Are You Ready for the Wurst?

By Theresa Parker

Alex Meixner is. The Grammy-nominated Tasmanian devil of the polka world will once again do the honors of opening Wurstfest on Friday, November 7. The Alex Meixner Band will perform at the fest through November 13 and will feature the usual suspects - Ed Klancnik on drums, Mikey Kramar on horns, strings, accordions and things, and Hank Guzevich on horns, guitar and Polexican shuffles, as well as Canadian National Accordion Champ Michael Bridge for the weekend gigs.

Alex Meixner and Michael Bridge at last year's Wurstfest. Gary E. McKee photo

Alex Meixner and Michael Bridge at last year's Wurstfest. Gary E. McKee photo

Since Alex spends a great deal of his life on the road, it was cool to catch him at home waiting for the cable guy to chat about Wurstfest and other polka stuff.

Polkabeat: Anything new for Wurstfest?
Alex: Yes! [Please note: this will be the last exclamation point I’ll use. Everything Alex says has an exclamation point.] I will be doing an extra show at the festival on opening Saturday (November 8, 2:10 p.m.) at the new venue - Stelzenplatz - with my good friends, Max Baca and Los TexManiacs. This two-time Grammy Award-winning conjunto group will be performing repertoire which has roots in Germany and Austria before developing in Mexico and the southwest USA. I'll be playing a few songs with the band, as Max and I have been recording together for the last few years and always look forward to collaborating together. (While the Czech pronunciation of Baca is “Bacha,” the Mexican pronunciation is “Baka.”)

Polkabeat: Tell us more about Los TexManiacs.
Alex: Max Baca is the premier bajo sexto player on the planet. (Bajo sexto is a 12-string guitar-like instrument.) Max is featured on my Polka Freakout CD and he has recorded with Flaco Jimenenz, Los Lobos, Original Texas Tornados and even the Rolling Stones (Voodoo Lounge CD). The group also features Max’s nephew, Josh Baca, on accordion. I’ve known Josh since he was an eight-year-old punk and now he’s 20-something and is one of the best three-row button box accordion player I’ve ever heard. They are just a great family.

Polkabeat: You and Max are working on an album together, right?
Alex: Yes, actually for the past six years. We hit the recording studio when we can. The music gets back to the roots of conjunto music from when Germans, Austrians and Slovenians settled in Mexico. It honors the music legacy of our grandfathers and fathers, and brings it full circle like the performance we’ll be doing at Wurstfest.

Polkabeat: Your new CD is called Happiness Is a Choice. Why did you choose that name
Alex: Because I truly believe happiness is a choice and I think it sends a positive message.

Polkabeat: Who did you work with on the CD?
Alex: The title track is a collaboration with Reggae singer and composer Carlton Pride, son of Country legend Charley Pride. I also co-wrote a song with Michael Morris (drummer and vocalist from Seaton, TX) called “Let’s Go Ask the Band,” a fun polka with a country twang. Hector Saldana of The Krayolas and I co-wrote a pop song, “Sally,” and Michael Bridge is featured on the Latin-flavored “El Cumbanchero.” You can also hear accordion virtuoso Randy Koslosky (from Pittsburgh) on several tunes, including a great new German/Irish-styled drinking song “Why Die Thirsty?”

Polkabeat: Why die thirsty? Isn’t that your mantra?
Alex: Yes. Randy wrote that song. He always heard me say at performances, “If you drink, you’re going to die. If you don’t drink, you’re going to die. So, why die thirsty?” He sent it to me just as we hit the studio in San Antonio to record the CD. We quickly came up with an arrangement and now it’s one of the most requested songs on tour.

Polkabeat: What is the most requested song?
Alex: “Amazing Grace.” It’s performed on a hoseaphone and begins as a solemn performance and ends with screaming trumpets.

Polkbeat: The CD also has a family connection, right?
Alex: My daughters Zoey (age 7) and Kayla (age 4) are featured on “Pipihenderl,” a fun Austrian yodeling song. And Zoey also did the watercolor for the CD cover, which has led to production of a hat pin and t-shirt. I am very proud.

Polkabeat: Why die unhappy?
Alex: Exactly. So much of world is divided among politics, religion, cultural and ethnic differences, but when you adopt a positive attitude, you realize we have more similarities than we think. That’s what I like about polka. The music tends to bring people together. People smile and instead of slinging cheap shots at each other, they stop and say, “Hey man, let’s drink a beer together.”

(Hmmm, this could be the start of the Alex Meixner for President Campaign sponsored by the polkabeat party.)

