Gary Blair’s 2007 American Tour

Gary Blair’s 2007 American Tour

Written by: Scottish accordionist Gary Blair writes about his recent playing trip to the USA:-
Publication: Accordions Worldwide, July 2007

I was once again, invited to perform at both the Las Vegas Accordion Convention and the Leavenworth accordion festivals. This was to be my 3rd time at Vegas and 4th time at Leavenworth. My journey started with Las Vegas. My son and I arrived in Vegas on June 15th.

Once again my accordion went missing!! I phoned Continental airlines every couple of hours (½ hour to get through each time) to be greeted with: "We are trying to locate your baggage". Three days later, it turned up, in good condition.

The Vegas festival was a blast. Every evening at 5pm, Steve and Mike Trucco had a cocktail party in their suite. Art van Damme, Dick Contino, Tony Lovello, etc, were there.

I was really excited to meet Carl Fortina for the first time (he of Godfather theme fame) and found him to be a very warm and lovely person.
Gary Blair and Carl Fortina
Click to enlarge
A lot of famous accordion faces in this group photo taken at Las Vegas. Peter Soave was first on the bill on the Monday night, but due to a sticky bass button, he asked if I would swap places. I gladly changed places with him and found the audience very receptive and warm. Nightly, we had a blast after hours in the Concerto Room, inviting the audience members to come up and play.

Picture of Art Van Damme and Peter Soave. The workshops were extremely well attended and many people asked questions relating to all things accordion. I particularly enjoyed the company of Walter Ostanek and his band who were great fun.

My son and I also enjoyed the company of Rene de La Prad, from San Francisco. She is a live wire!! As well as me performing, my 15-year-old son Gary was invited to perform at the Thursday lunch concert and received a standing ovation.

The other guest artistes (who all did a sterling job) were Art Van Damme, Tony Lovello, Peter and Mady Soave, Walter Ostanek and his band, Mario Pedone, Ron Borelli, Gordon Kohl, Mary Tokarsky, Soundscape Trio, Sammy Thomas and Leo Aquino.

We flew out of Vegas at Midnight on Thursday as I had to sit on the judging panel at the Leavenworth Accordion Celebration (Washington state) at 9 am Friday Morning! We arrived in Seattle at 2.40am and were driven by our good friends from Portland, Oregon, (Geoff and Joyce Levear) over the Cascade mountains to the beautiful ‘Bavarian' town of Leavenworth. We managed to arrive by 5.45am and after a couple of hours sleep, it was on with the judging!

The standard this year, was very high with many well-known players competing. Competitors included Sheila Miller Bower, Patricia Bartell, Diane Hagen, Chelsey Mayes (New Zealand), and many others.

What I liked most of all about the competitions was the atmosphere and camaraderie between competitors. They all treated each other as good friends.

A special mention has to go to 14-year-old Michael Bridge, from Calgary, who won around 7 or 8 first places and 2nd in the Leavenworth open. This lad is something very special indeed!

Not one to miss a jam session, my son and I joined many other players in Andreas Keller for a great party atmosphere. We then headed for a couple of days in Portland, Oregon and were pleased to be invited to a hastily arranged dinner/party where 25 accordion enthusiasts got together for 2 wedding anniversaries, Chuck Berger’s birthday and a going away party for my son and I.

We had the most wonderful time in the USA and found everyone to be simply divine. America is a superb country as are its people. We arrived back in Glasgow just 24 hours before the terrorist attack on the airport - a close call. My son and I hope to have an extended trip to the USA next year.

Gary Blair, Glasgow, July 2007
© 2024 Accordions Worldwide • All rights reserved. To comment on these pages, e-mail the webmaster.