Squeeze in a celebration of the accordion

Ah-one, ah-two, and break out the bubbles: In June, the national spotlight shines on the accordion.

Blame National Accordion Month on Tom Torriglia, a San Francisco accordionist

Creative Commons/public domain

Creative Commons/public domain

who established it in 1989, then got San Francisco to make the accordion the city’s official musical instrument the next year, though not without a protest by kazoo players.

It’s fitting that the observance originated in The City, because Guerrini Accordion Co. produced the first U.S.-made piano accordion there in 1907. That’s the type that looks like it has piano keys on one end. People loved it. An accordion virtuoso, Guido Deiro, even developed a style called “Frisco Sound,” playing dates all over the West – and playing the real-life husband of actress Mae West.

The accordion in all its forms was not only a San Francisco treat. You’ll hear it in music from almost every part of the globe. China has lately made more accordions than any other country. Lucy Liu, Billy Joel and Shakira all play. Weird Al Yankovic wouldn’t be half as weird without one. Torriglia once told the San Francisco Chronicle, “Accordions aren’t just for polkas anymore.”

Even the U.S. Air Force Band recruits an accordionist for its Strolling Strings unit. The position requires at least a four-year enlistment, and it pays full military benefits and 30 days’ vacation a year.

How could anyone bad-mouth an instrument that lets you feel the music in your chest as you play it? After all, June 1 was National Say Something Nice Day.

How to celebrate? By listening. Here are some selections to get you started:

“Gangnam Style” accordion-style, a rocking complement to Psy’s original.

“Danza Kuduro,” a sweet version of the Don Omar’s reggaeton hit.

“Bad Romance” in a subway station might do Lady Gaga proud. (Can’t get enough Gaga accordion? Check out this hot-hot-hot version of “Telephone.”)

“Wrecking Ball” – is it Miley Cyrus, or is that an accordion?

Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” for the squeezebox.

Accordion goes classical on Modest Mussorgsky’s “Night on Bald Mountain.”

Are you having fun yet?

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February 2023
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