When I post on a type of music with which I am unfamiliar, generally the first step is to surf the category to identify the big performers. When I did this for polka, I quickly found that the Grammy Award for Best Polka Album/Recording was won by Jimmy Sturr or a band in which he was featured 18 times between 1986 and 2009. So I had my performer.
The bad news, both for Sturr and the genre, is that The Recording Academy retired the polka category after the 2009 awards. The Wikipedia entry suggested that the retirement may have been due to lack of competition or Sturr’s dominance.
Polka is a lot more varied and nuanced than most people think. Here is a long and interesting interview with Sturr, who lives in Florida, New York. The New York Times did a profile, which has an interesting paragraph about polka:
“The biggest stigma is the name polka,” said Eddie Blazonczyk Jr., 38, a Grammy nominee this year who took over his father’s long-running Chicago band in 2001 and outfits it in sharp gangster black-and-white. “Today’s polka is definitely alternative dance music, related to zydeco and Cajun and Tex-Mex and conjunto and so many vibrant and exciting kinds of music.”
The Cajun and zydeco influences are apparent, especially in the newer polkas. It’s interesting that the king of a music generally identified with the Polish-American community actually is of Irish extraction. Above is Pennsylvania Polka and below is Clarinet Polka.