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Brave Combo is a polka/rock/worldbeat band based in Denton, Texas. Founded in 1979 by guitarist/keyboardist/accordionist Carl Finch, they have been a prominent fixture in the Texas music scene for more than thirty-five years.[2] Their music, both originals and covers, incorporates a number of dance styles, mostly polka, but also some Latin American and Caribbean styles like norteño, salsa, rumba, cha-cha-cha, choro, samba, two-step, cumbia, charanga, merengue, ska, etc.

Brave Combo
Brave Combo 01.jpg
Brave Combo at the Ballard Seafood Fest
Background information
OriginDenton, Texas
GenresLatin alternative, polka, worldbeat, Tex-Mex, salsa, Latin jazz, ska, dance
Years active1979 (1979)–present
LabelsFour Dots, Rounder Records, DenTone, Cleveland International
MembersCarl Finch
Lyle Atkinson
Danny O'Brien
Alan Emert
Robert Hokamp
Jeffrey Barnes (occasional)
Past membersGinny Mac[1]
Little Jack Melody
Dave Cameron
Tim Walsh
Bubba Hernandez
Joseph Cripps
Mitch Marine
Paul Stivitts
Ann Marie Harrop
Arjuna Contreras

As part of their perceived artistic mission to expand the musical tastes of their listeners, they have often played and recorded covers of well-known songs in a style radically different from the original versions. Examples include polka versions of Jimi Hendrix's "Purple Haze" and The Doors' "People are Strange", The Rolling Stones' "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction" as a cha-cha, and "Sixteen Tons" as a cumbia. While their records may have a sense of humor, they are played straight and not usually considered joke or novelty records.


Awards and honorsEdit

They won a Grammy Award in 1999 in the Best Polka Album category for their album Polkasonic, and again in 2004 for their album Let's Kiss.[3][4]

In naming Denton, Texas, the "Best Music Scene" for 2008, Paste magazine cited Brave Combo as the "Grand Pooh-Bah of Denton bands" and said that "Brave Combo, is in many ways the template from which all the rest are cut: eclectic and artistically ambitious, with a high degree of musicianship and a strong DIY ethic."[5]

Media appearancesEdit

Brave Combo on The Simpsons
  • The band made a short appearance, as animated figures, on the March 21, 2004, episode of The Simpsons ("Co-Dependent's Day").[3] Series creator Matt Groening is a fan of the band and they appeared on the show at his personal request.[6][7][8] In the episode, the band played a new original song called "Fill The Stein" and their version of "The Simpsons Theme" played over the closing credits.[9]
  • Finch and other band members made cameo appearances in Talking Heads leader David Byrne's 1986 movie True Stories, set in fictional Virgil, Texas. Finch can be spotted in the fashion show sporting a brick-patterned suit and in the parade leading the all-accordion marching band. (In real life, Brave Combo was David Byrne's wedding band.)
  • They appear in the 1986 Hank Wangford Channel 4 television series The A to Z of C & W singing the Hank Williams song "Cold, Cold Heart".
  • They contributed two songs to the Gumby album, released in 1989.
  • Their song "Busy Office Rhumba" was used as the theme for the 1993 Fox television series Bakersfield P.D.[10]
  • They appear as a wedding band in the 1995 feature film Late Bloomers.
  • In 2000, they appeared on the national telecast of the MDA Labor Day Telethon with Jerry Lewis dancing along to the music.[11]
  • They wrote and performed the theme song for the 2005 series "ESPN Bowling Night".
  • The opening theme and other music for the 2008 PBS animated series Click and Clack's As the Wrench Turns were produced by Carl Finch and composed, arranged, and performed by Finch and Brave Combo.[12][13]
  • Their live music video, "The Denton Polka", appears on the Bohemia Rising DVD Compilation (released in 2009), a collection of documentary shorts directed by Christopher Largen exploring rebellion and resistance to corporate demolition in their hometown of Denton, Texas.
  • Included in Bob Dylan's 2009 Christmas release, Christmas In The Heart, the song "Must Be Santa", is performed polka-style. Dylan's arrangement is almost identical to the Brave Combo arrangement from their 1991 CD It's Christmas, Man!. In an interview published by Street News Service, Dylan acknowledged the influence of Brave Combo: "This version comes from a band called Brave Combo. Somebody sent their record to us for our radio show. They’re a regional band out of Texas that takes regular songs and changes the way you think about them. You oughta hear their version of 'Hey Jude'."[14]
  • They were featured on Bowling for Soup's album Sorry for Partyin', playing a polka version of Bowling For Soup's song "Belgium".
  • The season seven episode "Fun on a Bun" of the animated science fiction comedy Futurama includes two original songs by the band plus a cover version of "The Chicken Dance". The episode debuted August 1, 2012, on Comedy Central.[15][16]


