Thursday, November 30, 2006

Accordion and Recorder Storm Concert Hall

The "two unlikely instruments" will rock the Quad City Symphony Orchestra in Rock Island, Ill., according to The Des Moines Register. (Wonder if Rick Neilsen will make the show?)

And that's all well and good. But these paragraphs pique my interest:

Although the accordion has all the flashy range of a violin or trumpet, few classical composers have written pieces to show off its range, partly because it developed later than more popular instruments.

Adapted from a Chinese reed instrument called a cheng, the accordion wasn't introduced in Europe until the late 1700s. Patents for the instrument didn't emerge until the 1820s in Austria and Germany.

I keep hearing conflicting stories about the genesis of the accordion -- I've even heard that the piano accordion was invented in San Francisco, which sounds bogus to me. I mean, this city "invented" sourdough bread by letting some yeast go bad, right?

Can anybody shed light on the undeniably real history of the accordion?

Another Reason Beer Rules

You can use a common beer can to pick a Master padlock. Not that anybody would ever use that info for nefarious purposes (especially after tanking up on Milwaukee mother's milk -- maybe that's why Sprecher Brewing doesn't do cans).

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Those Darn Accordions on XM in the AM

I got up this morning and turned on my XM Satellite Radio and, lo and behold, there was TDA doing a snippet of The Christmas Jug Band's "Santa Lost A Ho" (MP3) as a station ID. I don't remember doing it, but I suspect it was during our 2002 tour when we stopped in at the XM studios in Washington, D.C., for a live performance.

Those Darn Accordions never recorded the tune, but I always perform it with the CJB, a bunch of guys I've been getting together with every December for the past 25 years. The holiday hi-jinks kick off next week and run until Dec. 22. Check the Christmas Jug Band website for tour details. If you're in the San Francisco Bay Area, c'mon down!

Grunts From the Great Northwest

OK, I know I'm supposed to be working on the new Those Darn Accordions CD(s), but I've got to take a break now and then and clear my head a bit. Call it the influence of my new surroundings or just the "Jim-Bob" side of me emerging, but I thought I'd share a bit of this sidetracking with you all. So Meet the Grunts!


Howlin' With Culann's Hounds

If you like your Irish music raucous and dance-inducing, with a squeezebox pumping up the attitude, open yer ears to Culann's Hounds. They had the crowd jumpin' at this year's Cotati Accordion Festival, and they'll be playing in Marin County next week. The Marin Independent Journal promos the show with a nice little feature story on the band.

P.S. You can get their new CD, "Year of the Dog," from

Saturday, November 25, 2006

All Hail Oregon's Polka King

Lots of polka royalty talk these days. Oregon's Corvallis Gazette-Times says Gene Sadowsky answers his phone, "This is Gene, the Polka King," which is cool enough. But, frankly, the coolest thing about the interview with Sadowsky is this explanation of the term "squeezebox":

The accordion is sometimes referred to as a squeezebox because it’s played by compression and expansion of a bellows, which generates airflow across reeds.


TDA Demo #2: Wrinkle Suit

Here's the next tune we are kicking around for the new CD. It's called "Wrinkle Suit" (MP3). I was sitting next to a sales rep for large industrial trash compactors in an airport last year. He was making cold calls to different companies while I was making cold calls to different venues. I guess you could say we both were trying to put the "squeeze on." Ha! Anyway, that's what inspired this tune.

My favorite line is "I'm low man on the totem and Loman back in coach and I'm feeling like a shadow of myself as we approach." If we do this tune next year on tour, I think it would be fun to break it down in the middle and actually make a "cold call" to an event in the area and leave a message asking for a gig while the audience screams in the background. Talk about your interactive booking strategies!

There's a third verse that's not on the demo and I'm too lazy to go back and sing it, so I'll just print it here.

If you want to play this game, you've got to learn the ropes
And learn to tell the buyers from all the nopey nopes
Every sale is heaven, no deal is ever dead
You've just got to squeeze the margins 'til your boss is seeing red.

Let me know what you think ... Yea or nay!

