Article - #2 By By Rich Heldenfels of the Akron Beacon Journal (06, 2009)
Grammys Dump Polkas. The Grammy Awards are dropping the category of ''best polka
album,'' the New York Times reports. The reasons include a lack of polka contenders:
only 20 recordings were considered in 2006, the Times says. ''When it gets down to
around 20 entries, just by entering, you have a one in five chance of being nominated,''
said an official of Grammy overseer the Recording Academy. ''That's not as competitive
as we'd like these awards to be.'' Another problem appears to be the category's being
dominated by Jimmy Sturr, who has won 18 times, including the last four years in
a row and 12 of the last 15. The only performers to break Sturr's hold on the category
in that period are Brave Combo (with wins in 1999 and 2004) and Walter Ostanek (1994).
Sturr, the Times said, is ''a slick nontraditionalist whose albums feature guest
appearances by the likes of Willie Nelson.'' One polka expert said Sturr's outfit
''is not a polka band per se.''
Local polka expert Joe Gabrosek echoed that sentiment, saying that Sturr's work is
''more of a Polish ethnic music'' than pure polka. Gabrosek is co-host of Polka Time
Again for Wadsworth Community TV (which he still hopes Time Warner Cable will reinstate).
He said the Grammy decision to drop polka music was ''crazy.'' ''There's still a
lot of people that like polka,'' he said. ''I have to admit that young people are
not so strong for it, but older people are.'' He said he attends a lot of local polka-band
performances and there is often a good turnout. Gabrosek said there is also a youth
movement on the polka scene, with performers Johnny Koenig, a 21-year-old accordion
player who moved from New York City to Cleveland in 2006. Koenig played with Cleveland
Polka K ing Frank Yankovic when Koenig was just 7, and turned pro at 15. (Learn more
about him at http://www.johnnykoenig.com.)
Sturred Up. Jimmy Sturr, meanwhile, defended his work — and his Grammys — in an interview
on EW.com. ''There's a reason we won,'' he said. ''I'm not saying our records are
the best in the whole wide world. But we built a bigger audience than some of these
other people. A lot of these musicians that are complaining they play strictly to
the Polish, strictly to the Germans. I Americanized it.''
As for the importance of polkas, he told EW.com: ''Polka is really an international
music. It's enjoyed by millions of people around the world. Maybe the new powers
that be have no idea what's going on. And people in television don't know anything
about polka. Do you ever see any kind of music similar to ours on the Tonight Show?
David Letterman? They don't know how good the musicians are. These guys still think
that everybody's in lederhosen.''