'd only make
a half of a cent. Those were the lean months," said Trepcza.
In their first year of
streaming, Trepcza says his band's albums earned 43 cents, but their
second year ended with a boost in South American streams that pushed
their total two-year earnings to $1.02.
When asked what he was
going to do with his very first dollar earned from streaming services,
said, "The responsible thing — I'm going to put it toward the
$395.00 I paid to get my band's albums on those services."
by most services can be as low as one tenth of a cent per stream. Such
small payouts have brought the music streaming model under scrutiny by
music organizations around the world who are pushing for a fairer
One such service under
scrutiny is Spotify, so we reached out
by phone to Spotify CEO Daniel Ek for his explanation of why it took
two years for the Delaware Dynaphonics to crack the one dollar mark.
"We looked into Mr.
Trepcza's account. We didn't find anything unusual," Ek said. "He, I
mean his band, I'm afraid they, uh, well, they just don't have any
fans. I'm sorry, I don't know what else to say."
Trepcza admitted that his
band never developed an online following. "But that's slowly changing,"
he said. "In fact, just yesterday we gained a new listener who never
would have found us if it weren't for Spotify. His name is Arturo
Gregores. He's a chicken farmer from Villa Puertas, Argentina."
"Thank you, Arturo,"
added a smiling Trepcza, "For your one third of a cent."
Goes Two Consecutive Weeks Without Airing His Own Band's Music
April 1, 2021
and radio host Skip Olson, courtesy of WCTO
Skip Olson, leader of the
Skip Olson Orchestra and host of the Sunday
Polka Party on WCTO in Oconto Falls, has not played his own
band's music on his radio show for two consecutive weeks.
This achievement broke
the record previously held by Stan Gorecki, leader of the Stan
Gorecki Band, who hosted a polka show on WRHF in Akron, Ohio. On
January 26, 2004, Gorecki broadcast an entire one-hour show without
a single cut from any one of his band's albums.
According to syndicated
polka radio host Anderson Kevins, most bandleaders who have their own
polka show will promote their own band within the first fifteen
minutes of the show. "To go even thirty minutes without self promotion
is almost unheard of," Kevins added. "What Olson accomplished is
unprecedented. I doubt I'll see that happen again in my lifetime."
When asked to comment on
his legendary achievement, Olson, 81, humbly replied, "I guess it
really hadn't occurred to me. Honestly, I don't know what all the fuss
[Note from the Editor: As
this article was going to press, it was announced that Olson's
accomplishment earned him a nomination for the American Polka
Association's Lifetime Achievement award. If Olson wins, it will be his
third Lifetime Achievement award from the APA.]
Organization Seeks Sideman Nominations
April 1, 2021
The Midwest Polka
Booster Club just released the nomination form for their 2020 Sideman
of the Year award. Bandleaders interested in nominating a
sideman from their band are
encouraged to visit the MPBC
website and fill out the nomination form. For convenience, I
published a copy of the form below:
MIDWEST POLKA BOOSTER CLUB
2020 Nomination Form
— SIDEMAN OF THE
of Your Band:
many of your
band's jobs does this sideman play?
All of them
_____ More than half
_____ Less than half
_____ He only takes the local gigs; he's driving on a suspended license
this sideman show up for gigs
_____ Most of the time
_____ Not usually
_____ He always shows up 20 minutes
before the gig. Unfortunately it takes
him 30 to set up
this sideman willing to learn and practice new material?
Yes, he's always eager to learn new songs
_____ Yes, but only if it's for an
_____ He doesn't have time to practice, but he's a quick
_____ Are you kidding? He hasn't bothered to learn anything new since
well does this sideman maintain his gear?
He regularly buys the latest, newest gear.
He takes good care of
his vintage equipment.
He only changes his guitar strings when they break
Have you seen his drum heads? They're 50% duct tape
this sideman friendly with the crowd?
_____ Yes, he goes from
table to table to chat with everyone
_____ He's quite sociable and everyone likes his sense of humor
_____ He is a nice guy, but mostly he keeps to himself
_____ When he makes his
for the bar, he knocks dancers over like bowling pins
this sideman smile on stage?
_____ Yes, everyone
loves his infectious smile
_____ Most of the time, especially if he's in a good mood
_____ Not too often, because he's usually concentrating on the music
_____ Yes, if by "smile" you mean he looks like Robert De Niro after a
this sideman drink on the job?
_____ No, he abstains from drinking until
the job is over
Yes, but only sociably while on break
If we're having an especially fun gig, he might get a little buzzed
That's not a windscreen on his microphone; it's a vomit guard
8. Is this sideman able and willing to take musical direction?
_____ Yes, he's serious about playing
He's doesn't need much direction; he's very intuitive that way
Once in a while, but mostly I let him do his own thing
Have you ever gotten a glare so cold that it may have shaved a month
your life span?
9. How fun is it to travel with this sideman?
_____ Very. He's a riot to travel with
He's fun to travel with because he has a lot of interesting stories
He's pretty quiet, so he's easy to get along with on road trips
The first time he farted in the van, it was funny. The 20th time, not
10. What would you say is this sideman's best quality?
_____ His personality. He makes every job
His talent. There's no one better in the business
His dependability. He's never missed a job in his life
His ability to remain standing and playing when he's
More Polka News
Headlines from Around the World
April 1, 2021
KOCZEK, Poland (AP) — Six Polish polka
musicians drowned Monday afternoon while swimming in Lake
Zdróżno. Witnesses said immediately after entering the water,
the musicians started flailing and gasping for air. The region's chief
medical examiner listed the musicians' cause of death as accidental
to their protective face masks having become waterlogged.
