Accordion Facts

The word accordion comes from the German word "akkord," which means "agreement, harmony."

"Weird Al" Yankovic got his first accordion at age 7 from his parents, who promptly enrolled him in the Famous Zamour Academy of Music. His grandmother would subsequently pay him a dollar every time he came over to visit and play his accordion.

On April 18, 1939, Joe Biviano, Abe Goldman, and Gene von Halberg became the first people in history to play the accordion in Carnegie Hall. Their selection, but of course, was an eery selection--Bach's "Tocatta and Fugue in D Minor."

There used to be a game show/talent contest on television in the Soviet Union that was called "Play Your Accordion!"

Stanley Dural, otherwise known as Buckwheat Zydeco, refused to play the accordion as a child because he considered it to be the instrument of his father and grandfather. He stuck to the piano and organ until the mid 1970s after playing organ for Clifton Chenier.

On April 20, 1931, Cornell Smelser, backed by the Ohman-Arden Orchestra, became the first accordionist in history to play Gershwin's "Rhapsody in Blue" on the radio.

Professor Willard Palmer is credited with having the longest continuous master's degree program in accordion ever (it was at the University of Houston). Palmer also appeared on the television show, "America's Funniest Videos" playing the "Beer Barrel Polka" on the accordion. It fell apart in the middle of the song.

The first color documentary about accordion production was released in 1954.

Accordionist Myron Floren joined the Lawrence Welk Orchestra on March 7, 1950 in St. Louis after being asked by Welk to sit in during Welk's first set on the songs "Roll Out the Barrel," "Lady of Spain," "12th Street Rag," and Welk's own "Baby Medley"; by intermission, Welk offered him a job. An accrdionist player since the 1930s, Floren first played on the radio in 1939 on KSOO in Sioux Falls. Floren had been an accordion teacher, a member of the country western band, the Buckeye Four, and an entertainer for the troops in World War II. To this day, even though Welk retired in 1981, Floren plays 150 dates a year; for the last 25 years in a row he has performed at Wurstfest in New Braunfels.

In 1990, there were an estimated 75,000 accordionists in the United States.

Pietro Deiro, known by all accordionists as "the Daddy of the Accordion," was born in Salto, Italy in 1888. Eventually, he established a vaudeville career in San Francisco and got signed to RCA Victor Records. He died Nov. 3, 1954.

Former Boston Celtics player Tony Lavelli used to play his accordion at half time.

Debra Peters (of Debra Peters and the Love Saints) started on the accordion at age 4 after being convinced by a guy who was selling lessons door-to-door; after two weeks of persistent requests, her mom finally agreed to buy her one. Peters, a veteran champ of several Kiwanis club-sponsored accordion contests, once was a member of a winning orchestra that had 50 accordionists. Due to have a record out this fall, Peters has been offered big money over the years to play the accordion topless but has refused because she fears she would get caught in the bellows.

Deborah Norville (formerly of NBC's Today Show) is a closet accordion player.

Tchaikovsky used the accordion in his Suite No. 2 in C major in 1883. Prokofiev used the accordion in his Cantata for the 20th Anniversary of the October Revolution, op. 74.

The cities of Detroit, Skokie, Illinois, and St. Paul, Minnesota have designated the accordion as their official instrument.

The Golden Encyclopedia of Music by Norman Lloyd describes the accordion as "an organlike piece of furniture (that was) dear to the Victorians."

The accordion was used extensively in the score of the television series "Wagon Train."

In China, the accordion is known as the "Sun-Fin-Chin"; in Russia, it is the "bayan"; in Norway the "trekspill"; and in Italy, the "fisarmonica."

In 1929, Joseph Falcon became the first popular Cajun accordionist to get a recording contract. Accordionist Amedee Ardoin, who was actually black creole, also was popular about this time.

Ironically, for their first year (1979) nuclear polka band Brave Combo didn't have an accordionist. Then, in 1980 because of Joe King Carrasco and Joe Nick Patoski, the band got a gig in New York. Three weeks before they were to play there, keyboard player Carl Finch decided to trade in his Fender Rhodes for a beginner's accordion. As Finch puts it, just the sight of the accordion was enough to win over the crowd and national press. Since then, Finch says that watching the transformation of peoples' attitidues toward accordions has been one of his most rewarding experiences; the band has even seen accordion ensembles in Japan. He also says that one of his favorite aspects about the instrument is that it's so physical and responsive to a player's emotions. Finch, who led the accordion parade scene in David Byrne's movie "True Stories," adds that Byrne is a charter member of the Dallas chapter of the Texas Accordionists Association.

Mr. Smarty Pants gets his information from books, magazines, newspapers,
the internet, radio, and television. He also includes facts he has overheard at parties.

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