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Duke Ellington’s Accordion

February 25, 2013
[I’ve added polish to this since I posted it a few hours ago.]

Our friend Alan from the Vancouver Squeezebox Circle  sent me this:

From the book ‘Stomping the Blues’ by Albert Murray

I want to know more of the story of this picture – the date?  That’s a 1930’s style accordion I’d say.

Cornell Smelser played accordion and recorded with Ellington in 1930, I wonder if that could possibly be his? (Like Lennon picked up the session guy’s when they were recording, “All You Need is Love.”) That would be a treat; Cornell died soon after of TB and [Correction, I just heard from Cornell’s family that he lived a long life after his jazz career. I look forward to more such happy errors!] not many jazz accordionists stepped in to take his place.

My fave Cornell track:  “Double Check Stomp” from 1930.  One copy I have lists it as by, “The Jungle Band,” that’s Ellington’s orchestra.

Dig the kazoo solo.

Then there’s Ellington jammin out “Accordion Joe” with Cornell.

Here’s a later version of Cornell’s (he wrote it) “Accordion Joe,” with the Dorsey brothers along for the ride.

Oh, hey!  There’s a bunch of Cornell Smelser tracks on YouTube.  Nobody has ever collected his stuff at all.  I’m gonna grab them while I can.

Here’s “Cotton Club Stomp” from that same “Jungle Band” in 1930.

Thanks to Squeezebox Alan for starting this off!

9 Comments leave one →
  1. July 18, 2015 4:08 pm

    The Feb 7, 1930 recording of Accordion Joe by Cornell and His Orchestra is on the Jazz Oracle CD ‘Jack Teagarden 1930 Studio Sessions’, which gives the personnel as follows: Leo McConville Joe Lindwurm or Charlie Spivak (t), Jack Teagarden (tb), Jimmy Dorsey (cl,as), Fletcher Hereford (as), Adrian Rollini (bsx), Cornell (pac), Irving Brodsky (p), Dick McDonough (g), Tex Hurst (sb), Stan King (d), Artie Dunn (v). The CD booklet-notes by Joe Showler contain a wealth of fascinating material about Cornell, including a 1975 exchange of letters between him (then calling himself Charles S. Cornell) and a researcher, Howard Waters, who tracked him down in Santa Monica, California thanks to information provided by another1820s/30s bandleader, Ben Selvin.

    • July 18, 2015 10:12 pm

      Wow Jim, thanks for your comment. Cornell’s birthday is Aug 7th so I’ll relay this to his family as a nice commemorative present. I interviewed his daughters and they distinctly remembered a jazz researcher in the 1970s who interviewed their dad, but they couldn’t remember who it was. You may have solved a mystery with Howard Waters’ name. Thank you!

      The story they told was that a family friend was driving and heard a writer (Waters?) on the radio talking about Cornell and saying he’d died in the 1930s. The friend frantically pulled over and found a phone (no cell-phones in 1970?) and called the station. He told how Cornell was alive and living not far from the station. I think the researcher went to the house and interviewed Cornell. I would love to find any materials left from those visits.

      Your information is quite exciting Jim and very helpful, thanks so much!

  2. July 18, 2015 10:43 pm

    That’s sad news. If anyone can help you in your quest it will be Joe Showler, who is (last I heard) still alive.

  3. Noel Fortune permalink
    March 2, 2017 11:46 am

    That “kazoo” solo is actually a muted trombone with a plunger! 😉

    • March 2, 2017 3:14 pm

      Oh, kazoo scholar catches me out! This is what fact-checking is for. Thanks Noel.

  4. edward trulson permalink
    May 31, 2020 9:31 pm



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