Story Time With The Great Morgani

The Great MorganiIf you’re in Santa Cruz tonight, head on down to Bookshop Santa Cruz for a one-of-a-kind book signing with colorful accordionist, The Great Morgani. He’ll be signing his new autobiography, The Great Morgani: The Creative Madness of a Middle-Aged Stockbroker Turned Street Musician, which depicts many of the outrageous costumes he’s created throughout the years. Of course, he’ll be performing, too.

For those who aren’t familiar with The Great Morgani (aka Frank Lima), he’s become a fixture in the Santa Cruz area, performing downtown and at various festivals while covered head-to-toe in mind-blowing, homemade costumes. Most people would never guess that Lima was originally a stock broker who retired at 35 and didn’t start performing as The Great Morgani until after he was 50. Today, he’s 65 and still spends hours with his sewing machine and glue gun putting together new costumes.

“It all depends on the body… I’m doing more now than ever. As long as it’s fun and creative, I’ll keep going. But if you see me at age 85 on a 3-foot stool wearing gold lycra, please intervene.”

Something Special for Me

Something Special for Me (book cover)One of my favorite accordion-related books is the children’s book, Something Special for Me by Vera B. Williams. It’s about a girl named Rosa who has to make a very important decision: what special thing will she buy with the money her family gave her?

She goes shopping with her mother and finds many things she likes, but nothing is exactly perfect. Crestfallen after many attempts to find the perfect item, her spirits are lifted by the sound of accordion music. A man playing accordion inspires her and she realizes what she special thing she wants! (Can you guess?)

This is a great book for kids, and should be required reading for aspiring accordionists of all ages.

Recommend an Accordion Lesson Book?

Joseph wrote in to ask:

“I am an old man who loves music… I have a student accordion I fool around with but I would like to know a book that you would recommend. There are a thousand on the net but I can’t afford to buy 3 or 4 ’til I find one I’m happy with. I don’t want to be a professional, I just want to ENJOY.”

My experience with accordion lesson books is fairly limited; I started with the first couple books in the Palmer-Hughes series, but I was bored by the repertoire and eventually abandoned the books in favor of playing by ear (learning tunes that Anna taught me).

What about you? What accordion lesson books would you recommend to Joseph? Leave a comment and tell us what books have worked for you (or your students, if you’re a teacher).

Baby Danced the Polka

Baby Danced the PolkaYesterday at the library and I came across this children’s book, Baby Danced the Polka by Karen Beaumont (illustrated by Jennifer Plecas). It is a very cute book about a baby who doesn’t want to take a nap, but instead wants to dance… the polka! After searching Amazon, I found that the book is highly rated — 5 stars! I’m glad to see a popular children’s book about polka. Hopefully this is just the start of a huge resurgence!

eBay Find: Accordion Bar Set

Accordion Bar SetThere’s nothing like a lazy Saturday spent trolling for strange and unusual accordion-related goodies on eBay. Let’s see what the Internet’s biggest garage sale has in store for us this week:

  • Accordion-Shaped Bar Set
    Anna and I saw one of these in a Fresno antique store, but couldn’t pull the trigger (they wanted $75!). It includes two bottles, a set of four shot glasses and, when you take out the bottles, it plays a song. Classy!
  • Myron Floren’s Disco Polka
    We’ve written about this rare disco/polka mashup before; here’s your chance to own it! How can you pass up disco-fied versions of “How High the Moon” and “Beer Barrel Polka”?
  • Accordion Man, Signed by Dick Contino
    Accordion Man is Bob Bove and Lou Angellotti’s 1994 biography of Dick Contino, chronicling his rise (Ed Sullivan shows), fall (indictment for draft dodging), and subsequent return to glory. This copy is signed by Contino himself and includes an autographed photo, too.
  • 1966 Western States Accordion Festival Program
    Step back in time with this souvenir from the 11th annual Western States Accordion Festival, held at the Lafayette Hotel in Long Beach, CA. It’s 38 full pages of contest winner and committee member photos, as well as advertisements from the big accordion vendors of the time: Cordovox, Sonola, Titano, Giulietti, Lo Duca, and many more. (There’s one from the 1967 festival, too.)

