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Gloria Deluxe, Cynthia Hopkins: Old Accordion, Young Artist

July 11, 2014

While visiting Tempo Trend Accordions over in Victoria, BC, Canada I got to dig around in their back-room(s) through their 600+ accordion collection and spotted this lovely item from, I’d say, the late 1920s or 30s.


This immediately reminded me of the New York artist Cynthia Hopkins, who performed for years as… “Gloria Deluxe!”  She’s kind of a combination of Laurie Anderson, Wendy McNiell, and Vancouver’s Veda Hille. Her voice is curiously remarkable and her lyrics can be painfully intense.  Backed with sort of Tom Waits-ish accordion (or piano) it’s quite a combination.  Listen here to Cynthia/Gloria Deluxe’s music.  May I suggest the spooky “Ballad of the Cherry Blossoms” from her Devotionals album (2001).  We only have two of her eight records, but I long for more to play on the radio show.  Maybe someday we’ll get her out to our Accordion Noir Festival?  She’d surely go over well with the fashionable multi-generational accordion crowd here in Vancouver.  Heck, she’s played up in the Arctic Ocean, so Canada’s just a stop on the way.

From the Cynthia Hopkins website.

I wonder if she named herself after one of these accordions?  Hey, if Freddy Fender could, why not?  Such a lovely namesake.  The one I saw was made by the Italo American Accordion Company in Chicago.  (They are still around.)  It looks like they have rooms full of accordions you can visit there too.
These stockpiles of old accordions are all over the place, aging elegance consigned to velvet-lined boxes and forgotten.  Who knows how many millions of accordions?  Would that they all inspired artists like her.

The corner-trim on this vaudeville-era fancy accordion.

Some serious glitter on this baby.

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