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Accordion Revolution: The People’s History (the book)



A People’s History of the Accordion

from the Industrial Revolution to Rock and Roll

A New Book by Bruce Triggs

Paperback, 6 x 9 in, 430 pgs. 

58 historical illustrations

Accordion Revolution book cover, many versions from line drawing to finished color. All with woman and accordion. Her pose changes, and her skin goes from white to medium brown.
Accordion Revolution’s cover. The development process for “Rosie.”

Cover by Vancouver artist:
Michelle Clement

Purchasing options:

New: Convenient/affordable ebook!

ePub (everywhere but kindle)

Kindle (Amazon)

Ordering the Real Book:
in the U.S. I recommend: will recommend local independant bookstores, or you can order online with credit going to indie shops of your choice.

Powell’s Books in Portland, Oregon (with online service to your door). connects you with a network of local booksellers.

Barnes & Nobel is a popular Amazon subsidiary that lets you leave reviews of what you thought of the book.

If you’re interested, I created an Accordion History bibliography on Goodreads that includes many of the books used while writing Accordion Revolution

Search through various options on which include Amazon’s online Monopoly if there’s no alternative.

In Canada:

In Europe:

In Northern Europe and much of the world: Adlibris,com

In the Netherlands and Belgium folks have ordered from:

In the UK: (an Amazon subsidiary.)

About the Book:

Arriving in North America in the hands of immigrants, the accordion was heard everywhere from Creole string bands in New Orleans to Inuit square dances above the Arctic Circle. Popular musicians embraced the squeezebox from the earliest jazz to the dawn of rock ’n’ roll. After years of neglect, their stories can finally be told.Arriving in North America in the hands of immigrants, the accordion was heard everywhere from Creole string bands in New Orleans to Inuit square dances above the Arctic Circle. Popular musicians embraced the squeezebox from the earliest jazz to the dawn of rock ’n’ roll. After years of neglect, their stories can finally be told.

accordion with flames spilling out where the bellows would be

Given the general, pretty much universal level of mockery of the accordion, this a book that I never thought I’d see written.
Well done.

– James Fearnley, The Pogues

Accordion Revolution uncovers the hidden history of the squeezebox, with characters like: Vaudeville star Guido Deiro’s secret marriage to a then-unknown Mae West; John Kimmel, star of the Irish accordion, ironically born to a German immigrant family in Brooklyn; and R&B accordionist Julie Gardner, who jammed with Charlie Parker before shipping out to play for the troops in the South Pacific. When the instrument fell out of fashion, folklorist Alan Lomax amplified a common disdain, calling the accordion a “pestiferous instrument.” Thankfully the squeezebox survived its exile. Louisiana French Zydeco and Cajun musicians have rocked the world. Virtuosic accordionists like Eva Ybarra sustain a line of Tejana accordionists going back to the 1930s. The stories in Accordion Revolutionrestore the squeezebox to its rightful place at the roots of North America’s popular music.

The Annotated Version (contact me):

Working on this project I struggled with two contradictory goals: I wanted to create an enjoyable, readable book for music fans, whether accordionists or not. But I also hoped to include detailed annotations to inspire future research. The idea of academic and popular versions of the book, sharing the same main text, sprang from this conflict. An annotated version of the text, with 200+ pages of footnotes and a detailed bibliography, should be available soon.
It will most likely be free for scholarly use. If anybody has expertise, I need a bit of guidance on figuring out the right Creative Commons license for that.

Table of Contents:

Accordion Revolution: The Squeezebox Heart of Pop Music in North America

Part I: The Dawn of the Accordion Revolution
Chapter 1: The Accordion Conquers the World
Chapter 2: The Accordion’s Family Tree Chapter 3: Blackface Minstrelsy: Roots in Racism

Part II The Golden Age
Chapter 4: Vaudeville and the Dawn of the Golden Age
Chapter 5: Polka and “Ethnic” Music
Chapter 6: Jazzing the Accordion
Chapter 7: The Closing Acts of the Golden Age

"Thank You For Joining the Accordion Revolution" text below photo of sisters with accordions
Josephine & Lena Bergamasco of the vaudeville group the Three Vagrants (1920s)

Part III Roots Music: An Outsider’s Canon
Chapter 8: Acordeón: Mexican and American Roots
Chapter 9: Creoles, Cajuns, and Zydeco: French Music in the American South
Chapter 10: Irish and Scottish Accordion: Immigration, Transition and Tradition
Chapter 11: Canadian Accordion: Northern Traditions
Chapter 12: Klezmer: a Restoration with Accordion

Part IV: American Wheeze: A Pre-History of Rock
Chapter 13: African Americans Played Accordion Before They Played the Blues
Chapter 14: Country & Western: Cowboys and Squeezeboxes
Chapter 15: The Folk Revival: The Accordion Betrayed

Part V: Accordion Exile: The Rise of Rock
Chapter 16: Rockin’ the Accordion
Chapter 17: The Accordion Exodus

About the Author

Bruce and hulusi (sheng)
Bruce with the Chinese hulusi (ancient free-reed cousin of the accordion) he found in a local thrift store.

Based in Vancouver, British Columbia, Bruce has hosted the Accordion Noir radio program and the annual Accordion Noir Festival for over a dozen years. He plays a Giuliette chromatic button accordion that was built-to-last in the 1960s.

Way back in 1955, Toni Charuhas’ book The Accordion predicted a bright road ahead for her favourite instrument.  It didn’t quite turn out that way.  Instead the accordion became the Most Uncool Instrument In North America (at least for mainstream white people).  It lost any connection to past legitimacy or glory, and “Stomach Steinways” slept in thrift shops or in dusty grandparents’ closets for the next fifty years.

I got into accordions after growing up with rock and roll.  Inspired by that background I co-host the weekly Accordion Noir show on Co-op Radio in Vancouver, BC, Canada. Now after ten years of talking about it, I look forward to sharing the Accordion Revolution with you!

Fiat Blue Tiger Combo 'Cordion from 1966, with its original Tiger-Print Case!
Among the dozens of illustrations featured in the book (book images are b/w): The fabled Tiger Combo ‘Cordion (1966) with its original tiger-print case! See chapter 17 “The Accordion Exodus” which covers the rise of rock & roll and why accordions and their story were unheard for so long. (Courtesy of Tempo Trend Accordions, Victoria, BC, Canada.

Get the latest dispatches from the Accordion Revolution: add your name here.

One Comment leave one →
  1. July 15, 2019 7:00 am

    intelligent ideas!

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