SHEENA BARNETT: Saturday nights with Big Joe

I thought I’d heard it all. I’ve got music from seemingly every genre, from rap to metal, from country to pop, from doo wop to indie rock. I’ve got vinyl records featuring the sermons of Jack Van Impe and the sweet sounds of Engelbert Humperdinck.
However, polka has been uncharted territory for me – at least until a few weeks ago.
Lately I’ve been getting schooled in all things polka via the “Big Joe Polka Show.”
I visit my parents at least once a week, often on Saturdays, and my mom and I watch the “Big Joe Polka Show” on Saturday nights on RFD-TV, “Rural America’s Most Important Network” (I always want to say, “Because it’s rural America’s only network?” but I digress).
My mom told me about Big Joe and his polka show a while back, and I didn’t believe her. So, one fateful Saturday night, we watched. And now we’re hooked.
Host Big Joe, always clad in a shiny accordion shirt, introduces each polka band – usually from Nebraska, it seems – and polka lovers dance as the band plays a handful of songs. Every once in a while, Big Joe reminds the viewer that polka is “happy music for happy people.”
We’ve watched so many episodes that we’re even noticing the regular dancers out on the dance floor. There’s the Polka King, whose outfit says he’s a Polka King, and he even wears a crown. There’s the lady I call Big Hair, because she sports a big, bottle-blonde bee-hive hair-do.
And while most of the song titles are pretty normal, we love some of the more offbeat polka song titles, like the “Poopsie Polka.” And who knew there are not one but two “John Deere Polkas” as well as a “John Deere Waltz”?
Big Joe even has homemade ads that run during the commercial breaks. The ads direct the viewer to Big Joe’s Web site,, where he sells polka T-shirts, CDs, DVDs and coffee mugs. I’ve got my eye on an autographed picture of Big Joe and a couple of T-shirts.
I’m still pretty ignorant about the polka world, but I have to admire the “Big Joe Polka Show.” Every week you see couples, young and old, out on the dance floor. They’re all perfectly in rhythm, hopping along to the tunes. Some even wear matching outfits. They look like the happiest people I’ve ever seen.
Maybe Big Joe’s right. Maybe polka really is “happy music for happy people.”
Contact Daily Journal writer Sheena Barnett at 678-1580 or Also read her entertainment blog, Scene Now, at


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