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Squeezebox Information > Celebrity Squeezers updated August 13, 2003

Famous people who play accordion or concertina

This is supposed to be a list of people whose claim to fame is something else besides playing a squeezebox, which is why Myron Floren and Tony Gallarini are not here, among others. Most of these tidbits came from the Squeezebox Newsgroup. Thank-you's to the various contributors can be found below. I started this page because nobody else was doing it and it seemed like a good idea. I suppose if you have any new contributions you may as well email them to me. They probably won't appear here, as I pretty much stopped updating this page in June 1997, but I will put them in the next edition of my book, the Pretty Complete Guide to Squeezeboxes.


From the book "Gandhi, an Autobiography. The Story of My Experiments with Truth"...in the chapter describing his childhood (pg. 7) he describes a play which had a deep effect on him (Shravana Pitribhakti Nataka) and states;

"The agonized lament of the parents over Shravana's death is still fresh in my memory. The melting tune moved me deeply, and I played it on a concertina which my father had purchased for me."

From an article from le Quotidien des electeurs, http://www.tfi.be/rsn/qde/qde03/art12.html , one gathers that the former French prime minister and (former?) minister of Finance, Valery Giscard d'Estaing, plays accordion. Perhaps even in the election campaign! to quote:

"Telle est aussi la question del'lection. Entre un Giscard qui joue de l'accordeon ou un Clinton qui joue du saxo, le ton est donn. A qui faire confiance?"
In the March 9-15, 1996 Economist on page 51, there is a picture of an accordionist, with the caption "Giscard squeezed out". The article was on the jostling of French politicos for the prime ministership, which can be used as a springboard for the presidency.

In 'Nixon's world', http://www.moon.com/tm/tm12/nixon.html , a description of Richard Nixon's birthplace ends with "But just imagine a barefoot, nine-year-old Richard Nixon scrambling upstairs to practice his accordion."

One of the classic cartoons in the wake of the Watergate scandal (and the famous 18 minute gap in the TAPES) shows Mr. Nixon with a portable tape recorder hanging from a strap around his neck, his right hand on the "keys". The caption says: I don't know what happened, I was just trying to play "Hail to the Chief" on my accordion.

Nixon's daughters took accordion lessons from Washington DC accordion teacher Merv Conn.

It's also interesting that presidential hopeful Ross Perot studied accordion as a youngster and possibly still plays.

Johann Gunnarsson wrote me from Reykjavik, Iceland, with the following:

I believe that Mrs. Vigdis Finnbogadottir, who held the office of president of the Republic of Iceland for 16 years and stepped down only last summer is a fully qualified celebrity squeezer. The Reykjavik Accordion Club, of which I am a member, visited her in 1994 and played a few tunes for her. Then she revealed that she indeed owned a piano accordion, but while in office she did not have much time to practice.

Bob Cohen from Budapest, Hungary sent me the following:

"I was looking at your accordion site and liked the famous people who play accordion. I found this on the net recently (I don't remember where). Hope you like it - Idi Amin playing diatonic button accordion." (789K .au file)

Accordion to Accordion World Review, September 1950: Film star James Stewart was an expert accordion player. An amusing tale is told of him when he was making ''Broken Arrow" for the 20th Century Fox .During shooting he met up with a real Indian Apache brave who was so intrigued with the accordion (which Jimmy had with him) that he persuaded Jimmy to teach him.
In return the Apache insisted on giving him lessons in drum-beating, so Stewart learned to beat out three different war-dance rhythms.

From an interview for the L.A. Times with Jane Chaplin, remembering her father, Charlie Chaplin:
"I remember sitting on the stairs...He had an old accordion, very heavy. He'd put it on his shoulder, strap himself up, and play these old English songs. The more we clapped, the more he sang, and the more we got to stay up late."

British novelist and poet Thomas Hardy played the accordion in his youth. His widow, Florence Hardy, says in his biography :" His [Hardy's] earliest recollection was of receiving from his father the gift of a small accordion. He knew that he was but four years old at this time, as his name and the date were written by his father upon the toy: Thomas Hardy, 1844."

Steve Ballinger of Trenton, NJ contributes the information that Charles Dickens played the accordion, which information he found in a biography of the famous English writer.

Famous poet Robert W. Service (1874-1958) played the English concertina. (pictured)

Former Boston Celtics player Tony Lavelli used to play his accordion at half time.

Atlanta Braves pitcher John Smoltz is a virtuoso accordionist.

Gary Blair writes from Scotland:
I was watching "the Selina Scott Show" on cable last night. One of her guests was Nils Lofgren (ex guitarist with Neil Young, Bruce Springsteen etc.) He was asked about his musical career , to which he answered that he started to play the accordion at the age of 3. He was most appreciative of the instrument and went on to tell of the times that he played in classical competitions before moving on to the guitar. It sounded very much, that he still had an affection for the instrument.

ABC World News Now's Barry Mitchell plays the accordion. In case you've never seen him he takes current events and puts them to popular music.

Deborah Norville, the former co-anchor of NBC's Today Show who now hosts the tabloidy Inside Edition, is a closet piano accordion player.

Joyce Ashcroft writes:
Y'know how we often post tidbits about actors, athletes, politicians, etc., who play the accordion? I always find these items interesting, so I just had to laugh at something I read over the past weekend; a true-crime paperback about Edward Gein, notorious serial killer/grave robber who was supposedly the inspiration for the murderers in 'Psycho' and 'Silence of the Lambs'. Yup, you guessed it, folks: Gein played several musical instruments before they locked him up and threw away the key, among them our beloved accordion.

I don't know quite what to infer from this... but my housemates seem to be watching me rather closely...... :-)


Thanks to the following people for their contributions to this list:
Joyce Ashcroft (jashcrof@sps.edu)
Dina Bray (dtbray@primenet.com)
Brian Brennan (brennanb@theherald.southam.ca)
Gary Blair (100764.1554@CompuServe.COM)
Bob Cohen (zaelic@elender.hu)
Faithe Deffner (FDeffner@aol.com)
Tim Deagan (tim@thinkagain.com)
Alan Engle (aengle@MEM.po.com)
Allen Fuller (allen@mathcs.emory.edu)
Randy Lewis (Randy.Lewis@latimes.com)
Scott L. Maxwell (scottm@nic.com)
Jeroen Nijhof (nijhof@th.rug.nl)
James Taulbee (psjt@emory.edu)