----------(10)Dedicated RCAC Club & Board Member
Dedication to music comes from many different ‘opportunities’. Fran Maddox was fortunate to have such opportunities. She came from a large family whose parents wanted to give their children the chance to take music lessons. It wasn’t easy but they figured it out. Each year a different child would take lessons for a year. At the age of 8 in Madras, OR Fran took her first piano lessons. Their school district offered release time during the school day which Fran used for her lesson time. She walked by herself to the back of the local gas station where the music studio was. Luckily, only several of the older children in Fran’s family were interested in music so Fran was able to take her second year of lessons in 7th grade. During the ‘off’ years, she continued to study on her own with the encouragement of her mother who played the piano.
In high school she took lessons after school. To Fran’s relief there was never a recital. She felt that she would have been too nervous to play in front of others. When the high school choir teacher learned that Fran played the piano, he asked her to accompany the choir. This was a great way for her to play for others without being a solo act. Luckily, Fran now loves to play for us!!
The next era of Fran’s life may be a surprise to some of you. After high school, Fran entered the convent at Marylhurst College and became Sister Mary Ruthanne.
Her major of music was chosen for her by the directors. Fran’s interest though was in education. Because a music major was required to practice at least four hours a day, Fran begged to change majors. She persisted and became an elementary education major. She spent the rest of her professional career teaching all subjects in elementary and middle school, occasionally teaching music. During this time she was the musical director for the production of “Wizard of OZ”. In 1977 Fran started to teach private piano lessons with as many as 20 students. She continues to teach private piano lessons where she has put great emphasis on theory and technical skills.
So, when did the accordion come into her life? Lawrence Welk was on her list of favorite TV shows and was enamored with the instrument but thought the accordion was too expensive. When her mom passed away in 2010, Fran was left with some inheritance. That was her ‘opportunity’ to purchase an accordion. She took lessons initially from Eilene Hagen’s daughter, Diane and now from Courtney Von Drehle. Well, we know the rest of the story.
As the RCAC we want to thank Fran for her tireless work for the club and camp. Keeping the books for both is a time consuming job. Her contributions are appreciated!!
(11) Bev Spurgeon, New York City Dreaming
Bev Spurgeon, past RCAC president, grew up on a farm outside of Rainier, Oregon. Often while lying in the hay fields, she would daydream about visiting New York City.
As a child, she thought she was the unlucky sibling. The summer before 6th grade her mother had signed her up for group accordion lessons in the basement of the local grange hall. No, no, why me? Her first choice of instrument…the piano! Mother had the final say. There were 5 children in the family, Bev was number 4. First sister had piano lessons, second sister had accordion lessons, third sister had piano lessons. Oops!
Fourth sister had to take accordion lessons. After 18 months of lessons and lots of begging, Bev was allowed to quit the accordion and take piano lessons.
For many years, Bev continued to play the piano and eventually took guitar lessons. Often she thought about her maternal grandfather , who played the accordion for barn dances in Nebraska. She had never met him but often felt his musical spirit guiding her music endeavors.
One day out of curiosity, she searched the internet to see if there were any accordion clubs in the area she had moved to….Milwaukie, Oregon. Yes, not only a club open to the public but there was an event in the next couple of months in Leavenworth, Washington, The Leavenworth International Accordion Festival. Bev and her husband, Larry attended the festival for three days. What fun! Everyone was happy and playing accordions in a huge parade. Live music at the gazebo. Determined to learn how to play the accordion again, she purchased a Titano. LaVern (RCAC) sold her sheet music at the festival.
Several years later, she and her husband visited New York City, as they were strolling through Central Park they heard accordion music. Bev asked accordionist if she could play one song.
Yes!!! Bev was very lucky! Her dream had come true….
A soloist in Central Park, New York, New York
“You may say I'm a dreamer
But I'm not the only one”
Continue to dream
--------(8)Bob Myers – a story of ‘how it works’ that will amaze you…
Bob grew up in Indiana. His mom wanted him to take accordion lessons. In 1955 at the age of 14 she bought him a 120 bass and he started lessons at the Walkerton Music Store. He had to walk the quarter of a mile to the store carrying his big accordion. During the fair weather this was tolerable but as the weather turned to winter his hands would freeze on the way to the studio and he found it impossible to play. In the room there was a ceiling light with a 100 W bulb hanging down. Bob would hold onto the lightbulb to warm his fingers so he could play. Of course, playing the accordion the normal way was too easy. One time Bob put his feet through the straps and played the keyboard on his knees. His mom as well as Bob did not like rock and roll. They could not stand Elvis’ R and R but loved his gospel songs. After six months of lessons, his teacher started to give him sheet music. One of the pieces was a religious rock song. His mom declared that if this is the music the teacher is going to give you, we’re done! These lessons lasted nine months and were the only accordion lessons he ever took.
