Polka hero Jimmy Sturr, who won a whopping 18 Grammy Awards for polka when there was a polka Grammy category, was laughing about his current plight before hitting the stage at Brooklyn Bowl Sunday afternoon.
“They’ve got us in the Best Regional Roots Music Album category now,” he said, and sure enough, polka is now merged together with such other recently-eliminated Grammy music genres as Hawaiian, zydeco/Cajun and Native American.
His 13-piece band (all smartly decked out in blue “national tour sponsor” Mrs. T’s Pierogies shirts) then struck up the classic Duane Eddy twang guitar insturmental “Rebel Rouser,” a symbolic opener in that The Jimmy Sturr Orchestra’s three sets would be full of traditional polka favorites like “Just Because Polka” and “Beer Barrel Polka,” along with polkatized pop hits, also including “The Devil Went Down To Georgia,” “Splish Splash,” “Sweet Home Alabama,” and from latest album Not Just Another Polka, “Orange Blossom Special”–as well as the Eddie Fisher titletrack hit “Just Another Polka.”
That album came out along with another one, A Tribute To The Legends Of Polka Music, which features big band, “Eastern style” polka classics identified with the legendary likes of Ray Henry, Walt Solek, Larry Chesky, Connecticut Twins, Gene Wisniewski, and Frank Wojnarowski, whose Polish “Ja Cie Kocham Polka” was performed during the first set. With six horns, fiddle, accordion, keyboards, bass, drum and female vocalist Lindsey Webster, bandleader Sturr, who also sings and occasionally plays clarinet, made everything sound exciting–and fun.
Then again, five of his band mates have been with him 30 years or more–and like Sturr, know how it’s done.
Now back on his own Starr label after many years with Rounder, Sturr tallies 148 vinyl LP and CD albums, with at least one more on the way, to include a duet with Willie Nelson–his fifth (he performed the first, “Tavern In The Town,” at the Bowl). Sturr has also inherited the arrangements of late, longtime touring partners Myron Floren–Lawrence Welk’s famed accordionist–and “Yakety Sax” man Boots Randolph, and he performed tunes from both those catalogs, too.
Upcoming for Sturr, whose weekly The Jimmy Sturr Show is available via Direct TV and the Dish Network, is an autobiography, and the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Polish Center of Discovery and Learning in Springfield, Mass. The Oct. 29 event will also include the naming of the Polish Center’s music gallery, to be known from now on as The Jimmy Sturr Hall of Music.
Just another honor for the country’s biggest polka star–Regional Roots Grammy category aside.
[The Examiner wrote the liner notes to Jimmy Sturr’s 1997 album Living On Polka Time.]
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