• BAPTIST BEER [Round Hill Series]
by Kenny Paul Clarkson
Rapping on the glass with the knuckle of his forefinger, the preacher captured Wilhelm’s attention. With a friendly smile typical of the retired physics professor, he motioned them into the garage.
Besides a rake and a large green plastic trashcan, the garage was mostly empty. The obvious exceptions were R.J. Rittenbaurer, who was strapping on an accordion, Ted Edmond, who was fiddling with buttons on his clarinet, and Archie Harris, plugging his bass guitar into an amp. In addition, there was some guy sitting behind a heretofore-silent set of drums. Neither Eb nor his twelve year old companion, Orville, recognized the drummer.
The neighbors are going to love this, Eb thought.
“So, got ya a little polka band going, huh?” he asked, noting the obvious.
“Not just any polka band,” Wilhelm beamed with a sparkle in his eye. “A gospel polka band.”
“No kidding?” the preacher blandly asked.
“Yep. Far as I know, the first gospel music polka band in the world. Right here in Round Hill.”
Aren’t we lucky? Orville thought of saying. He wisely chose to keep his opinion to himself.
“You know the famous polka song, ‘Roll Out the Barrel?” Blake asked. “Well, our version is ‘Read in the Bible.’ Same tune, different words. Ya wanna hear it?”
Before Eb could say a word, Wilhelm answered, “Why, sure he does. Let’s hit it, boys.”
Without further ado, the guy at the drums slapped his sticks together four times to set the tempo and off they went. Blake stepped up to a microphone and began singing, “Read in the Bible - all about David and then - read how he killed that - great big old giant of sin. Read in the Bible - you too will have victory… ”
They abruptly stopped.
“That’s as far as we got,” Wilhelm explained. “After we finish the words to the first verse, we’re gonna write two or three more.”
Eb clasped his hands behind his back. “Gospel music polka band. What a unique idea.”
“We’re thinkin’ of starting a Christian beer garden,” Blake volunteered. “A place where folks can come and enjoy good gospel polka music while dining on sausage links and sauerkraut.” That struck Orville as hilarious, but he managed not to laugh.
“Uhuh,” Wilhelm confirmed. “We’ll serve alcohol-free beer. I wanted to call it Baptist Beer, but these other guys thought it would offend Christians who aren’t Baptists. So we decided to call it Brethren Brew. It has an ecumenical flavor.”
“I think we oughta call it Christian Lite,” Blake said.
Eb smiled. “Very appropriate.”
“Well, ya know, Preacher,” Wilhelm waxed philosophical. “I think the only way we’re going to reach a lost and dying world with the glorious Gospel of Jesus, is to speak in a language the world understands. And a lot of folks out there love polka music.”
“By the way,” he added, “We’re looking for gigs. We’d be happy to perform some Sunday at your church.”
Eb tried to imagine.
Orville asked what they called the band. They hadn’t decided. Wilhelm had wanted to take each band member’s first initial and spell a word to be used as the band’s name, but all they could come up with was The Straw or The Warts. Someone suggested The Straw Warts because it sounded like “Star Wars.” That name was voted down four to one.
Orville suggested they name the band "Joe."
“Then,” he explained, “you can call it 'Band Joe.' Get it? Like banjo!”
Wilhelm wasn’t sure if that was a good idea, until Orville explained that an unusual yet catchy name would be remembered. Then, he added, “‘Joe’ could represent the words ‘Jesus over everything.’”
The group liked the idea. The name stuck. Band Joe. “The world’s first and finest gospel music polka band” would be printed on their business cards, they agreed.