Happy bidding!

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

The Gift: A Hanukkah Story

Hanukkah money burning a hole in your pocket? Aliana Brodmann’s The Gift: A Hanukkah Story is a children’s picture book about a young girl who receives her Hanukkah gelt (money) from her father, but can’t decide how to spend it. After going from store to store looking at hats, dolls, and even kittens, she hears beautiful music played by an accordion player on the street. She decides to give the money to him and, in return, he teaches her to play the accordion.

It’s a sweet story, set in post-war Germany and based on the author’s memories of her childhood there. The book was originally published in 1993 and may be hard to find, so check your local library first.

2006 Accordion Gift Guide

Jon considers giving Liz accordion lessons for Christmas

It can be tough to shop for an accordion lover. You won’t find a custom-made Petosa accordion at Wal-Mart, Martha Stewart hasn’t published a magazine on making your own accordion straps, and most music stores don’t carry much beyond The Best of Lawrence Welk.

Luckily, Let’s Polka is here to help. We’ve put together our 2006 Accordion Gift Guide — gift ideas for the budding accordionist (or enthusiast) on your holiday list. And everything on our list is $50 or less (usually much less), so there’s money leftover for lessons.

Frankie Yankovic: America’s Polka King

America's Polka King: The Real Story of Frankie Yankovic and His MusicStill need a gift for that polka fan on your holiday list? Check out Cleveland native Bob Dolgan’s new biography, America’s Polka King: The Real Story of Frankie Yankovic and His Music.

Thirty years ago, Dolgan ghostwrote Yankovic’s autobiography, The Polka King: The Life Of Frankie Yankovic. His new book chronicles the accordion legend’s rise to fame, as well as his complicated relationships with family members and fellow musicians. Dolgan admits from the start that his book shows all sides of Yankovic’s personality — there’s no sugarcoating here and that’s just how Frankie would have wanted it:

“In this book, I have tried to tell the honest story of Frankie Yankovic, the foremost musician in American polka history. Some readers may feel it is too frank and revealing and that it may damage the Polka King’s image and, therefore, the struggling polka culture. But I don’t think so. Yankovic was a realist who never wanted to play it safe. As he said when I ghosted his autobiography almost thirty years ago, ‘Let’s tell everything. People will like it better that way.'”

WCPN, the public radio station in Cleveland, has a brief interview with Dolgan about his book, as well as some great clips of a 1995 interview they did with Yankovic himself. Thanks to the book’s publisher, Gray & Company, you can download the preface and first two chapters here:

Book Review: Magnifico by Victoria Miles

Magnifico by Victoria MilesMagnifico is a heartwarming tale of Mariangela, the 11-year-old daughter of Italian immigrants living in Canada in 1939. Mariangela wants to learn piano (she envies her cousin’s piano) but her family can not afford one. Instead, Nonna surprises her with an accordion. Mariangela, disappointed, doesn’t try very hard at first. Her accordion teacher, Gioseff, tries everything he can to inspire her: playing records, telling stories, protecting her from the neighborhood bully, but nothing seems to work. Throughout the story we see how her family and friends persevere in difficult situations, and through these situations, Mariangela figures out what she must do to succeed.

This book is an excellent story of immigrant life, perseverance, and how music can bring people together. It is recommended for children in grades 3-6, but I would recommend it for accordion lovers of all ages.

Flickr Find: Daniel Handler on Accordion

He’s got mad accordion skills
uploaded by Don’t Wake Me, I Plan On Sleeping In
We’ve mentioned Daniel Handler’s accordion prowess here before, but now we have photographic evidence! I found a great Flickr photoset of a recent Lemony Snicket book signing in Seattle and there are plenty of accordion action shots. (You can catch a glimpse of fellow Gothic Archie, Stephin Merritt, too.) The book tour continues through mid-November, so check the official Lemony Snicket site for tour dates.

« Newer posts · Older posts »