Scrubby Seweryniak: An appreciation

One of the greatest bands in my purview, Brave Combo, also has one of the most accurate names. Brave because they’re a Texas (Denton) rock band that focuses primarily on polka, and is so good at it that it won a Grammy—when there was a Grammy polka category—and it’s leader Carl Finch was just inducted into the International Polka Association Hall of Fame.

I contacted Carl after finally opening my Les Blank: Always for Pleasure five-DVD box set of the late Les’s great music and culture documentaries, which was released by Criterion Collection in 2014 and includes his wonderful award-winning 51-minute 1984 docu In Heaven There is No Beer?, an examination of the high-spirited polka subculture featuring polka greats including Jimmy Sturr, Eddie Blazonczyk and Walt Solek. Watching it inevitably set me off on watching YouTube vids of my late pal Eddie B, then discovering, to my dismay, that Dave “Scrubby” Seweryniak of legendary Dynatones polka band fame had died on July 22 at 68.

“Yeah, Scrubby’s gone,” said Carl—one of the few people I can talk polka with. “If I had to boil down Brave Combo’s major influences to, say, five or six musicians or bands, Scrubby would be on that list, right there with the likes of [conjunto accordion great] Esteban “Steve” Jordan. We learned so much from him and his Buffalo-based polka upstarts, The Dynatones. He and his band made the polka funkier and gave it a new edge. The Dynatones amazing rhythm section combined with Scrubby’s voice and charisma created a polka shock wave in the 1970s and ’80s. That special sound is beautifully demonstrated by their recording of the Polish classic, ‘Zosia,’ from their Live Wire album. The first time I saw The Dynatones perform live, at Polkabration in New London, Conn., was as good as the first time I saw Led Zeppelin.”

Kinda reminds me of the time I gave up backstage passes at the Dane County Coliseum in Madison for Bruce Springsteen in 1980, I think it was, and drove to Milwaukee to see Slim Whitman. The power move.

“I often bugged Scrubby about doing some recording with us,” Carl continued. “So sorry we never got around to it. He was a very cool, gracious guy. I always thought his story would make a good movie, if the power of the music could actually be captured. Maybe it would be too esoteric for the average person, but there’s got to be a great story there.”

No shit.

“Larry Trojak, The Dynatones drummer, was a left-wing vegetarian, like me. With Scrubby being openly gay, that’s an odd pair for an American-Polish Catholic outfit. Also, do you remember the time we played Midsummer Night’s Swing and we had a Polish accordionist join us? That was Al Piatkowski, who was The Dynatone’s accordionist. That band was full of big-ass talent!”

Big-ass talent, indeed! And yes, Carl, of course I remember! How could anyone forget?

4 thoughts on “Scrubby Seweryniak: An appreciation

  • August 26, 2016 at 9:46 pm
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    Many thanks to Carl Finch for his comments regarding The Dynatones. I hope he knows that we were equally impressed with what Brave Combo was accompolishing at the same time; Scrub was definitely a BC fan. However, Carl, in equating his first Dynatones experience with the first time he saw Zep, scored big-time points for me, particularly with my 19 year-old daughter who, for her recent birthday, asked me to join her in seeing Jason Bonham’s Led Zeppelin Experience. To know that people like Carl recognized the greatness that was Scrubby speaks volumes.

  • August 27, 2016 at 7:38 pm
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    So nice of you to comment Larry! I’m humbled and thrilled.

  • August 27, 2016 at 7:57 pm
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    I met Scrubby years ago in Fontana, CA when the Dynatones were brought out there by Gene Swick. Scrubby was genuine, humble person, always appreciative of the kind words offered him.

    I was also on the red carpet next to Jeffery Barnes in about 2004 (NARAS member)

  • August 27, 2016 at 8:34 pm
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    Thanks for commenting. Makes me remember the year the Grammys were at Madison Square Garden and I was in the men’s room when Walter Ostanek walked in!

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