Christa T. for Accordion Americana Ponty Bone always knew he was different. “…I always thought of myself as some sort of artist…a character in a novel, all my life…I knew something was up.” Harry DePonta Bone, or “PB” to his friends, started playing the accordion when he was five years old, but dropped it several years later to study the trumpet. Little did he know that one day, he would come back to that first instrument and in time, become an institution in the heart of the West Texas music scene and internationally recognized as an Americana accordionist.
Ponty Bone was born and grew up in San Antonio. Because musicians lives are never easy, Ponty decided to do the wise thing and go to college at Texas Tech in Lubbock. Soon, he found himself with a wife, twin daughters and a job as a surveyor and draftsman living in Arizona, just trying to make ends meet. But, he wanted more. Mostly, he wanted to be back in Texas working as a musician. Looking for any excuse, Ponty and his family always headed back in the direction of Texas. In the late sixties, while living in Phoenix, Ponty and his wife, Sarah started their first band, New Moan Hey and began playing gigs in Texas, beginning with The Vulcan Gas Company in Austin. Sarah, it has been noted, was a pretty good singer. But, for whatever reason, their marriage ended in 1976.
For Ponty, from the first band began long associations, performing and recording, with some of the best musicians in the music business, from Austin to L.A. It’s hard not to talk about Ponty’s career without mentioning Lubbock, Texas because Ponty Bone has been so closely associated with the town and its music scene since the early 1970’s. He explains, “”Lubbock’s always been a lucrative market. A lot of great bands came out of Lubbock. And a lot of great bands came to Lubbock. A lot of ‘em were there because of, something a little bit more on the intellectual side of the equation. Like being in a band, or going to Texas Tech, or having some kind of a connection with the arts…”
But, Lubbock is more than your average college town. From the city’s night clubs emanated some of the grittiest and most visceral music ever produced in America. Key hot spots were the “Thunderbird Lounge”, the “Cotton Club” and “Stubb’s Bar-B-‘Que”. “Stubb’s” is on the city’s Eastside and at that time, was exclusively an African American night club. A guitarist changed that and put the club on the map. His name was Jesse Taylor, with whom Ponty Bone collaborated, from the time Jesse was a hard rocking, tattooed, self taught sixteen year old white kid who lived not far from “Stubb’s”. This association lasted until Jesse Taylor’s untimely death at age 55 in 2006. Both Jesse and Ponty eventually became members, touring internationally with The Joe Ely Band.
Joe Ely, a Lubbock born musician and band leader of international renown, is a pivitol figure in the life of Ponty Bone. Both met in the clubs in Lubbock and came to know each other well as musicians, and they knew everyone that played in and around the area. One day, as Ponty describes, “Joe Ely drives up on his bicycle. He says, ‘Hey, Ponty. It looks like MCA is gonna do my first album. Listen, we’re getting together tonight over at my house on 9th Street; Man, get your accordion and come over there and jam with us! I got some songs I want you to play on the album.'” It was a fortuitous conversation that led Ponty to tour, perform and record with the Joe Ely Band for seven years prior to forming his own group, The Squeezetones which has been in existence for the past two decades.
Ponty Bone performs with Joel Guzman At Squeezebox Mania 2009:
Ponty Bone shows off his own brand of great musicianship on the accordion playing the blues.
Throughout his career and residency in Lubbock, as well as in Phoenix and Austin, wherever he has performed, domestically or internationally, PB has delighted and entertained and has always been in the best of musical company. He is hailed as an outstanding musician and revered as one of the most interesting and charismatic performers. It’s that personality that makes one “different”.
Tragically, Ponty Bone was diagnosed in 2015 with a neurodegenerative disease called Progressive Supranuclear Palsy or PSP. It is a brain disease of no known origin and it is eventually fatal. PSP impairs all movement, balance, vision, speech and swallowing, yet it allows the victim to remain conscious and aware, with all mental capacity and personality intact. In a nutshell, it means one is a prisoner within one’s own body, left with no means of communication or expression.