Bob and family moved a lot. He attended eight schools in eight years in Indiana, Oregon and Wisconsin. His dad was an auto mechanic, who later became a machinist. For a while his dad worked for Bendrix Aviation building jet engines in South Bend, Indiana. Bob mentioned passionately several times how much he admired his dad and called him outstanding and phenomenal in everything he tried. Now, back to Bob and his music history. He continued to play music but now was able to play by ear. When he was 15, he started playing in church but not just the accordion. He played the piano and guitar also. Ten years later he took piano lessons because his friend who taught music, only taught piano, but Bob continued playing his accordion. Today he plays his seven-foot Kawai acoustic piano for his own enjoyment. Several years after high school, he was drafted into the Army for two years and was stationed at Ft. Riley, Kansas. Luckily, Viet Nam got hot after his duty was over. Bob stayed around Ft. Riley and worked at the post warehouse. Eventually, he acquired a civil service position in the telepresence department of Ft. Riley. This lasted for twelve years. Bob did mention that he took up his accordion playing after the Army and at the same time was pastoring at a local church. Several times in 1965-66, he and a friend played church music in the street.
Around this time he became serious about going into the ministry. Around 1977 Bob had a wife and family who he moved to Beaverton. His first job was with the Beaverton Phone Company as a temp. The manager showed him around while Bob let him know that he had worked with that piece of equipment and that piece and that……actually equipment in all of the departments. They placed him in ‘step equipment’ where a year later he transitioned into electronic equipment as a permanent employee. This lasted just a couple of years because his heart was in ministry.
In 1980 he and his family moved to Lebanon where he bought a church building and started his church. To make ends meet, he became a handyman with skills to tackle every part of building; plumbing, electrical, chimney sweep, window replacement, painting, construction…. A contractor without a license! He continues to do odd jobs.
As you can tell so far, Bob knows that when you know how something works, you can fix it. But this next story goes BEYOND!! Back to the start of his music venture when he was fifteen. The family had a piano roll player with lots of rolls. When the bellows aged and wore out, Bob’s mom dismantled the player piano and gave the box of rolls to the exclusive Rod and Gun Club. Bob wanted to keep three of his favorite rolls; Moonlight Bay, Redwing and Where is My Wandering Boy Tonight. He loved and played Moonlight Bay until he had it memorized but he liked the rendition of the piano roll. He thought it was the best musically and sounded better playing it in Bb. Being a perfectionist, he wanted to play it exactly as the piano roll played it. He unrolled the roll and noticed a pattern with the holes and was able to match them with notes. The notes were written on the roll next to each notch. He got a yardstick to find the distance between octaves and marked them on the stick. The roll was about 40’ long. Every note was written on the roll. (See an artist’s creation of the arduous process.) It took him three weeks to complete this project and his mom had to listen to this process. Bob said, “Poor woman, bless her heart”. Then he put the roll back together, set it on top of their piano and unrolled it section by section. After three months he memorized the entire song playing it exactly as the ‘hole puncher’ did in the 20’s.
In 2005, Bob’s wife passed away. On a Friday night, tired of sitting around, he went to Albany and wandered around the shops. He heard a piano and headed in the direction. He found five pianos sitting side by side in Costco. He was encouraged to sit down and play by a gentleman. Bob insisted, “No, no, no”. So the man sat and played. They chatted about music and Bob just happened to mention the accordion. Bob was told that there was an accordion club in Eugene. He reacted much the same as others of us have, “What? Never heard of such a thing!” Chester Pietka’s name was given to Bob. He owned a music store in Eugene and was an excellent player. Bob was invited to the accordion club meeting in a church basement in Eugene. One of the members, Ed Makovsky, played ‘Heaven Came Down’, a song that Bob also knew, so he joined Ed. Bob always wanted to have an accordion partner because he wanted to play harmony. Ed filled the bill. That started a duo which lasted many years. Eventually, Wayne Nelson joined them. This trio plays together on a regular basis.
It was Wayne who introduced Bob to RCAC. The RCAC looks forward to the time when we can meet again in person and listen to the lovely gospel songs by Bob Myers. Thanks for your inspiration, Bob!