Friday, November 24, 2006

Saluting 'America's Polka King'

The Cleveland Plain Dealer paints a provocative portrait of Frankie Yankovic, the hard-squeezin' guy who took the polka to the top of the music charts.

According to the story, which coincides with a Cleveland polka party for the release of the biography America's Polka King: The Real Story of Frankie Yankovic and His Music by Bob Dolgan, Yankovic was a blue-collar gig-aholic who played tons of shows and made tons of dough with his band, the Yanks. But he was also a smooth-talking ladies' man, a brawler, a cheapskate and "a bit of a kleptomaniac."

One tidbit from the Plain Dealer:

In 1948, the Yanks played Milwaukee in front of 8,000 people -- a show that earned Yankovic the title of America's Polka King. He was presented a trophy from which he and his bandmates drank whiskey, wine and beer.

Now that's extreme squeezeboxing.

It's Official: World's Biggest Rubber Band Ball

Steve Milton, Oregon's rubber-band-ball-making fanatic, broke into the Guinness Book with the world's biggest rubber band ball Tuesday.

"It's awesome, everything went just perfectly," Milton told The Register-Guard after a Chicago weigh-in ceremony. The monster amalgamation tipped the scales at 4,594 pounds and rose to 5 1/2 feet. While the Oregon paper posts a charming picture of Milton standing in a victory pose by his creation, Ananova has a shot of two of the "shirtless strongmen" who rolled the record-smashing ball onto the scale.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

The Key to Avoiding Leftovers

The giant Thanksgiving meal is a definite blessing; the leftovers can seem like a curse when you're about a week into turkey-and-stuffing sandwiches. But I'm guessing these folks, who have probably the world's strangest dinner guest, won't have to deal with the leftover "problem."

Happy Thanksgiving!

Enjoy some good eats and fellowship, but please -- don't do this to your child! (Especially if your guests are getting a little google-eyed from some of that fine California pinot noir.) Have a happy!

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Where Do Those TDA Tunes Come From?

I've been hunkered down in my Northwest studio cranking out new tunes for Those Darn Accordions' upcoming CD(s). Have you ever wondered how I get those tunes to the rest of the band?

Well, first I make a basic demo of the song on my cheesy synths and drum machine. Then I load them up on the TDA server and send a link to the rest of the band to check out. If they can listen past the decidedly lo-fi recording, they send their yeas or nays, and depending on the reaction, a new TDA song could be born!

We've got a bundle of tunes to choose from this time around, so we thought you'd like to join in the fun. For the next month I'll be putting up tunes for TDA fans to check out. Let us know what you think! Here's the first link. Enjoy!

TDA Songnote: This one was inspired by a trip to the local mall.

"Mr. Saggy Butt" (MP3)

Another Accordion Festival I Want to Play

Never been to Germany, and all those years of language training are going to waste. Maybe next year Those Darn Accordions can make it to the Akkordeon Festival Wien (that's Vienna Accordion Festival, dumbkopf -- just kidding).

P.S. Be sure to check out the freaky artwork on the main page of the festival's auf Deutsch website.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Very Short Stories, Very Big Fun

With a nod to Hemingway's six-word story, Wired magazine rounds up a long list of tiny masterpieces from sci-fi and horror writers.

Finally, Satan runs out of squeezeboxes.

P.S. Wired also turned loose a pack of designers to create artwork to go with the best six-word stories. Take a peek.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Meet Josh Lederman & Los Diablos

I did, last night when The Mad Maggies played with this fine Boston band in Santa Cruz. Nice guys, great music, cool accordion playing (love those subtle bellows shakes), fun time all 'round.

You can check out Los Diablos online right now. But if you're in the Bay Area, you should just come see them (again with the MMs) this Saturday at The Starry Plough.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Spot the Errors in Wikipedia's TDA Entry

Need a way to while away the weekend? Play "spot the errors" in the Those Darn Accordions Wikipedia entry. I hear you're not supposed to edit your own info (which makes zero sense to me), otherwise I'd scrub the thing. But the listing is thin and riddled with outdated info. Geez.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Mother Nature Takes Out TDA's Lawnball

We are sad to post that the beautiful Victorian gazing ball that inspired TDA's 2004 release, "Lawnball," has come to a tragic end. After traveling around the USA and surviving a recent kidnapping by Oregon hooligans, a huge storm in the Pacific Northwest has smashed the glass orb to smithereens.

