International Accordion Festival 2006

Sometimes I feel like California just isn’t cutting it; all the accordion excitement seems to be in Texas. Case in point: the sixth annual International Accordion Festival starts Friday night in San Antonio with a cajun and conjunto kick-off party featuring the Gulf Coast Playboys and Mingo Saldivar.

And that’s just the beginning. The festival continues throughout the weekend with an incredible lineup of performances, workshops, and jam sessions featuring accordionists from all over the world. There’s the Renato Borghetti Quartet from Brazil, Les Primitifs du Futur from Paris, the Marian Pelka Trio from Poland, Helen Xu & Zongti Lin from China, and many more.

Texas, of course, will be well represented, too. A trio of conjunto legends — Flaco Jimenez, Joel Guzman, and Sunny Sauceda — will perform together on Saturday night. Texas bands Los Desperadoz, the Gourds, and Brian Marshall and his Tex-Slavic Playboys will also be playing. Check the festival site or the San Antonio Express for a full schedule.

If you’re like me and you’re stuck somewhere besides San Antonio this weekend, you can still sample the sounds of the festival by listening to the clips below:

(If anyone knows the title of that Primitifs du Futur tune, let me know!)

News from the Let’s Polka-sphere

My laptop is in the shop, so I’ve had a tough time staying on top of accordion news lately. Fortunately, some friends of the site have been kind enough to keep us up to date on the latest squeezebox happenings:

  • Tom Torriglia just got back from the 25th annual Reno Italian Festival, which was crawling with accordionists, including Michael Maffei, Ray Massa of Eurorythms, US accordion champion Anthony Rolando, Tom Serafini with Oro Puro, the accordionists from TDA, and Tom himself with Bella Ciao.
  • Skyler Fell’s San Francisco repair shop, Accordion Apocalypse, is hosting an eclectic, circus-themed show this Saturday night. Experience the gypsy/klezmer sound of Portland’s Vagabond Opera, acrobatics and juggling from Circus Finelli, the foot-stomping energy of One Man Banjo, and an appearance by the Accordion Apocalypse Circus Sideshow.
  • East Bay accordion guru Henri Ducharme pointed us to a “musical epistle” about a recording session he recently did for composer, Jorge Liderman. It’s a fascinating look at how a professional accordionist attacks a difficult piece. You can listen to a clip, and view a page from the (daunting) score, on Henri’s site.

Thanks to Henri, Tom, and Skyler, for sharing their news. Remember, if you have any accordion-themed news to share (an event, a new album, etc.), just let us know and we’ll spread the word.

A Trip to the Concertina Factory

Ever wonder how a concertina is made? Wonder no more after watching this old newsreel (circa 1961) chronicling the work of craftsmen at the Wheatstone concertina factory in Islington, London.

See how workers fit valves, prepare bellows, and file reeds for tuning; all while following in the footsteps of Sir Charles Wheatstone, who invented the English concertina in 1844. The narrator notes that the concertina is the “only musical instrument ever invented by an Englishman; but then, music is the food of love, and Englishmen are reputedly bad lovers.” Ouch.

If you’re interested in concertina history or instruction, be sure to visit They have a great library of articles ranging from fingering charts to discussions of serial numbers in early Wheatstone ledgers. There are also some lively discussion forums at

Happy Birthday, Mr. Lennon

John Lennon playing accordion, circa 1967

Admittedly, when most people think of John Lennon (who would have been 66 today), they don’t think of him playing the accordion. But he actually picked up the accordion long before he ever touched a guitar. In the excellent companion book to the Beatles Anthology, John remembers his early accordion playing:

“I also had a little accordion which I used to play — only the right hand — and I played the same things on this that I played on mouth organ, things like ‘Swedish Rhapsody’, ‘Moulin Rouge’, and ‘Greensleeves’.”

The photo above was taken in June 1967 during rehearsals for the first live international satellite broadcast, Our World, where the Beatles debuted “All You Need is Love”. (He was probably just messing around — he didn’t play it during the show.)

Beatlefans should check out accordionist Harry Doktorski’s article in The Free-Reed Journal about the Beatles’ use of harmonicas, accordions, harmoniums, and other free-reeds. And if you’re curious to hear how some Beatles classics translate to accordion, don’t miss Domenic Amatucci’s Accordion Beatles; he’s covered everything from “A Day in the Life” to “Yesterday” on solo accordion.

Guyland Leday: Zydeco Accordion Prodigy

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.

Six years later (at the ripe old age of eight), Guyton is featured on an HBO documentary premiering tonight called The Music in Me: Children’s Recitals from Classical to Latin, Jazz to Zydeco. The show focuses on six inspiring musical prodigies, each from a different musical and cultural tradition.

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!

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Calling All Atlanta Accordionists…

Michele Torres — who may be familiar to some as the host of HGTV‘s Country Style — wrote in to tell us she’s currently looking for an accordionist for a western swing/tejano band she’s forming in the Atlanta area. If you’re interested, you can get in touch with her via her website.

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

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.

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