As America settles into another season of Ryan Secrest and Simon Cowell catfights (aka American Idol), Europe gears up for its annual continent-wide song competition, Eurovision. Each country votes on a song to represent them at the Eurovision finals, then viewers across Europe vote on a winner from that pool of entries. This year’s entries have their work cut out for them — it’ll be hard to top last year’s winners, Finnish heavy-metal rockers Lordi.
This year, there’s controversy brewing around Israel’s chosen Eurovision entry: a song called “Push the Button” by the band Teapacks. Eurovision organizers have threatened to ban the entry due to its “inappropriate” political message. The song warns of the dangers of nuclear war and seems to be a thinly-veiled jab at the nuclear ambitions or Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. One verse goes: “There are some crazy leaders they hide and try to fool us / With demonic, technologic willingness to harm / They’re going to push the button.”
Musically, the catchy song jumps back and forth between folk, hard rock, and even hip-hop, with the lead singer singing in English, French, and Hebrew. In the video, there’s even a (somewhat lazy) accordion player smoking a pipe:
He may not have the name recognition of Myron Floren or Dick Contino, but few accordionists (past or present) could match the talents of Johnny Pecon. Pecon joined fellow Cleveland native Frankie Yankovic’s band in 1947; Yankovic played melodies on his piano accordion while Pecon harmonized on his chromatic. Pecon even introduced Yankovic to the song that would become his biggest hit: “Just Because”.
After a couple years of recording and touring with Yankovic, Pecon left and began a successful partnership with another excellent Cleveland accordionist, Lou Trebar. To this day, the Pecon-Trebar Orchestra is considered one of the greatest Cleveland-style polka bands of all-time.
If you’ve been watching prime-time TV on NBC lately, you’ve seen their barrage of commercials for a new show called The Black Donnellys. The show follows four Irish-American brothers living in New York’s Hell’s Kitchen and depicts their transformation from boys to mobsters. Now a show about rowdy Irish-American guys has to have some accordion in it, right?
As it turns out… it does! The pilot episode, airing next Monday at 10pm (after Heroes), features a tune by eclectic Bay Area band The Mad Maggies. Keep your ears open about seven minutes into the show as “Sleepy Maggie”, a Mad Maggiefied version of a traditional reel, plays over a slow-motion fight scene. You can hear more on their excellent new album, Magdalena’s Revenge. And don’t forget to set your Tivo!
The ad wizards at Oscar Meyer recently held a nationwide contest to find a new voice for their “I wish I was an Oscar Mayer wiener…” jingle. After sifting through thousands of entries and public voting on twenty finalists, they finally have five winners — one of whom is eight-year-old zydeco accordion prodigy, Guyland Leday. We should see a TV commercial with Guyland and his accordion sometime later this year. In the meantime, you can watch Guyland’s winning performance on the Oscar Meyer website.
Tune into San Francisco radio station KFOG 104.5 tomorrow morning around 6:50am, and you should hear SF accordionist Tom Torriglia playing some romantic tunes on Dave Morey’s morning show. If you’re outside the Bay Area, you can listen online at KFOG.com.
Tom was also featured recently on a Canadian TV show called Careers TV, where they chronicled his passion for playing and promoting the accordion. (Look for episode #06-808 on their site for more info.) Maybe one of our Canadian readers can upload a clip to YouTube…
Led by Louisiana accordion maker Marc Savoy, the series covers the whole process step-by-step — from building the reed-mounts to fashioning the keyboard on through to attaching the bellows. Even if you aren’t planning to build your own box, it’s a fascinating look at how button accordions are built.
I couldn’t find any video clips, but there are extensive summaries (with photos) of each episode online. Did anyone out there catch the show? If so, leave a comment and let us know what you thought.
I finally tracked down some clips of eight-year-old zydeco accordion prodigy Guyland Leday on the recent HBO special, The Music in Me: Children’s Recitals from Classical to Latin, Jazz to Zydeco. In addition to showing Guyland’s incredible talent, there are brief interviews with family members, zydeco star and friend Terrance Simien, and, best of all, some of Guyland’s young friends.
Unfortunately, I don’t get to watch much daytime TV; my daytime job really gets in the way. But I’m setting my Tivo to record Ellen this Friday so I can catch Terrance Simien and the Zydeco Experience performing as part of a special show on New Orleans. Even better: eight-year-old zydeco accordion prodigy Guyland Leday will also be there. If you missed Guyland on the HBO special earlier this month, be sure to check it out. He’s incredible.
What were you doing when you were two years old? Making mud pies? Eating crayons? Tormenting your parents? Guyton Leday of Opelousas, LA, was like a lot of kids his age, with one exception: he was learning to play accordion, zydeco-style.
As the great, great grandson of the late Delton Broussard, Guyland clearly has the zydeco spirit in his blood. By the time he was four, he was already onstage playing with Zydeco Force, which features his great uncle Jeffrey Broussard on accordion. Last night, Guyland played Carnegie Hall in New York with an all-star zydeco band of friends and family (including Terrance Simien) to promote the documentary.
The show premieres tonight on HBO at 7pm, but will air a number of times there (and on HBO Family) this month. So set your Tivo now!
With his 12th album due out next month, let’s take a stroll down memory lane and watch Weird Al Yankovic’s first television appearance from way back on April 21, 1981. Armed with only his accordion, his trademark curly hair, and a ridiculously loud pair of pants, he performed his Queen parody “Another One Rides the Bus” on The Tomorrow Show with Tom Snyder. Longtime collaborator Jon “Bermuda” Schwartz pitched in by playing Al’s accordion case as a drum.