Sunday, August 27, 2006

Lil Wally, polka great - RIP

I heard little news while I was away, and only by accident discovered the passing of polka giant Lil Wally Jagiello.

From The Miami New Tims: "He's like the Muddy Waters of polka," adds Don Hedeker, leader of the Chicago-based polka-punk hybrid the Polkaholics. "He developed the style of polka music that is by far the most popular and the most accessible".

When I was a kid, Lil Wally was my mom's favourite. She had a record where he sang racy songs in Polish. She would laugh and laugh, and they must have been very racy because her face would go fire red. Wally played the German or Chemnitzer concertina, (as well as drums), typical of the Chicago "Push" style polka players. This was not traditional polka in the folk music was very much American music. Listen and you'll understand that right away. This was music of the Industrial American Mid-west.

Mr. Jagiello was 76. He died of heart failure in Miami. He had over 110 albums under his belt.

From the obit in the Chicago Sun-Times: "Today, Chicago White Sox fans hear Lil' Wally at every home game. In 1959, he co-wrote the "Let's Go Go Go White Sox" fight song, recorded by Captain Stubby and the Buccaneers with the Lil' Wally Orchestra. The song was resurrected just last year. Lil' Wally was invited to this year's home opener but was too ill to make the trip."

In recent years, Polka has been a marginalized form, although some bands like Brave Combo and the Polkaholics have embraced it....and the Mexican Polka has lived on in the Narco-corrido with bands like Los Tigres del Nortes. I think the decline was not wanting to listen to their parents' music. I urge readers to buy some Lil Wally music and give it a serious listen and hear how fantastic this music really was.

RIP Lil Wally Jagiello. A great figure in American music has passed.

1 comment:

greatwhitebear said...

That is sad. He was a real legend on the west side here, traditionally Polish and Hungarian. I know he played here frequently when I first moved here in the 70's.

With the exception of the World Series last year, I hadn't heard his name in long time, as the last couple of generations have homogenized and the city has lost it's ethnic character.