'I Love My Green Bay Packers' polka gets an update for 2021, and 'the whole thing feels so good'
As a matter of fact, this is your father’s “I Love My Green Bay Packers” polka.
Only the names have changed.
References to Willard Scott, Oprah and Phil are out. Beyonce, Lady Gaga and Ellen are in.
A new version of the tailgating classic by Eddy J Lemberger switches up the name-dropping in the lyrics, cranks up the feel-good factor of the original with tuba and accordion, and basically dares you not to bop along when you watch the video that spans Milwaukee to Los Angeles in the same week the Rams just happen to be playing the Packers in the playoffs.
It's all the game plan of Jason Fabus, a professional jazz musician and saxophonist who lives in LA, was born in Milwaukee and raised in Wauwatosa. He's the guy on accordion who drops phrases like “the whole kit and caboodle” in interviews and has enough Packers gear to outfit all the players in his side passion, a polka band called West Coast Prost.
Fabus, who moved to California in 2012, grew up listening to the polka that Lemberger wrote in 1993. He’s been knocking around the idea of recording an updated take on it with a full band for years. Then along came 2020.
“Maybe it’s because it was such a rough year for a lot of us mentally and healthwise, and then to see the Packers doing this well, it just seemed like the right time to do it,” Fabus said. “There’s something different about this season.”
Meanwhile, back in Milwaukee, Lemberger, too, had often thought about doing a new rendition of the song he first recorded in his home studio 28 years ago and then sent out to radio and TV stations in Milwaukee and Green Bay on cassette. He just never got around to it. He needed “a little kick in the butt.”
Enter Fabus, who contacted him on Facebook in October when it looked like the Packers were rolling. Lemberger was game, and in Week 17 of the season, Fabus got back in touch and said, “Let’s do it.”
Four days later, Lemberger and the six musicians in West Coast Prost — Fabus, Gabe Sears, Tim Gill, Gareth Price, Brian Clancy and Chuck Hughes — had all recorded their parts remotely. Fabus mixed the song and Nathan Hatton produced the video.
“Most of the credit should go to the Green Bay Packers, because they’ve created this opportunity,” Fabus said. “I hope they go all the way, knock on wood. You have to write down that you can actually hear me knocking on the wood of my car.”
Lemberger, Fabus and a big-time Packers fan friend of his in Colorado came up with fresh references in the lyrics, including “I’ll bet them Kardashians are secret Packers fans” to replace “I’ll bet even Ditka’s a secret Packer fan.” Prince Harry and Duchess Meghan, Miley Cyrus, Twitter and “the Gram” (Instagram) wormed their way in, too. Timeless lines went untouched: “We take our opposition and crunch them like they're crackers. That’s why I love my Green Bay Packers.”
“It’s got the charm the original one had, maybe even more so,” Lemberger said of the 2021 version.
The original first took off through sporadic, grassroots airplay across Wisconsin from 1993 to 1995 and then at Packers tailgate parties where Lemberger frequently played. Bill Wenzel, the owner of Packer Fan Tours at the time, hired him for five years to come along and perform at tailgate events in Dallas, San Diego and Tampa, Florida.
Lemberger remembers one in Clearwater Beach, Florida, with thousands of fans. When the featured reggae band took its break, Wenzel told him to get up onstage and play “I Love My Green Bay Packers.” The crowd went crazy.
Interest in the song exploded during the Packers’ playoff run to win Super Bowl XXXI in 1997.
“All of a sudden it seemed like every TV station and radio station in Wisconsin was playing the song. I didn’t even know they had a copy of it,” Lemberger said. “It was all what you call synchronicity. It was a thing that went viral and kind of took me along with it.”
Lemberger has written 21 Packers songs but none as special as that polka.
“Something about the song and something about the Green Bay Packers. It kind of fit right into the river. It was almost like a canoe being led down the stream," he said. "I didn’t have to do much. The seeds were planted in a way, and people took it up and loved it.”
He attributes some of its magic to something simple he did during the songwriting process. He changed “I love the Green Bay Packers” to “I love my Green Bay Packers.”
“When I changed that word I thought, ‘This is it.’ The Packers are a team we can claim as our own ...” he said. “They’re as much your team as they are my team. We’re in this together.”
Fabus hopes people get that same feeling when they watch the new video. Even though it was shot remotely, there’s a sense of camaraderie and shared joy that can be tricky to capture in these virtual times. Fabus delivered Packers gear to all the guys to make sure everyone was sporting team colors.
“I’ve been able to convert about half the band into die-hard Packers fans, but the other guys I had to convince to put on some jerseys,” Fabus said. “I was like, ‘No, I don’t think you guys understand that this isn’t just a football team. It’s a culture.
“When you walk around with a Packers hat on, even in LA, you’re guaranteed you’re going to at least meet one or two people that are going to recognize that and it immediately just gets rid of that first layer of who is this stranger. Nope, they’re a Packers fan. They’re in. It’s my family.”
The video can be viewed on YouTube. The track is available for digital download at https://jasonfabus.bandcamp.com/track/i-love-my-green-bay-packers.
Lemberger has watched the video a bunch of times. "The whole thing feels so good. It makes you feel good again," he said.
That's as good as a musical touchdown for Fabus.
"I want people to hear this again, and if anything, have a little smile on their face for a few minutes," he said. "It’s been a rough last nine months for a lot of people.”
Contact Kendra Meinert at 920-431-8347 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @KendraMeinert.