Polka On at the Tomball German Heritage Festival

It's a party with and Alex Meixner...and a boot full of bier! Photo by Mark HiebertThe Tomball German Heritage Festival just keeps getting bigger and better every year! The 13th edition of the festival will be held this weekend, March 22-24, in downtown Tomball. is proud to once again sponsor the appearance of Grammy-nominated Alex Meixner on the Ziegenbock Stage Friday and Saturday, beginning at 6 PM and Sunday, beginning at 1 PM. Stop by the Polka On! table next to the stage to purchase must-have polka items, sign up to receive my newsletter, bring me a bier, or just to say hello. You're invited to help us get the party started on Thursday at a special Acoustic Alex set at Cactus Music in Houston beginning at 5:30 PM. St. Arnold's will provide the beverages.

All five stages will be alive with great music. Check out the line-up featuring Das Ist Lustig, Chris Rybak, Eurofest, TubaMeisters and a whole stage devoted to Bluegrass music. You'll also want to catch some of the performances by high school German Clubs, including Clements High School in Sugar Land, who won first place at state for German folk dancing! Kingwood and Friendswood High School groups will also be performing, along with German polka bands from Reagan and The Woodlands College Park High Schools.

The festival also features 150 vendors selling everything, including great food and ice cold bier. The contests are also great to participate in and/or cheer on your favorites. New this year is the Big Squeeze Accordion Contest on Saturday at 10 AM and the Doggy Costume Parade and Contest at 12:45 PM on Sunday. Other contests: Chicken Dance, Yodeling and Best Dressed German. Find out more.

Polka On Tomball!

Polka News: Jazzy Polka, Mardi Gras Polka, Mollie B Polka

Jazzy Polka: Jazz musician with polka roots, Ben Pokluda, will bring his band Jazz Forever, to SPJST Lodge 88 on Sunday, January 27, from 1 to 6 p.m. Big band dress code applies (sigh). Ben is originally from Flatonia and has studied trumpet with a Rice University professor. His group fuses traditional New Orleans Ragtime with Big Band music. Maybe he'll even slip in a polka or two!!! Mardi Gras Polka: It only makes sense that happy music such as polka should be part of Mardi Gras madness. Two performances in Texas on Fat Tuesday (February 12) give you the chance to have your polka and swing to it to! In Dallas, Brave Combo will perform at the Meyerson Symphony Center with the Dallas Wind Symphony at 8 PM. Buy tickets! In New Braunfels, Alex Meixner Band will perform at the Brauntex Theatre at 8 PM. Buy tickets!

Mollie B Polka: Mollie B and Ted said their Squeezebox Texas Tour was GREAT!!! In fact, they say Texas would be a great place to live. Well, yeah! Come on down! After Mollie and Ted get back from their cruise, they'll be taping Mollie B's Polka Party in Ennis from February 21-24. Eight bands each day from 1 to 9 PM. Red Ravens have just been added to the lineup, which includes Squeezebox with Mollie B, Czech and Then Some, Kenny Brandt Band, Matt Hodek and the Dakota Dutchmen, Jerry Haisler & Melody 5, Ennis Czech Boys, Jodie Mikula Orchestra, Jim Busta Band, Das Ist Lustig, Texas Tribute Band, Chris Rybak Band, Shiner Hobo Band, Alpenfest, Texas Dutchmen and The Royal Klobasneks. Valina and Ross of Das Ist Lustig will provide dance lessons on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, 10 to 11:30 AM. Valina says dancers will learn some fun social folk dances that will be part of the live taping. Cool! Tickets to Mollie B's Polka Party are $15 a day ($20 at the door) or get a 4-day pass for $50. Buy tickets!

Polka News: Wurst Report, Polka Jack, La Grange Daytripping, Czech Cultural Weekend

Wurst Report: Alex Meixner and his three-ring circus are psyched and ready to polka their brains out at Wurstfest. Alex tells polkabeat about the special musicians who will be joining him this year. “For the opening weekend only (Fri-Sat-Sun) I will have a special guest with the band—Michael Bridge. He is a 19-year-old Canadian National Champion Accordionist and a very energetic and virtuoso performer. Great kid too. Also, for the whole run (the Meixner band appears Friday through Thursday, Nov. 2-8), the horn man in the band will be Hank Guzevich, the leader of the four-time Grammy nominated Polka Family Band. He is widely considered to be one of the greatest trumpet players ever to play in an American polka band and will be featured on trumpet, sax, clarinet, guitar and vocals. As always, Michael Kramar from Sacramento, California, will be on accordion, button box, trumpet, baritone horn, bass, banjo, guitar and vocals, and Ed Klancnik from Nashville will be supplying the big beat of the band. We’re all looking forward to entertaining our Texas fans!” Mollie B and Ted Lange are also looking forward to entertaining Texas fans. Joining them with their Squeezebox band this year are Dana Lindblad on drums, Al Piatowski on accordion and special guest Jim Busta (Mollie’s dad) on concertina. Squeezebox will be performing Nov. 2-4, then Mollie B and Ted head to Branson to prepare for their Christmas special, Nov. 10-12. Check out Wurstfest’s full line up of bands and times.

