Accordion History


American accordionists have had a substantial influence on the accordion worldwide this century. Here are the details of just some of the accordionists who have had a profound input.

John Kimmel recorded the first record on a diatonic accordion in 1903. He continued to make records until 1929. Born in 1866, he was of Irish-German descent.

In 1916 the San Francisco Accordion Club was set up with 39 members. Among those were Olinto Di Lucca, Guiseppe Frigone and Paolo Mascagni.

One famous accordion family were the three Marconi brothers: Victor, Valentino and Ernesto, who performed worldwide during the 1920's.

Pietro Frosini was the first known American chromatic accordionist. He was born in Sicily in 1885. His father was an accordion enthusiast and encouraged Pietro to begin lessons on the diatonic when he was six. He changed to the chromatic system three years later. He emigrated to the USA in 1905 and in about 1908 he began to compose. Over the next 40 years he composed and arranged an enormous range of music for the accordion. He also taught many well-known accordionists, before passing away in 1951.

Pietro Deiro was the younger of the two Deiro brothers and was born in 1888. Under the influence of his older brother he began to play the accordion in Germany in 1905. In 1907 he moved to the USA where he was the first accordionist to use the chromatic model with piano keys. He began recording in 1910 and one of his most famous songs "Pietro's Return" was recorded in 1914. He wrote many compositions, studies and transcriptions, and even opened his own publishing house. He is sometimes called the American 'Father of the Accordion' and died in 1954.

Guido Deiro, Pietro's older brother, was born in 1886. When he was nine, he began to teach himself the accordion and at fourteen started playing professionally. Guido made two records in 1911. Around the same time he performed in theatres all over the world, including Great Britain, Australia and Canada. During the 1920's he continued to record and played the accordion in movie soundtracks. He died in 1950.

Anthony Galla-Rini was born in 1904. His father and two sisters played with him in a family orchestra called the Galla-Rini Four. He later accompanied artists such as the Marx Brothers. In 1938 he helped set up the American Accordionists' Association (AAA) with Pietro Deiro, Charlie Magnante, Joe Biviano and Pietro Frosini. He left the association after a difference of opinion and in 1939 became an accordion teacher at the New York Galanti Accordion Conservatory. In 1941 he was one of the founders of the Accordion Teachers Guild. From 1945 he worked on film soundtracks and toured internationally. Now retired, he still presides on competition juries all over the world.

Dr Willard Palmer was born in 1917, and began teaching himself the accordion after learning the piano. At sixteen, he became the first professional accordionist in the state of Mississippi. After the war he published (with Bill Hughes, his best student) a series of workbooks which have sold more copies worldwide than any other accordion tuition series. In 1946, Palmer formed a trio with Lew Manno on the double bass and Bill Hughes on the accordion. He established himself as a music editor, and gave conferences on the accordion throughout the USA and Canada. He also wrote hundreds of studies for the accordion and the piano. See an article for more information about Dr Willard Palmer.

See also Tom Collins Celebrity Interview
for interesting information about famous accordionists.

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