This really shouldn’t come as a surprise: The Chardon Polka Band will be the star of its own reality show.
Reelzchannel announced this week that its new series, “Polka Kings,” will follow the CPB as it tries to achieve success and maybe even its ultimate goal: headlining Oktoberfest in Germany.
The half-hour series will premiere in the fall.
Reelzchannel chief Stan E. Hubbard says the series will be “a hilarious, insightful and surprising look at the world of polka that has never been seen before.”
Shooting will begin this spring.
Musically speaking, there is nothing like the Chardon Polka Band.
The calling card of the act — which does hail from Chardon and has played Youngstown many times — is polka versions of pop songs. Lady Gaga even gets the treatment.
It’s a quirky idea, to say the least — the product of a quirky bunch of musicians.
“Polka Kings” will have a family dynamic that might be akin to “Duck Dynasty.”
The members of CPB live together much of the time, so personality clashes are an everyday hazard. Financial stress, romance and disapproving family members add to the drama.
The CPB was co-founded by front man Jake Kouwe and his best friend and sousaphone/bass player, Paul Coates. Rounding out the band are Mike Franklin (banjo, bass, backup vocals and yodeling), Pops Magooch (the 67-year-old drum player and Jake’s “second dad,” whose real daughter is dating Paul), and Emily Burke (saxophone and flute player who is dating Jake and is the only female member).
Kouwe understands why a cable network would be drawn to the band.
“We are a weird niche band that has some interesting characters,” he said. “You couldn’t make up these characters. We’re kind of bizarre and eccentric, a 21st-century polka band. We’ll play wherever we get a job — a senior citizens center, a school, maybe a bar on Friday night — and we practically live together when we’re on tour.”
Kouwe got into polka music when he was 14.
“I thought it was hysterical, with songs about fat women and beer, silly stuff. But if I played it in a room full of my peers, they wouldn’t be into it. So we’d play a punk-rock or classic-rock song that everyone knows polka style and get heads to turn. We’re about reaching out to young people and meeting them where they are — get them into polka.”
The CPB can play traditional polka but prefers to bring something new. “If a style isn’t evolving, it’s not going anywhere,” said Kouwe.
He shared a story that demonstrates the impression the band leaves on people.
“We played a huge Oktoberfest in Indianapolis a couple years ago, and the crowd was mainly college kids,” he said. “They didn’t know polka. We hit ’em with some “Call Me Maybe,” and pretty soon there was a polka mosh pit. They knew what a polka sounded like, but we were playing something they could hear on the radio. They had a blast.
“This past year we returned to the same event, but we were running late. When we drove in, the kids recognized us from last year and started whooping it up.”