Wait, You Play Polka?!
A common phrase I hear while talking to someone about my musical journey. Why not Polka?! It’s got a great beat, it makes you happy . . . and it can rock! My career started when every musician’s does, the moment in your life when you get a real professional instrument. For me it was when I got my first Gretsch. My Tennessee Rose named “Rose”. The chrome hardware and the Bigsby a perfect distance away for grabbing to make an impression on a normal Em chord. My Love for many years until Grace came along.
My playing styles span from Punk Rock, Rockabilly, to Polka. My White Falcon “Grace” (a wedding gift from my wife) is played in an original music Punkabilly band Rocko Dorsey, and with a Polka band Fritz’s Polka Band. It’s an eye catcher and a great way to earn respect from viewers. When I show up at a Polka gig with cowboy boots, a leather jacket and sunglasses, I know I’m being stereotyped: some greaser wannabe who is going to try and hang with this band that’s been together 39 years. The truth is, my hair is not that shiny or high, and cowboy boots are really just comfortable. As soon as I put that strap on and let my White Falcon fly I have gained their trust! When they see me get up on stage I’m taken seriously.
Recently I played with Fritz’s Polka Band in Cleveland, Ohio for the Cleveland Style Polka Hall of Fame. Legendary Polka performers from all over the country were at this event. One minute I’m shaking the Bigsby on my reverb-drenched, tremolo-heavy version of Sleepwalk, and the next I’m jamming with Bobby Yankovic on some classic button box Polka. The band leader Fritz loves all types of music; we constantly have chats about Dropkick Murphys, Slash, and Tom Petty. When I jump on a chair or climb the drum kit during a mostly-senior-citizen-attended event to do my guitar solo, I can see Fritz grinning from ear to ear.
His fans love it, too, except for maybe the random person subject to my potential fall zone. After I return to the microphone without killing anyone or myself, the room explodes. Music is music and I have felt the same energy on stage at a Polka show as I have performing and supporting Australia’s The Living End or the Legendary Shack Shakers. I’ve never cared what anyone thought of me personally but, of course, deep down I want everyone to like the music I’m playing. I’ve been in a lot of projects and so far the best fans, the most loyal fans who eat up every note I play, are Polka Fans!
— Rocko Dorsey