Great story in the San Antonio Express about the Opas who keep the Wurstfest running smoothly each year.

More Dancers at Mollie B Christmas Special: Mollie B tells polkabeat that this year’s Christmas Special will feature a few more dancers, including a talented four-year-old who goes by the name “Polka Jack.” Also new this year, is a children’s chorus that Mollie says is sure to bring smiles to the audience. “I am happy to say all those performing in the special are active polka performers and dancers,” she says.

“Just like last year, the 2012 special includes plenty of songs to sing along, as well as to reflect on the true meaning of Christmas. Santa is also making a trip from the North Pole again, still tootin’ on his tuba.” Read more about the lineup of performers. RFD-TV reports that 17 buses are coming in for the show from Iowa, Texas, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan and Ohio. Tickets are still available for the Sunday, Nov. 11 show at 2 PM and Monday, Nov. 12 show at 7:30 PM. Call 417-332-2344 for more info.

Great story about Mollie and Ted in the Sentinel Tribune of Bowling Green, Ohio.

Daytripping in La Grange: The Texas Czech Heritage and Cultural Center was wonderfully represented on television show The Daytripper, an informational travel series that airs on KLRN Austin. Congratulations to the center and its very own stars Janis Hrncir and Bea Patek, who were interviewed for the piece. BTW: the background music is by the Czechaholics band. The show debuted Oct. 25, and can be seen online. Czech it out!

Czech Cultural Weekend at TCHCC: Hear a lecture on what Christmas is like in Czech Republic and Slovakia, make your own tree ornaments and learn the art of egg decorating from Daniela Sipkova Mahoney, who will also be signing her latest book on the subject. All takes place this weekend Nov. 2-4 at the Texas Czech Heritage and Cultural Center. Find out more.

Polka News: New CD; Band Added to Oktoberfest Lineup; New Radio Show & More

Oktoberfest Scoop Ennis Czech Boys are in the lineup in Fredericksburg this weekend. Be among the first to buy their new CD You Have the Right to Polka! You can also order online. It’s an impressive lineup for the 32nd annual fest with 24 bands (at least that’s how many I counted). There’s always room for one more! Thomas Durnin with the Czech Melody Masters band and host/producer of Czech Melody Time on KOOP 91.7FM of the Czech Melody Masters told polkabeat they have been signed on to close out the fest from 4-6 PM on Sunday.

Festival Coordinator Debbie Farquhar says you’ll also want to check out what's new at the fest this year. "One is Strassen Zelt (street tent) located on Adams and will seat over 200 people. Strassen Zelt will have Oktoberfest souvenirs, Paulaner beer, wurst and cheese, a photo booth, German Schuhplattler performances on Saturday and Sunday and our 3rd Annual 42 tournament on Sunday," Debbie says. Prost y'all!

New Texas Czech Polka Show Danny Zapletal now has a Texas Czech Polka Hour to complement his Czech Polka Show broadcast on Saturdays from 1 to 2 PM at WRJQ. The new Texas Czech Polka Hour follows from 2 to 3 PM. It was bound to happen. There is just too much good Texas polka music that deserves its own hour!

Congrats Gold ’N Crisp & the Plumber in the Family Congratulations to Sidney and Emily Cernoch and Phyllis Cernoch Chavarria on the 40th anniversary of the Gold ’N Crisp in La Grange. Uncle Sidney says he remembers their first customer, a young lady on her way to start college at UT. They tried contacting her, but have since lost touch. I’ve always thought it was the best fried chicken in Texas and then lo and behold the Best of Fayette County Awards are announced and GNC is chosen for best hamburger. Wow! Best chicken AND burgers. Also congrats to cousin Daniel, his wife, Rose, and everyone at Cernoch Plumbing, voted Best Plumber in Fayette County.

Great Idea The hardest working man in polka, Alex Meixner, is always thinking. His latest brilliant idea was to record Stand and Sing Ein Prosit, an ep (a short CD with only 6 songs) with proceeds going to the Wurstfest Scholarship Trust. "I feel it’s very important to support the scholarship so more young people will have the opportunity to study and continue the traditions of German culture, music and language here in the U.S. Buy yours today for only $5 and support the promotion of polka and education at the same time!

Speaking of Wursfest It will be here soon. Wurst Director Herb Skoog says the Wurstfest tickets are in the mail. Watch for your chance to win them in the Polkabeat Weekend Lineup newsletter. New this year, Herb says, is an all-girl band from Munich. Das ist wunderbar! Check out the schedule of events.

Just Added Jerry Haisler told polkabeat that he, Alfred Vrazel and their friends will jam on the patio at Ratibor Country Grill in Temple this Saturday, October 6 from 7-10 PM. Polka on!

Nearing a Sellout Vernell Foyt at SPJST Lodge 88 told polkabeat that she has only three tables remaining for the Red Ravens dance on Saturday, October 13. Contact the lodge and make your reservation today!