How I Got Started Playing Rock on the Accordion

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“I don’t want people who want to dance. I want people who HAVE to dance.” –George Balanchine (Co-founder of the New York City Ballet)

So, yeah, it was pretty much like that for me from the start. Even when I was a kid in grade school being asked to play (or nominated to play by my sainted mother) at an assembly I would start rocking it a little bit, you know? I remember one time one of the Franciscan Nuns kind of stepped in and made me stop playing my very upbeat version of “My Bonnie,” because my classmates were enjoying it a little too much! (It’s not really a party until the cops are called, right?). This was when The Fab Four had started their epic climb to greatness–around 1964 or 65.

Anyway, I came to find out many years later that The Beatles actually had recorded a rocking version of “My Bonnie” when they were the backup band for Tony Sheridan! So, after The Beatles broke up we started getting all these bootlegs, and “previously unreleased” tracks and everything. I’m clerking in the record store (Riera’s Records in Danville, California) at the time for my godfather and we get this shipment of new releases including the aforementioned Tony Sheridan album “featuring” The Beatles. And I say to myself, “Well, THIS is interesting.” And there it is in the track listing—My Bonnie! So I break it open and give it a spin on the old turntable. Now, obviously I must say their version was vastly superior to my 5th Grade efforts. But there was something there in those Beatle’s grooves of vinyl that I connected with and recognized as a little bit similar to what I had produced and certainly a different rendition of the song from what a listener usually expects in the song–more of an easy-going waltz. And I was thrilled at the recognition because the fog of the naysayers had lifted, in a way. And I became more determined than ever to play the music I wanted to play on the instrument I wanted to rock out on.

So, think back to your own experiences. Try to Remember, as the old song goes, and if you remember, then follow! Follow your heart. Maybe it was a certain song that featured our beloved instrument (Think “We Can Work It Out” by The Beatles, or “Paper in Fire” by John Mellencamp). Maybe it was a certain artist (Think Bruce Hornsby) who utilized the accordion to great, rocking effect. Then, make YOUR move. There are terrific rockers inside you. Let. them. out.