Polkabilly : How the Goose Island Ramblers Redefined American Folk Music

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A freewheeling blend of continental European folk music and the songs, tunes, and dances of Anglo and Celtic immigrants, polkabilly has enthralled American musicians and dancers since the mid-19th century. From West Virginia coal camps and east Texas farms to the Canadian prairies and America's Upper Midwest, scores of groups have wed squeezeboxes with string bands, hoe downs with hambos, and sentimental Southern balladry with comic "up north" broken-English comedy, to create a new and uniquely American sound. The Goose Island Ramblers played as a house band for a local tavern in Madison, Wisconsin from the early 1960s through the mid-1970s. The group epitomized the polkabilly sound with their wild mixture of Norwegian fiddle tunes, Irish jigs, Slovenian polkas, Swiss yodels, old time hillbilly songs, "Scandihoovian" and "Dutchman" dialect ditties, frost-bitten Hawaiian marches, and novelty numbers on the electric toilet plunger. In this original study, James P. Leary illustrates how the Ramblers' multiethnic music combined both local and popular traditions, and how their eclectic repertoire challenges prevailing definitions of American folk music. He thus offers the first comprehensive examination of the Upper Midwest's folk musical traditions within the larger context of American life and culture. Impeccably researched, richly detailed and illustrated, and accompanied by a compact disc of interviews and performances, James P. Leary's Polkabilly: How the Goose Island Ramblers Redefined American Folk Music creates an unforgettable portrait of a polkabilly band and its world.show more

Product details

  • Hardback | 272 pages
  • 160 x 236.2 x 27.9mm | 453.6g
  • Oxford University Press Inc
  • New York, United States
  • English
  • 32 halftones, 2 maps
  • 0195141067
  • 9780195141061

Review quote

Jim Leary has written a rich masterpiece about people and music, cultural processes, and meanings in a part of America long misunderstood or ignored. His treatment of the Goose Island Ramblers is as engaging as their personalities and the music they play from neighborhood bars to country fairs ...Full of the humor of the real folks from places defined too often by stereotypes, Polkabilly is a fine personal and musical history. * Nick Spitzer, Professor of Folklore, University of New Orleans, and Host, American Routes, Public Radio International * This is a well-researched look at an overlooked form of American folk music. * Anything Phonographic * It's an intriguing title, and Leary makes a cogent case for a hybrid music of the Upper Midwest, a mix of American, English, German, Scandinavian and country music that's developed over the last century or moreAt the very least it's an interesting tale that gathers several strands of American and immigrant history. As a history of upper Midwestern fold music, this makes a very interesting and informative read. * Sing Out! * I have learnt much more from Leary about the Upper Midwest's vernacular music than I have from the many books and articles I have read on Dylan. * Michael Pickering, Folk Music Journal * Polkabilly offers an entertaining and enlightening look at the music of a region that's been little explored as well as an endearingly entertaining band. * Jeffery R. Lindholm, Dirty Linen *show more

About James P. Leary

James P. Leary is a professor of Folklore and Scandinavian Studies at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, where he also serves as director of the Folklore Program and co-director of the Center for the Study of Upper Midwestern Cultures. A native of northern Wisconsin, he has conducted field research on the folklore of diverse cultural groups in America's Upper Midwest for more than thirty years and is author of Minnesota Polka, Yodeling in Dairyland, Wisconsin Folklore, and So Ole Says to Lena: Folk Humor of the Upper Midwest.show more

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7 ratings
3.85 out of 5 stars
5 14% (1)
4 71% (5)
3 0% (0)
2 14% (1)
1 0% (0)
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