US studio and live albumsEdit

Date of release Title Label Catalog Type Notes
1979 Polkamania Four Dots FD1003 & FD1004 Studio released as two 7" discs
1981 Music For Squares Four Dots FD1005 Studio
1982 Urban Grown-ups Four Dots FD1006 Studio four song EP
1982 Originals Four Dots Studio released as cassette only
1984 World Dance Music Four Dots FD1010 Studio
1984 No Sad Faces Four Dots FD1012 Live
1987 Musical Varieties Rounder CD 11546 Studio compilation from Four Dots releases plus two new tracks
1987 Polkatharsis Rounder CD 9009 Studio
1988 Humansville Rounder CD 9019 Studio
1990 A Night On Earth Rounder CD 9029 Studio
1992 It's Christmas, Man! Rounder CD 3099 Studio contents similar to It's X-mas, Man!
1993 No, No, No, Cha Cha Cha Rounder CD 9035 Studio content similar to Japanese release
1994 The Hokey Pokey: Organized Dancing DenTone DT 1001 Studio seven-song EP
1995 Polkas For A Gloomy World Rounder CD 9045 Studio Grammy nominee
1996 Girl Rounder CD 9050 Studio with Tiny Tim - his last recording
1996 Mood Swing Music Rounder CD 11574 Studio rarities and singles
1996 Kiss Of Fire Watermelon WM 1058 Studio with Lauren Agnelli, content similar to Allumettes
1997 Group Dance Epidemic Rounder R9055 Studio
1998 Polka Party with Brave Combo: Live and Wild! Easydisc EDIS 7052 Live Grammy nominee
1999 Polkasonic Cleveland International CIR-1023-2 Studio Grammy winner
2000 The Process Rounder Records ROUN9065 Studio
2001 All Wound Up! - A Family Music Party Rounder Records ROUN8092 Studio with Cathy Fink & Marcy Marxer, Grammy nominee
2001 Kick-Ass Polkas Cleveland International B00005O7SE Live Grammy nominee
2003 Box of Ghosts Rounder Records ROUN9064 Studio
2004 Let's Kiss: 25th Anniversary Album Dentone Records Studio Grammy winner
2005 Holidays! Dentone/Rounder Studio
2007 Polka's Revenge Dentone Records Studio Grammy nominee
2008 The Exotic Rocking Life Dentone Records Studio
2009 Symphonic Polkas Dentone Records DT1006 Live with the Mesquite Symphony Orchestra
2009 Christmas Present Dentone Records DT1007 Studio Christmas music
2010 Kikiriki Dentone Records DT1008 Studio
2012 Sounds Of The Hollow Dentone Records DT1009 Studio
2014 Live at Blob's Park Dentone Records DT1012 Live
2015 The Liminal Zone Dentone Records DT1013 Studio

International releasesEdit

Date of release Title Label Catalog Type Notes
1981 Music For Squares Stunn Stun507 Studio New Zealand, content identical to US release
1981 I Gotta Know/Neo Limbo Stunn BFA 884 Studio New Zealand, 7" single
1986 People Are Strange Rogue Records FMST 4007 Studio U.K. compilation
1987 Polkatharsis Demon Records REU 1018 Studio U.K., content identical to US release
1989 Music Circus P-Vine PCD-2513 Studio Japan
1990 Very Early Recordings Wave Records Studio Japan
1991 ÉÉjhanaika P-Vine PCD-1800 Studio Japan
1991 It's X-mas, Man! P-Vine PCD-2300 Studio Japan
1992 No, No, No, Cha Cha Cha P-Vine PCD-2400 Studio Japan
1993 Ondo Saves The World Tele Disc TLCD-93001 Studio Japan, Kikusuimaru Meets Brave Combo
1994 Allumettes P-Vine PCD-1986 Studio Japan, with Lauren Agnelli
1995 Polkas For A Gloomy World P-Vine PCD-3614 Studio Japan, content identical to U.S. release


