Name That Accordion

I receive a lot of emails from people who have found (or been given) an old accordion and are looking to identify it and determine its value. And while this is a common predicament, there are very few resources online for accurately identifying vintage accordions. So I typically ask these people where they’re located and refer them to a local accordion shop. (Especially since, to do an accurate appraisal, you really need to see, hear, and even smell an accordion in person.)

But lately I’ve been thinking, why not throw some of these queries to our readers — after all, you’re probably one of the most diverse and knowledgeable collections of accordion enthusiasts online. So, we’re starting a regular feature called “Name That Accordion”, where we post photos of re-discovered accordions and ask you, our fair readers, to help identify their age, origin, and any other historical details you can muster up.

Our first subjects come from Carmen L., who is researching three accordions that her late stepfather left her. We’ve posted a few photos on Flickr — there’s a black 120-bass Wurlitzer, a blue two-row Concertone, and a red German-made 12-bass. If you can help fill in the details on any of these boxes, post a comment here or over at Flickr. Let’s test the wisdom of the crowds!

Name That Accordion

Contest: The Joke’s On Us

As an accordion player, you’ve heard your fair share of ’em — today is the day to give back. In honor of April Fools Day, we’re opening the floodgates and holding an accordion joke contest. Share your favorite groaner and you could win something in the process.

To enter: Write a comment on this post and tell us your favorite accordion joke. One lucky joker — chosen at random — will receive a grab bag of Let’s Polka goodies. We can’t make any promises, but the package will likely include a mix of Let’s Polka stickers, albums from our collection, and whatever other squeeze-worthy goodies we have on hand.

The contest ends tonight at midnight, so start posting your jokes!

Update: Congratulations to our lucky winner, Ed Ploski! Thanks to everyone who contributed a joke!

Five Questions: Tom Torriglia

Tom TorrigliaWe’re launching a new feature today called “Five Questions” — a series of brief interviews with notable personalities in the accordion world.

Our first subject is San Francisco accordionist Tom Torriglia. Tom has been in the music business since the late 1960s and has been an incredible accordion promoter over the years. He was an original member of Those Darn Accordions, is responsible for making June “National Accordion Awareness Month,” and campaigned to make the accordion San Francisco’s official instrument. Today, you can catch him playing a variety of gigs around the Bay Area, often with his retro-Italiano band, Bella Ciao.

When and why did you start playing the accordion?

I started taking lessons in 1962 at Theodore’s (Pezzolo) House of Music on Union St. in San Francisco. This was at the famous “accordion house.” My teacher was Theodore Pezzolo and I was his last student. I studied there for about eight years. When I left, he gave me all his original hand-written sheets of music, which I still have.

Before starting with the accordion, I had taken a year of piano but that didn’t work out and then one day, an accordion player came to the house to rehearse with my father who played sax and clarinet, and I was very taken with the instrument — with all the buttons and bellows and such — and I asked my parents if I could give it a try. Also, I think I was fated to play the accordion because, as everyone knows, there has to be one accordion player in each Italian-American household. And since I was the youngest child…

Going to the NAA Festival?

Next week, the National Accordion Association is holding its annual festival in Richardson, Texas. It sounds like a blast — three days of concerts, workshops, and hobnobbing with fellow accordionists. I’m especially envious of the “Accordion All-Stars” performance on Friday night featuring Carl Finch of Brave Combo, Ginny Mac, Danny Jerabek of Copper Box, and many more.

If there’s anyone attending the festival who’s interested in writing something about it for Let’s Polka, drop me a line and let me know. We’ll try to make it worth your while.

If you’re in the festival mood this weekend, you can still catch the tail end of a couple good ones. The American Accordion Musicological Society (say that three times fast) is having their annual bash in Pennsylvania, with a massed band performance and numerous workshops on Sunday. Meanwhile, down in San Antonio, family-run KEDA Radio Jalapeno’s weekend party concludes with performances by Eddie “Lalo” Torres, Ricky Naranjo, and many others.

What’s On the Calendar?

Now that we have a newborn, I have (a little) more justification for staying up all night working on our accordion events calendar. I’ve added a couple new features, including:

Best of all, we currently have almost 300 events listed on the calendar! But we know we’re still only scratching the surface, so if you know of an accordion concert, club meeting, or workshop in your area, tell us about it!

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

Our New Little Squeeze!

Sarah RoseIf things have seemed a little slow around here lately, we (for once) have a good reason. Last Friday night, Anna gave birth to the newest member of the Let’s Polka team — a bouncing baby girl named Sarah Rose. Weighing in at 8 pounds, 14 ounces, she’s everything we dreamed and more. And we’re already planning a trip to the local accordion shops so she can pick out her first box. Gotta start ’em young, I always say.