His daughter Leah, writes, “Knowing PB, what he would appreciate… is to see the support and encouragement from you all through notes…. emails to him, letters or photos in the mail, or even better, visits, if you’re here in Central Texas. Again, even though he won’t be able to fully reciprocate, rest assured that the way our Dad lights up, in his own way, when he sees old friends or receives an email from an old fan, is something that speaks far louder than words ever could. If you need help reaching Ponty via email, mail or in person, please contact us.
P.O. Box 163421
Austin, Texas 78716 U.S.A.
PHONE: (512) 443-7952
All quotes from:
Fire in the Water, Earth in the Air: Legends of West Texas Music
by Christopher Oglesby
Published by the University of Texas Press
Thank you to Debra Peters for her input regarding this article
By Christa T. for Accordion Americana Invented in 1829, the accordion came to be embraced by people in North America early on….
Soon, up in the mountains and down in the bayous….
in big cities and in small towns….
in the country and in the deserts of the West, as well as deep into Mexico,
on the Great Lakes and the Great Plains…
northern states and Canadian provinces….
the accordion thrived, entertained, delighted, inspired and brought folks together, to dance and sing….
Some of the first to become proficient on the accordion were French educated Creoles from the South, just a few years after the instrument was invented.
Creole musicians were very well schooled in music and provided entertainment at elite house concerts and elegant parties in Louisiana.
Young people were eager to make some noise with the accordion. Although it was expensive, it was new and it was radical. With its bellows providing the “lung power”, the accordion impressed women, who saw that they could participate and make music with this rather tiny, relatively light weight and very expressive instrument.
Because it was loud enough for sound to be carried above the “din”, the accordion was heard in music that emanated from front porches, weddings, social gatherings, dances and as entertainment in theaters and taverns for over 150 years..
The piano accordion evolved from the smaller bisonoric diatonic accordion or “button box”, into a completely different, unisonoric musical instrument. It grew larger when the piano keyboard was added along with the innovative Stradella bass section which used preset chords. These changes empowered players of other types of keyboards to more easily adapt to the instrument.
The piano accordion was played by artists who were immigrants….
….And it was played by artists who were sons and daughters of immigrants
The accordion was popular in live stage productions in Vaudeville
The accordion was heard in early recordings of Gospel, Blues and Boogie Woogie………
The Death of Amede Ardoin
Through the Great Depression into the war years, the piano accordion was widely used because dances were an important source of entertainment. By the mid 1940’s, so many immigrant Catholics and returning soldiers wanted their children to play the songs of their ancestral homelands on the accordion, that the Roman Catholic Church forgave the instrument its “tavern” reputation and gave it a special status allowing it to be used in church. Because of this, the piano accordion was suddenly deemed respectable and, like never before, “pent up demand” fed the market for instrument sales and lessons. After World War II, Americans were all working, had more discretionary income and were more likely to be living in cities, towns and suburbs than in the past. To be able to afford musical instruments and lessons became very important to parents as evidence of status, as well as to help their children to become better students and well rounded individuals.
Some of the roots musicians had, early on, incorporated the accordion into their music. They chose the piano accordion over the diatonic because they wanted to be seen as more “mainstream”. Anita Carter was the accordion player for Mother Maybelle Carter and the Carter Sisters, in what would have been strictly a “string band” in previous years.
The first woman to play Bluegrass, professionally, was an accordion player….
Pee Wee King reinvented what was known as “Hillbilly Music”, and founded a new genre of music known as “Country & Western” music. His Western Swing Band was the first to wear the spangly “Nudie Suit” that came to be associated with Country music.
The piano accordion continued to evolve and became synonymous with “class”. The big band dance scene died after World War II, but small combos in swanky clubs became popular.
The accordion establishment, those that made the marketing and business decisions for the piano accordion, were a highly conservative group. They set out to sanitize “their” instrument, to prevent it from being rocked by another scandal. They also determined that it should never be associated with social unrest, as the bandoneon later came to be in Argentina (Astor Piazzolla). Through their own fear, they effectively began to “starve” their own market.
