Johnny Pecon TV Clip

Johnny Pecon and Lou TrebarHe 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.

Here’s a rare TV clip from 1958 of the Johnny Pecon Orchestra playing “Marybelle Polka”:


  1. The piano accordion player uses oddball right hand positioning. He rests his thumb up against the edge of the keyboard and doesn’t seem to use it for playing. This is kind of like most 3 row diatonic players position their hand. On my Corona II, I only use my thumb from time to time to grab an accidental from the top of the buttonboard. But on the piano accordion, I’d have a tough time playing if I couldn’t use my thumb a lot.

  2. Good catch! I hadn’t noticed that. I’m wondering if he’s normally a diatonic player, which would explain his style.

  3. Hey notice those aren’t piano keys….they are actually playing a chromatic accordions! The 4 rows of buttons are designed (on these particular boxes) to look like piano keys. The black keys are false keys, they don’t do anything. And yes these guys were great diatonic players as well.

  4. I think you’re right, Mark! I assumed it was a piano accordion, but after taking a closer look (tough to tell in that grainy black-and-white footage), I can faintly see the buttons. Thanks for setting us straight!

  5. Look more closely, these are nothing more than three row chromatic accordions in B-scale or German fingering. The inside row consists of piano keys that function as the third row of buttons, not to piano accordion scale, of course, but for the size needed to match the overall size of the chromatic buttons. The sharp and flat keys, I believe, are indeed what are called “dummies”, and don’t play anything. This particular clip is from The Al Wish Auction Party television show, that aired in Cleveland, Ohio. Al these guys in the band lived in the Cleveland area. Take my word for it, there are many live bootleg recordings that could be used to show what John Pecon was capable of in the jazz idiom. Here, his and Lou Trebars band are playing a polka which was relatively easy and simple for these guys. Although this clip can’t prove it, to sum it up in one sentence: John Pecon was the Charlie Parker of accordion playing.

  6. Thanks for the info, Gerry! I’ve seen that style of accordion before but didn’t recognize it when I first watched the video.

    I’m just getting into Johnny Pecon after reading about him in Bob Dolgan’s biography of Frankie Yankovic. Everything I’ve heard so far sounds fantastic; I’m hoping to get my hands on more of his music soon.

  7. Adding to my previous post. There are also many passages and licks or riffs, whatever you may call them, that Pecon used that are more like what Art Tatum did, I think, rather than Charlie Parker. Anyhow, to try to substantiate my previous claims about John Pecons musicianship abilities and also that of the other band members in this case, after listening to this polka here, listen to the ending of “Stomping At The Ranch”, a swing tune in 12-bar blues form, available in the menu afterwards, where they play a passage of octaves ascending to a climax. Although, not at all difficult harmonically, what happens rhythmically sounds simple, but that is very deceptive and could easily turn into a botched part in the piece if not taken carefully and deliberately, because there is not much going on rhythmically to be used as a reference(other than what might be going on in the musicians heads) to counter that passage, which everyone in the band is playing in unison at that point. Notice how perfectly the passage is executed and carefully restrained. Then to finish off the piece, a retard or slowing occurs in the rest between the downbeat at the top of that octave passage and the V7 chord in the cadence before the hold on the I or Tonic, and is as well-proportioned as possible, the reciprocal of the tempo that was taken throughout the piece up until that point. Impeccable! Not unlike the proper ritardando taken at the end of a Bach contrapuntal work. Digest this…more later.

  8. A fellow Slovenian and I were talking this weekend and watch the “Pecon & Trebar in Slovenian”, We are trying to figure out what make of accordions Johnny Pecon and Lou Trebar played. Does anyone have that type of information?

  9. Pecon and Trebar both had 2-reed half-chromatic boxes by Anton Mervar of Cleveland Ohio. The one Trebar used with the flush metal keyboard was built in 1923, if memory serves. Pecon’s wooden Mervar is from mid / late 1930’s and is the one his son Jeff still has and sometimes brings to performances.

    The ‘imitation piano’ chromatic boxes that both used later in their careers were by Petromilli. I’m sure they used a variety of other instrument makes / models in their younger years, but don’t have all the details on what they might have been.

  10. Although the accordions that both Pecon and Trebar played in later years were similar Petromillis, the ones in the video are Pecon’s Italo American with standard 3 rows of buttons, and Trebar’s old Petromilli with “piano imitation” keyboard. Pecon used the Italo when he was with Frankie Yankovic
    at first (Yankovic played an Italo in the early years also), but he switched to a Pancordion with piano imitation keyboard for a few years when Yonkee went with Pancordion. Later Pecon went back to his Italo.



  13. Johnny Pecon & Lou Trebar’s music will live forever in the hearts and minds of there followers from their numerous recordingsthat were so poopular. Thank GOD we have Johnny’s two son, John Jr. and Jeff to carry on his tradition. I never felt that Pecon got the deserved credit of his talents while with the Frankie Yankovic Band. Other great exponents of Pecon’s music are Ralph Delligatti, Fred Kuhar, and Brian O’Boyle (Klancnik & friends) Pecon’s music has been well preserved by Tony Petkovsek (WELW Radio//24/7polkaheaven) and by John Hasper (Polkas.NL) I am doing what I can on two Facebook sites of which I am the creator and President, CLEVELAND STYLE POLKAS & CLEVELAND STYLE POLKAS II KEN ZAGAR June 13, 2011