Ever wonder how Das Ist Lustig came about? Well, grab a cool drink, a warm pretzel, get comfy, and we'll tell you!
When Ross was 3, he received a toy accordion and began to play with it. He ran all over the house showing his parents and older brother the songs he was writing.
When Valina was 3, her mom put her in tap and ballet lessons. Her first dance recital was a disaster, as it is for most 3 year olds.
When Valina was 7, she finally began to grasp the steps patiently taught to her for four years. She learned to tap dance with a jump rope and performed on the Don Mahoney and Jeana Claire tv show several times. Her mom then put her in a children's Dutch folk dance group that performed at International folk festivals around Houston.
When Ross was 10, his parents asked him if he would like music lessons, and if so, which instrument did he want to learn; Organ, guitar or accordion. Since accordion was deemed the coolest instrument on earth, Ross chose the accordion, and the girls at school all wanted his phone number.
At 11, Valina joined the adults' Dutch folk dance group; The Texas Klompendansers, and was still doing tap and ballet dancing. She also took organ and piano lessons for a few years. She tried her hand at logo design for the first time and created the Klompendansers trademark red, white and blue wooden shoe with orange tulips in it inside the state of Texas outline. The final drawing (it needed a steadier hand) was created by Henk Henni of the Houston Holland Club.
Ross and Valina both were involved in their school choirs through middle and high school. They both attended festivals and dances with their parents where German bands and folk dancers performed. They also listened to weekly radio shows broadcasting German folk music. Ross recorded hours and hours of music from the Musikale Trott Mit Lisalotte. He continued with his accordion lessons as well, and was invited from time to time to sit in with Alpenfest. He also performed on the accordion in his school talent show, and received a standing ovation.
After high school, Ross continued to study music, majoring in accordion and minoring in voice. He went to HBU in Houston, then furthered his studies at UMKC in Kansas City. He worked various jobs to pay his way through school, which made him an older graduate, but the experience enhanced his knowledge in areas he would need later in life. He did some teaching at churches, worked at music stores repairing instruments, directed church choirs, assisted with sound, and did equipment repair.
Valina went to Holland as a high school exchange student, joined an International folk dance group, and continued singing in choirs while in Holland. When she returned to Texas, she went to work as a station agent for KLM at the International Airport in Houston and joined several folk dance groups to keep her sanity; German, Russian, Irish / Scottish and continued dancing with the Dutch folk dancers. In 1992 Valina helped her mom clean out her great aunt's attic. One box contained a small washboard her aunt used for washing clothes in the 1930's. She kept it, just in case she might want to hang it on the wall, or maybe learn to play some rhythm on it one day.
Ross finished his degree at UMKC in 2002. He traveled and performed with the accordion orchestra, and directed his church choir. He came back to Houston, got an office job, and played the occasional solo gig on the accordion at German clubs, but was mostly focused on classical music.
In 2004, Valina toured with Terry Cavanagh's band for the Oktoberfest season. She learned the ins and outs of performing as a side-man for a band, and keeping audiences involved with dancing and singing along. In 2005, She worked as a dancing fraulein at the Texas Renaissance Festival. That's when the washboard became a percussion instrument. A bike horn and bell her Dad brought from Holland, and a woodpecker her friends Doug and Sheryl brought from Brataslava were attached to the washboard. She also bought a set of tuned cowbells which she used to invite festival guests to join her to play songs. That soon became a crowd favorite. It was so exhilarating to see the crowd response, She decided then and there that she needed to create a band of her own.
In 2006, Valina began looking for accordion players who she could start a band with. She wanted an all girl band, but found that most ladies playing accordion were already too busy, or lived too far away to rehearse on a regular basis. In November of 2006, Ross and Valina were both attending Wurstfest. Valina was there with her parents and Ross was there with his cousins when he ran across their mutual friends Maryanne and Jimmy. (Valina had been telling them for months that she wanted to start a German polka band, but was having trouble finding an accordion player) They told Ross they had a friend looking for accordion players - "female preferably, but just in case, would he be interested in the job?" Hearing that an all girl German polka band could be in his future, he said yes, and proceeded to give every possible contact to them to pass on to Valina. Valina held on to the information but didn't call Ross right away. Her first vacation in 4 years was a trip to Singapore and Malaysia to perform in an Oktoberfest there. Then Christmas came along, and she was back to working 7 days a week (bar tending, handyman jobs, and organizing the Tomball festival). In March 2007, she called Ross hoping he could stroll at the Tomball German Heritage Festival...and also interview for the band. They began rehearsing right away, and had their first show at the Texas Folklife Festival in San Antonio in June of 2007. So, Ross wasn't the female musician she was hoping for, but he definitely fit the bill for talent, and musicianship needed.
The band name Das Ist Lustig was chosen based on a song by Slavko Avsenic. The song had been a favorite of Valina's for years. All the Texas German bands played the song in their shows. In Ross and Valina's minds, the song Das Ist Lustig and the fun memories they have of hearing their favorite bands play the song is why they chose it as a band name - To honor their friends and the people who influenced them to perform the music they love.
Then, in July of 2007, Ross and Valina fell in love. They married in May 2008.
The band has grown over the past few years. The musicians who play with Das Ist Lustig are all talented and add their own special flair to the music and showmanship of the band. There are also a few ladies who dance with the band, and work the audience during the shows, which adds an element of excitement.