PS: (Bob could not resist adding a little comic relief to his bio – ENJOY in his words) “One day at Ed’s house, three of us started to play Moonlight Bay. Ed was playing in F, I was playing in Bb and Judy Crawford was playing by the music, in G. We stopped! Then Judy said, “Let’s do that at club”. So we did. At the RCAC club meeting Judy said to me, “Shall we play just a little of it?” I said, “No, the whole song”. So we did! You should have seen the reactions. Some were looking at the floor, some were looking at the ceiling, and some were looking at each other. One lady with a good voice, tried to sing, but she couldn’t figure out what key. (Ask Wayne Nelson, he was there!) Doris Osgood and her husband were visiting the club meeting. Her husband said, “We came all the way down here for this?” Doris patted him on the knee and said, “That’s OK honey”. At the end of the performance the three played it in the key of G to everyone’s satisfaction and relief. “
-------(5)Dedicated RCAC Club & Board Member
Marlene Meissner could be coined MS OKTOBERFEST. She is a familiar musician at many of the Oktoberfests in Oregon from the Mt. Angel Volksfest (formerly Wurstfest) to Mt. Angel Oktoberfest to Oaks Park Oktoberfest. Besides a repertoire of polkas and waltzes, Marlene performs many genres at the RCAC club meetings, RCAC annual camp, church and senior centers. Her many club and camp board positions over the years show Marlene’s passion to continue opportunities for accordion players in the Portland area.
So, how did this love of the accordion begin? Upon the suggestion of her parents, Marlene started lessons at the age of ten. Like many who played the accordion after the boom in the 40s and 50s, Marlene found that the accordion was being shunned. After playing “Repasz Band” flawlessly, by memory, in high heels, and with a much-too-large borrowed accordion, she went underground and refused to play in front of her peers. But luckily several years later the first Oktoberfest was held at Mt. Angel and again the accordion was cool. She has played at almost every Mt. Angel Oktoberfest since 1966. For twenty of those years she played with her own six-piece band, the Tyrolean Village Band, and now at Volksfest with the Bavarian Echoes.
Initially, Marlene took lessons from two teachers who were not specifically accordion teachers but did give her a solid foundation. For a number of years she was a student of the late Joe Baccellieri who she felt was knowledgeable about all aspects of music and the accordion along with being a good match to her personality. It was her good fortune to have studied with him. She is particularly fond of arrangements by Gordon Kohl and the religious semi-classical pieces arranged by Galla-Rini. Because Marlene worked, she only had time to practice in the evening. Since retirement, practice is now her priority.
One of the memorable highlights of her performances was to play at the Sunday Mass during the 2001 Oktoberfest. It was just a few days after 9/11 and everyone’s emotions were high. She led “America the Beautiful” at the close of Mass. About 800 people were in the church, singing with great intensity. Marlene also put everything into that song – just Marlene and her Petosa. It was an honor and a humbling experience to her.
Recently, after losing a battle with a can opener followed by playing at club with tenacity and dexterity using only four right fingers, she is having the tendons of her right index finger repaired. We all wish Marlene a successful surgery.Marlene Meissner
-----------(7)Leonard Kosatka (Thank Heavens for the Beatles)
Leonard Kosatka.....”Thank heavens for the Beatles”Leonard was born in Germany after WWll to a Polish father and Ukrainian mother.His parents met after the war in Germany. During the war his father was in the Polish army and fought with the British. Unfortunately, his father was captured and became a POW for 6 years. Asking questions of his father, Leonard did hear many stories about his father’s time in the war.The family moved back to Poland, living in an apartment. Their life was of meager means with lack of luxuries such as TV, but Leonard loved the radio where he listened to mainly accordion music. Also, one of his neighbors played the accordion. He dreamed of one day owning and playing this beautiful instrument. His parents worked hard to provide the essentials so the purchase of an accordion was out of the question.When Leonard was eleven years old, the family with two boys now moved as refugees toEngland, near London.At this young age, Leonard started working at a grocery store and saving his money. He wanted an accordion. In London he visited a music store where he purchased his first old used accordion, a Soprani. He met a Polish accordion teacher who had also been a Polish pilot and took lessons from him for a year until the teacher moved.In 1960, the family again moved as refugees. This time they immigrated to Minneapolis, MN where the family had distant relatives who were willing to sponsor them. Leonard was now fourteen, working in a bakery and delivering newspapers saving money again to buy a better accordion.Well, he did upgrade to a Hohner Gola (top quality instrument) and took another two years of lessons. Lawrence Welk was a popular TV show which Leonard watched religiously.Of course, Myron Floren was at the top ofLeonard’s list of stars.By this time the war in Viet Nam was calling on young people to be drafted. Leonard did not mind going into the military to protect America but not a foreign country so he decided to defer to college instead of the draft. Music had always been Leonard’s passion and was the direction he wanted to go in college as a music major.At this time there were accordion players on every corner in Minneapolis, so to speak.But