Brave Combo was born twenty years ago. My wife, Jane, and I were living in a modest two-bedroom house in Denton. Wait a minute. Actually, it’s the same house we’re in now. We’ve improved it a lot and we have a completely different set of animals living with us, but we still wander around the same group of rooms. In 1979 I was wrapping up an MFA in drawing and painting and Jane was teaching in public school in Decatur, a small town about thirty miles west of Denton. I had been messing around with the idea of odd musical juxtapositions for a couple of years, creating installations that employed recordings of polka, cha cha, Muzak, punk rock, lounge, square dance, whatever, and would present them in different ways that would encourage a listener to focus on the music. I especially liked how stuff sounded through drive-in theater speakers. To make money, I was a DJ at a C & W bar three or four nights a week, spinning equal amounts of disco and country. It was a drag some of the time, but it forced me to recognize and find value in music that I might have otherwise ignored. This was a period of serious mind-freeing for me. It’s exciting to look at things in a different way. I also had a job at The University of North Texas, playing piano for ballet classes. The guy who hired me and I both had a growing interest in ethnic music and we started hanging out, playing songs together. He was tall and very thin. His name was Tim. We both knew a bass player named Lyle who had unusual musical tastes and I had recently met a young drummer named Dave who was into Mexican polkas and cumbias and spacey psychedelic jams. In other ways the four of us were not much alike, but I guess it didn’t matter, because we formed a band and started to play. Our early gigs were humble, but effective and often bizarre. One time we played polkas behind a stripper and the club owner tried to pay us with cocaine. We played a polka version of Rod Stewart’s, “Do You Think I’m Sexy?.” We were visionary dorks. I knew that, conceptually, we were on to something. But I also knew that in the “hip” world we were pretty square. Of course, we had no choice about that.
So here I am, twenty years later. Tim, Lyle and Dave went on to other things and I’m now playing with a whole different bunch of square dorks. The band feels more like a crusade and the future looks as interesting as ever. Brave Combo has grown into a sizable business. We have lawyers, agents, an accountant, and we really need them. This alone blows my mind. We live hard, but are comfortable, when it counts. Brave Combo has been a fountain of opportunity and I’m very grateful. Anyway, I’m not getting into the history of the band too much now. I’ve been thinking about how to commemorate the first twenty years. We need a T-shirt and poster design and for the next month (until about the middle of July) we will be accepting ideas from anyone who cares to submit one. If you want to entice us with your idea, please send it to Box 233, Denton, TX 76202 or fax it to us at 940-387-7057. We’ll see what happens. I have a couple of sketchy thoughts, but I’m not wild about them. For what it’s worth, we’re not particularly interested in illustrations of meat. So, go for it, if you want. The chosen design will be appropriately honored, which means money and recognition.
Big news! We have just finished another brand new album that will be released as early as July or August. It’s a polka album. The working title is POLKASONIC or POLKASONIC GROOVEFEST. It will be released on the mighty Cleveland International Records, which is run by our friend and one of polka’s best friends, Steve Popovich. It will include two of our newest, hottest and most popular polkas, “Down At The Friendly Tavern” and “Why, Oh Why.” The pop-oriented album I’ve mentioned recently is also finished and will be released by Rounder late this year or early next year. We’re pretty excited about both of these and certainly hope you’re looking forward to them as well. The promotional possibilities would be limitless if payola weren’t so expensive. We can’t afford that, so we’ll have to think of other angles.
Speaking of promotional angles, here is a potential big deal of sorts, but I don’t have all of the details yet. We got a call from the mayor’s office recently and it appears he wants to make an official proclamation and designate a week in July to be Brave Combo week in Denton. This is quite flattering and kind of odd, too. Though I will say that there have been times when we felt like Denton goodwill ambassadors. Ex-Dentonites are everywhere and vocal about it. It’s a great place to live, even in the middle of Summer. I wish there was a little more variety in the restaurant department for vegetarians and I wish the city’s growth was a little better controlled (too much scary industry stuff happening for my taste), but all-in-all, a great place to live. You would be amazed at what we get away with here. Just kidding…..sort of. Proclamation day is tentatively set for July 20. More about this next month.
Jane and I rescued a cat recently. It was about to drown. Now we have five dogs and two cats. New cat is a long-haired orange tabby and is very, very, very, very friendly. We haven’t named him yet. Maybe we should call him Polkasonic or Polkasonic Groovefest. He drools and it’s gross, but he’s a cool kitty. Anybody want a cat that drools and is very, very, very, very friendly?
I think I saw a bigfoot once. It was on a small lonely highway between Texarkana and Shreveport. In that area they call it the Fouke Monster, named after Fouke, a swampy little town in southwest Arkansas. I was with my cousin, driving her Volkswagon Beetle. We were wide awake and there it was, walking swiftly along the road.
Speaking of Brave Combo shows, there are lots of good ones this month, including festivals in Waco and Ft. Worth and clubs in New York City and Boston. Check our itinerary for details. We sincerely want to brighten your day with the power of music or, at least, distract you for a few seconds. Until next time, think a lot and then don’t think at all. And if you’re searching for the right mantra, “p-o-l-k-a, polka” works. Bye, bye.