I recently visited Seattle's own Petosa Accordions, where I was stopping in to do some trades and make a down-payment on a new member of the Death Polka family. I saw this book sitting out among the accordions in the museum section and decided to pick it up and have a look.

 

"Squeeze This! A Cultural History of the Accordion in America" was a well-written, very thorough look at the role that the piano accordion has had in American culture dating back as far as the early 1900's. It does an excellent job covering how dynamic the instrument is, as it's had a role in vaudeville/jazz/country/pop/polka/etc throughout history. The book shows how the accordion got put into the spot where it's viewed as a polka-only instrument by many and suddenly was violently thrown from the spotlight when the rock and roll movement of the 50s and 60s started to take the country by storm. I don't like to talk too much about books, because I feel like I will give spoilers, so I'd rather discuss a few of my favorite parts in it:

 

I absolutely loved that the author, Marion Jacobsen, mentioned/covered many of the modern accordion players that are out performing today. That list includes Esmerelda Strange, Vagabond Opera, Weird Al, Flogging Molly, Jimmy the Pickpocket and Kitten on the Keys. She also did an excellent job of making sure to let the reader know where to look when it came to finding accordion players and accordion festivals. Jacobsen thoroughly covered several of the accordion festivals that happen yearly throughout different parts of the US, and those are great places for anybody interested/n00b/veteran when it comes to squeezeboxin'. There's something for everybody at an accordion festival, and I think that Jacobsen's decision to put such a strong emphasis on those events in her writing is a great way to let people know that the accordion is a little more accessible than they may think!

 

The only bit that confused me in the book was that among the accordion players and people covered, there was no mention of such acts as Jason Webley or Duckmandu. I understand that if one was to sit down and discuss every modern accordion player it would have taken too much time and space, but those two players in particular to me have done a lot for the instrument with their incredibly talented and brilliant playing. I would have liked to see those guys in there, but I didn't write this book. Will she read this some day? Check those guys out, Ms. Marion! I think you'll like...

 

Worth the coin, worth the read. There's a lot more history behind the rise and fall of the accordion in American pop-culture than you may have been led to believe!

 

Listen to an interview with Marion Jacobsen here.

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Ando Ehlers | 
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