there was also a new sound happening, the Beatles were hitting the music scene.He felt that because the Beatles were making a paradigm shift in music, maybe the accordion might lose its impact on the music world. He was giving second thoughts about becoming a music professor.He thought he had better not risk going into a career that might not provide him with financial comforts so he opted to major in civil engineering and the accordion became his hobby.Thus....”Thank heavens for the Beatles”!!As a retired engineer, Leonard knows he made the right career choice.After college Leonard continued to live in Minneapolis and work in an engineering firm. As he was watching the Rose Bowl oneNew Year’s Day, he was intrigued by the fact that it was dead winter and everyone was in shirt sleeves while he was bundled up in snowy cold Minneapolis.He did not like that weather so he packed up and moved to LA.He eventually married his first wife in LA but they did not like all the people so they decided to move. The climate had to be moderate and the opportunity to be outdoors were requirements for the new location. Atlanta was an option but a friend suggested that they try Portland. They took a weekend twenty hour non-stop drive to Portland, fortunately found themselves in front of the employment agency, had interviews, and each secured a job right then. The next day they went on a leisurely drive up the Columbia to check out the area instead of driving back to LA.The river cinched it!! Leonard loves boating and the outdoors.The next day they returned to LA to inform their bosses that they were moving to Oregon.Leonard worked as an engineer for a few years but spent the rest of his forty year career as abuilding inspector, first for the town of Sherwood, then Clackamas County.Leonard did not take accordion lessons for many years. Then he met Luigi Rangan and took lessons from him for two years. During this time he also met Michael Arralde. Michael had a Hohner Gola with musette tuning. Leonard traded in his original Gola for this top of the line Gola which he still owns. He admits though that he has never brought it to club. Maybe he will entertain us one of these days on his Gola. There were times in Minneapolis when Leonard entertained in restaurants but only as a soloist.His style does not lend to playing with others. In Portland, he also played in a Ukrainian restaurant that opened for a short time in the Lents district. He does like to perform at club.Leonard is married to Marina. He met her shortly after he retired.She was a refugee fromUkraine with four young girls and met Leonard through a mutual friend.Leonard proudly tells us that the girls treat him as their father and he has now become a grandfather.Thanks to the Beatles, life is good!!We want to thankLeonard for his years of service to RCAC as a board memberLeonard Kosatka.
---------(4)Valri Chiappetta….an accordionist who appreciates all that the instrument has to offer…..
From her childhood in Bloomington IN, Valri remembers her Granddad from northern Italy playing the button box. The family waw brought together through the enjoyment of singing along with Granddad’s playing. Valri’s love though was the piano. She befan lessons at the age of six and was classically trained. Mozart and Debussy were her favorites. Public performance has always been somewhat intimidating for her so music became a pleasure to enjoy on her own. At one point she had a momentary flirtation with the violin, but because she could not ‘see’ the instrument, she lost interest. She wanted her musical experience to encompass all her senses. She continued serious piano studies into college.
After she married Vince, they lived in many places and countries from Boston to England, Michigan, Phoenix, France, California and finally Oregon. Vince jokingly called it Witness Relocation when asked where we had lived. It was definitely a busy life with little time to think about music.
At fifty years young, Valri decided that she wanted to play a more portable instrument than the piano and remembered with great affection those evenings when her Italian ‘Nono’ played the button box. With her ability to read music from piano lessons and knowing the keyboard, the accordion didn’t initially seem so daunting. It was evident to her that starting at this age, she had a ways to go to gain the muscle memory in order for her music to flow the way accordion players do who started from childhood.
With a touch of serendipity, the Oregoniain published an article about Eileen Hagen just as Valri was wondering how to begin. The article noted that she was an excellent teacher for beginners. Valri’s memories of those lessons were that Eileen was a stickler for technique, and believed that it was important to learn the classics first. She had an ability to understand immediately why a student was having difficulty and could usually suggest a solution. Valri took lessons for about ten years. Vince’s sabbatical spent abroad caused her to stop lessons for about a year. When she returned, Eileen wasn’t taking new students and her friend Kathy Grambsch suggested that Valri should look into taking lessons from Steve Gordon. After years of classical music lessons, she was ready for the direction Steve took her….jazzy and spicy music. She, as many of us, love the way some of the musicians can play improv naturally. But if it is not a natural talent, it must be guided. Valri has found this guidance through her lessons from both Steve and recently Courtney Von Drehle.
Once, in the early years of playing, she was practicing with windows open to the spring air. When she saw her neighbor later, he told her that he initially thought he was hearing the ice cream truck rolling around the area. He thought this was hilarious, Valri less so.
