I was reminded recently of my short-lived career as an accordionist when I ran across a blog where the photo of a quite unique grave headstone had been posted. A woman living in the Washington, D.C. area who was obviously a lover of accordions extraordinaire had a quite detailed replica of an accordion etched into a rather large headstone.
I have no intentions whatsoever in transforming my blog into one solely directed at music but at least for a period of time I am going to probably do just that. My recent post, “The Three Songs” has undoubtedly gotten my musical juices flowing full bore so I intend to take full advantage of that since it provides such personal enjoyment for me.
The accordion, an instrument thought to have been invented in Germany in 1822, over the past generation or so certainly seems to have gotten on the bad side of a segment of American society. It has become the brunt of many a joke. And being someone who was teethed on the accordion and who also loves humor, I have to say that most accordion jokes crack me up. I mean really, who is going to take all this in a serious vain anyway. Well….not me and I love a good joke! Besides, accordions can’t think, hear or otherwise express opinions so one has to assume they aren’t bothered by all the negative press.
In fact, one of my favorite cartoonist is Gary Larson, also known as Farside, and he published one of my all-time favorite accordion cartoons where in one scene it shows St. Peter handing out ‘harps’ to people entering Heaven while the other scene shows Satan handing out ‘accordions’ to those entering Hell. That pretty much sums up the respect an accordion gets anymore. 🙂
My mother suggested I take up accordion when I was around fifteen or so, sounded good to me at the time so she signed me up for some lessons. You can read about all those gory details “here” if you care to do so. And so it was that I began my own personal relationship with the accordion.
In those days it was a well received instrument with Dick Contino and Myron Floren probably being the most well known accordionists of the day. And of course one cannot fail to mention the fact that the song “Lady of Spain” was considered the accordion ‘anthem’. If a time ever came that you could master the famous arrangement of that piece of music on the accordion, then and only then could you honestly say you had made it to the top of your craft! Of course there was a bit of back-lash from that association between Lady of Spain and the accordion. These days does not only the accordion get a bad rap but so does the song due to that association.
Putting all that aside however, let’s liven up this little party and get one of the masters up here to give us a rip-roaring rendition of that accordion anthem right now. How ‘bout it Mr. Welk? Can you get Myron up here to play us a tune?
Wonurful, wonurful, wonurful!
By the way, at a little over the one-minute mark of that video did you notice Dick Dale? He looks like he might be in about the tenth grade! lol
The other major influence of the day for me took the form of “The Three Suns”, a primarily instrumental group consisting of Al Nevins on guitar, Morty Nevins on accordion and Artie Dunn on organ. One of their most well known songs was “Twilight Time” which became the group’s theme song. It was originally released on record in 1944. This song, along with one or two other Three Sun selections, were just a couple more records in mother’s 78-record collection.
By the way, I think it interesting to note that this song’s music was written by the three members of The Three Suns and the words were written by Buck Ram, a talented song writer and the creative force behind such groups as The Platters who were so popular in the early rock and roll era.
The groups biggest hit was “Peg O’ My Heart” which is another favorite of mine peaked at Number 1 on the Pop Charts in June of 1947.
Here is a great little video of the original group playing “Beyond the Blue Horizon” with vocal by Artie Dunn……
I suppose I should not avoid mentioning one other individual who achieved some measure of fame for his accordion playing. And he did so within the generation which seemed to turn so vehemently against the renowned accordion. Many of my peers may also recognize this famed accordion player. I refer to none other than Steve Urkel of “Family Matters “fame who single-handedly resurrected the accordion. Of course I do jest! Here is a hilarious segment featuring Steve, Laura, Myra and the dueling accordions….
Family Matters – Episode: “Hot Stuff” – April 1993
And so it is that here we are in 2011 and there continues a palatable distain for my instrument of choice as a young boy. Life is full of decisions and some we make are good ones, others unfortunately not so good but as to the accordion? Well, I continue to think it was a good one!