26th Annual Accordion Kings & Queens June 6

Texas Folklife will bring its annual celebration of the state’s accordion roots music to Houston’s Miller Outdoor Theatre on Saturday, June 6, at 7:00 p.m. In keeping with its mission to preserve and present Texas’s diverse musical heritage, the festival will feature stars and legends in polka, Cajun zydeco, and conjunto. This year’s accordion stars will include Debra Peters and the Love Saints, Jerome Batiste and the Zydeko Players, and the Grammy-winning Los Texmaniacs and special guests National Endowment for the Arts National Heritage Fellow Flaco Jiménez, Augie Meyers, and Rick Treviño. The accordion stars will be joined onstage by this year’s Big Squeeze Grand Prize Winners: Elizabeth Kelley (Cajun/Zydeco), Brandon Hodde (Polka) performing with the All Around Czechs, and Rito Peña (Conjunto). 

The Grammy-winning Los Texmaniacs hardly need an introduction. The band is comprised of founder Max Baca on bajo sexto, Josh Baca on accordion, Noel Hernandez on electric bass, and Daniel Martinez on the drums. Los Texmaniacs won the 2010 Grammy award for Best Tejano Album, Borders y Bailes, on the Smithsonian Folkways label. Their sound has been called “hip music everybody can relate to” and is comprised of conjunto, rock, and rhythm and blues. Los Texmaniacs will be joined onstage by National Heritage Fellow Flaco Jiménez, who recently won a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award and has been called the “King of Conjunto,” Augie Meyers, and Rick Treviño. It will be a special night as the new Texmaniacs CD, Americano Groove, will be released. The album was produced by Steve Berlin (of Los Lobos), and includes vocals from a roster of Texas music royalty: Alejandro Escovedo, Joe Ely, Kevin Fowler, and Rick Trevino. Additional guest musicians include David Hidalgo (Los Lobos), Steve Berlin, and Augie Meyers. It's a mix of five traditional conjunto tracks, three country tracks, and four others that blur genres between rock and TexMex.

Jerome Batiste and the Zydeko Players will bring the Cajun/zydeco beat to the festival this year. Batiste has described himself as a “Creole Cowboy,” and has described the type of music he and his band play as a little bit of everything—Cajun, Creole, jazz, zydeco, blues, rock & roll, and reggae. Based in Crosby, Texas—on the Louisiana side of Houston—the band spreads the gospel of Zydeco Nation throughout the region.

Debra Peters and the Love Saints hail from Austin where they perform a mix of sounds—blues, zydeco, polka, western swing, and classic country. The band has traveled around the globe playing their blend of Texas roots music. Ms. Peters is also an educator. She has created a series of educational videos and teaches the accordion with a special emphasis on encouraging young women to take up the national instrument of Texas.

This year’s event will again be co-emceed by writers and radio hosts Joe Nick Patoski and Tony Diaz. The festival is free and open to the music-loving public. Festivalgoers wanting seats in the pavilion area can pick up their free tickets the day of the festival at the Miller Box Office or become members of Texas Folklife and receive reserved tickets in advance.

One of the important ways Texas Folklife carries out its mission is by introducing the culture bearers of the past to the culture bearers of the future. This will be on display at the 26th annual Accordion Kings & Queens Festival as the three young winners from the Big Squeeze Accordion Contest take to the stage to play with these powerhouse performers. Not only will the young players benefit from this joyous musical connection, but those lucky enough to be in the audience will have the opportunity to witness this generational passing of the torch.

“We are very much looking forward to this year’s Accordion Kings and Queens Festival,” said Executive Director Cristina Ballí. “The concert was started with the idea of promoting the accordion and its role in the different genres of roots music found throughout the state. It has become a full-out celebration of that music, featuring musical legends and stars, and it also has become the breeding ground for the next generation of squeezeboxers with our newly crowned Big Squeeze Champs taking to the stage. And we are thrilled that Los Texmaniacs is using the Festival this year to release their new CD. It will be a joyous night of celebrating all things accordion—with dancing and merry-making, all under the stars in Houston, Texas. Put on your dancing shoes or boots and join us!”  

New Release: Fritz Hodde and the Fabulous Six

Fritz and the Fab Six Continue the Journey

By Theresa Parker

Fritz and the boys celebrated the band's 50th anniversary with a party at SPJST Lodge 18 in Elgin in September 2013, and just recently released a CD – Fritz Hodde’s 50-Year Journey with The Fabulous Six. The band chose the songs to record based on what their fans request the most at dances.  While it’s difficult to record all songs requested on one CD, we recorded a few on this CD and will select others on the next CD.  We do try to record new songs for each CD, as well, in hopes that they might become synonymous with our group’s name.  Others may have recorded the same song, but we hope that people might like our rendition of ‘The Fabulous Six’ style,” Fritz says.

Fritz is the only original band member still playing after 51 years. His son, Scott, joined in 1984. Russell Kalkbrenner became a member in 2002; Scott’s son, Brandon, in 2005, and Gary Greener, joined the group as the drummer last year although he sat in on occasion for about four years. Gary is also a good dancer, as he and his fiancé, Kara Walker, were voted King and Queen of this year’s National Polka Festival in Ennis.

Although the group numbers five, they decided to keep the Fabulous Six name to honor those who have gone before them. 

“After losing many band members over the years, we decided we wanted to continue with our trademark, the original name The Fabulous Six,” Fritz says.

One band member they’ll never forget is George Strmiska. George played for years with the Vrazels then became one of the Fabulous Six, playing from 1998 to 2002. George passed away in 2003. “One of the songs chosen for this CD - I Told a Lie to My Heart - is dedicated to George.  His guitar playing was remarkable and Brandon, following in George’s footsteps and loving George’s musical ability while playing guitar, did a great job emulating George’s unique style on this song,” Fritz says.

Fritz is happy that his son and grandson are continuing the polka band tradition. “Not only do they exceed my musical ability with all of the instruments they play, but both have excelled in the pronunciation of the Czech language and we couldn’t be more proud. I respect and admire their many talents and I’m proud and honored to share the stage with them,” he says. 

Brandon has also produced his own CD – All By Myself (A JA SAM) – in which he plays and sings all parts. He has also gotten some of his polka buddies together to form a new band - The All Around Czechs. Their debut performance is set for Saturday, December 13, at Sefcik Hall in Temple.

Over the years of performing, Fritz has noticed the generation gap among the dancers widening. “But we are very proud to see the younger generation’s involvement of late to help carry on the polka tradition.” 

One thing that hasn’t changed are the band’s fans, he says. “We have maintained quite a few loyal followers over the years that have always been there for us and we are proud to call them friends.” 

Fritz Hodde 50 Years CD.jpg

Fritz Hodde and the Fabulous 6
Fritz Hodde’s 50-Year Journey with the Fabulous Six
15 tracks: 6 polkas, 5 waltzes, 4 country
Polkabeat faves: Who’s Gonna Love You Polka, Grinders Polka, Katherine’s Waltz, I Told a Lie to My Heart

Brandon Hodde CD

Brandon Hodde All By Myself (A Ja Sam)
15 tracks: 8 polkas, 6 waltzes, 1 country
Polkabeat faves: A Ja Sam, El Golpe Traidor, Isabella Waltz

Available: Polka On! Store