Valri’s time for the accordion has been shared with other artistic pursuits. Her father was a professional printmaker and professor of art. She also has done various forms of printmaking. Her favorites are the monoprint and collagraphy, both of which produce one of a kind prints. She has also had a life-long interest in fiber art and has done quite a considerable amount of art quilting, as well as some useful quilts, mostly for welcoming new babies into the family or community. You can follow her arts at: valrichiappetta.com
Valri has attended the RCAC camp for several years where as she states, “That wonderful environment is filled with people who love the accordion.” She appreciates all avenues that the accordion has offered her…. A stabilizing schedule with daily practice, meeting new people, and the ability to appreciate hearing other play music which might not be her style. “It was a godsend during the first two years of Covid. With other activities curtailed, there was delicious time to practice!” As you read this, you saw that Valri embraced and worked hard to offer herself to this magical instrument. She looks forward to practicing every single day and has taken it with her on vacations as well as renting an instrument from a music store in Bergerac for a month while staying in the French countryside. “Playing along ouside to the fields and vineyards of France was a lovely experience.”
A big THANK YOU to Valri for volunteering to be RCAC board vice president. The club is always eager to hear new ideas.
-------(9)John Mohney---The 50's Accordion Boom
John Mohney-experiencing the ‘50s accordion boom...John spent his formative years in Three Rivers, MI, near the Indiana border. At the age of ten, he started accordion lessons from a lady who owned a music studio. His experiences for the next six years were not solely with private lessons. As John was relating his accordion activities during those years, it brought back memories of how I also remember my experiences and those of others I’ve met across the US.I think the accordion boom of the 50s has never been equalled by any other instrument. John’s teacher had around 75-80 students. These students met regularly to participate in one of her three bands, beginner/intermediate/senior. John worked his way up through all three.For the recitals each year, the students had to memorize pieces and perform them in front of large crowds with attendance between 200 and 300 people.There were also accordion contests. John entered these contests yearly in Michigan City, IN where he played in front of judges. The last year he participated, in mid fifties, brought him a Blue Ribbon in class B.When asked what piece he played, he remembered “Wind in the Willows”. The contest did not end here. The winners were sent to Chicago and played at the Palmer House(google it)for the Chicagoland Music Festival sponsored by the Chicago Tribune. In the evening the 80 accordion players gathered at Soldiers Field to present a concert.The teacher provided many gigs for the students to play. These included grange halls, churches, or clubs where entertainment was needed. John had a lot of playing exposure, sometimes as duets, trios or the entire band.During his high school years, he set aside the accordion and took up the baritone (similar to euphonium) to play in the school band. He grew up on a dairy farm where his time was taken up with farm duties along with school work. Because he was serious about studies, there was left little time to play the accordion.After high school he went off to Michigan Tech and graduated in civil engineering.After graduation, John took a job in Eureka, CA with the forest service. His accordion did go with him and he played occasionally. Then he moved to the San Francisco area for work.Eventually he and his family were transferred to Portland. It was in Portland that he decided to take up accordion lessons partly as a way to encourage his son to play. He found EileenHagen and the son/father duo took lessons for about four years. It was during this time, around 1980, that John traded in his student accordion to Eileen for his first Petosa. Presently, he is playing his second Petosa. John was busy with work during the next 30 years and had little time to play the accordion but picked it up sporadically. Then in 2012 he retired and moved to Stayton, OR. For the first time he went to the Mount Angel Oktoberfest and met Marlene Meissner there (surprise) who introduced him to RCAC where he now regularly plays.The first Rose City Accordion Camp he attended was in 2018. John met Courtney Von Drehle there and began taking lessons from him. Along with learning new techniques and diverse musical pieces, John is also being guided through musical arranging. John frequently plays these delightful arrangements at club.Aside from John’s musical adventure, he spent his civil engineering career building logging roads and bridges up and down the Oregon coast, Sierras, Blue Mountains and the Cascades for the forest service. After retiring from the forest service he worked for a consulting service. John and his wife, Judy, are enjoying their retirement as water color artists. John works at the 3rd Easel Gallery in Stayton once a week where he also entertains the visitors with accordion selections. Again he and his wife will join talents by playing the Hawaiian Wedding Song at a relative’s wedding in September, John on accordion and Judy on the ukulele.Thank you, John, for supporting RCAC.
WOODSTOCK ON WOODSTOCK
Les Szigethy (in case you were wondering also, is pronounced sig’-a-the) was born and raised in southern New Jersey. His parents always had music playing in the house but neither played instruments. They lived in an Italian community so heard a lot of accordion music. When Les’s parents suggested that he take music lessons there was no choice. They wanted him to play the accordion. But there was no forcing him to take lessons. Starting at age ten he studied through high school and has always had an appreciation for the instrument.
While in junior high twelve year old Les and several of his friends organized a band called the Twilights. This band included an accordion, guitar, saxophone and drums. One of their first gigs was to play for a BBQ held by the local fire department. The gig lasted TWELVE hours with occasional breaks for a whopping $12 to split among them. Now that is dedication to the love of music!!
