Did You Know?

Did you know….?

….that the word “accordion” comes from the German word “akkord”, which means “agreement, harmony”

….that the cellulose used for the outside of an accordion is plant-based Cellulose is is an insoluble substance which is part of plant cell walls, together with vegetable fibre such as cotton.

….that Guido Deiro coined the phrase “piano-accordion” in 1910

.…that the instrument we call the accordion, is known by a different name in some countries. For example, in China it is known as the “sun-fin-chin”. In Italy it is known as the “fisarmonica”. In Norway it is known as the “trekspill”. In Russia it is known as the “bayan”.

.…that there are more moving parts in an average accordion than there are in an average compact car

….that master Italian composer Giuseppe Verdi,  who was president of the commission for the reform of Italian institutes of Music, reported to the Ministry: …and thus I maintain that it is both useful and necessary that instruction in the accordion be offered and taught in Italian music conservatories.

….that Prokofiev used the accordion in his Cantata for the 20th Anniversary of the October Revolution, op 74.

….that Tschaikovsky used the accordion in his Suite No. 2 in C major in 1883.

….that Guido Deiro wrote the hit song Kismet It became the theme song for the successful Broadway musical Kismet in 1911.

….that the UK’s Jack Emblow played accordion on All You Need Is Love by The Beatles

….that Shirley Evans played accordion on The Beatles’ Magical Mystery Tour movie

….that the present Hotel Parco, in Via Donizetti, Castelfidardo (Italy), is the former Crucianelli accordion factory.

…that in 1989, the Italian Postal Service issued 4,500,000 stamps (450 lire) dedicated to the Italian accordion industry as part of its series Italy at Work.

….that on 20 March 2016, an attempt was made by a huge gathering of accordionists in Bojan, Poland, to beat the Guinness Book of World Records in playing the same tune. The attempt was part of Kashubian Unity Day celebrations.

.…that 6-foot 3-inch Massachusetts-born Boston Celtic’s player Tony Lavelli (1926-1998) used to entertain with his accordion on the basketball pitch at half time. After he retired from the game he concentrated on music and became a successful accordionist/entertainer and nightclub performer, and released two records albums (One Man show, and Tony Lavelli Accordion Classics). He was named the national player of the year in1949, and inducted into the New England Basketball Hall of Fame in 2015.

.…that Joe Biviano, Abe Goldman, and Gene von Halberg became the first performers in history to play the accordion in New York’s famed Carnegie Hall. Together, on 18 April 1939, the three accordionists gave a superb performance of Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D minor. It was a major step for the instrument. All three muicians were part of the Charles Magnante Quartet (Biviano also married Magnante’s sister), which was formed as a special guest feature for the Lucky strike Hit Parade show.

.…that in 1887 the Japanese imported diatonic accordions from Germany – for the women of high society to learn and play.

….that in 1905, Germany had 35 accordion factories, and exported 35,200 accordions to France.

….that accordion and vaudeville star Guido Deiro was married to actress and sex symbol Mae West (it was his second marriage) who later became a Hollywood star. They had a stage act together and worked the vaudeville circuit (they divorced in 1920).

.…that “Play Your Accordion” was the name of a television game show in Russia some years ago

.…that the accordion is the designated official instrument of the cities of Detroit (Michigan), Skokie (Illinois), and St. Paul (Minnesota)

.…that when the Genoa-based Italian ocean liner SS (steam ship) Andrea Doria sank on 25 July 1956 after a collision with the Swedish America Line’s MS (diesel-driven motor ship) Stockholm, the ship was carrying a consignment of several hundred accordions. The instruments were bound for Ernest Deffner’s New York accordion store, located in the former Wurlitzer showroom near Washington Square in Manhattan. The 29,100-gross register ton SS Andrea Doria had a capacity of about 1,200 passengers and 500 crew, and its good design allowed it to stay afloat for 11 hours after the accident, just off the coast of Nantucket. Some 1,660 passengers and crew were rescued and evacuated (46 persons died in the accident).  

 .…that Robert Fripp, the virtuoso guitarist founder of successful rock band King Crimson (noted particularly for the album, In the Court of the Crimson King) previously played with accordionist Douglas Ward (then known as Duggie Ward). They played together regularly in the Duggie Ward trio (the third member being either a drummer or bass player), at the Chewton Glen Hotel in Hampshire, and on gigs in London, England.

….that Frank Morocco played on the soundtrack of over 500 movies (including Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Dr. Zhivago, Pink Panther, Pirates of the Caribbean, Rocky 3, and hit US TV shows such as Colombo, Roots, Sesame Street, and many more

….that in 2018 a metal statue to Amédé Ardoin (a professional accordionist/singer of Creole French music) was unveiled in 2018 in St. Landrie Parish, Louisina. The statue – created by artist Russell whiting – doesn’t show him playing an accordion, but, instead, Ardoin is holding a lemon – something he always carried to soothe his voice when entertaining. He cut his first disc in 1929, his last in 1934, and made a total of 34 recordings.

Famous personalities who play (or played) the accordion

Did you know….?

 .…that Paul McCartney played the accordion? It was his first instrument – and the one which started his interest in music (he grew up in a musical family). He then changed to the banjo, and later to the guitar – in order to catch the growing trend for “easier-to-play” instruments of the 1960s. He often took his accordion with him when he went to the studio to write songs for The Beatles.

