Several fellow polka lovers offered their congratulations to Carl Finch, recently inducted into the International Polka Association Hall of Fame. Read the cover story by Gary E. McKee from the August 2016 issue of Texas Polka News.
YOU'VE MADE TEXAS PROUD
I can't remember the first time I saw Brave Combo but I do remember dancing to them at Westfest around 1983 or 1984. When I first heard them I thought these are unbelievable
musicians. The music was wild, different and so much fun. The crowd was just going crazy. Dancing on the floor, tables, chairs, on the grass. It was out of control, but in a good way. People were eating them up. I used to actually dance those super fast polkas. Not anymore! LOL! One of my early favorite Brave Combo tunes is Three Weeks Polka. Another one I really like is Polka Dancer Polka off of their Polka Sonic CD. That entire CD is my favorite. My favorite tune to watch them get the crowd going has to be the Hokey Pokey or getting the conga line started. People go crazy. These guys are a lot of fun. Carl and I go way back and he has always been professional. He has helped a lot of bands get a chance to play for entirely different audiences. Back in the early Czech & Then Some days, Carl would have us open up for a couple of gigs in Deep Ellum in Dallas. That's a wild scene. Brave Combo has become a huge part of our festivals in Texas. The National Polka Festival and Westfest would not be the same without Brave Combo. They know how to play for the people. It was always fun when Danny (O'Brien), Jeffery (Barnes), or Bubba (Hernandez) would sit in with Czech & Then Some, but it is really special when Carl comes up and plays accordion with us. He and David Slovak playing two accordions together really gets the crowd going. I am so excited that Carl has been elected to the IPA Hall of Fame. He has done so much good for polka music and the entire polka scene. They created their own style and sound, but can still play traditional style polkas and waltzes. Brave Combo started a new wave in polka music. Carl has made Texas proud.
Danny Zapletal, Czech & Then Some
Congratulations Carl and wishing you the very best on your induction into the IPA Hall of Fame! Polka On!
The Jodie Mikula Orchestra
THEY BLEW ME AWAY
The first time I heard Brave Combo's music was on the CDs we received from Rounder Records. Their recordings of classic tunes like Julida Polka and Apples, Peaches, Pumpkin Pie, plus original tunes and arrangements of the old traditional songs blew me away. I could tell they weren't your normal, everyday polka band. The first time I heard Brave Combo live was at Wurstfest in the 1990s. Me and the late B.J. Sablatura were doing a live remote for KULP Radio. They were doing their show in the big tent right across from us. There were a couple of thousand people, mostly college students partying like crazy with Brave Combo getting them all wound up. It was like a rock concert. We had Carl come over and talk with us on the air afterwards. They were leaving for Holland and a European tour the next day. The next time I saw them live was at John Dujka's 40th birthday party at Hungerford Hall. I haven't had a chance to see them again lately, but I do play lots of their music on KULP. We feature their recording of Must Be Santa during our Christmas holiday programming. Carl is a musical genius covering all styles. As I said earlier, they blow me away!
Clinto Robinson, KULP Radio
GIVE THE PUBLIC WHAT IT WANTS
BC's music is 180 degrees from our music but they're able to give most of the public what they want and are making a living doing it. We've shared the stage with BC numerous times and the entire group, especially Carl, has been very complimentary and cooperative. Every time we saw/heard them we always had to hang around to see what new "musical gimmick" they had contrived. Congratulations, Carl.
Roy G. Haag, Litt'l Fishermen
VIVA LA MUSICA!
I first experienced Brave Combo when I was about 10 years old and was at WMUH in Allentown, PA (where I co-hosted my dad's radio show). I was raised in a household with a lot of different kinds of music, but that opening of Happy Wanderer was totally shocking for polkas. I inhaled that record. I would play Lovesick over and over. When I finally heard and met the band in person, years later, it was awesome to jam with them and especially have long conversations with Carl about all the different polka styles and how they cross over to other music. I've greatly enjoyed and respected his dedication to the music - especially since he wasn't "born into it." Having performed and recorded with BC in myriad venues through the years, I specifically remember Cain Park in Cleveland, OH in 2002. Bubba (Hernandez) and I had just started putting the Polka FreakOut project together and we were playing Uzmi for Steve Popovich (the famed record man from Cleveland International who was a deep Serbian tamburasi) and Carl came running over with such an excitement for the music- as the phrasing, structure was different than many polkas. We talked for about an hour about all of the intricacies of the style. It just struck me that he had won Grammys, performed in some of the most prestigious venues in the world, and had maintained his pure love of music. Something I have watched only continue to grow in the years since. Congrats, Carl! The recognition is long overdue. Thank you for all you have done to inspire other musicians and entertain so many audiences in all of these years. Viva La Musica!
