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“Reminiscing with The Mom And Dads”, 1972.

June 20, 2013

Greetings, all! It’s Rowan, Bruce’s co-host on the Accordion Noir program! It was just Father’s Day this past weekend, and in honour of my relatively recent induction into the club celebrating that occasion, my loving partner brought me home a copy of a record she found in a free box at a garage sale yesterday. (I know, I’m known as an Etsy expert, but there are great deals to be found all over, and if accordions are your thing, garage sales and thrift stores have much to offer!) Our Mom and Dads record collection had already entered and exited our house before, but the artifact was nicely resonant of the occasion, from a Mom to a Dad.

reminiscing w mom & dads

While processing our enormous piles of thrift store accordion-band records (an excellent resource for the popular state of the accordion art right up to and dwindling away after The Great Accordion Crash of 1961), I snapped some photos of curious or noteworthy album sleeves with the intention of someday blogging about them here.  This album design isn’t especially provocative (a commentator elsewhere remarked that with The Mom And Dads, what you see really is what you get — that it’s difficult to imagine this particular group of people making any other kinds of music, with the only real surprise on this album being their cover of Kris Kristofferson’s “Me and Bobby McGee”) but all the same the Spokane band’s story is one of local interest to us in the Pacific Northwest, and may go far to illustrate the pockets of squeezy resistance keeping on keepin’ on at the festivals in Leavenworth and (until recently) Kimberley.

The band was named after a stab at their repertoire’s scope: basically, music for your parents, circa 1950, boasting that they had within their grasp just about any then-popular musical style, “[f]rom turn of the century dance music such as the Three Step, to more modern sounds, such as country and western.” And, of course, the polka. But all run through a kind of musical sausage-grinder, uniformly coming out sounding much as Bobby McGee did above. Not bad — but no surprises!

They had their “hit” in ’71 (yes, a decade after the bottom fell out of the popular accordion market — their clung tenaciously to their niche), the Rangers Waltz, which enjoyed some airplay in Montana, from where radio signals were picked up in Alberta, where a following exploded — that record ultimately went double-platinum (!?) and ripples from that success led them, like Elton John and Queen (and yet strangely utterly unlike them), to tour Australia for a month in ’74. “It clocked in among the top singles of the year down there and became, according to a 1974 article in Billboard, the largest-selling single in the history of the Australian music biz up to that point.”

Leslie Welch was the accordionist; not the oldest (Doris, born in ’05), but the first to die in ’83 (the sax player Quentin Ratliff is still alive! But he wasn’t really in the same generational bracket as the rest of the band — the keys and accordion had already been playing together for 22 years before he got on board.) Everyone’s chops are as good as they need to be — no flashy showboating here, just a workmanlike commitment to grinding the song out. And if you like the song, they have a pile more that sound just like it! Not to be snobby — music doesn’t have to have pretentions of sophistication. Like dubstep grandpa would say, at least it’s got a beat and it’s obvious how to dance to it.

OK, so I don’t actually have that much to say about the Mom & Dads. But hopefully this will mark the start of a series of posts I can make here where we revisit and examine splendid, curious and baffling album artwork from our great grand Accordion Noir vinyl collection. Those posts will likely be shorter, but who knows when I may be moved by a strange current of lyricism. Like right there! Until then, thanks to Bruce for having me; thanks for reading through to the end and… squeeze on!

4 Comments leave one →
  1. June 25, 2013 12:43 am

    Very nice! Music with a smile…..

    • June 25, 2013 10:40 am

      Curiously, while preparing this week’s Accordion Noir radio show I was previewing music. To do that I end up playing many many fragments of tracks to see how they’ll fit together. This results in a rather jarring and probably annoying bystander experience of hearing the first three seconds of a hundred songs. While putting my final list together I happened to be listening to a whole Mom and Dad’s record that Rowan had shared with me. After putting up with all this, my kids’ mom’s girlfriend asked me, “Do you actually like all the music you play on your show?”
      Ouch. I’d have to say that the Mom and Dads hadn’t been bothering me at all. The tracks from these thrift-store albums Rowan ripped for me all string together so we’re talking more than just a few seconds here, but I found them rather old-timey sweet. You get what you expect and it’s got a bit of swing to it. I like the sax.
      As far as always playing music I like on the show, I’d say that if I very much don’t like it I don’t play it (unless Rowan really wants to.) And my tastes are broad enough that my favourites easily include nice pretty pieces and quite “ugly” numbers. I do get tired of frivolous virtuosity, where “Flight of the Bumblebee” played faster and faster is supposed to be better than a slow song played with feeling, or contrarily, where “tasteful” means no mistakes, but no passion. I’m known to avoid a shaking singer-songwriter or pop artist where the accordion is the only reasong we’d play it. If it’s not interesting, an accordion may not be enough to save it.
      But I don’t like to bad-mouth artists. They’ve been brave enough to put themselves out there and worked hard to do it. It’s rude of me to tear them down, and doesn’t help anybody. When I’ve got 48 hours of music in our “top-rated: play this on our next show” file, there’s no reason to play things just to make mean comments on them. Of course the fact that our “play this next show” list is long enough for almost a year’s worth of shows means that if we don’t play something, it might still be a favourite waiting to be played.
      So basically, I’m digging the Mom & Dads, and yeah, I like almost everything we play. It must have something in its favour in order for us to put it on the air. We hope you enjoy it too.

  2. June 25, 2013 10:56 pm

    Learned a piece of music from the Mom’s & Dad’s a few years ago. Listened to it and learned to play it on my accordion by ear. The piece of music is Rippling River Waltz. When I got better at music I wrote the piece out on my music program mainly the way I play it. Now our Accordion Band uses this piece in couple of our programs..

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