Reached at home, TDA frontman Paul Rogers was philosophical about the loss. "I came out the morning after the storm and saw that the wind had blown it off its pedestal and broke it into a million pieces. My heart is broken as well, of course, but I've been in the studio working on the new TDA CDs, so maybe it's time to let it go. It all makes sense, when you think about it. But really, I'd rather not think about it right now."

Rogers indicated that he would not be replacing the lawnball. Instead, the pedestal now holds the grout-covered bowling ball that his wife LuAnn made for him during the Oregon heist.

"It's not as pretty, but I'd like to see Mother Nature take that sucker out," said Rogers defiantly. We're not sure it's a good idea to taunt Ma Nature in the Northwest. That bowling ball could end up blowing right through the bellows of one of Rogers' accordions!

The Great Golden Gate Bridge Sellout

Does the Golden Gate Bridge need a corporate sponsor? The pointy-headed guys and gals at the Golden Gate Bridge Highway and Transportation District are considering such a deal, and they plan to vote Friday on whether to hire consultant Kevin Bartram to study the situation. The scheme would supposedly help cut the bridge authority's $87 million budget deficit. (No word on how much they would pay Bartram, but regional transit authorities piddled away $1.6 million studying the possibility of installing a suicide barrier on the bridge.)

The San Francisco Chronicle found plenty of man-on-the-street goo goos who think corporate sponsorship is the way to go, but also a surprising number of folks with spines who realize that selling out the Golden Gate Bridge would be a multi-pronged affront to the beautiful structure, the folks who struggled to build it in the 1930s and the history of the Bay Area itself.

We don't normally do politics here at the Wall of Wheeze -- the world only need suffer through one U2 -- but this one hits a little close to home. Over the past 16 years, I've watched the greedheads and the tax-and-spend (and spend and spend and spend) bureaucrats suck almost every last drop of soul out of San Francisco and the Bay Area at large.

If the bridge authority really wants to make its budget, it can follow a couple simple guidelines. Step one: Quit hiring consultants. Step two: Take a whack at the 19 members of the board of directors (too many cooks in the kitchen, you know?).

And for any corporate bigwigs who feel the itch to paste their company's name atop that splendid "international orange" span, consider just how sick you'll feel when you have to tell the shareholders about the boycott. (And maybe think about throwing your sponsorship dollars at something appropriate -- like a music festival -- instead.)

There. I feel better now.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Anybody Seen This Jason Webley Guy?

For an accordion-toting man, Jason Webley sure gets a lot of press. Maybe it's his music; maybe it's his legion of fans, who call themselves "Tomato Scouts." Maybe it's the love apple food fights at Camp Tomato.

I've never seen Webley perform, but I'm getting the urge to check out a show. The California Aggie's nice little interview with Webley paints an interesting picture of a DIY squeezin' genius. For more on the Johnny Appleseed of the accordion, check out Webley's MySpace page.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Those Darn Accordions Offer a 5-CD Holiday Gift Pack

We were cleaning out the studio last week, getting ready to hunker down on our new CD, and what should we find but a small cache of "Amped" CDs. This gave us the cool idea to offer all 5 TDA CDs as a Holiday Gift Pack for just $50. No tax, no shipping, just a whole bunch of music by Those Darn Accordions. This is a limited offer, so head over to the TDA store and pick one up right now!

Happy Birthday, C.W. McCall

Actually, today is the 79th birthday of Bill Fries, the advertising genius who came up with the character of CB-in', tall-tale-spinnin', ratchet-jawin' trucker legend C.W. McCall. Fries and his musical cohorts wrote some amazingly funny songs, but it was a little ditty called "Convoy" that put C.W. McCall on the map.

