Accordion Comic: In Tune With Fun

Tom's accordion playing wins him the respect of his peers.

You and I know that accordion playing is the key to a happy, healthy life and the admiration of your peers. But how do we convey that message to the youth of America?

Fortunately, there’s In Tune With Fun — a 1950s comic about learning to play the accordion. In it, we follow the story of young Tom, who sees the “Young People’s Accordion Band” perform and decides he wants to be just as happy and popular as those other accordion-playing kids. With the encouragement of his parents, a lot of practice, and many afternoons spent listening to Ernie Felice records, Tom becomes a self-assured young man and a sought-after accordionist. Women want to date him! Men want to be him!

It’s an inspiring tale, with a message that still resonates today. Take it from Tom: “You’ve never really had fun until you start taking accordion lessons.”

[Found via J-Walk Blog]

Viva Seguin Conjunto Festival

Listen and learn from the conjunto masters this Saturday (October 7th) at the 3rd annual Viva Seguin Conjunto Festival in Seguin, TX. The day begins with a workshop led by two-time Grammy winner Joel Guzman, followed by a conjunto jam session (a chance to show off what you’ve learned!). Then you can dance the night away to a lineup that includes Los Hermanos De Leon, Los Enmascarados, Callejon Oscuro, 4×4, Los Padrinos and “El Chief” Santiago Jimenez Jr. Of course, it was Santiago’s father, Don Santiago Jimenez Sr., who wrote the classic polka “Viva Seguin”:

eBay Find: Win Twins Polka

The MLB playoffs start today and, since our beloved Red Sox will be watching from home this year, I’ve decided to pull for the Minnesota Twins this postseason. The choice was obvious after an eBay search uncovered this vinyl record of the “Win Twins Polka”, written by accordionist Marv Masterman. Masterman, who was inducted into the Ironworld Polka Hall of Fame in 2005, recorded the song during the Twins’ World Series run in 1987 (the salad days of Puckett and Viola) and considered it his greatest achievement in music. If anyone has a digital recording of this tune, let us know and we’ll listen to it while waving our Homer Hankies.

Accordionist Wanted in Pennsylvania

Reader Ambrose Kozlowski (who plays trumpet and drums) is looking for an accordion or concertina player in the Downington, PA area (between Lancaster and Philadelphia) to get together and play some Polish music as as well as some standards. Interested? Drop him a line at autokoz@aol.com.

Remember, if you’re looking for an accordionist or have an accordion event or album to promote, let us know and we’ll do our best to spread the word.

Julieta Venegas, Mexico’s Accordion Girl

Mexican singer/songwriter Julieta Venegas rose to fame with her unique brand of accordion rock, fueled by an expansive sound and powerful lyrics typically heard only in veteran artists. Lately, she’s been reinventing herself with a brighter pop sound that has widened her audience even more. She just received four Latin Grammy nominations, including Album of the Year for Limon y Sal and Record of the Year for “Me Voy”. This clever video for “Me Voy” also earned a Grammy nod:

(Thanks Ian!)

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The World’s Most Dangerous Polka Band

Stepping into Nye’s Polonaise in Northeast Minneapolis on a Friday night is like stepping back in time. That’s partly due to the decor (dark, windowless, and untouched in forty years), the employees and regulars (many of whom also haven’t changed in that time), and the presence of Ruth Adams and the World’s Most Dangerous Polka Band. Every week, the band (led by Ruth on accordion) leads a packed house through standards like “The Barking Dog Polka”, “Too Fat Polka”, and “In Heaven There Is No Beer.”

First-time director Sonya Tormoen has made an endearing short documentary of the group, simply titled The World’s Most Dangerous Polka Band. Filmed in 2003, it captures the warm relationship between the band members: the septuagenarian founder Ruth, trumpeter Joe Hayden (called “The Kid” despite being in his 60s), and 88-year-old drummer Al Ophus who, despite his troubles keeping a steady beat, charms patrons and boasts of kissing “fifteen girls a night” (Al passed away a few months after filming wrapped).

