What You Missed In Vegas

What happens in Vegas doesn’t always stay in Vegas. I found this video of 15-year-old Gary Blair Jr. performing Monti’s Czardas at the Las Vegas International Accordion Convention last week. The accordion is in Gary’s blood — his father is a former UK accordion champion and his grandfather ran the Jimmy Blair Accordion School in Glasgow, Scotland. As you can see from the video, Gary Jr. isn’t half bad himself…

Texas Polka Bandleader Missing

Bobby JonesBobby Jones — leader and accordion player for the Bobby Jones Czech Band in Wharton, Texas — has been missing for the past four days. Jones was last seen on Friday evening and didn’t turn up for his Saturday morning polka radio show at KULP (1390 AM) in El Campo, Texas.

The Bobby Jones Polka Band has been a mainstay of the Southeast Texas polka circuit for nearly 26 years and has even made appearances on RFD-TV’s Big Joe Polka Show. Jones also hosts a popular radio show seven days a week, playing a mix of polka and western swing.

If you have any information about Bobby’s whereabouts, get in touch with the Wharton Country Sheriff’s Department.

Quick Links: June 25, 2007

  • SPIN.com: Great Lakes Myth Society
    SPIN’s Artist of the Day, Great Lakes Myth Society plays “Northern Rock” — smart folk-rock with hints of accordion, fiddle, and banjo. Their new record, “Compass Rose Bouquet”, comes out on July 10th.
  • The Buffalo News: Ruda’s Records is Closing
    After 57 years in business, Ruda’s Records in Buffalo is closing this Saturday. Ruda’s specialized in polka records and unique Polish items.
  • Polka band records live album – mlive.com
    “Cheap Trick made a live album at Budokan. The Doors did theirs at the Hollywood Bowl… Jeff Mleczko and DynaBrass, however, figured there was only one place to record a polka-music album live: the St. Stan’s Polish Festival in Bay City.”

This Week in Accordion: Polka Fireworks

Summer is officially here and the accordion calendar is heating up…

  • Polka Fireworks Festival (Fri-Tue in Champion, PA)
    More than 25 of the nation’s top polka bands will be at Seven Springs Resort this week for six days of nonstop polka fireworks. The festival includes after hours jam sessions, as well as polka music and dance lessons.
  • Sunny Sauceda Accordion Clinic (Saturday in Lubbock, TX)
    Hohner and Tarpley Music are sponsoring a series of accordion clinics led by two-time Grammy winner Sunny Sauceda (formerly of Grupo Vida). I’m guessing he could teach you a thing or two.
  • Tex-Mex Polka Dance Party (Saturday in Austin, TX)
    Is it just me or does the Austin Moose Lodge #1735 have the best parties ever? I mean, what other Moose Lodge has a membership dance (open to the public!) with Brave Combo and Los Idolos del Barrio? I still don’t know what a Moose is, but I don’t care. Sign me up!

Is there something squeeze-worthy going on in your neighborhood? Let us know and we’ll get it on the calendar.

The Galanti Super Dominator

Galanti Super Dominator AccordionA few months ago, I wrote about a vintage Galanti accordion ad promoting their Super Dominator line of accordions. Recently, an Italian reader sent me a Galanti brochure from the same period (around 1950), as well as a photo of his own Super Dominator. According to the brochure:

“This sensitive musical instrument will outperform any other comparable accordion. It is the supreme achievement of the Galanti artisans… the culmination of a half-century of musical craftsmanship.”

The ads don’t lie — this was an excellent accordion and one of the world’s best during its time. (Thanks Alberto!)

Galanti Super Dominator Ad

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Lil’ Nathan Grows Up

Lil' NathanIt’s tough to follow in your father’s footsteps, but in the zydeco world, it’s practically a rite of passage. Zydeco is filled with families where the torch (or accordion) has been passed from father to son through the generations — families like the Ardoins, Broussards, Cheniers, and Delafoses, to name a few.