.…that the following all play (or played) the accordion (given in first name alphabetical order): Barry ManilowBenny Andersson(Abba), Billy JoelBrian Jones (The Rolling Stones), Connie FrancisDennis DeYoung (Styx), Duke EllingtonEdith Piaf (French songstress), Elvis PresleyEmilio Estefan (husband of songstress Gloria Estefan), Eric Morecambe, Fred AstairGary Brooker (Procol Harum), George Shearing (British-born jazz musician), Jascha Heifetz (world renowned violinist), Jean Michel JarreJimmy HendrixJoe Zawinul (jazz musician), Keith Emerson (Emerson, Lake & Palmer), Klaus Wunderlicht (German organ star), Mark Twain (American novelist), Nils LofgrenPaul SimonPee Wee King (composer of The Tennessee Waltz), Pete Jolly (jazz musician), Pete Townshend (The Who), Ringo StarrRolf Harris, and Woody Guthrie.

.…that several “Celebrity Squeezers” from screen and stage also played the accordion? Among them: Boris Karlov (the original Dracula), Charlie ChaplinDean MartinForest Whitaker (method actor who won an Academy Award for his portrayal of Idi Amin in the film “The Last King n Scotland”), Fred AstaireJimmy StewartLucy Liu, Robert Beatty, and Smiley Burnette.

.…that some famous politicians also played the accordion? Among them Valéry Giscard d’Estang (French political leader), Ed McCain (U.S. senator), H, Ross Perot (businessman and political candidate who ran for presidency of the USA’s independent party), Jaques Chirac (French president),  Richard M. Nixon (the 37th president of the United States, from 1969 to 1974 and the only president to resign form office), and President Vladimir Putin (president of Russia). The most notorious of all was the “dictator” of Uganda – Idi Amin.

Did you know….?

.…that Two Italian-made accordions can be found as wall decoration with a third (playable) instrument provided in Manfredi’s Italian Restaurant aboard Viking Cruises’ 930-passenger mid-size cruise ship Viking Star (the instruments were sourced and provided by Alan Young from the UK).

….that large photographs of famous American accordionists and accordion orchestras from the 1940s and 1950s (including Frank Gaviani and his orchestra) can be found as wall decoration in Sorrento’s Pizzeria eatery aboard Royal Caribbean International’s 3,701-passenger large resort ship Freedom of the Seas? It is the only ship in the company’s large fleet to feature accordions in the interior décor.

….that Michael Jackson was a fan of “Weird” Al Yankovic? They met twice, and recorded albums while in adjacent studios.

.…that USA accordion star Lawrence Welk (born Ludwig Welk) had a band in his early days called the “Hotsy Totsy Boys”?

….that Lawrence Welk’s “Champagne” music television show – The Lawrence Welk Show – started at local Los Angles station KTLA (the flagship station of the Paramount Television Network) and was later syndicated on national television – for 27 ½ years (plus another 10 years locally on KTLA)! The show was first broadcast in black and white, but in colour from 1965 onwards.

.…that Lawrence Welk purchased the rights to all of Jerome Kern’s (about 700) songs? These included such classics – written mainly for musicals and films – as “A Fine Romance” (lyrics by Dorothy Fields), “All the Things you Are” (lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II, from the musical Very Warm for May), “Can’t Help Lovin’ That Man” (Show Boat), “I Won’t Dance” (lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II and Dorothy Fields), “I’m Old Fashioned” (lyrics by Johnny Mercer), “Long Ago and Far Away” (lyrics by Ira Gershwin), “Look for the Silver Lining” (lyrics by B.G. De Silva, from the musical Sally),“Make Believe” (from Show Boat), “Ol’ Man River” (lyrics by Hammerstein II), “Pick Yourself Up” (lyrics by Dorothy Fields), “Smoke Gets In Your Eyes” (lyrics by Otto Harbach), “The Folks Who Live On the Hill” (lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II, from the film High, Wide and Handsome), “The Last Time I Saw Paris” (lyrics by Hammerstein II), “The Way You Look Tonight” (lyrics by Dorothy Fields), “They Didn’t Believe Me (from the musical The Girl from Utah), and “Who?” (from the musical Sunny).

….that Pee Wee King (1914-2000) played accordion in his band. His real name was Julius Anthony Kuecznski, but movie star Gene Autry named him Pee Wee. He made a movie with Gene Autry (Gold Mine in the Sky). He wrote over 400 songs, among them (and perhaps the most well-known) the Tennessee Waltz (which he co-wrote with Redd Stewart – the band’s vocalist – and a recording artist and songwriter in his own right), which became the state’s official song. He mostly played Excelsior and Dallape accordions.

….that Pee Wee King and His Golden West Cowboys were all in the musicians’ union, and, when invited to the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, Tennessee, was the first union band in the famous venue. This is when “Hillbillly” music became known as “Country and Western”. He was elected to the Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville in 1974.

….that Bill Haley and The Saddlemen played hillbilly/country music (this later morphed into rockabilly music – the forerunner of Rock ‘n’ Roll, The band featured accordionist Johnny Grande (from Philadelphia’s South Side). The band changed its name to Bill Haley and His Comets (often better known as Bill Haley and The Comets).

…. that Huddie Leadbetter, better known as Leadbelly, sang, and played Gospel, Blues and the Boogie Woogie-style music on his diatonic accordion.

….that a metal statue to Amédé Ardoin (a professional accordionist/singer of Creole French music) was unveiled in 2018 in St. Landrie Parish, Louisiana? The statue – created by artist Russell whiting – doesn’t show him playing an accordion, but instead Ardoin is holding a lemon – something he always carried to soothe his voice when entertaining. He cut his first disc in 1929, his last in 1934, and made a total of 34 recordings.