The documentary is currently making the film festival rounds — including the Chicago International REEL Shorts Festival this weekend — and won the award for Best Documentary Short at the Fargo Film Festival in March. Check out a review in the Beachwood Reporter or watch the trailer below. If you like what you can see and hear (and can’t wait for it to come to your town), you can order a DVD directly from the filmmakers.

Italian Family Festa in San Jose

Why not spend the weekend with the Italian family you never had? The Italian American Heritage Foundation’s 26th annual Italian Family Festa is happening this Friday through Sunday at Santana Row in San Jose, CA. There’ll be ample accordion entertainment, including performances by squeezebox legend Dick Contino, as well as the Silicon Valley Accordion Society. And like any good Italian festival, there’ll be plenty of food, a grape stomping contest, a tarantella dance contest, and a bocce ball court. We’ll be there Saturday, so say ‘hi’ and — assuming our faces aren’t stuffed with cannoli — we’ll give you some Let’s Polka stickers.

Weird Al releases “Straight Outta Lynwood”

Straight Outta LynwoodToday Weird Al released his 12th studio ALbum, Straight Outta Lynwood, featuring parodies of Chamillionaire, Green Day, Usher, R. Kelly and (best of all) Taylor Hicks! The DualDisc also includes six animated videos, a behind-the-scenes featurette on the making of the album and even karaoke mixes with optional on-screen lyrics. (And, for those who were wondering, there is a 27 on the cover).

My review: 5 stars, baby! Okay, I am biased. Weird Al is one of my favorite musicians ever. I am continually impressed with his breadth of experience spanning multiple genres. Some of my personal favorite songs are “White and Nerdy” (watch the video on Al’s Myspace), “Polkarama!” (any song that starts with “The Chicken Dance” and ends with “Gold Digger” is a favorite in my book) and “Do I Creep You Out” (I love Taylor Hicks but even he might agree that song was asking for it).

I also love the additional videos. Some of my favorite animators worked on them, including John Kricfalusi, Bill Plympton and Robot Chicken. The behind-the-scenes featurette is also really fun. In it, you’ll see Al playing his accordion (a red Hohner 72 bass with 5 treble switches) as well as a toy piano, vibraslap, bass harmonica and a watermelon! That guy has mad skillz.

If you like Weird Al, I think you will be pleasantly surprised with this album. Click here to buy the CD.

Flaco Jimenez vs Spongebob Squarepants

“Who lives in a pineapple under the sea?” Flaco Jimenez! No, the Tejano accordion legend hasn’t moved next door to Patrick and Squidward, but he does make a guest appearance on Spongebob’s latest album, SpongeBob Squarepants: The Best Day Ever. Put together by Tom Kenny (the voice of Spongebob), the album includes a track called “Barnacles!” that features Flaco jamming with cult rockers NRBQ.

And Bikini Bottom isn’t the only place you’ll find Flaco these days. He’s just released a new full-length album called Fiesta Del Rio. I’ve had a hard time finding any information on it — it isn’t on Amazon or iTunes yet and I’ve yet to see any reviews — but you can order it at tejanoclassics.com or directly from Flaco’s site. Judging from the track below, it sounds like it’s well worth hunting down.

Duckmandu Does Dead Kennedys

One of the acts we caught last weekend at Smythe’s Accordion Festival was the incomparable Duckmandu, aka Aaron Seeman. Despite recently injuring his rotator cuff (he passed around a handout illustrating the injury), he played an excellent set, including one-of-a-kind solo accordion renditions of “Highway to Hell” (complete with flames shooting out of his Donald Duck hat) and “Rocky Mountain High”.

Duckmandu is probably best known for his album, Fresh Duck for Rotting Accordionists, a solo accordion version of the first Dead Kennedys album Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables. Anyone who’s familiar with the original knows that a note-for-note recreation is no easy feat (especially on accordion), but he manages to pull it off. Original Dead Kennedys bassist Klaus Fluoride even sings backup on a few tracks. Check out his cover of “California Uber Alles”:

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