Through the 1950’s in “Cold War” America, the accordion establishment did not trust, approve of or support the current music of the day or anyone associated with it. They believed that Rock ‘n Roll was contrary to conservative American values. As a lot of people during the McCarthy era felt, they feared that “Commies” lurked around every corner and suspected that Folk music was a breeding ground for Communism.
With those excuses, publishers felt justified not to use and pay for current hit songs to be reformatted for the piano accordion. It was cheaper to push the “same-old, same-old” European style tunes to a changing demographic. As young people advanced in proficiency with the piano accordion, classical music was promoted because it was the path of least resistance and was already in the public domain.
In the 1950’s, the piano accordion was a white man’s instrument, but males were also leaving the accordion in favor of other instruments. In response to this, women sought recognition and status among performers but were not even spoken of as legitimate musicians and drifted, instead, into teaching the instrument.
From that point the deflating “bubble” was finally crushed flat as demand for the piano accordion plummeted to a fraction of what had been seen a decade before.
In the years of post war popularity, the accordion establishment managed to shift the identity of the piano accordion from one of American “grass roots” to one perceived as “off shore”. Jazz accordionists found that they had to leave America and travel to Europe to find an audience. Curiously, accordion players stopped singing with their instrument in the 1950’a and 1960’s, which they had freely done in the 1940’s.
In America in the 1960’s, the immigrant’s children had moved on and were protesting and urging “Make Love, Not War”. The Civil Rights movement had inflamed the cities and the South. The Viet Nam War and the draft angered America, especially young people. Women were agitating for equality and rights. Music galvanized American youth because they knew that they had a lot to gain or lose. It became their weapon of choice with which to fight back and they were determined that their message, suggestive lyric and angry protest be heard.
The accordion establishment was afraid of it and the musicians and songwriters who created it.
As their market crashed around them and with draft able males defecting from the ranks of accordion players in favor of the guitar and other instruments, the accordion establishment did little to explore new markets for the instrument. The accordion community had insulated itself so well from the times that there was nothing new allowed in, nor out.
What occurred for the piano accordion was a “brain drain” as creative energy was sucked away from the stylistic evolution of the instrument and refocused on other instruments. Young people could not imagine how the piano accordion could fit into their music because there existed no young innovative players for them to emulate that could have developed the chops to play it. Young people were not mildly disinterested in the instrument–they loathed and scorned it as it was played in the 1960’s! Their attitude stuck to the instrument, and is the reason for the “hairy eyeball” and stupid accordion jokes that so many accordion players are subjected to, today. Instead of the piano accordion being an option, talented musicians found other instruments with which to express their musical vision. The Hammond B3, Hohner harmonica, saxophone,acoustic and electronic piano and both electric and acoustic guitar defined the music of the 1960’s,70’s, 80’s, and still do.
In retrospect, the accordion establishment places blame on the conservatism of music teachers or that the piano accordion “fell out of fashion”. They also blame the invention of the electric guitar for the decline in the accordion market. They imply that both can’t coexist together, while in the rest of the world, the accordion actually thrived alongside both the electric and acoustic guitars.
New Orleans is not afraid of music or the musicians who create it. That is why New Orleans is the epicenter for the emergence of major new genres of music.
Zydeco music came out of New Orleans in the 1960’s and it was there that the piano accordion was put to good use by Clifton Chenier and His Red Hot Louisiana Band.
Without a doubt, The Beatles were the gigantic “elephant in the room” during the 1960’s.
Ernest and Faithe Deffner, owners of their newly acquired Titano Accordion Company decided it was time to design a more radical accordion to appeal to the youth of America. The Deffners saw the void in the market in the mid-1960’s and looked at it as their great opportunity. They were bold and right to embark on their idea. The Tiger Combo’Cordion was a compact, colorful instrument featuring a ‘quint’ treble tuning for “piercing lead or swinging chords…to flip the crowd”(Hullabaloo Magazine). The main feature of the instrument was the resurrected slanted keyboard which was ergonomic for the position of the human hand, thereby allowing faster finger work.
