Oh, there are so many things to cover. First of all, if you need proof about whether a so-called leader’s rhetoric matters, I guess you can just come to Denton. This last weekend, at two different local live music clubs, there were disruptions caused by swastika-brandishing neo-Nazis and torch-bearing white supremacists chanting something about reclaiming the USA. This is shocking, for sure, but I have to admit, I’ve been looking over my shoulder at gigs and am more vigilant from the stage because a lot of our repertoire celebrates music by people from other countries and we proudly let it be known. Our strong pro-immigration position has caused many long-time Brave Combo “fans’ to bail on us, and not without letting us know why. But, honestly, how could they possibly be fans and not know where our music comes from. I mean, I appreciate the compliment, if they think we wrote all of the stuff we play. This is all so stupid, but stupid can also be dangerous, especially if the main reason a person is dangerous is because he or she is stupid. Whatever, I haven’t seen Nazis, pro-KKK, and white power folks in town in decades.
When I was growing up in Texarkana, there were still some black and white drinking fountains and separate entrances to some businesses, but I was taught that this was wrong, and that things were quickly changing for the better; that life would someday be more fair for everyone. My parents definitely believed that everyone must, somehow, contribute and carry his or her own weight, BUT they believed, even more strongly, that people deserve a break and a chance to get it together. They backed-up this belief by allowing ex-convicts to live in their home, right after being released from prison. This was a huge part of their world for many years and they made a difference. It was walking the walk, beyond what most people are willing to do. And their lives were enriched immeasurably, as well, although, it was tricky and sometimes pretty scary. I saw examples of humans actually caring about and for other people and I was told that we’re all equal and I better not forget it. I think this attitude of live and let live helped me imagine things that maybe no one else had imagined, like putting together a rock band to play music generally rejected by rock bands and the rest of mainstream society. And most of what we played was music either by immigrants or influenced by immigrants. And we were 100% innocent in our mission. We simply all really liked a lot of different kinds of music and didn’t understand why some of it was labeled as stupid or only good for a joke. Of course, we all know now that the basis for dissing polka and making fun of it came from the same place as Polish jokes. The people who lived in the USA already didn’t want those Polish people, in particular, moving across the ocean. They were the Latinos of the day. I salute the proud descendants of people who have endured hardships just because they were different. We play Polish-American festivals, Czech-American festivals, German-American festivals, Slovenian-American festivals and, as well, Mexican-American festivals, of course. Jeez, where would we be if we had never rocked the cumbia, or polka or salsa or huapango or schottische or oberek or waltz!!! And where would we all be if our choices were limited to only the cool stuff white people conjured up on their own. And, although we white Americans have come up with some worth-while music, we can’t claim rock, soul, jazz, Cajun, zydeco, klezmer blues, cha cha, tango, salsa or even Gospel, in addition to the above-mentioned styles. That would leave, pretty much native-American and some ultra-pure form of country music, which had never been exposed to rock or blues or jazz. Hmm, I don’t know, maybe something like Western camp-fire songs; sing-a-longs.
“Oh, give me a home, where the buffalo roam
Where the deer, and the antelope play.
Too bad this is the, on-ly style of song
Made from scratch, in the whole USA”
On to a lighter topic, I listen to right-wing radio somewhat regularly, to keep up with their latest ways of demonizing the left and, I gotta say, I am really tired of being portrayed as a baby killer just because my politics lean way-left. In reality, I am not pro-abortion, unless it’s medically necessary, and am in favor of people (both parties) being responsible enough to not get pregnant, accidentally, in the first place. No one should be cavalier with life and death matters. Inconvenience is absolutely not a reason for having an abortion. However, more than that, I am in favor of each person making his or her own decisions. Period. That’s the way everyone wants it, especially in the USA. Nobody wants an outsider telling him or her how to live. So, I guess I can see both points-of-view and must leave the hard decision to the person who is actually facing it. Am I a freak of nature? Hell no! I dare say this is how almost everyone on the left feels. The far right says that an abortion is no big deal to those on the left. That’s just not true. No one is happy about it. It’s always a very difficult decision, even for Democrats. No surprise, but I am pro-animal rights as passionately as some anti-abortion people are “pro-life.” In fact, there are similarities in how the two groups (animal rights and pro-life) operate. My most radical side believes that killing and eating animals is just straight-up wrong, mainly because it involves so much cruelty and suffering all day long, every day. I just had to extricate myself from being involved. So about 35 years ago I ate my last fried fish sandwich from McDonald’s. I had long-before stopped putting hunks of cows, pigs and chickens into my mouth and swallowing them. And then I realized fish had faces and brains and felt pain, as well. To me, eating animals is backward and barbaric and reflects human weakness and supports our darkest selves. But I also believe that it is each person’s right to make that sort of heavy decision. It sucks that right now so much animal torture is happening, and on such a horrifically huge scale. It breaks my heart if I dwell on it. In fact, one of the down sides of touring is having to see all of the cows and chickens crammed into big trucks. It makes me ashamed of all humanity. But I do have to live and work and be social with others. Not everyone agrees with me. I have to put the rights of the individual ahead of my desires. Since everyone knows I’m always right, anyway, it’s okay if I don’t get my way every now and then. So, let me sum this up. I am not a baby killer and I don’t know any baby killers among my army of left-wing friends. Those radio guys need to chill out, but, really, I’ve not known many chilled-out radio talk show hosts. Wonder why they’re almost always revved-up. What’s that supposed to mean?