As you can imagine, our updates (and email response times) will be inconsistent over the coming weeks. In the meantime, if you have any recommendations for soothing accordion music that a baby might enjoy during a feeding or changing, leave us a comment.

This Week in Accordion: Golem

What’s on the accordion calendar this week?

  • Golem (Various dates on West Coast)
    With lyrics in Yiddish, Ladino, or Slavic, Golem is just your typical Eastern European folk-punk band from New York. This week, they’ll make a quick West Coast swing through San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Denver.
  • Isle of Klezbos (Tuesday in New York, NY)
    In addition to having a fantastic name, this six-piece all-female ensemble plays unique renditions of Eastern-European Jewish folk music, Yiddish swing and tango, as well as their own eclectic originals.
  • Jimmy Sturr and his Orchestra (Sunday in Elizabeth, NY)
    Calling itself the “Polka Dance Capital of the East”, the Bayway Polish Club has provided Polish and American music and entertainment for more than 60 years. This week’s dance features Jimmy Sturr and his Orchestra for a pre-Thanksgiving “Turkey Hop.”

And that’s just the beginning… the aforementioned Polka Freak Out visits Brooklyn, accordion/clarinet duo Acclarion wraps up a tour in Montana, Tony Lovello plays in Peoria, and 3 Leg Torso passes through Oregon. There’s plenty more where that came from on the calendar.

If you have an accordion event to add to our calendar, just let us know!

This Week in Accordion: NE Accordion Festival

It’s a busy week on the accordion calendar; some highlights:

  • NE Accordion Festival (Fri-Sun in Minneapolis, MN)
    Minnesota’s finest celebration of the accordion family includes concerts, a jazz symposium, workshops, jams, dances, and even a Midwestern potluck.
  • Florida Accordion Association Smash (Fri-Sun in Orlando, FL)
    The Florida Accordion Association’s 7th annual Smash includes performances by Lidia Kaminska, Tony Lovello, and Mary Tokarski. There will also be a “Beer Barrel Polkathon” on Saturday.
  • Stas Venglevski (Saturday in Sheboygan, WI)
    Bayan virtuoso Stas Venglevski performs with the Sheboygan Symphony Orchestra in a program that includes works by Grieg, Strauss, Rimsky-Korsakov, and Brahms.

Have an accordion event to share? Let us know!

This Week in Accordion: Blackpot Festival

After spending the weekend adding a bunch of new events, it’s time to check what’s happening on our accordion calendar this week:

  • Blackpot Festival and Cookoff (Fri-Sat in Lafayette, LA)
    A blackpot cookoff, an accordion contest, and nonstop Cajun/Zydeco music highlight this Acadiana festival. Lots of hot young bands on tap, including Pine Leaf Boys, Red Stick Ramblers, Lafayette Rhythm Devils, and more.
  • Wurstfest (Fri-next Sun in New Braunfels, TX)
    What could be better than a ten-day salute to sausage? This tribute to German culture (Texas style) features numerous German bands, as well as performances by Jimmy Sturr and Brave Combo.
  • Fall Polka Festival (Fri-Sun in Champion, PA)
    The Seven Springs Resort hosts eleven top polka bands in a weekend festival. Performers include Eddie Blazonczyk’s Versatones, Polka Family, Phocus, and more.

Have an accordion event to share? Let us know and we’ll add it to the calendar.

This Week: International Accordion Festival

Among the events on this week’s accordion calendar, there’s one that stands out: the 2007 International Accordion Festival in San Antonio, TX. Held just a few blocks from the Alamo, this fantastic festival boasts two full days of concerts, workshops (led by many of the performers), open mike sessions, and once-in-a-lifetime accordion jams. It kicks off on Friday night with a concert featuring Santiago Jiménez Jr., Chango Spasiuk, and Brandan (an ensemble from the Canary Islands).

One of the great things about this festival is the wide variety of genres it encompasses. Styles represented this year range from Irish (Johnny B. Connolly) to Creole (Ed Poullard and Lawrence Ardoin) to Quebecois (Yves Lambert) to Bulgarian (Yuri Yunakov) to rock (Those Darn Accordions) and everything in-between. There are some interesting workshops on tap, as well, including “Cowboys and Accordions”, “Native American Accordions”, and “Accordions, Rocked Up.”

Best of all, admission is free! I know some of our readers will be attending this year’s festival; we’re looking forward to hearing your reports. Take lots of photos (and videos) too!

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