LOS ANGELES (AP) -- It's enough to make any serious polka fan shove his plate of sausage aside, fling his lederhosen in the closet and go out and shed a few tears in his beer.
The waltz is over for America's Polka King, Jimmy Sturr, not to mention every other squeezebox-loving, ompah-dancing fanatic who followed the Grammy Awards each year just to learn whether Sturr would collect yet another trophy for best polka album of the year.
Moving to ensure that its awards show remains what it called "pertinent within the current musical landscape," the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences announced Thursday it is eliminating its best polka album category.
Although posters to Internet sites catering to polka fans (yes, there are such places) were outraged, Sturr, who is hailed by fans the world over as the King of Polka, was doing his best to take the news in stride.
"Sure I feel a little bad, but I'm grateful, man," said the 58-year-old musician who has won the best polka album trophy 18 of the past 24 years.
"The Academy did a lot, not only recognizing me but recognizing polka music," he continued. He added that the recognition gave him a chance to fuse polka with pop, country, rock and folk and broaden the music's audience as he worked with musicians such as Willie Nelson, Alison Krauss and Bela Fleck.
Still, he wasn't completely satisfied with the Academy's explanation that polka was attracting too few entries in its category.
There are millions of polka fans worldwide, Sturr noted, and hundreds of working polka bands in this country alone. They have taken your grandfather's music, he said, and merged it with Tex-Mex, rock, Tejano and other forms to create a distinctly American sound.
As Grammy-nominated player John Gora noted, one of his most popular polka covers is the rock band Genesis' "Follow You, Follow Me."
"And Phil Collins liked it," he said of the Genesis frontman.
For his part, Sturr said he suspects that if there were 20 people on the committee that recommended dropping his category, "19 of them have never been to a polka concert. "
Others speculated that Sturr's amazing record of Grammy wins helped do in the category.
"I think the fact that it was so dominated by one artist, that kind of killed the incentive for a lot of people to enter," said Carl Finch, whose Tex-Mex-Tejano-Conju nto-Polka fusion band Brave Combo upset Sturr to take the award in 1999 and 2004.
Sturr, meanwhile, says he has no plans to stop entering the Grammys, and will nominate his next album in whatever category he is allowed to.
That will be the folk music category, said Bill Freimuth, the Academy's vice president for awards.
Finch, however, worries that that kind of pigeonholing won't go down well with polka fans, who he says are already fed up with all the lederhosen and accordion jokes they must endure.
"It's not that the polka world's not used to it," he said of polka not getting enough recognition. "The polka world expects it. It's like, 'Yeah, the man did it to us again.'"
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