My long-time good buddy, Sara Hickman, has just released a coloring book, AN ECLECTIC ARRAY OF TEXAS MUSICIANS, and Brave Combo is delighted to be featured so prominently. You need to get one of these things. It’s super-duper cool and totally Sara and it has a practical application (made for coloring). And, as with everything she does, proceeds will probably be going to some charities. It’s in her blood, being all up and supportive and loving. She is just, apparently, obnoxiously determined to help people. Did you know that’s Sara in the Energizer bunny costume, in all of those commercials?
Another long-time buddy, magician/entertainer-extraordinaire, Bo Gerard, has featured me in his current blog. He got nosey and asked me some personal questions and I gladly provided him with answers. Please check it out AND check out Bo, when you can!
Stop the presses! Wait, no, keep the presses running. Yours truly is on the cover of the July issue of the TEXAS POLKA NEWS. Inside, a lot of space is devoted to Brave Combo and our 40th birthday (this year). Subscribe online or pick one up the next time you’re perusing the new publications at your neighborhood newsstand or magazine store. I loved hanging out in the monster magazine section of Hale’s Newsstand in deep downtown Texarkana. The monster magazines were right by the girlie magazines. I looked at both, but mainly the monster magazines. I could actually buy those and take them home. I have two friends, Radio DJ, Larry King (not the suspender-wearing old guy) and St.
Louis pop culture icon, Beatle Bob, who know more about Forest J. Ackerman and his fanzine, FAMOUS MONSTERS of FILMLAND, than I do. That’s all. Just two. Google him (Forest J. Ackerman), if you’re interested.
Local Denton club, LSA (Lone Star Attitude) is hosting a Brave Combo 40th Anniversary event on the downtown square Saturday, August 10. 7-10 PM. Come one and all. Rumor has it, BC alumnus, Robert Hokamp, will be joining us for part of the night. He’s bringing his guitar.
Speaking of bad-asses jamming with us bad-asses, percussionist and all-around cosmic dude, Mike Dillon, will be doing just that at our annual Levitt Pavilion show, in downtown Arlington, on Friday, August 30. This is one of our favorite shows every year. Show up and make some noise! It’s time to get down, baby! You got soul and you’re super bad! That’s a compliment, by the way.
And Lookout! Westfest is almost upon us! Labor Day weekend. Our musical comrades, The Bolzen Beer Band, from Lincoln, NE, are making their first appearance this year. Come out and yell and scream with/at them!
Cleveland International Records (out of Nashville) will soon be re-releasing our Grammy Award-winning album POLKASONIC. And, to commemorate, we have new POLKASONIC T-shirts ready to mail your way. Our store T-shirt motto is, “It will look good on you AND you will look good wearing it!”
I’m done. That’s enough for this month. My wife and I rescued yet another cat. This one was an 8-week-old kitten, living under a concrete slab, behind a restaurant. We just happened to see her. She was sick, scared and starving. Now she’s extremely happy, feels safe, purrs constantly, eats a lot and has many toys. I think she likes this better than the concrete slab. She is our 9th successful rescue in about a year. Okay, stay cool and keep your eyes open for dogs and cats who may be in distress. If you see something funky, check it out and help ‘em out. If I had a boat and a trailer and some skis and all the necessary gear, I’d go water skiing!