When Les was a senior and preparing to look for a college, he knew he wanted to be a music major. But at that time there were no colleges accepting the accordion as a degree instrument. It also hit Les that the accordion was not chick bait. At the same time his high school music teacher needed a bass for the orchestra so Les was introduced to the stand up bass and eventually used it as his major instrument. Because he received his master’s degree in music education, he also ably learned many instruments.
During his time in college he wanted to form another band. This didn’t set well with serious orchestra musicians so he was dubbed a ‘rebel’. This new band was called ‘Ourselves’. You can ask Les about the origin of the name??? Les now played the keyboard organ with this group for the next four years and found that there was never a lack of gigs.
After college Les taught music in the elementary school. He expressed a great love of getting kids started playing instruments. After eight years of teaching he applied for entrance to a music doctorial program but this didn’t work out. At the same time he was helping his dad in the construction business as a side job. Eventually, he became a contractor in New Jersey then Indiana.
Ever since entering college, Les had put the accordion aside but joined the music unions in NJ and Indiana playing bass guitar and string bass. In NJ he played in the casinos where he ‘rubbed elbows’ with some popular celebrities such as George Burns (between two blonds), Cher, Kenny Rogers to name a few.
Les hadn’t played his Excelsior accordion from about the age of fifteen. In fact, he had lost track of his Excelsior along the way. In 2008 he and his wife, Barbara, moved to Oregon. By this time their two children were grown. One day Les’s brother-in-law called to tell him that he had bought a $150 red accordion in not too good of shape. Did Les want it? At the same time he was playing a gig and spotted an accordion in the corner of the room. Surprisingly, no one claimed it so within a short time Les had two accordions.
Now settled in Oregon, he joined a blues band. This band eventually fell apart as most bands do according to Les. But one of the band members also played the accordion. So Les and his accordion playing buddy formed the band called “Squeezebox Cowboys” with two accordions and a drummer. Their goal was to play music that was not normally associated with the accordion showing that the accordion is a truly versatile instrument. Check out the band on Youtube. This band also ran its course and disbanded about a year ago.
Besides being a musician, Les has also written and recorded his songs. At one of the future RCAC meetings, he will be entertaining us with some of his original music. Another composer among us!!
I know you have been wondering why this article is called ‘Woodstock on Woodstock’? Well, recently during the ‘covid’, Les has been playing memorable pieces from the 60s on the porch of his Woodstock home.
Les has added for your reading pleasure something that happened on………….
One hot summer day I got a call from Chuck, who was clearly very excited. Chuck, who was the drummer of our band, had booked a major gig. Our band would be the opening act for a bigtime beauty pageant. To sweeten the deal, the pageant had kicked in a fancy motor home for our trip up to the program site . And, to top it all off, we would be part of a big spread in Playboy magazine! ROCK ON !
So, the appointed day arrived, we loaded our gear into the shiny motor home, and headed north towards Chicago. After a couple of uneventful hours and a few turns off the interstate, a large fancy sign pointed the way to NAKED CITY INDIANA. Say what? Our gig was at a Nudist Colony? As we pulled into the gate everything looked normal, people were cutting the grass, washing the car, walking the dog, except…..They didn’t have any cloths on !!. This was not anything lewd or profane, they were just worshipping the sun. We pulled up to a large and fancy stage, which would be hosting MISS NUDE AMERICA!! Everyone was very friendly, after all, they had nothing to hide! You learned very quickly to look people in the eye when you talked with them. We were also quickly informed that the expectation was that we would join the fun in the sun by playing naked! As time came for the opening tune, pressure mounted. Would the band play naked? Did we join the natural crowd? After all It was a bright sunny day, we were miles from home. Did we strip and play???
NAH! No way! We were all a little crazy, after all, we were musicians. But we were not that crazy. We finished our set (fully clothed in shorts and tee shirts), and beat a hasty retreat to our motor home and back on the road. I later learned that a picture of the band did appear in a background shot in Playboy, fortunately far off and blurry.
So, as the sun set slowly in the west, we bade farewell to Naked City Indiana, sun burned, but in all the right places!
RCAC Member Bios
Club member, Bobbie Ferrero, spent the last few years interviewing various club members. Their bios are below: (1)Delette Huffman (2)Kim, (3) Wayne Nelson,
(4) Valri Chiappetta, (5)Marlene Meissner, (6) Les Szigethy,(7) Leonard Kosatka,(8) Bob Meyers,(9) John Mohney, (10)Fran Maddox and (11) Bev Spurgeon
(1)The LOST AND FOUND accordionist, Delette Huffman.
