AAA header


Joan Grauman, AAA HistorianAs the organization’s historian, I have been writing historical articles on events that led up to the creation of the AAA and were important for the AAA. This includes some of its influential members, as well as special events throughout the decades, and more.

Preface by Joan Grauman

I have been a collector of “ephemera (written or printed items of short-term usefulness or popularity)” for several decades. Luckily, I focused this goofy obsession of mine on my other obsession: the accordion! I hope you enjoy this trip through memory lane with printed ads, stories and cards that celebrate, or ridicule, our beloved musical instrument.

Joan Grauman, AAA Historian

The Accordion in the Media Spanning the Decades
Part 2: 1960 to 2021

by Joan Grauman

Mass media was, and is today, a very important mirror of who we were and who we are as a society. While this form of communicating and promoting thoughts, facts, events and ideas has changed monumentally over the past 100 years, one thing has not changed: mass media clearly reflects our past and our present.

Over the decades, the accordion in the media has been "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly…. and the Good again". Part 1 of this article will focus on "the Good"; Part 2: "the Bad, the Ugly … and the Good again."

Here is Part 2: "the Bad, the Ugly … and the Good again."

As you saw in Part 1, the piano accordion was considered a sexy, beautiful, prestigious, delightful musical instrument for several decades, which are often referred to as “The Golden Age of the Accordion”. Mass media used the accordion in ads of all kinds, as well as greeting cards for all occasions. Suddenly, in the early 1960s, all of that changed.

Why did the popularity of the accordion fall so rapidly? The theories we have all heard include the rise of rock and roll music and the extreme popularity of Elvis Presley, the Beatles and their fascinating guitars and new music. Another theory was that too many accordion schools in the late 1950s produced thousands of mediocre accordionists wheezing out “Beer Barrel Polka” and “Charlie the Chimp” instead of “You Ain’t Nothin’ But a Hound Dog” and “I Want to Hold Your Hand”. Whatever it was, the popularity of the piano accordion in mass media plummeted by 1965. The beautiful instrument suddenly was the butt of all jokes, at least in the United States.

It was at this time (the mid-1960s) that many accordions went into the closet. People were embarrassed and refused to even admit that they once played the instrument! Thankfully, many young accordion students hung in there and the US produced several incredible awardwinning, virtuoso accordionists over the next several decades, many who perform and compose to this day, and the popular big bands still featured accordionists.

The mass media was brutal with their depiction of our beloved instrument for quite a number of years: approximately 1962—early 2000s. I refer to these times as “The Geek Years”.

The Geek Years

Whenever a nerd or geek was featured somewhere, whether it be in an ad or on TV, well, why not hand him or her an accordion? Comedians bashed the instrument and its players, and the mockery hit an all-time high with Gary Larson’s “Heaven and Hell” Far Side cartoon. The media loved this! The mockery was an attention-getter for sure. The writers for television even created the character Steve Urkel for the TV sitcom “Family Matters” (1989). Urkel, played brilliantly by Jaleel White, was the ultimate nerd accordion player, complete with short pants pulled almost to his neck! And check out the greeting cards from the Geek Years: brutal — the poor accordion!

For me, however, the accordion was always that gorgeous, magical instrument that my father played so beautifully. From birth, I wanted to play the piano accordion. A nerd’s instrument? not in my mind — even through the Geek Years!! In 1977, just after graduating from college, I taught myself to play the accordion. I have never regretted that decision, even for a moment.

My daughter helped to stage this photo. She exclaimed "Mum - you are such an accordion nerd!"
I took this as a tremendous compliment.

Finally, in the late 1990s, the accordion slowly began sparking the interest of young musicians again. By the early 2000s, retro was “in” and what is more beautifully retro than an accordion? Articles on the “resurgence” of the accordion began popping up everywhere, and popular rock and folk groups started featuring accordion players. Gypsy Jazz, Klezmer, Balkan, Brazilian, Tex-Mex, Cajun and Piazzolla’s tango music were perfect genres for accordionists and, suddenly, the accordion became a “cool” instrument again — even in mass media! Popular bands such as Mumford and Sons, KONGOS, the E Street Band, DeVotchKa, The Dropkick Murphys, Barenaked Ladies, The Decembrists, Flogging Molly, Gogol Bordello and many, many others are featuring the accordion.

With this renewed popularity, mass media started featuring the accordion in a new light — finally! Beautiful mountain scenes in clothing catalogues show a handsome, rugged young man playing the accordion. Greeting cards — always a mirror into the current trends — began featuring the accordion again. How can you make a greeting card irresistibly cute? Put an accordion in the “paws” of an adorable little animal!

The amazing ceiling in the cafe of the Chihuly Garden and Glass Museum, Seattle, Washington.

I hope you enjoyed this walk through the last nine decades in the US. The accordion rules again, and I couldn’t be happier!! Long live the accordion!

Site constructed and hosted by: Accordions Worldwide at
© Copyright 2021 Accordion USA. All rights reserved