After substantial research and development, the Titano Tiger was rolled out, but, sadly, the Deffners chose a spokesman to endorse their product who was a prominent member of the very “same-old, same-old” accordion establishment from whom young people so desperately wanted to escape. After all their fierce determination, the Deffners didn’t recognize that by choosing someone not relateable, it was to be their critical error and a “big wet blanket” on their efforts to sell the Tiger to their target market–America’s youth! The futuristic vision of Ernest and Faithe Deffner was derailed because they were afraid of youth culture and its music. As a result, young musicians didn’t buy the Titano Tiger, which sits today in collections of rare instruments and in museums gathering dust.
The “Blue Accordion” is a Tiger, recently acquired by accordionist Mark Yacavone.
But, there were accordionists who thrived outside of the establishment.
The piano accordion continues to participate in Americana music, today.
Not the end…….
Bio courtesy of jeremiahmclane.com Jeremiah was raised in a family with deep ties to both its Scottish heritage and its New Hampshire roots. Traditional New England music and dance were a part of his parents and grandparents generations. After an early formation in classical piano, Jeremiah spent his teenage years playing blues and jazz. Following undergraduate studies with jazz legend Gary Peacock, he studied Indonesian Gamelan, West African drumming, and the music of minimalist composers Steve Reich and Philip Glass. It wasn’t until his mid twenties that Jeremiah began to immerse himself in the world of traditional Celtic and French music, studying accordion with Jimmy Keene and Frederic Paris. He then spent several decades traveling in Europe, doing field research that laid the groundwork for a Master’s degree he received many years later from the New England Conservatory.
In the early 1990s Jeremiah formed two bands: The Clayfoot Strutters and Nightingale. Both bands had strong traditional New England roots and had a deep and lasting impact on the traditional dance scene in New England. In 2003 he formed Le Bon Vent, a sextet specializing in Breton and French music, and as an outgrowth of this ensemble, has formed several duos with individual members including James Falzone, Ruthie Dornfeld and Cristi Catt. Since the early 1990s, Jeremiah has recorded over a dozen CDs with Nightingale, the Clayfoot Strutters, Bob & the Trubadors, Le Bon Vent, with Ruthie Dornfeld. His second solo recording, Smile When You’re Ready, was nominated by National Public Radio in their “favorite picks”, and his fifth release, Hummingbird, with Ruthie Dornfeld, received the French music magazine “Trad Mag” Bravo award, as did his CD Goodnight Marc Chagall with Le Bon Vent. He has composed music for theater and film, including Sam Shepard’s “A Lie Of The Mind”, and been awarded the Ontario Center For The Performing Arts “Meet The Composer” Award, and the Vermont Council On The Arts “Creation Of New Work” grant.
In 2005 Jeremiah started the Floating Bridge Music School, which is devoted to teaching traditional music from the British Isles, Northern Europe, and North America. An adjunct instructor at the State University of New York in Plattsburgh, NY, he also teaches at the Summit School of Traditional Music in Montpelier, VT, at the Upper Valley Music Center in Lebanon NH, and at many summer music camps including Ashokan Fiddle & Dance, Augusta Heritage Arts Center, American Festival of Fiddle Tunes, and the Maine Fiddle Camp.
Interview with Jeremiah McLane onWCAX Tv:
Bio courtesy of Rachelbellmusic.com Rachel Bell is an accordion player, tunesmith, and music teacher from the wilds of Pennsylvania. She is in demand throughout the United States and beyond for concerts, contra dances, English country dances, French dances, and workshops.
Over a decade of musical travel has landed her smack-dab in the middle of some of her most exciting projects ever. A vibrant and versatile collaboration with Karen Axelrod, exquisite violin and viola sounds from Eric Martin, a rich and energetic contra dance band called Seaglass, and a slew of French-focused music and dance adventures with Susan Kevra are just the tip of the iceberg. A recent addition has been a joyful musical partnership with Becky Tracy, and other combinations often round out the mix.
Rachel Bell grew up playing the piano and spent her college years studying music education and classical piano. As a college freshman, she surprised even herself when she picked up a piano accordion and “accidentally” fell in love with it. Rachel now enjoys a busy gig schedule playing concerts, contra dances, English country dances, French dances, and festivals.
