How aware are you of accordions? Can you even spell "accordion" without looking? I must admit, they are pretty low on my radar. (And I had to find out how to spell it.) But just this week we happened to see a scene in an episode of “Mad Men” (our newest show obsession) with Joanie playing her accordion. In 1963 (when the episode was set), they were all the rage. Some say Elvis and John Lennon played accordion before beginning the guitar. Nowadays, Mumford & Sons and Of Monsters and Men incorporate them into their acts. I guess it is a good thing they have this month of June set aside for the rest of us to be aware of them so they don’t go unnoticed for too long. Apparently, there is a resurgence under way. There is even a Wikipedia entry called, “List of popular music acts that incorporate the accordion.”
My first exposure to accordions was on the Lawrence Welk Show. We watched that religiously when I was a kid. Though we had a long list of TV shows we couldn’t see, Lawrence got a free pass for every episode. I’d scramble to get my bath done, pajamas on, and my hair up into pincurls with sleeping scarf tied on so I could watch Lawrence and the gang uninterrupted. I especially liked the segments when Bobby and Sissy danced (I was pretty put off when Bobby got a different girl to dance with), when Arthur Duncan tapped, and when the audience got to get up and bob along as the bubbles were released. If only there’d been a national accordion awareness campaign back then, I would have known to pay more attention to the accordion players. I don’t know who played. Maybe it was even Lawrence himself. For me, though, they were overshadowed by the dancers and bubbles. If only…
Another TV show we watched regularly that included accordion playing was the Miss America Pageant. Because I’m a ventriloquist myself, inspired by Vonda Kay Van Dyke who won the 1965 Miss America pageant with ventriloquism as her talent, I paid a lot more attention to the ventriloquist acts then the accordion acts. But apparently, a lot of pageant winners played accordion, like Lorna Anderson, Miss California 1957 and 3rd runner-up for Miss America, and Ann Gloria Daniel, Miss Florida 1954 and first runner-up for Miss America. By those old dates, I’m thinking accordion playing in pageants might need a boost from Simon Cowell. Maybe he could keep his eyes open for some young accordion talent and support the new trend. (Or maybe they could finally just get rid of the ridiculous rituals that objectify women. What about that???)
My cousin Linda joined an accordion band when we were young. I hadn’t known such a thing existed. I got to see her accordion in person when we went to my aunt and uncle’s house for the holidays. The idea of wearing a miniature, sideways piano fascinated me, plus the ability to make a whole chord with the touch of one of those button on the left side was too cool for words. I only played violin and mostly we could just play one note at a time. The fact she got to move the bellows to blow the air was way better than pulling my bow across the violin strings. Her instrument was a lot like bagpipes. Way more cool than playing violin.
Now that you’re aware of accordions, be on the lookout for ways to help support them this month. Maybe you’ll pass a closet accordion player and you won’t even know it. Smile at them. Take a moment to google accordions and learn an interesting factoid for your next dinner party. Watch an old Lawrence Welk rerun. The possibilities are endless! Happy Accordion Awareness Month.
Want my stories delivered right to your inbox? I can do that! Click the button below to sign up and I'll make sure to send my post right to you each day that I blog.