Big Lou's musical career started out in the honky-tonks of Texas, playing traditional C&W in numerous dance bands. She moved on to the San Francisco Bay Area where she has played C&W, blues, French standards, and several styles of rock. She played with Polkacide for several years, and founded Those Darn Accordions. She toured the USA and parts of Europe with TDA. The other band members bring jazz, tango, blues, rock, folk, country and art-rock to the musical stew. The band's influences are eclectic and (we like to think) make for an interesting combination of styles.
Big Lou - Accordion
David Golia - Bass
David Phillips - Pedal Steel Guitar
Greg Stephens - Trombone
Anne Lise Zamula - Sax
Gene Reffkin - Drums
Big Lou's Polka Casserole - Cleveland International Records - 1999
Dogs Playing Polka - Accordion Princess Records - 2003
Doctors of Polka-Ology - Accordion Princess Records - 2006
Big Lou's Back - Accordion Princess Records - 2011
Review of Doctors of Polkaology
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BIG LOU'S POLKA CASSEROLE Doctors of Polka-Ology Accordion Princess Big Lou, the San Francisco-b...BIG LOU'S POLKA CASSEROLE Doctors of Polka-Ology Accordion Princess
Big Lou, the San Francisco-based accordion princess originally from Texas, who was a founding member of Those Darn Accordions, is still having tons of fun fronting her own band, Polka Casserole. Lou and the band perform most of these numbers with their tongues planted firmly in their cheeks and have a ball with songs like "Hooray for Captain Spaulding," a classic originally performed by Groucho Marx and Margaret Dumont in Animal Crackers, "Let Me In," the rock 'n' roll hit by the Sensations and "Sakkijarven Polka," a traditional Finnish polka tune that they play in surf-band-goes-polka mode. Another highlight is an instrumental version of "Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves," the old Chef hit.
There are also a couple of Lou's original songs in the 13-track set. "Never a Dull Moment," which kicks off the proceedings, is a rollicking polka about a character named Yasha coming home that features guest vocals from Glenn Walters of the Hoodoo Rhythm Devils. A few songs later, Lou and company sing "Hey, Mr. Travel Agent," a very clever spoof of the Andrews Sisters in which vacations in Eastern Europe and Mexico are looked forward to.
One of the few more serious songs is "Madre de un Soldado," a Tex-Mex polka originally recorded by Flaco Jimenez (as "Padre de un Soldado") during the Vietnam War. With the current war in Iraq, the song is topical again.
Despite the playful goofiness (and I'm not being at all derogatory in my use of the word "goofiness"), Big Lou's Polka Casserole is a band whose arrangements could only be played by some seriously talented musicians.--MR
Big Lou's Polka Casserole
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Big Lou's Polka Casserole Doctors of Polka-Ology [Accordion Princess, 2006] ** Consumer Guide Rev...Big Lou's Polka Casserole
Doctors of Polka-Ology [Accordion Princess, 2006] **
Consumer Guide Reviews:
Doctors of Polka-Ology [Accordion Princess, 2006]
Prefers accordions and novelty songs to polka, still likes polka a lot, and for your information is a girl ("Hey, Mr. Travel Agent," "Boys in the Backroom"). **
A nerd finds happiness is a squeezebox
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Marianne Costantinou Tuesday, May 24, 2005 The menu offered Sauerkraut and Haddock, and eve...Marianne Costantinou
Tuesday, May 24, 2005
The menu offered Sauerkraut and Haddock, and even a Weiner Roast, but onstage was pure goulash: a six-member musical band called Big Lou's Polka Casserole.
At the microphone, in a wildly colored petticoat skirt and a flowered hair wreath with hip-long pink streamers, is Linda Seekins. By day, the 53- year-old is, by her own account, a nerdy geophysicist who works as a seismologist at the U.S. Geological Survey office in Menlo Park. But at night and on weekends, she makes the earth move for polka lovers across the Bay Area as Big Lou the Accordion Princess.
Big Lou got her name because, well, she's big, close to 6 feet tall in her toe-tapping, foot-stomping polka shoes. She's got these killer biceps from lugging around a 40-pound accordion for the past quarter-century. And there's something about the giant, leopard-print bifocals she picked up in Vegas and her gutsy rendition of the polka classic "Cry of the Wild Goose" that just scream a certain fearlessness.
So there's no arguing when Big Lou firmly declares: "There are all these jokes about accordions, but everybody loves the accordion.''
Besides, she's just gotten 40 San Francisco police officers to do the Chicken Dance, a kinda hokey-pokey chain-line polka. Oom-pa-pa. Who needs more evidence than that?
On this night, the Polka Casserole, reportedly one of only a few polka bands in the Bay Area, is playing at a retirement party at Schroeder's, a German restaurant in the Financial District. Most of Big Lou's gigs are at restaurants, weddings and private parties. But she's got a big following. On Thursday nights she hosts "Big Lou's Polka Universe" on KUSF, which she says is the only polka radio show in Northern California. She hosts an Internet show at www.247polkaheaven.com. And anybody's who's been to the Escape from New York pizza parlor in the Castro must certainly remember the three display cases of the San Francisco Style Polka Hall of Fame. She is the exhibit's curator.