Rachel’s bands include Alchemy, Peregrine Road, Old World Charm School, Seaglass, Eloise & Co. and a slew of other combinations. She plays tunes from France, New England, Scotland, Ireland, England, Quebec, and beyond, as well as songs, original compositions, and even crazy roots-rock arrangements. Recently, Rachel has been collaborating with Susan Kevra to compose new tune/choreography combinations to send out into the English country dance repertoire.
The past few years have been bursting with big changes, big travel, and exciting new musical collaborations. After six years as a public school music teacher, Rachel finally let go of that last shred of normalcy and launched into full-time freelance musicianhood. Her obsession with French music and dance led to three music-focused overseas trips, and her obsession with finding the perfect instrument led to the purchase of an incredible tone-chambered Beltuna that sounds exquisite. During June 2016, in the midst of playing piles of camps, gigs, and festivals, Rachel released her debut solo album, Tone Chamber. This recording highlights the versatility of the accordion and boasts and impressive cast of guest musicians.
Rachel’s playing is infused with a contagious enthusiasm for her instrument and a deep love for the musical traditions she carries. Her passion is to share with others the delight she finds when immersed in this music, ushering them into a place where their toes can’t help tapping and their ears are dunked in strawberry jam.
Whenever she’s not playing accordion or chasing after waterfalls, Rachel is busy instilling the joy of music in children of all ages. Through her Crab Apple Jam Music Studio, Rachel offers everything from mommy-n-me musical playgroups for toddlers to piano lessons to dulcimer clubs. Rachel’s upbeat, engaging teaching style is grounded in 9+ years of public school teaching experience and 2 years of Montessori School teaching experience. Every Crab Apple Jam Music Class is packed to the brim with hands-on, creative experiences that build musical skills as well as essential life skills. Children are captivated by the rich array of puppets, ribbons, songs, dances, dulcimers, boomwhackers, bells, drums, and more.
By Christa T. for Accordion Americana If Cory Pesaturo has a “mission statement”, it likely states that this American jazz performer intends to take on the world using, as his arsenal, the piano accordion. With his “mad scientist as musician” persona along with his startling talent, Cory Pesaturo is one of the most amazing piano accordionists in the world, and has earned the credentials to prove it. In fact, Cory Pesaturo is probably, to date, the most brilliant accordionist that America has ever produced.
Born in Rhode Island, Cory Pesaturo was a prodigy who began studying the instrument at the age of 9, and promptly was performing as a professional by the age of eleven. At the New England Conservatory of Music, Cory was accepted as a candidate to major in, and then graduate with a degree in accordion, the first to be awarded at the prestigious conservatory in Boston. He didn’t waste any time after graduation, and competed in successive accordion competitions around the world. It is unusual for an American accordionist to win a European championship, but to do so with material that is totally improvisational is unheard of, at that level. Also astounding is the fact that Cory Pesaturo is the only accordionist in the world to win all three top World Championships for acoustic accordion, digital accordion, and jazz Accordion. Since then, he has recorded, performed and toured with renowned jazz musicians such as Wynton Marsallis, George Garzone and Mike Renzi among many others.
One of the ways that Cory Pesaturo sets himself apart from other accordionists is his “visionary thinking of how the accordion should be used, played, and presented in the modern music world.” Cory created the first vinyl skinned Accordion with a connected lighting system, and the one which airport security would not allow on the plane he boarded to compete in the Digital World Championship in Finland. He managed to find a loaner, and win the competition. He is known in the accordion world as an outspoken rebel and tries to present a somewhat counterculture image for players of the instrument, by inventing the stage name “CPez” and an image more related to those in his own generation. Cory Pesaturo understands, challenges and successfully defies conventional notions about the piano accordion in America. These notions, more than fifty years out of date, are constantly reinforced and have been proven counterproductive for the popularity of, and respect for the instrument. He is determined to reinvent everything about the piano accordion, including the instrument, itself.
