In the spring of 1995, I was an eager college freshman doing what all young men dream of when they leave home: learning to play the accordion. I didn’t have a teacher or any lesson books, but I did have Those Darn Accordions’ album Squeeze This on cassette.
On the cover was Clyde Forsman, his octogenarian back covered with tattoos, smiling broadly and showing off his biceps while lifting an accordion. When people kidded me about playing the accordion, I showed them that album and made them listen to Clyde’s rendition of Jimi Hendrix’s “Fire” — a stunning version that rendered all other covers futile. Clyde Forsman helped me prove that the accordion could be cool.
Clyde passed away Friday night at his home in San Francisco; he was 94. One of the founding members of Those Darn Accordions, he played with the band from 1989 to 2000 and was easily its most beloved member. He won over crowds with his charm, humor, and the way he would take off his shirt to reveal his fantastic tattoos before launching into “Da Ya Think I’m Sexy?” or the aforementioned “Fire.” An amazing entertainer and an incomparable accordion ambassador, he will be sorely missed.