Next month, Big Lou's typical audience will be even bigger. June, as everyone knows, is National Accordion Awareness Month. In celebration, the Cannery near Fisherman's Wharf is hosting the 15th Annual San Francisco Accordion Festival and Main Squeeze Pageant. The event is from noon to 6 p.m. on June 5. Big Lou is scheduled to go on just after 3:30 p.m.
Big Lou hasn't always been this popular or confident. She grew up in Los Angeles, the youngest of three kids. Her mom raised the kids. Her dad was a math professor at Occidental College, where she got a bachelor's degree in geophysics before getting her master's at the University of Southern California. She was a nerdy kid, clueless when it came to girl stuff like clothes and makeup, and so smart she started school early and even managed to skip a grade.
Her parents had grown up in the Depression, so she grew up in a thrifty household. To her mother, though, private music lessons were one of the few luxuries she wanted for the children, a kind of status symbol that she had made it. Big Lou got piano lessons, which she was not too nerdy to hate. Yet, when she finished her master's and was feeling too restless to just settle down and be a geophysicist, it was those old piano lessons that were to change her life.
It was the mid-'70s. Big Lou says she felt she had missed out on her generation's wild and woolly days but wanted to get a flavor of it before it was too late. The Haight-Ashbury scene was over, but she heard that Austin, Texas, was a-happenin'. Next thing she knew, she was a waitress at this honky- tonk called the Broken Spoke. It was "pure redneck," she says, with pure from- the-gut music; country and western stars like Ernest Tubb and up-and-comers like George Strait and Asleep at the Wheel would perform there. She soon got on playing piano on Friday nights.
Being Texas, the state where anything goes, folks who enjoyed square- dancing and the two-step also had a thing or two about polkas. Big Lou grooved on the organ sound of the accordion, and as a piano player thought the keyboard would be easy to master. She was wrong. Learning to play the keyboard left-handed took years of practice, she says, often in front of the mirror to master the fingering. To help supplement her income while she studied to become a bona-fide accordion player, she took on a part-time job working at the Texas Bureau of Economic Geology.
After five years of the Austin music scene, a boyfriend who wanted to move to California and her own nostalgia -- "I missed earthquakes" -- brought her back, this time to the Bay Area. With two dogs, one of them a giant, drooling St. Bernard, she couldn't find a rental, so she bought the world's smallest house in Oakland for $40,000, which she eventually upgraded to her current house in Brisbane. She got a job as a geophysics consultant, and joined a country and western house band on the Peninsula. She then joined an all-girl rockabilly band, where she got christened Big Lou because she was bigger than the other girls. A little later, she helped found Those Darn Accordions, a rock polka band, and became a member of Polkacide, a hard-core punk polka band. She also got her current seismologist job.
About five years ago, soon after marrying the man who would become the band's bass player, Big Lou started the Polka Casserole.
For those not up on their polka genres, Big Lou explains that there are all kinds of polka sounds. The Cleveland style is heavily Slovenian, the Chicago style more Polish influenced. In San Francisco, she says, polka has tinges of jazz, country-western and rock. Her Polka Casserole also throws in a bit of Tex-Mex and Hollywood movie music, courtesy of her background, and also plays French waltzes, one of her personal favorites.
However you want to describe it, Big Lou is sure about one thing: Lawrence Welk music it's not.
Big Lou is a fan of the technical skill of the bandleader who introduced the accordion to TV viewers during his variety show in the 1960s. But she blames his smooth, tepid sound with the instrument's unpopularity among her generation. To those growing up on rock, the music from the wizened bandleader was too cornball and dull. But Big Lou says that real ethnic polka music is just as fast and furious and uninhibited as any rock song.
"People think it's just oom-pa-pa music, but it's not,'' she says.
Still, she has a hard time convincing some folks to show the accordion --
and especially polka music -- the respect and attention it deserves. There's a daily newspaper in town, for example -- as a professional courtesy to spare that newspaper embarrassment, we won't mention its name here -- that she says won't include her forthcoming performances in its calendar listings.
"They won't list polka,'' she says. "It's like telling them: 'Hey, I've got leprosy.' "
No matter. For Big Lou, the accordion will always be a proud part of her life. What she loves about the instrument is not only its sound, not only its uniqueness, but also how close she feels to it. To play, the accordion has to snuggle against her chest. She especially enjoys getting off the stage and mingling on the dance floor to play for folks up close and personal. And the instrument suits her personality: It's nerdy but fun.
Surprisingly, she finds that younger people in their 20s are some of polka's biggest fans, probably, she says, because "They didn't grow up on Lawrence Welk.''
Besides, these days it's kinda hip to be square.
We have more than six hours of material. It includes polkas (traditional American, original, Russian, Polish, German, Norteno, Finnish), waltzes (American, French, Viennese, German) and the occasional schottische. For dancers who want a little variety, we also play cha-chas, mambos, swing, tarantellas, slow rock oldies, C&W,zydeco and a few blues tunes.
|Jul 6, 2013 Saturday||1:00 PM||Yerba Buena Gardens||San Francisco, CA, US|
|The San Francisco Accordion Festival. Accordion based music from all over the world|