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The Accordion Americana Project

Unknown African American Accordionist 1870

Unknown African American Accordionist c.1870

In 2013, I started telling the stories of accordionists in America, because I believe that people in the U.S. have forgotten that this instrument is not new to North America. It has been a part of our pioneer experience since the mid 1800’s.

Victorian accordionist

Victorian Accordionist

It has been played by folks and families, not only in the mountains and the bayous, but in the cities, the country, on the prairie and in the desert, for a long, long time, from coast to coast.

     Brothers NYC 1900

Unknown duo         New York City, c.1900

It was used in houses of worship, as entertainment in taverns, at dances and social gatherings for over 150 years..

Huddy "Leadbelly" Ledbetter, the great Blues musician with accordion  c. 1930

The great Blues artist, Leadbelly, with accordion c.1930

It was used in the early Gospel, Blues and the Boogie Woogie………

Mother Maybelle, the Carter Sisters with Chet Atkins

Mother Maybelle, The Carter Sisters with Chet Atkins c. 1940

 It was present in American Roots music……

The first woman in Bluegrass was an accordion player….

Wilene "Sally Ann" Forrester with Bill Munro and his Bluegrass Boys 1947

Wilene “Sally Ann” Forrester as a member of Bill Monroe and the Bluegrass Boys
1945

…….  Pee Wee King and his Piano Accordion reinvented Nashville, bringing “Country and Western” music to North America and to the world….

Pee Wee King V

The influential Pee Wee King, c. 1948

…….  Art Van Damme was very cool and toured the world for 40 years to bring Jazz to a wider audience.

Art_VanDamme3

Art Van Damme c. 1950

The piano accordion is an American Heritage musical  instrument

USO World War II

The Piano Accordion has been involved in the music scene and behind the scenes, for  many, many decades, used by hard working, successful professional musicians.

Paul McCartney with Accordion

Paul McCartney with his accordion       c. 1964

Our music heritage is a critical link between all of us, and we should not take it casually.

Accordionists, teachers, associations, societies, clubs and manufacturers have a responsibility to promote the piano accordion in America and continue its connection by doing outreach through festivals and performances in all  genres of music. They must stop “shaming” other Piano Accordionists, but instead, empower and encourage all players of the instrument, whatever their abilities or choices of music.  They should advocate for inclusion of this instrument, when and if there is resistance and recognize the accordionists and bands that use the Piano Accordion in music, today. Through these efforts, young accordionists will be encouraged to make inroads in all genres.

2012 was the “comeback” year for the Piano Accordion.  Britain’s, Mumford and Sons, and their top selling 2012 Grammy Award winning Best Americana album, Babel, featuring the Piano Accordion, is a prime example.

Ben Lovett with Mumford and Sons

Ben Lovett with Mumford and Sons

In 2012, out of the Phoenix valley rose Arizona’s own homegrown band, KONGOS, who composed and recorded the most successful, Piano Accordion based hit song of all time, “Come With Me Now”.  They shattered all records,  blew everyone away, and gained a world wide following.

Johnny Kongos

Johnny Kongos

  Also, 2012 was the year that the Comets, along with Johnny Grande, were recognized by their induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

Bill Haley and the Comets with Johnny Grande c.1954

Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band, co-founded by the late Danny Federici in New Jersey in 1969, was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, in 2014.

Danny and Bruce

The late Danny Federici With “The Boss”, Bruce Springsteen c.2008

Because of all of these accomplishments, the Piano Accordion is beginning to participate more and more in Americana music

Buxton

Buxton Photo by Jacob Blickenstaff of Mother Jones , Americana Music Awards, Nashville, 2016

T H E  A C C O R D I O N  A M E R I C A N A  P R O J E C T 

Part I

The intentions of Accordion Americana are to present the Piano Accordion in the best possible light, to tell the stories of working accordionists, and to share their contributions to live and recorded music within the last fifty years. With a few exceptions, the focus is on the Piano Accordion and the role that it plays in Americana music, from Roots, Country and Popular music to Jazz.

Part II

I challenge accordion players to think outside “the box” and take a musical journey. Capture our spirit, once again, and tell our stories. Inspire us by showing something new  that has never been seen, nor heard. Or remind us of the old, by going back to our roots. Only if we empower others to reconnect with the Piano Accordion will it be regarded as an option for the next generation of music makers.  Because, it is through them that this instrument has a chance to survive and participate in the new music that is yet to be composed and performed. And remember always,    

 It’s all about the music! 

 

Leonard Bernstein’s introduction of Aaron Copeland says  it all. Please listen… 

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All the best!

Christa T.

Contact: christa@accordionamericana.com