Push on for ‘chicken dance’ band on walk of fame

Allan Broder - The Emeralds
Allan Broder, a member of the Edmonton polka band The Emeralds Show and Dance Band, is pictured in Edmonton Alta., on Friday, November 20, 2015. The band is famous for popularizing the chicken dance and are candidates for Canada's Walk of Fame.

EDMONTON – A politician is trying to get a roosting place on Canada’s Walk of Fame for an Alberta band that popularized the “chicken dance.”

Chris Nielsen, an NDP legislature member, introduced the members of The Emeralds earlier this week during the legislative session. He called the band “a Canadian treasure” and asked for support in nominating them.

The polka-loving Edmonton group formed 45 years ago and had a smash hit with “The Bird Dance” — a take on an older European dance song.

The band’s version still has people clucking their hands and flapping their arms at weddings around the world.

Nielsen has asked all Alberta legislature members to sign a letter requesting that the band be given a star on the Walk of Fame next year. A social media campaign is also in the works, he said.

One of the band’s original members, Allan Broder, says it would be nice to be remembered on the celebrity sidewalk in downtown Toronto.

“It would be something that we could leave behind,” he said Friday.

“We’re not going to live forever and we’ve had a wonderful career in music. We have entertained thousands and thousands of people over the years.”

The Emeralds have recorded 29 albums, including “Bird Dance,” which went double-platinum in Canada and gold in Australia.

Broder wouldn’t reveal his age, but said The Emeralds’ five members are all in their late 60s and early 70s.

Wallis Petruk and Don Remeika are founding members who still play with the band. Al Oswald and Dave Hnatiuk retired and were replaced by Terry Kole and Reiner Piehl.

The band continues to play about 40 shows a year at casinos, corporate events and anniversary parties, said Broder.

Nielsen can recall doing the chicken dance himself in high school. He said he had no idea The Emeralds were from Edmonton until he was talking with a fellow legislature member who is a fan of the band and an accordion player.

Nielsen initially thought about hiring the band for a fundraiser, then decided his mission would be getting the group formally recognized alongside Bryan Adams and Celine Dion.

He jokingly admits that the song has since been stuck in his head.

“I’m just hoping with the support of Canadians we can get a band, that has long entertained a couple of generations, recognized for all that hard work and entertainment they’ve provided to us.

“We have to make sure they finally get what I think is due.”