Quick Links: Super Bowl Edition

  • Pittsburgh Steelers Polka
    I don’t really have a rooting interest in Sunday’s game, but Happy Louie’s rendition of the “Pennsylvania Polka” with Steelers-themed lyrics makes me want to break out my Terrible Towel.
  • Arizona Accordion Club
    Just so Cardinals fans don’t feel slighted… the Arizona Accordion Club has one of the best accordion club websites we’ve seen and even offers scholarships for young accordionists.
  • 31st Annual Concertina Bowl
    Every year in Blaine, MN, on the Saturday before the Super Bowl, dozens of chemnitzer concertina players gather for 12 hours of nonstop concertina music. This year’s featured band is Gilly Maus and the Country Polkateers.

Give Your Squeeze a Squeeze

Can’t think of anything romantic to do for Valentine’s Day? Why not give your main squeeze an accordion serenade? If you lack the bellows to do it yourself and you live in San Francisco, accordionist Tom Torriglia is offering to “Give Your Squeeze a Squeeze” on your behalf. An accordion player wil be dispatched to your loved one’s home, restaurant, office or wherever to play a romantic or fun love song for that special valentine. Each “Squeeze” costs $100 with 20% of that being donated to the San Francisco-based non-profit, Music in Schools Today. Remember, nothing says I love you like the accordion.

Franz Nicolay’s Accordions

Franz NicolayI’m always curious to hear what gear “professional” accordion players are carrying around — and it’s even better to hear the stories behind their choices. Franz Nicolay, keyboard/accordion player for The Hold Steady, recently posted on the band’s message board in response to a question asking what kind of accordion he plays. Turns out he currently has three: a red 72-bass Hohner Concerto II, a full-size 120-bass Galanti, and a ladies-size 120-bass Iorio Candido. I liked the bittersweet story behind the Galanti:

“The really good one is a full-size 120-bass Galanti, an Italian beast I bought off a Bulgarian fellow named Sergio in Forest Hills about five years ago. I found him on Yahoo Classifieds; it’s kind of a sad story: he’d emigrated with his brother fifty years earlier, and they’d always lived together, worked together, never married, and after work they’d play accordion duets in the basement. When his brother died, he couldn’t bring himself to play alone. So he gave me an incredible deal, because, he said, ‘I can tell you’re a musician and I want it to go to someone who’ll play it.'”

In addition to The Hold Steady, Franz plays with a number of other groups, including the World/Inferno Friendship Society, Anti-Social Music, and Guignol, and he just released his solo debut, Major General.

MP3 Monday: Cedric Watson

Cedric WatsonWe’re two weeks away from the Grammys and, while you probably won’t see Cedric Watson on TV, he could walk away with the Best Cajun/Zydeco Album award. A skilled multi-instrumentalist — he plays both accordion and fiddle — Watson is part of the recent Cajun/Zydeco youth movement that includes his old band the Pine Leaf Boys, Feufollet, Lost Bayou Ramblers, and many others. On his self-titled solo debut, Cedric creates music with strong Creole roots, playing a variety of old-school zydeco styles, original material and Creole traditionals.

The (Accordion) Price is Right

Accordion on The Price is Right

I was a huge fan of The Price is Right when I was a kid — to the point that I would put on my own version in my grandmother’s basement and make her play pricing games. (Plinko! Cliffhangers!) Things haven’t been the same since Bob Barker passed his microphone to Drew Carey, but I’ve noticed one positive change: accordions occasionally appearing as prizes. The screenshot above comes from a December episode featuring a blue Hohner Corona II. Anyone who watched The Drew Carey Show knows that Drew’s an accordion player; I wonder if some form of regular accordion promotion is written into his contract?

Need more accordion? Follow us on Twitter, Facebook, or email.

Ask Blair Kilpatrick Contest

Blair KilpatrickDo you have a question for Blair Kilpatrick, author of Accordion Dreams: A Journey into Cajun and Creole Music? Would you like to win a free, signed copy of her book? Read on!

Blair has kindly offered to answer a handful of questions from our readers about her story, her music, or whatever else sparks your curiosity. Just submit your question here before next Monday (January 26th) and we’ll forward your questions to Blair for her to answer in a future post. Then we’ll choose one lucky, random question-asker and they’ll receive a free, signed copy of her excellent new book.

In the meantime, Bay Area accordion aficionados can catch Blair at one of these upcoming author events:

In addition to a reading, book signing, and Q&A, these events will also include live Cajun-Creole music.

Afghanistan, An Accordion Journey

When journalist Gregory Warner took his accordion to Afghanistan, he hoped the music would help him where his phrasebook failed. The instrument turned out to be a better ambassador than he ever imagined.

His fantastic video, “Afghanistan: An Accordion Journey”, shows how his music helped bridge the gap between foreigner and natives by recalling Afghanistan’s own accordion hero, Ahmad Zahir. (Thirty years after his death, Zahir is still Afghanistan’s most popular and enduring musical icon.) I particularly love the scene where Warner performs Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire” for a cheering Afghan crowd. Is there any culture where the accordion doesn’t fit in?

MP3 Monday: The Gourds

The Gourds: Haymaker!It’s hard to believe we haven’t mentioned The Gourds before, but the release of their excellent new album, Haymaker!, is the perfect occasion to make amends. Hailing from the musical melting pot of Austin, the Gourds’ music runs the gamut from straight country to swamp rock to Cajun, with a few stops along the way. As the Gourds enter their second decade, they continue to extend their fanbase with a reputation built on clever, heavily-referential lyrics and high-energy live performances.

Today’s download is “Country Love,” the opening track from Haymaker! In addition to Claude Bernard’s accordion, it features some of my favorite star-gazing lyrics since Wilco’s “California Stars.”

Keeping Up With Let’s Polka

We have some big plans for 2009 — more music, more interviews, more uses for moldy bellows — and we don’t want anyone to be left out. So here are a few ways to stay on top of our steady stream of accordion news and views:


Why visit the site when it can visit you? Sign up below to get our latest news emailed to you daily. No spam or chain mail — just pure, squeezy goodness.

RSS Feed

If you prefer perusing your news from the comfort of an RSS reader — Google Reader, My Yahoo, etc. — just point it to this address and you’re all set:



For those who like their updates in bite-size, 140-character chunks, you can follow us on Twitter. Our Twitter stream includes links to our latest posts, plus occasional bonus links that we don’t have time to post on our site.

And, finally, for any completists out there, you can also become our friend on MySpace or a fan on Facebook. (If you’re a band or solo artist and you post your gigs on MySpace, you should definitely add us. Our MySpace friends list is the first place we look when adding events to our calendar.)

With any luck, later this year you’ll be able to receive Let’s Polka news by telegram, carrier pigeon, and telepathy.

In the Studio With La India Canela

For any merengue típico fans: here’s a fun video of La India Canela talking about the accordion during recording sessions in the Dominican Republic. Unlike big-band merengue, merengue típico centers on the accordion and relentless improvisation. And despite being a rare female accordionist (and bandleader), she has won the Dominican’s highest prize in the arts (the Casandra) twice and is nationally famous for her music. Born Lidia Maria Hernandez Lopez, she was nicknamed “La India Canela” (“Cinnamon Indian”) by a radio host who said it described her look and musical flavor.

If you want to hear more, be sure to check out her recent release on the Smithsonian Folkways label.

Older posts »