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1960’s Tiger Combo ‘Cordion / 1920’s Flow Tone Accordion

October 9, 2016

Hi all,

Reading/writing about the 1960’s Tiger Combo ‘Cordion accordion that Faithe Deffner and Bill Palmer (both since passed on) developed for Pancordion and Titano (both accordion brands owned then by the same company).

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In this post Faithe mentions that they came in a tiger-print bag. I’d love to see one of those. Anybody ever seen this rare Tiger accessory? [See the photo I added in the comments.] I gather it came with a vocal mic on top for singers too? Why didn’t these ideas save the accordion?

The concept behind the Tiger seems interesting. A cheap, light, flashy design to reach young people playing combo-organs in rock bands. Deffner talks more about the Tiger here.

I believe Pancordion sold the “Tiger Combo ‘Cordion” while Titano sold theirs as just a “Combo ‘Cordion,” which I think lacked the Tiger’s swept keyboard.

The “Combo’cordions” were obviously modelled on the similarly colour-reversed  Vox Continental combo-organ that all the British invasion bands were playing.

Vox Continental portable organ, with distinctive red top and white/black reversed keys

The Tiger had an unusual keyboard setting to play in fifths (single-key power-chords?) I wonder if it might have been more useful on the bass side, so you could build on them with the right hand keyboard? This vid (below) may show that they had them on the bass? I wish they’d been able to keep experimenting with the design. Developing a decent amplification system way back then would have made a difference for the accordion I expect.

Deffner talks more about the Tiger here. Sad I couldn’t have interviewed her, she sounds like quite a lady. First female head of an accordion company, she obviously worked really hard to keep the instrument going, even when it got into the “exodus” period of the 1970s and on. But the Tiger feels like one of those places where the timeline could have split. If they’d had young players trying it out and tweaking the design, working on the amplification to play in loud bands, dealing with those problems we still deal with today, then “things might have been different.”

 

Interestingly, while looking for pictures of the still elusive tiger-print carrying bag, I found a photo of a “Flowtone Combo” which appears to be another version of the combo-cordion.  It looks like the Titano to me, but the control-knobs are in different places.

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So I look up “Flowtone” and find this fantastic old 1920s-30s item that has the same swept-back keyboard as the Tiger. This is an incredibly beautiful accordion.

Flowtone Accordion, 1920's era? covered in rein-stone swirling decorations. Unbelievable. Name-plate, "Irene Kaske."

 

I was pretty sure I’d seen that kind of keyboard before, but was the 60’s “Flowtone” version modelled after this old one with the same old Flowtone brand? Were they prototypes? Marvellous mysteries.

Grill detail: Flowtone Accordion, 1920's era? covered in rein-stone swirling decorations. Unbelievable. "Minchella Studio Detroit."

Holy crap, this old one sold online for $150! That hurts, it does. Hope it found a worthy home. This thing belongs in an art gallery. Dreaming of my accordion coffee-table book.

Flowtone Accordion, 1920's era? covered in rein-stone swirling decorations. Like water or clouds or yin-yang icons. Amazing

I should mention that Marion Jacobson may have introduced me to the Tiger phenomena in her “Searching for Rockordion,” paper which is very worth reading. Some of that story then reappears in her Squeeze This! book.

One more jazzy vid of a Titano Combo ‘Cordion from Liberty Bellows.

6 Comments leave one →
  1. October 10, 2016 12:02 am

    Also, who was Irene Kaske? She had a really nice accordion made for her. Did she ever play it? It looks new? Where did it come from? How did it survive? Mysteries?

  2. sonicjett permalink
    October 10, 2016 12:16 am

    Yes we have 3 Tigers – brown / green / red – otherwise known as sun / bluemoon / fire (and have had a go at playing them!) in the Kevin Friedrich Accordion Collection in the Dargaville Museum New Zealand ! . …… . Kevin learnt accordion from my parents here about 4 decades ago, and then went to USA where he got to know Faithe Deffner. He got the Tiger from her – so I imagine she played one of them! ( Kevin will know for sure!) .. … Joan Brown. . . PS Look up the actual accordion gems collection here with photos of the three Tigers : http://www.accordions.com/kevin/

  3. sonicjett permalink
    October 10, 2016 12:24 am

    re my reply above: This will take you straight to the accordion exhibition photos with the Tigers: http://www.accordions.com/kevin/n_gems.htm Kevin also recently commissioned (and plays) the only 3 accordions in the world made (in Finland) from NZ native giant Kauri timber. Here is the link to photos and videos of the making of the Kauri Accordion. http://www.accordions.com/kevin/n_kauriaccordion.htm . Every year Kevin comes home from New York and plays some of his accordion collection at a concert at the museum.

  4. RKBerta permalink
    October 11, 2016 7:49 pm

    Steve Mobia, accordion shop owner in SF Bay Area, had one of these Tiger accordions that I played once. The color, keyboard and quint register were all attempts to find something that would counter the exodus of kids to the guitar. It didn’t stem the tide but was an interesting experiment. I didn’t care for the keyboard angle but that might have been because it was different than what I was used to. One issue was that the flourescent colors would fade out if it was exposed to a lot of sun so had to be polished to bring the color back. By the way while Bill Palmer passed away as noted in the article, his son, Bill Palmer Jr., is live and well and a great accordionist.

    Bob Berta
    Formerly San Francisco Accordion Club
    now Michigan Accordion Society

    • October 11, 2016 10:00 pm

      Thanks Bob, yes, the Tiger seems to have been one of the few experimental attempts to reach the rock market. That and the big Cordovox organ accordions. The colours always look strange to me in photos online. Except for the red, the “blue” and “golden” ones often look green and kind of olive/orange. I never know if it’s the photos, or like you say if they changed colour as they aged. I don’t much the like muddy “golden” option.

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