Cory Pesaturo has performed for President and Mrs. Clinton at the White House on 4 different occasions. The first time at the age of twelve, he was the youngest person ever to perform at a White House State Dinner. He has had such a close, working relationship with the Clintons that he was featured in Mrs. Clinton’s book, “An Invitation to the White House”. Cory has since performed at seven other events for Bill and Hillary Clinton and continues to keep in touch with the couple, as shown by fourteen letters he has received from them. It’s evident that they have been “impressed and inspired by his talent” since he was twelve years old, as is stated in one of their letters.
With a highly competitive,”Type A” personality, Cory is intensely interested in competition sports and, in particular, auto racing. Because his interest is so well known in the auto racing world, Cory was asked to perform at both the Italian Grand Prix as well as the German Grand Prix. His music is regularly featured on Formula One broadcasts on the SPEED and FOX channels and Cory also has an ongoing musical relationship with the radio station, 98.5, The Sports Hub in Boston. Cory Pesaturo has composed the music for “The Flying Lap” for his friend, auto racing legend Peter Windsor, and is currently working on a book about Formula One auto racing that he hopes will change the way people look upon the history of the sport and its champions.
Because artists and musicians are curious and inventive, some have abilities on many levels and may dabble in other areas and go on to develop other expertise. Cory is just such an individual and is very interested in statistics and meteorology. In addition to being a wonk about sports statistics, he is also an “armchair” weatherman. So serious about his hobby is he, that jazz columnist James Worsley noted, “Cory…has taught himself to forecast weather….he keeps records of weather events that weathermen rely on…..”. It’s clear that he looks to the weather for inspiration for his music, with albums entitled, “Crosswinds”, and “Change in the Weather”. With the revolutionary Cory Pesaturo in our midst , we will certainly experience a welcome change of climate for the piano accordion in America.
By Christa T. for Accordion Americana Born in Cardiff, Wales in 1986, Ben Lovett met Marcus Mumford while they were students at Kings College in London. Along with Englishmen, Ted Dwane and Winston Marshall, they magically came together in 2007, to form Mumford and Sons, a name more evocative of an old time blacksmith or haberdashery, rather than a band.
Mumford and Sons
Mumford and Sons debuted with an EP in 2008, Love Your Ground. Their first full length studio album, Sigh No More, was released in 2010. While promoting their album in the U.S. in 2011, they credit their introduction to American Roots music to Emmy Lou Harris and began writing songs for their second studio album. These songs would eventually become part of their next album released in 2012, Babel. Also in 2011, Mumford and Sons toured the U.S. with the Old Crowe Medicine Show and Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros on the inaugural Railroad Revival Tour. This tour was inspired by the Festival Express tour across Canada in 1970 that featured Janis Joplin, Buddy Guy, The Grateful Dead and The Band.
Winning awards since 2010, notably the Grammy for Best Album in 2012, for Babel, the British band has distinguished itself by becoming known as an Americana band, although none of the members were born or raised, American. This has offended some, and inspired others. Is it possible for someone who has not participated in the American Experience to incorporate the values and vision of America and to reinterpret it, and sell it back to us? To understand that they have done this, one must understand something about the Americana genre and how it is different. Americana is not a preservationist genre of music. It recognizes that Americans have a deep past, always migrating from somewhere else, bringing along with them, their experiences and melding them together with each new beginning. Like a language, Americana music is ever growing, moving and reinventing itself. Music, no matter how exclusive and rarified, has little meaning in the social context, if no one relates to it or cares about it. America listened to Mumford and Sons and it seemed to recognize that they were special. In turn, Mumford and Sons has become a highly visible and influential band in American music. The presence of the piano accordion in this band, more than any other event to date, has meant an exciting resurgence in interest in the instrument in the US.
Since co-founding Mumford and Sons, Ben Lovett has evolved as a multi-instrumentalist, producer, as well as founding a record company and a live music promotion team in the UK, Communion. Lovett produced Ellie Goulding’s critically acclaimed album Lights in 2010, as well as a self titled album for Simon Felice, formerly of the Felice Brother’s, in 2011.