Music was in Delette’s life from the start. Her Grandma, who took piano lessons by mail in the early 1900s, would play the piano for her and teach her chords when she would visit the family at their rural Minnesota family farm. After her visits, Delette would practice the chords and make up her own music to entertain herself. At the age of eight and for the next five years, Delette took piano lessons from a neighboring farm lady. Every Spring, the teacher’s 20 students would put on a recital that was held in a tiny gym at the grade school. Although everyone was required to memorize their presentation, the teacher suggested that they take the music with them just in case they might get a bit of stage fright. That was very good advice! In eighth grade she played O Solo Mio. It was a hit since one of the members of the audience commented, “that it gave me chills”.
In the 1950s when the accordion was booming, Delette was one of the kids who wanted to take lessons but it was not in the budget. So she was content in her childhood to entertain herself by playing the piano. Her Grandma gave her some of her old sheet music from the 1910s and 1920s. Although she had never heard the tunes played, her ability to read music they provided her with endless hours of entertainment. To this day she remembers the words to the forgotten verses that precede the choruses that are more widely known. She still has the tattered music of the tunes Sheik of Arabi, Have You Ever Been Lonely, You Made Me Love You, When It’s Peach Blossom Time in Georgia and many more.
During her high school years she played the organ for the rural Catholic Church. Although this was a small, rural parish, it boasted an organ that had been purchased from the Rieger Organ Co. in Schwarzach, Austria. It was huge and with it ten foot pipes, it took up a good share of the choir loft. It was unique in that the color of the keys were reversed – the white keys were black and the black keys were white. Another farm lady was the church organist and although she didn’t give her formal lessons, she gave her tips on how to use the stops with the names written in German and the mysterious foot pedals.
There is no time in Delette’s life when she did not play music. Shortly after she and Mike were married, they bought a turn-of-the century upright piano for fifty dollars. It had a beautiful exterior, but the internal parts were not in good repair. With a young family, they stretched the grocery budget to buy a modern console piano that moved with them from Minnesota to Oregon in 1980. After moving to Oregon, Delette decided to take up the acoustic guitar so she could play with Mike’s uncle as a back up for the Oregon Old Time Fiddlers. Her guitar lessons consisted of checking out a book from the library and getting tips from other guitar players.
Delette always loved the accordion. The family would visit aunts and uncles on Sunday afternoon and listen to Whoopee John Wilfahrt on the radio between 1955-1965. The program was called the Schmidt Polka Party named after Schmidt Beer, the sponsor. (Delette learned not too long ago that our own Chuck Berger played with Whoopee John when Chuck was 19 years old.) Children started to go to dances early in Minnesota. They listened to and danced to all types of music - - German, Finnish, Scandinavian, etc. Delette didn’t play an accordion for the first time until about 1983 when she came into possession of her father-in-law’s 72-bass accordion. This was another library project where she taught herself the bass notes from a library book.
Needing a full size accordion, she eventually bought one from a newspaper ad. So have you been wondering why this article is titled THE LOST AND FOUND accordionist. Can you believe that DELETTE LOST THIS ACCORDION??!! It is nowhere to be found! She told Mike that she thought someone stole it!! He wouldn’t let her call the police because the television wasn’t missing! Logically, she thinks that she left it alongside the car, forgetting to put it in the car and drove off. After retirement, she took lessons from Eileen Hagen. The first few lessons were to unlearn what she had taught herself. Eileen knew that Delette just wanted to play folk and dance music and introduced her to some good tunes.
Around 1990, she heard about the Silver Falls Accordion Camp through the Oregon Art Beat. This piqued her interest and she investigated it, but it took her seven years to sign up. When she got there she knew no one, didn’t have a clue how the camp operated and can’t remember much about it. She has to date attended five camps and is involved as one of its organizers now. Then she heard about RCAC and found it online. It took her until about 2012 to get into the routine of the third Saturday meetings. The first time she played for the club…. St. Paul’s Waltz and Johann Por Sippon by memory…. She came home and said "I HAVE FOUND MY PEOPLE!’
After her mom had a stroke and could not speak, she got comfort and satisfaction from Delette playing the old familiar tunes. It was great joy for both of them. Besides the piano, organ, guitar and accordion, she is now learning the button box. What is next, Delette?
Delette asked to leave you all with this thought. “Music is not only for professional performers. Music is something that is yours and cannot be taken from you.”
(2)Kim..A native Portlander as well as a descendent from a pioneer family.
Kim comes from a musical family. Her grandmother was a Portland entertainer as a singer and piano player in local establishments. Both her brother and her children are string instrument players.
As a teenager, many hours were spent at the downtown Portland central library in the music section. In Kim’s words, “There was nothing like it!” She discovered listening to audios of Japanese, ethnic, jazz and American folk music in that department. While listening to this variety of music she recognized the sound of the accordion in many of the songs. This sound
caught her interest. The library also offered her the opportunity to peruse sheet music of every genre. Sadly, most of this music is now gone from the library.
