Song of the Day #1,358: ‘Clarinet Polka’ – Walter Ostanek

I’m temporarily suspending Random Weekends in order to explore a musical genre I recently discovered quite by accident.

While reading a Salon.com article about The Hunger Games or Mad Men or some other popular cultural touchstone the other day, I happened upon an article about — of all things — polka music.

I started reading it as a lark but only a few paragraphs in I was suddenly transfixed. Here’s a type of music about which I have absolutely zero knowledge and yet entire organizations are dedicated to preserving it in an age dominated by shallow pop and rap music.

More instrumental artistry goes into a single polka tune than you’ll find in the entire top 40 and yet it is a style that is consistently either ignored or lampooned.

I pride myself on having a wide range of musical tastes. You’ll find rock, pop, country, alternative, jazz and opera in my CD collection. But among my hundreds of albums and thousands of songs, I don’t have a single polka recording. That doesn’t seem right.

So starting today I plan to remedy that. Over the next six weeks, I will feature nothing but polka songs on my blog. I will explore Polish-style, Chicago-style, Dutchmen-style, San Francisco-style and more. I will showcase the genre’s greatest stars, such as Walter Ostanek (featured today), Verne Meisner and Tom Brusky.

I’m sure this won’t be a popular move among my regular readers, but I hope to gain some new ones from the quiet but passionate polka community. And I hope the next 42 days serves as both entertainment and education for those who approach this exercise with open ears, hearts and minds.

Thank you, and have a happy April Fools Day.

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7 thoughts on “Song of the Day #1,358: ‘Clarinet Polka’ – Walter Ostanek

  1. Ralph Adams says:

    Bravo! I am utterly popped, hip hopped and rapped out. Polka harkens back to a more innocent time where people weren’t too cool to have fun!

  2. Dana says:

    At first I was ready to send a team of psychiatrists your way, but, as today’s polka played and I then read Ralph’s enthusiastic comment, I began to see the light. So, bring it on, baby! Nothing but polka from here on out! May I recommend though, just to mix it up a bit, you consider Gregorian chant theme weekends. Only then will a perfect musical balance be achieved.

  3. pegclifton says:

    When I stop laughing I will respond.

  4. Amy says:

    All kidding aside, are there really organizations devoted to preserving the music? :) You might have had me, but for Walter Ostanek’s grinning face staring back at me as I read the last, increasingly outlandish paragraphs!

  5. Clay says:

    I suspect there are organizations dedicated to preserving pretty much everything.

  6. Ned says:

    Clay, two words: Brave Combo. An Austin legend, and brilliant.

  7. Amy says:


    Thanks, Ned, for the best laugh I’ve had all day. Had Clay posted a video of Brave Combo instead of Walter Ostanek, I would have been fooled for a few seconds more – and I would have assumed you or Anne had put him up to it! ;)

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