(AP) — Munich's annual
celebration, which was canceled last year due to the coronavirus, is
re-open at "ten-cerpent percacity" for the 2021 season. "Thatsss
ten-cerpent percaci-city," slurred Oktoberfest Biermeister Otto
Schultz, "Fer every [burp] a hunderd people that comes to Og... Oger...
Ogberrrrfest... we let ten [burp] more people in. Or something
yeah. I think." We attempted to verify this information by reaching out
to Horst Müller, German Minister of Health, but his office staff
said he had not yet stumbled in to work.
Mexico (Reuters) — Sergio
Santoza, the legendary conjunto button box player credited with having
invented the button box jam session, was shot and killed Wednesday.
Santoza, 82, was the first button box player to form a button box
ensemble — a concept that somehow propagated throughout the
polka music circuit. The shooter was positively identified as Jerry
S. Lobuvic of Hermitage, Pennsylvania. Police efforts to
locate Mr. Lobuvic were called off after an exhaustive five-minute
remains closed pending no further investigation.
London (AP) — Niles Crumley,
58, who suffered
from post-traumatic stress disorder ever since he saw the cover of
Yankovic's "Dance Little Bird" record, has finally been cured. When
Crumley was a young boy, his parents took him shopping at Bristol Fox
Records in London. That's when he
stumbled across Yankovic's album and began screaming at the top of his
lungs. The image
of the bird, according
to Crumley, caused
him to suffer night terrors for the next 50 years. Crumley says he is
also not too fond of clowns, puppets, or robots.
Netherlands (UPI) — Vistaprint, the Dutch-based business that
direct-to-consumer printing services through its website portal, has
it's minimum business card order for polka
bands from 100 to 10. "Polka bands are still welcome to order a hundred
cards," chuckled Vistaprint's
marketing director Gerlof Van der Berg, "But seriously."
(AP) — On
Saturday, Slovenia's most popular televised music show accidentally
featured a live performance. A sound technician for Zvezde Televizija,
a show that broadcasts polka ensembles performing to studio-recorded
music in front of a live audience, accidentally switched the audio feed
from the band's CD to the overhead stage microphones. Angry members of
the studio audience voiced their complaints on social media later that
night. "I drove fifty kilometers to hear the band lip-sync to their
CD," said a livid
Marjana Vrabel via Facebook. "Why on earth would anyone drive that
far to hear music live?"
Sweden (Reuters) — For the very first time, a polka musician won Artist of the Year from the Swedish
Academy of Folk Music, but the academy made an error when announcing
the winner. Stas Buczynski was originally announced as the winner, but
an hour later, the academy apologized for having made mistake and
declared Stas Buczkewski as the winner. "I take full responsibility,
but for crying out loud, how is anyone expected to get those crazy
Polish names right?" inquired the academy's president, Farthæghn
Back to Slovenia
March 5, 2021
will confess I rarely
buy polka albums
these days. I'm pretty focused on my own music projects, most of which
are outside the polka genre, plus many of the polka CDs that end up in
are promos or complimentary copies given to me by the recording artists.
Miskulin's new album, Back to Slovenia
One recent day I was listening to the radio and heard Joey
Miskulin's hit song I Wanna Call You
Sweetheart being played by an
Oberkrainer band. "Well that's pretty cool," I thought to myself. "I
wonder what European group recorded that?" Then it was announced that
was a new one by Joey himself. Without hesitating, I went to Polka Connection [if anyone
would have it, they would] found the CD, and bought it.
Back to Slovenia is an album of
Joey's most popular, original songs arranged in the authentic
Oberkrainer style of Slavko Avsenik. All of the lyrics were translated
to Slovenian, and the music was performed by Joey and a group of
talented musicians and vocalists from Slovenia.
In my opinion, what makes
this album so unique is that Joey is kind of like America's Slavko
Avsenik. Slavko is arguably the most renown polka writer and composer
the world has ever known. Likewise, Joey is widely regarded as one of
the best writers and composers in the genre today. Both Slavko's and
Joey's songs are on the playlists of virtually every polka band in the
Polka bands in the United
States have been performing and recording Americanized versions of
Slavko Avsenik's hit songs for decades, but now we get to hear
Slovenianized versions of American polka hits! That in itself is pretty
neat, but what prompted me to buy this album was knowing that Joey was
at the helm of it all, so the quality was guaranteed to be as good as
And it is.
Over the last few years,
I've arranged and recorded a couple of songs with a heavy Oberkrainer
Day and Going
Back to Switzerland] so I know firsthand how
challenging it can be. If anyone could do it extremely well, however,
it would be Joey Miskulin — a musician of such high caliber, he could
throw a fistful of silverware down a flight of stairs and finish
Schubert's symphony. The production quality of this album is superb.
Swiss Glarner Waltz in particular is so fittingly arranged that it's
hard to imagine it having been recorded any other way.
I encourage you to add Back to Slovenia to your polka
collection. It's available on all the major streaming and download services,
but I recommend that you treat yourself to the compact disc, because this
is one album you'll want to own as a keepsake.
The Mystery of
YouTube Video Thumbnails
January 24, 2021
Apparently there's a
strategy YouTube's most popular content creators use for designing
their videos' thumbnails, but I can't quite put my finger on it. I
can't seem to crack the code. If only it were something obvious.
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