One-and two-and three-and four-and, let’s all dance the polka!
Despite the attempts of our illustrious Lord Baron Joseph CR Vourteque IV to push four-on-the-floor microgenres like steamstep kitchensink dubhouse, one style of music remains inherently Chicagoan: the polka! This oft-maligned Central European dance has been around for years and has no intention of going away. If there are Chicago banquet halls, there will be polka.
The name polka derives from the Czech words “polka” for “Polish woman” and “pulka” meaning “little half,” referring to the half-steps of the dance. In the 1840s, it became something of a dance craze in Prague. It spread throughout Europe and into the Unites States within a decade.
Chicago polka can be separated in three eras. Between 1880 and WWI (let’s call it steampolka), ethnic musical styles drew together as immigrants arrived. Dance halls like the Aragon Ballroom were opened. The second era took place between the World Wars (dieselpolka). It saw styles diversify, and explore ethnicities again. The third era found Polish Americans defining the Chicago sound. The “Dyno” or “Honky” style is characterized by use of clarinet and trumpet. The “Push” (characterized by Lenny Gomulka and Chicago Push) style features accordion, bass, drums and trumpets.
The Polkaholics turn up the volume with their high octane version summed up by their song “Polkas on Guitar.” Bandleader and hair-slicker Dandy Don Hedeker shouts, jumps up on tables and rocks harder than any salami. (Mandatory sausage reference in any article that uses the word “polka” this often.) They even played with famed polka king Lil’ Wally at the Zakopane Lounge at 1734 W. Divison.
Where to go for a quick step? The legendary Baby Doll Polka Club closed it’s doors. Some sources say that it was replaced by the Karolinka Polka Club at 6102 S. Central Ave., although some sources indicate this is a local Polish bar. Yelp reviews say that Club 505 at 13505 S. Brainard also serves some tasty chicken. Further north, there’s plenty of dancing and drinking at the Podlasie Club at 2918 N. Central Park Ave.
For more events, the International Polka Association maintains current posts.
If you need accordion work, stop by Italo-American Accordion at 5510 W. 95th Street, Oak Lawn.
Hey, hey, hey, hey!