Former membersEdit

  • Jeffrey Barnes - saxophones, clarinet, flute, harmonica, penny whistles (born July 27, 1951, Fremont, Ohio) (1983–2015)
  • Ginny Mac - accordion (2011–2013)
  • Tim Walsh - saxophone, flute, clarinet (born c.1952) (1979–1983)
  • Dave Cameron - drums (born c.1958) (1979–1983)
  • Cenobio "Bubba" Hernandez - bass guitar (born November 30, 1958, San Antonio, Texas) (1985–2007)
  • Phil Hernandez - drums (born February 5, 1971, Buffalo, New York) (1992 - ?)
  • Mitch Marine - drums (born c.1956) (1983–1992)
  • Joe Cripps - percussion (born January 5, 1965, Little Rock, Arkansas) (1992 - 1999), some subsequent performances
  • Greg Beck - drums (1996-1997)
  • Paul Stivitts - drums (born 1971) NYC
  • Ann Marie Harrop - bass guitar (2007–2009)
  • Little Jack Melody - bass guitar (2009–2014)
  • Arjuna Contreras - drums (born August 11, 1974, Kenosha, Wisconsin) (2008–2010)
  • Bill Tomlin - Drums (born September 28, 1948)


  1. ^ Warren, Jason (July 5, 2013). "Brave Combo takes the accordion rocking across the world and the patio at the Old Rock House". KDHX-FM. Archived from the original on August 21, 2013. Retrieved July 5, 2013.
  2. ^ Philpot, Robert (June 18, 2014). "Brave Combo: Still rockin' the polka after all these years". Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Archived from the original on July 23, 2014. Retrieved June 19, 2014.
  3. ^ a b Breeding, Lucinda (July 7, 2008). "Click & Clack add oompah; Brave Combo provides musical nuts and bolts for animated TV series". Denton Record-Chronicle. Archived from the original on 2008-08-28. Retrieved November 26, 2012.
  4. ^ "Brave Combo Awards". Retrieved 2012-11-26.
  5. ^ Sims, Dave (November 21, 2008). "Signs of Life 2008: Best Music Scene - Denton, Texas". Paste.
  6. ^ Beal, Jim Jr. (November 28, 2003). "Group gets a, uh, gig on 'Simpsons'". San Antonio Express-News. San Antonio, TX. p. 18H. Retrieved November 26, 2012.(subscription required)
  7. ^ "Music for nuclear (polka) families: Grammy-winning Brave Combo has a new CD". Fort Worth Star-Telegram. January 23, 2001. p. L1. Retrieved November 26, 2012.(subscription required)
  8. ^ Hepola, Sarah (March 11, 2004). "Brave New Combo D'oh! The Simpsons animate Dallas' favorite polka band". Dallas Observer. Dallas, TX. Retrieved November 26, 2012.
  9. ^ "The Machine's Pump Volume 7 - #3 - March 2004". Brave Combo. Archived from the original on June 15, 2004. Retrieved November 26, 2012.
  10. ^ Vreeken, Stacey (August 27, 2009). "Brave Combo runs the gamut of musical styles". Santa Cruz Sentinel. Santa Cruz, CA: MediaNews Group. Archived from the original on 2014-07-15. Retrieved June 11, 2014.
  11. ^ "MDA Labor Day Telethon list of celebrity appearances" (PDF). Muscular Dystrophy Association. Archived from the original (pdf) on 2006-08-13. Retrieved November 26, 2012.
  12. ^ "Click and Clack's As the Wrench Turns - Show Credits. Retrieved November 26, 2012.
  13. ^ Catlin, Roger (July 9, 2008). "Click And Clack Get Their Own Public Television Show". Hartford Courant. Retrieved July 24, 2008.[dead link]
  14. ^ Flanagan, Bill (November 23, 2009). "Bob Dylan Discusses Holiday Music, Christmas and Feeding The Hungry". Street News Service. Archived from the original on 2011-07-10. Retrieved November 26, 2009.
  15. ^ Pinson, Ann (July 16, 2012). "Brave Combo's nuclear polka to explode on the small screen in "Futurama"". The Dallas Morning News. Archived from the original on July 20, 2012. Retrieved July 16, 2012.
  16. ^ Lewis, B.J. (July 30, 2012). "'Futurama' to feature Brave Combo music". Denton Record-Chronicle. Archived from the original on 2012-08-01. Retrieved July 31, 2012.
  17. ^

External linksEdit