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The American Accordion

Walker

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Some American accordion names have intrigued me for years. Ever since hearing the soft, buttery tone of Frank Marocco's accordion on The Waltons, decades ago, I have wanted to know more... I had always thought that during the Golden Age, the financial wealth of the American market surely meant the accordionists could afford custom instruments with artisan reeds, hardwood reedblocks, mahogany tone chamber and American Walnut keyboard! My mind drifts to iconic accordions... Excelsior Symphony Grand Citation, Petosa AM1100, Titano Royal, Bell 4516.

But then one hears a whisper of other names, like Imperial Chicago and Rembrandt - accordions that are little known on this side of the Altantic. So I would love to hear what you think of the American brands... Are they really as special as they seem to me? Sure, many may be built in Castelfidardo, but some of the vintage accordions, well they had something extra...

I have a hunch that there is actually more to the world of accordions than just the Gola and Super VI. Tell me, what are the sparkling gems - the special American accordions.
 
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Walker

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Here is Nick Ariondo playing an unusual Imperial Chicago accordion, with free bass, and transparent surfaces on the bass, so the mechanics are visible...

 

Dingo40

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Walker,
Thanks for sharing!??
(The transparent bass box doesn't work for me.)
Interesting sounding treble side.
 

Walker

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Hi Dingo40,

It is a bold design, but I think it suits Ariondo's style. It takes a formidable musician to choose a see-through accordion!

You know, I once heard that the American accordionist Andy Arcari visited Giovanni Gola and commissioned an accordion with the same specification as his own accordion, an American Excelsior. It was back in 1956, and the accordion that resulted was the blueprint for the Hohner Gola 414. When I think about it, I believe the Excelsior Symphony Grand had a 6 voice bass and a mute behind the grill. These are certainly two defining features of the Gola also. So I think there is a case for the innovative American accordion.

Here is a fascinating concert from 1952 of the great musician Arcari - 70 years ago!


I think it could all be a matter of perspective. I have often heard the Petosa AM1100 referred to as the American Gola, due to it's quality etc. However, if the story I heard about Arcari is correct, then maybe the Gola is arguably the German Excelsior!

I believe Frank Marocco once commented on the class of the AM1100. It certainly has a super tone. Though built by Zero Sette, I have heard the specification is extra special. Beyond what is considered high quality...


Frank Petrilli plays the accordion very well indeed!
 
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JeffJetton

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Ever since hearing the soft, buttery tone of Frank Marocco's accordion on The Waltons, decades ago, I have wanted to know more...

That's Frank Marocco on the "Walton's" theme? I guess that makes sense--he played on pretty much everything back in the day.
 

Walker

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I was just thinking about the great American accordionists. Lots of names occur to me, but one in particular - Charles Magnante. Especially with his Excelsior accordion.


Who do you consider the great American accordionists?
 
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Walker

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Yes, the trumpet did lead the theme tune, but there was also accordion in the band.

Marocco actually played the incidental/soundtrack music on accordion - especially at scene changes and when the narrator was speaking etc.
 
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Tom

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As usual, I'll provide the rustic input, my friend Jerry Sleger, an American who built his own one man accordion band, hooking 5 or so keyboards up to a handmade accordion, pedals, another keyboard and a homemade "Leslie." Jerry also built an accordion with 2 keyboards and other amazing inventions. Here's a link to one version:




We spent 5 hours yesterday restoring that old "Leland" (Hohner?) reed rewaxing, replacement and restoring, many leathers replaced, including full bass chord block (who was the genius that took them all off?) and full tuning of all reeds. Probably $750 - $1000 worth of work on an accordion worth $75 but it was good for Jerry and I learned a ton about a ton. The reeds each had an "H" stamped on them which I haven't seen (Hohner?). And the one we had to replace we found in a giant box of reeds, with that strange animal head stamped on it that I've seen once before on an "Alpine" cordeen.
 
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Walker

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Hi @Tom, the accordion has always been an ideal platform from which to experiment and innovate - musically, mechanically or in various designs and systems etc.

I remember some old 1940s Dallape's often had treble switches that looked like a second keyboard floating above the main keyboard. I recently saw a more modern instrument, but still vintage, Gus Zoppi LILA. Now that looks like an Italian American design, if ever I saw one. It sounds rather good too.

 
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Tom

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Thanks Stewart! Yes, very cool looking accordion. I've watched a lot of Kateryna Sushko's videos, they are a fresh and modern take, very nice.
 

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