Easy Ed's Broadside

Exploring music without a map.

Since 2009, Ed has shared his thoughts on ND about music that touches him, and rambled hither and yon about what else is on his mind.

Easy Ed's Broadside

Exploring music without a map.

Since 2009, Ed has shared his thoughts on ND about music that touches him, and rambled hither and yon about what else is on his mind.

Americana Lost and Found: From Polkas to Tejano Roots

Another fine piece Easy Ed. Although I don't have much tolerance for Lawrence Welk I do think it's unjust for the accordian to be a stardard joke about "bad" music as it can be a great instrument. The one band you didn't mention that always comes to mind when thinking about the accordian and polka music is Brave Combo who are eclectic indeed.

Ed...just an excellent column.  Loved the link to UT at Austin's website too so thanks!...loved Doug Sahm and the Texas Tornadoes too (and didn't everyone like Sam the Sham?  Domingo band played "Little Red Riding Hood" at a talent show back in the day...18 bands...we got 3rd place), and I have to tell you that I sat through pretty much every episode of Lawrence Welk with my dad and watched Myron Floren on many occasions...pretty much all of the music LW's presented was, as you called it "white bread" but there was no denying the talent of the musicians, whether it was Myron, Joann Castle, or the excellent guitarist/banjoist/violinist Neil LaVang...or Joe Feeney's Irish tenor...watched it every week...Dad was a stickler about watching excellent players, whether they were playing watered down music or's still on PBS on Saturdays, I catch a little of it every now and then...

Thankfully, my viewings of Lawrence Welk were not accompanied by the boiled chicken...the jello was a staple back in those days... though...

Ry Cooder's recordings from the period with Flaco are realy nice too...Calexico, Lost Lobos, the Mavericks...can't argue with any of that...thanks Ed...


That's Los Lobos...not Lost...

Thanks for sharing your own memories Jim. There’s a lot of great early Welk in black and white on the Tube that you might enjoy. And you forgot to mention Tom Netherton, Guy and Ralna, and everyone’s fave...Magic Organ. 

“That wunnerful, wunnerful music”.

I enjoy polka music now and then.  The Polka Hall of Fame and Museum used to be at 4145 S. Kedzie Ave. in Chicago. I know this because I worked directly across the street at the Santa Fe railyard 1988-89. Somehow I never made it to the HOF and it later moved a few miles away. No, Gram Parsons hasn’t been nominated.

For anyone interested:

I was in Milwaukee Saturday and Sunday and had planned to visit Kochanski’s Concertina Beer Hall but got sidetracked.

15 bucks to join the Polka Music Hall of Fame...what a bargain!  Rock and Roll HOF is $50-$500...

Nice beer hall too...I'd like to go there myself...

LW did have quite an accent didn't he?


I noticed by looking at that Polka Hall Of Fame site that Carl Finch of Brave Combo was inducted into the Polka Hall of Fame in 2016 under the "Living Category" I was pleased to discover this eccentric was recognized by the organization.

First saw Brave Combo circa ‘97 in St. Louis and many times since, mainly their annual Christmas shows. One night Carl mentioned a band named Scrubby and the Dynatones, which struck me as just a great frigging band name. When he mentioned they were from Buffalo (where I grew up) I looked them up on line. Anyway, this column reminded me of Brave Combo and that reminded me of Scrubby again and I looked them up again at lunch today. This is kind of an interesting story

A few years ago I went to see The Blasters, the opening act was Pinata Protest. Basically punk music with a lead  accordion. WTF?  They were absolutely terrific! 


I have a cd by Pinata Protest and told a friend at work who is really into punk music about them and he loved them and made a point of going to their gig when they came to town and he said they were great.

Pinata Protest is also a great band name...great posted song too...

I agree with other commentors that this is a great introduction to important music genres that we don't get enough exposure to.  My introduction was getting a copy of Texas Tornados Live in Austin CD,  The producers of ACL were so pleased with the performance that they recorded 75 minutes instead of the usual hour.  Amazing variety of South of the Border styles and killer versions of a Jimmy Reed song and 96 Tears.  Like many folks, I sometimes feel that the accordion in many hands is about as exciting at bagpipe music ("like running a bandsaw through a duck" as one wag put it).  However, when you hear it in the styles Ed discusses, as well as in a rocking zydeco band, it becomes infectious.  I'm a big fan of the Zydeco King, Clifton Chenier, who played a heavy triple row accordion for up to four hours in local concerts.  Try listening to Bogalusa Boogie CD, Clifton's best studio output rated 5 stars by Rolling Stone, or Live from Grant Street.   Ed, you use the term "rabbit hole" a lot and I'm afraid that if I explore this music as well as other unfamiliar styles like reggae and ska too much, I will be going down that hole and my wife will leave me.  She already thinks I spend far too much time listening to music.  Maybe a reader can suggest a Top 20 essential albums list.  BTW, I lucked into the Texas style of polkas about 30 years ago when I had a business conference trip to San Antonio and found out that on the Sunday before the conference began the nearby New Braunfels community was having their Octoberfest in the city's huge beer hall.  What a treat! 

Glad you enjoyed the article. There are just so many places to start exploring I can’t even think about assembling a top essentials list. For Tejano, take my advice and seek out all of the Tejano Roots collections. Most are from the 30s-70s. Anything by Flaco is essential. For reggae, go beyond the names you probably already know. Trojan Records has a bunch of anthologies and then there’s the soundtrack to Rockers. For polkas, Frankie Yankovitch is the king...Al’s uncle I believe. As far as deciding between your wife and music, I’ll just tell you that the past six years since my divorce has been a musical feast that has left me most satisfied. 