At the age of thirteen, Kim started playing the guitar and piano by ear. As with most of us though, eventually family life and work took the place of leisure enjoyment of playing music. But at the age of forty, Kim started taking piano lessons as well as learning to read music. She also started taking an interest in the accordion. Her husband found her first accordion at a garage sale about fifteen years ago. The price was $100 and started her love of the
instrument. She said, “It felt natural to me.” Initially her husband was worried because she practiced too much but he has acquired an ear for it and likes to listen to Kim play.
After Kim got her first accordion she started lessons with Diane Hagen. But again she became busy at work and discontinued lessons but kept playing the piano and accordion. She attends different jams in her downtown Portland neighborhood and plays for the Morris Dancers. The jams include Cajun, Finish, Irish, Gypsy jazz and waltzes. Besides the piano accordion, Kim
also plays the buttonbox.
Kim is a regular at the RCAC monthly meetings. Her unique style of playing offers the listeners a variety of music adventures with all of her performances memorized and generally played on a different instrument from her large collection of accordions. She acknowledged that she
has learned much about the accordion from the RCAC meetings.
There is one among us who has played with the best and enviably took lessons from a master.
Growing up in LA, Wayne Nelson lived across the street from three brats from South Hampton. These boys aggravated Wayne by being the best at everything, sports in particular. But these boys also played the accordion. Each one had a different colored 12-bass. Challenged now, Wayne felt he could do that. So off he went to the pawn shop to purchase a RED 48-bass for $28 and everything worked. At the age of 10, he started taking lessons from several teachers along the way. DeAnn’s Dance Studio was a few blocks away. He studied there from the Sedlon Method books and finished all 12 books in one year.
In high school he worked as print setter for the school paper. Of course, everything was upside down and backwards for set up in those days. He saw a picture in the print of an accordion player from Prague who had won 6th place in the world. He was able to meet and talk to the accordion player and found out from him that Gala-Rini lived a short distance from Wayne in Glendale. Anthony Gala-Rini lived modestly and gave individual and band lessons in his garage. Wayne wanted to take lessons from him but found out that he had to audition in order to be accepted. For his audition piece Wayne played Trieste Overture on a Universal Accordion. Needless to say, he was intimidated by ‘the old guy’. Wayne’s grandma took him to the audition. When finished, Gala-Rini said, “very nice, no mistakes. Now let’s polish it up!!” (HUH??) At that moment, Wayne was introduced to the infamous RED PENCILS. In the next 25 minutes one measure was polished up. It took another half hour to finish the next four measures. On the way home grandma said to Wayne, “Guess you didn’t do too well.” Wayne practiced that day from noon to midnight, then all day Sunday and again each day until the following Saturday’s lesson. Wayne played it again and nailed it. Gala-Rini said that he’d take him on as a student. The next day was band practice and Wayne was assigned to play the bass accordion. Now we know why Wayne plays the bass accordion so proficiently!! He played with Gala-Rini from 1961-1978. In 1970, Wayne played bass accordion with William Cosby on the accordion to record an album.
During 1968-1970, Wayne spent time in the Army. This was during the Viet Nam War. The first six months were spent in Georgia. One day he delivered some papers to the Captain’s office. In the corner was an accordion case. Wayne asked if he could play it and proceeded to play some ‘Gala-Rini nasty stuff’. The Captain was impressed that he had played with Gala-Rini and asked him to play at the concert THAT NIGHT!!. He would loan Wayne one of his four accordions and THAT WAS AN ORDER!. That evening besides playing dance music for six general he experienced some caviar for the first time. Ahhh, living high. The next morning, not feeling very well, he was told to get dressed for concert dress rehearsal. They were going on a 3-day concert trip. As this continued, Wayne got out of a lot of duty, especially washing dishes….. no dirty water on those precious hands.
Then he was sent to Viet Nam and made Sargeant. He spent 11 months, 29 days, 17 hours and 23 minutes there. He was never injured but did have to jump out of a burning helicopter.
In 1970, Wayne went back to playing with Gala-Rini. One of their gigs was a band concert at Shrine Auditorium, the Carnegie of the West. He also played with a Salvation Army group. On one of those tours, he was on stage with Slim Pickens and the Lennon Sisters. According to Wayne, the youngest Lennon, Janet, was a brat and prankster. One day unbeknownst to Wayne she taped the bottom keys of his accordion. I guess we know that Wayne was going to have the last prank. That evening Janet stepped into a shoe full of Redi-whip! Wayne said that he never felt nervous playing. One concert he played 12 pieces in front of a crowd of 5000.Dedicated RCAC Club & Board Member Wayne Nelson.