The Accordion Americana Project
I started telling the stories of accordionists in America, because I believe that people in most of the U.S. have forgotten this instrument or don’t know that it has been a part of our pioneer experience since the mid 1800’s.
Since that time, from coast to coast, the accordion has been played by families and folks…. up in the mountains and down in the bayous…. in big cities and in small towns…. out in the country and beyond, to the vast deserts of the West. In between, it kept them company along the way, on the Great Lakes and on the Great Plains, through the Rocky Mountains, to the Pacific Northwest.
The accordion was heard in music that emanated from our front porches, at weddings, at social gatherings, dances and as entertainment in theaters and taverns for over 150 years..
Some of the first to become proficient on the accordion in North America were African American slaves in the South, very soon after the instrument was invented and brought from Europe
It was played by artists who were immigrants….
And by artists who were sons and daughters of immigrants
The accordion was present in live stage productions in Vaudeville
And also heard in early recordings of Gospel, Blues and Boogie Woogie………
It was seen and heard in American Roots music……
The first woman to play Bluegrass, professionally, was an accordion player….
……. And an accordionist reinvented what was known as “Hillbilly Music” and created the new “Country and Western” music. Pee Wee King helped to break this new ground and establish Nashville as its music capitol….
……. The very cool Art Van Damme tirelessly toured the world for over 40 years and brought American made Jazz as performed on the accordion, to a wider audience.
The accordion has been involved in the music scene and behind the scenes for many decades, used by successful, professional musicians.
2012 was the “Comeback Year” for the piano accordion.
2012 Grammy Award for Best Americana album, “Babel”, featuring the piano accordion, made Mumford and Sons a household name in North America
In 2012, out of the Phoenix Valley arose 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”. It shattered all records, blew everyone away, and earned Johnny Kongos and his brothers a world wide following.
Also, 2012 was the year that Bill Haley’s group, the Comets, along with Johnny Grande, was recognized by their induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.
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.
The piano accordion continues to participate in Americana music, today.
Part I, Past and Present
The intentions of Accordion Americana are to present the accordion in the best possible light, to tell the stories of working accordionists, some well known and others seldom heard of, and to share their contributions to live and recorded music within the last fifty years. With a few special exceptions, the focus is on the piano accordion and the role that it has played in Americana music, from Roots, Country and Pop music to Blues and Jazz.
Part II, The Future
Our musical heritage is a critical link between all North Americans and it should not be taken for granted. I challenge accordion players to think outside “the box” and to take a musical journey. Capture our spirit and tell our stories. Inspire us by showing something new that has never been seen, nor heard on this instrument. Or teach us about the past, by going back to our roots. As accordionists, instructors, authors, associations, societies, clubs or manufacturers, we have an obligation to promote the piano accordion in America and continue to reach out through the media, festivals and performances in all genres. We must be more responsible by not engaging in negative promotion, such as, all too often, referring to the accordion as though it has died–it has not! We must stop “shaming” other accordionists because we don’t approve of their choices of music or their abilities. Instead, we must empower and encourage all players of the instrument in North America, advocate for inclusion of the instrument, recognize those musicians and bands that use the accordion in their music and to promote the piano accordion as being alive and well and participating in music, today.
As players, we are the ones who have the power to allow Americans to reconnect with the piano accordion, once again. Only then 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.
It’s all about the music!
Leonard Bernstein’s introduction of Aaron Copeland says it all. Please listen…
Accordion Americana was created to entertain and inform only, not to endorse any products or services mentioned on this site.
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All the best!