Thanks Ed.  For ska, I discovered brits band The English Beat (The Beat in UK) when I saw them at their annual concert in Chapel Hill.  Very lively music that I like a little more than reggae because it merges soul and funk into the mix and uses some familiar pop song melodies.  Unfortunately I have not found any recent recordings and much of their You Tube content is from the 80's.   Worth checking out.

Whoops, they did put out a new CD a few months ago.

The band was very popular in the late seventies through the eighties. Ranking Roger and Dave Wakeling were the two front men. (Biggest title was IRS 70021...the name escapes me.)

In the same vein as The Specials, and Selecter. There are quite a few Jamaican original ska collections available, while the aforementioned bands are of the U.K. variety featuring black and white members. If I recall (ugh...lots of time in an altered state), it was also referred to as two-tone. 

Now that you’ve opened up this can of worms, go forth and check out Northern Soul...a U.K. unique genre of music. Rabbit holes...

Heading down into the hole sometimes pays off big time if you have patience and keep digging.  I'm amazed at how many "full set" and "full concert" videos you can find.  Sometimes I put those in quote captions in the search and sometimes they pop up when hitting on individual songs from a concert.  Wonderful thing machine learning!

Recent English Beat:


Dave, if you're looking for an excellent but rather obscure reggae artist I think the best reggae artist currently working is Clinton Fearon. He is from Jamaica and was in the popular band The Gladiators in the 70s and was their bass player and sang vocal harmony mostly. But he has lived in Seattle since the 80s and has released many albums with his own band that he sells through his website. His band inlcudes horns so many songs have a ska sound to them. He has a great voice and writes wonderful uplifting songs that are aware of the madness out there but try to be positive. He has quite a followoing in France where he tours every year. Check him out. Here's one of my favorite songs by him:

Hey, I like this band.  Many thanks!

The topic reminded me of the Far Side cartoon where people in heaven were welcomed with a harp and people in hell were welcomed with an accordion.   But as I've heard, the devil is a man of wealth and taste.       

"Special Beat Service" was the Beat's last and biggest album in the US.   They broke up shortly after and as a big Beat fan I went to see one of their last shows with the original lineup at Vassar College. 

They were warmed up by a band who had only one song I had heard of at the time but went on to have a small measure of success - REM.   

 Here's the Far Side Cartoon...very funny...Larsen was genius...

So they actually never broke up per se. Dave and Roger formed General Public and the other members became the Fine Young Cannibals. They then morphed into various offshoots and projects until the early 2000’s. Ranking Roger held the name The Beat for his U.K. band and Dave stayed in the US as The English Beat. Both bands have continued touring. 

After a lot of the Two Tone bands broke up they reformed in incestuous combinations.   The Specials became Special AKA after Neville Staples, Terry Hall and Lynval Golding left to form Fun Boy Three.  Ranking Roger played with members of the Specials in the Special Beat.    I think some members of one of the Specials incarnations played with The Selectors.   Madness became The Madness.   I was a fan and even I couldn’t keep up. 

Mostly they were recirculating their old songs but the Specials came out with a paint by numbers album in the late 90’s that had its charms.   

It was a damn shame The Beat had to die for General Public to live though.    I’ve seen Wakeling a couple times as the English Beat but I never bought anything of General Public because he broke up the band.   That’s why I was happy Cox and Steele had the bigger US hits with Fine Young Cannibals.             

Easy Ed - Marriage Counselor?  I think not... You need to try Maria the Mexican.  It is a band fronted by two sisters who's grandmother started the first all female mariachi band.  Sadly, much of the band perished when the Kansas Hyatt Regency walkway collapsed in 1981.  The girls grew up singing in the band.  The new band blends Mariachi, Funk, Folk, and Indie Rock.  Very good.  

Great band. I watched all their videos last night. Thanks. 

Great article about a much maligned instrument. Here in the UK it is even less common to see bands use the accordiam. The one exception being Welshman Geraint Watkins, who has played keyboards for many top musicians including Nick Lowe and Dave Edmunds. Whilst I have loved cajun/zydeco music for years and am also a very big fan of the Texas Tornados plus anything that Flaco Jimenez has been involved in; just recently I have been getting more and more into Tejana Music, thanks mainly to John Garza of the excellent Tejas Brothers. On my weekly 2 hour Radio Show (entitles "Messin' with the Kidd" on, normally at 3pm on Tuesdays) I have the Playlist all worked out for next Tuesday and the final 5 tracks all feature the accordian. playlist

They are : If I could dance - Chritian Dozzler; Dinero - Texas Tornados; Louisiana Love Shack - Pat Boyack & The Prowlers; Boogie Woogie Mamcita - Tejas Brothers; I'm a Zydeco Man - Clifton Chenier.

Speaking of Geraint Watkins (?) out his excellent "Dial 'W' For Watkins" (Yep Roc!), which includes an interesting cover of "Heroes and Villains." 

Dial W for Watkins


Good idea Bob Gale, for those who are unaware.

However, I do already have "Dial W For Watkins" and everything else that Geraint has recorded, solo or with The Balham Alligators.

Wow, nobody mentions Steve Jordan? or Esteban Jordan, known as "El Parche", "The Jimi Hendrix of the accordion", and "the accordion wizard"? Fantastically great musician from Elsa Texas....

I actually tried to use a photo of Jordon for this column but couldn’t get clearance. Thanks for mentioning him.