The Williams family is no different. Nathan Williams Jr. grew up in the shadow of his father, Nathan Sr., who leads Nathan and the Zydeco Cha-Chas. He started playing in his father’s band at age 5 and recorded his first album, Zydeco Ballin’ when he was just 14. Today, the 20-year-old junior at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette has a new album out, Doin’ It Big Time and appears poised to emerge from his father’s shadow. Those are big shoes to fill, but in a zydeco family, it’s just part of growing up.

Quick Links: June 21, 2007

  • KEDA Radio Jalapeno
    One of the best conjunto stations in the country, San Antonio’s KEDA Radio Jalapeno (1540 AM) is now broadcasting online. Crank up the tunes!
  • Kimmo Pohjonen and Eric Echampard – Uumen – a RootsWorld review
    Review of the new album by Finnish avant-garde accordionist Kimmo Pohjonen and French drummer Eric Echampard. “With time, in earshot of [Pohjonen and Echampard], the audibly attuned will soon dismiss every tired accordion cliché.”

Murl Allen Sanders’ Accordion Concerto #2

There aren’t nearly enough classical works written for accordion these days, but Seattle accordionist Murl Allen Sanders is changing that. An accordionist, pianist, composer, and teacher, Sanders has worked with a variety of artists ranging from Chuck Berry to the Von Trapp Children. His Accordion Concerto #1 had a world premiere in June 2003 with Orchestra Seattle.

Supported by a grant from the City of Seattle’s Mayor’s Office of Arts and Cultural Affairs, Sanders recently completed his Accordion Concerto #2, which he performed with Orchestra Seattle under the direction of George Shangrow. Here’s one movement — “Andante” — from that performance:

Sammy Thomas Reaches the Top

Sammy ThomasFrom the Top is a weekly radio show on NPR that showcases America’s top young classical musicians, aged 9 to 18. A couple weeks ago, the show featured 18-year-old U.S. National Accordion champion, Sammy Thomas. Classically trained since the age of ten, Sammy has played at many of the top accordion festivals (Cotati, Las Vegas) and is preparing to compete in this year’s Coupe Mondiale in Washington, DC.

You can listen to the ten-minute clip of Sammy’s appearance on the NPR website. It begins with a brief interview (his least favorite accordion genre: polka), followed by his excellent performance of “Chopin’s Nightmare”:

This Week in Accordion: Festival Fever

From Vegas to Virginia, this week is all about festivals — accordion festivals, polka festivals, Cajun festivals — you name it, we’ve got it on the calendar. Here are some highlights:

  • Las Vegas International Accordion Convention (Mon-Thu in Las Vegas, NV)
    For four days, Vegas becomes the accordion capital of the world as hundreds of accordionists participate in master classes and workshops (“Left Hand Latin Rhythms”, anyone?) and enjoy concerts by headliners Tony Lovello, Art Van Damme, Walter Ostanek, and more.
  • Leavenworth International Accordion Celebration (Thu-Sun in Leavenworth, WA)
    Is Vegas too glitzy for you? Head north to the Bavarian village in Leavenworth for their 16th annual accordion festival. There’ll be competitions, workshops, concerts, and even an accordion parade down Leavenworth’s main drag on Saturday afternoon.
  • Polish Fest (Fri-Sun in Milwaukee, WI)
    The biggest names in polka, including three of last year’s Grammy nominees (Jimmy Sturr, Eddie Blazonczyk, and Lenny Gomulka), take the stage at the 26th annual Milwaukee Polka Fest.
  • Long Beach Bayou Festival (Fri-Sun in Long Beach, CA)
    Bourbon Street moves west this weekend, with performances by C.J. Chenier, Geno Delafose, nine-year-old Guyland Leday, and many more.

And there’s more, including the Polka Spree by the Sea in New Jersey, Bayou Boogaloo in Virginia, and Ironworld Polkafest in Minnesota.

If there’s an accordion festival in your neighborhood and it’s not on our calendar, let us know!

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