HEADBANGING GOOD TIMES
I was shocked when I first saw Brave Combo at Westfest. I was 16 and had just begun to listen to rock-n-roll by choice, but when I thought of hearing polka, I expected the traditional stuff. It took a little while to get over that, but their energy was infectious, and I'm hyper, so it became symbiotic. Flying Saucer is one of my favorite BC tunes. It's fast, it's loud, it reminds me of being a child and imagining cool things. Another fave isn't a polka, it's a South African folk song called Skokiaan. Carl and the guys can deliver that song like no other! Carl and the musicians he works with are musical chameleons. They can work any crowd. I wish I could have been there when they did the Lowlands festival in the Netherlands in 2000. I listened to the audio of that concert, and listened to the man introduce them in Dutch (and the audience's reaction). Then, I heard how the audience just went wild (and stayed wild for the rest of the show) by the second song. All of a sudden, polka was cool. My very favorite memory of seeing BC in concert was when Ross and I were on our honeymoon in Ennis in 2008. Carl invited Alex Meixner to play some songs. WOW, what a show! Carl invites Ross and I up to help lead Edelweiss from time to time, and he asks me to teach Schottisch lessons during their shows. He's always been very kind to help promote me and our band. He's asked me to jodel Auf Der Jodeleralm with them a few times. He sings the words, I jodel, then we get distracted headbanging. My dad got a picture of it from the 2007 Saint Arnold Brewery Oktoberfest.
Valina Polka, Das Ist Lustig
A PRESENCE IN ALL 50 STATES
I have studied this music for decades. I questioned the existence of Brave Combo when they first came onto the scene. I thought they were making fun of polka music, but I came to realize that was not the case at all. I have come to completely appreciate their musicianship and friendship. The first time I saw Brave Combo Live-In-Person was at the Sokol Hall, Omaha, Nebraska. This was the day after they won their first Grammy. It was an exciting time. The Grammy-winning CD album was Polkasonic on Steve Popovich’s Cleveland International
Records label. Flying Saucer is one of my favorite BC tunes, but there are many others.
One of my favorite memories of Brave Combo is when they came to perform in Yankton, South Dakota. They turned many heads with their quality music at the local arts festival
- Yankton’s Annual Riverboat Days. In fact, this performance completed Brave Combo performing in all 50 United States. Carl Finch has a vast knowledge of the musical genre we know as polka music. I always enjoy our conversations. He exposed me to some great
performers from Texas and beyond.
Chuck Stastny, Polka Connection
LET'S DO THE TWIST
I was a little girl when I first saw Brave Combo at the National Polka Festival the first time they played. I really liked them. My parents had a couple of their records. My favorite Brave Combo tune is Three Weeks Polka and I love to see them get the crowd going with The Twist.
Michelle Slovak, Czech & Then Some
THEY GIVE EVERYTHING THEY HAVE
There are so many words and things you could say about Carl and Brave Combo. But some of the things that stand out to me are the performances that Carl gives. You always know when you experience and leave a Brave Combo show you get their best and they give everything they have to their performances. Carl has truly expanded polka music, exposing so many to the music and art that would never had otherwise experienced it. Congratulations, Carl! This honor is greatly deserved.
Trey Sylvester, Ennis Czech Boys
GINORMOUS AMOUNT OF PASSION
Brave Combo has been a large portion of my musical influence for the overwhelming majority of my life. I was around the age of 10, and already playing polka music. I guess you could say I was studying them before even I knew I was. Carl is an amazing person with an amazing work ethic that is only surpassed by the ginormous amount of passion he puts into polka music.
Whether he's playing or working to help others understand how badly this world needs to polka, he's doing it with all of him. He has been deserving of this great honor for quite some time now.
Jerry Petter, Ennis Czech Boys
MONSTER MUSICAL TALENT
I first saw Brave Combo on a PBS special around 1980. I was blown away by their versatility and arrangements of different polka-style music from all over the world. I was impressed with Carl's keyboard playing and vocal skills. My favorite BC arrangement is the William Tell Overture from their Box of Ghosts CD. That CD really shows off the "monster" musical talent of the group. Their rendition of the Hokey Pokey is my favorite crowd pleaser. I really get a kick out of watching the wide range of ages getting wild and crazy on the dance floor. My favorite memory of jamming with BC would have to be the jam session at my 40th birthday party in Hungerford. It was awesome to share the spotlight with Carl for three tunes, along
with my brother, Mark, and the late, great Tommy Strmiska on drums. Carl, thanks for your always daring and refreshing approach to polka. You've opened minds everywhere.
John Dujka, Dujka Brothers
IT'S A POLKA RAVE!
he first I saw bc was at Sefcik Hall in the late '80s. The raves I heard about BC proved to be true. I loved it. The most novel instrument was the percussion pole with all the beer caps and the crowd loved it every time it was brought out. Later another Melody 5 band member and I ran sound for them at Sefcik Hall - got to know Danny (O'Brien, incredible trumpet player) and the rest of the band from that point of view. That was fun and interesting but nerve racking as I wanted everything to be up to their expectations. Worked out great and had a blast. Always marveled at Jeffrey's (Barnes) sax and clarinet playing and loved Bubba's (Hernandez) solid bass line. Carl has kept the whole thing going which is a credit to his passion for BC music and music mastery which draws from every genre and style. He is a great showman and knows how to get the crowd involved. Lots of songs get the crowd going but after several adult beverages I always liked the conga line!! Congrats Carl - well deserved!!
Jerry Haisler, Jerry Haisler & the Melody 5