If you like funny story songs (and if you're reading the Wall of Wheeze, I'm guessing you do), you might want to give C.W. McCall a listen if you're not already a card-carrying fan. The songs are hilarious; the music is country/bluegrass/weirdo. Belly laughs are almost 100 percent guaranteed.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Who's Searching for Accordions?

Folks in St. John's, Canada, are hungriest for information on accordions, according to Google Trends. (Our home city of San Francisco comes in No. 9.) When it comes to regional searches, Ireland takes the cake, with the United States ranking No. 2.

Somewhat fascinating stuff. Hope we can make a spike when we release the next Those Darn Accordions CD (or CDs).

Monday, November 13, 2006

Crank Up That Air Guitar

A T-shirt with built-in motion sensors turns air guitarists' phantom power chords into something more: actual music. A team of Australian propellerheads came up with the concept; the Associated Press reporter who filed the story talks about "guitar rifts" and uses other lame wording that screams "clueless," so I take the whole report with a coconut-size grain of salt.

BTW, the original TDA classic T-shirt does the same thing only with air accordion (if it's dark enough and you've drunk a sufficient amount of beer).

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Andy Griffith Sues Andy Griffith

With a headline like that, who needs anything more? Well, maybe just a little bit.... One of the Andy Griffiths involved is the actor who patrolled Mayberry. The other is a man who changed his name to run for sheriff in Wisconsin. (All the weirdest news wells up in Wisconsin, Ohio and Michigan, doesn't it?)

Anyway, guess which Andy Griffith is getting sued? CBS News has the rest of the story, as Paul Harvey would say.

Deer Frees Itself From Halloween Hell

The Michigan deer with a plastic pumpkin stuck on its head has cast off its Halloween nightmare. An SPCA special ops guy, called in from Cincinnati to help rescue the antlered rodent, says the deer probably lost some weight, and that might have helped it free itself from its orange oppressor.

The probably dehydrated, possibly liver-damaged deer is eating with its own herd again, and will probably be OK. (Just in case you never saw a picture of the deer with the pumpkin, has one.)

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Eunuchs Can Be So Taxing

Sounds like being a tax collector in India can be a real drag, if you take my meaning. Officials in Patna lined up sari-clad, makeup wearing eunuchs to dance, sing and dun tax evaders.

"Eunuchs are feared and reviled in many parts of India, where some believe they have supernatural powers," according to the BBC, but the picture on IBN Live looks like a Castro dance-a-thon. Strangest of all might be the A.P. backgrounder on Indian eunuchs.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Worst. Mother's Day. Gift. Ever.

A Greyhound bus allegedly disgorged the disgusting contents of its latrine on an Ohio family that was, up till that point, traveling merrily through Toledo last Mother's Day. The Smoking Gun has the down-and-dirty details, as outlined in the family's lawsuit against the bus line.

Thursday, November 9, 2006

Who Needs Music Teachers?

The makers of a new "Web 2.0" application called In the Chair tell parents the software will nurture their children's inner maestro. But will it really replace music teachers? I doubt it.

A virtual teacher sounds like an interesting concept, but I'm putting my money on the likes of my favorite music instructors over the years (Rick Bashore, Reg Richwine, David T. Chastain, etc.). Educational software might help li'l shavers hone their chops, but how different is it, really, from the prerecorded grooves we played to in high school jazz lab? Dunno.

P.S. Wonder if In the Chair works for accordion?

Saturday, November 4, 2006

Pix: TDA at Cotati Accordion Festival 2006

Sure, the Cotati Accordion Festival took place a few months ago. But it's never too late to post some pix of Those Darn Accordions' set at that awesome event. Many thanks to photog and friend, Sean Pete.

Running of the Bull

How does a bull run wild for 10 hours on the city streets of Newark, N.J.? And how does it end up getting lassoed by a Humane Society guy who hails from South Africa? 1010 WINS delivers the full story (and some video, which is kinda sad). The good news is that the bull, originally headed for the slaughterhouse, gets a reprieve: He'll be transported to a zoo to "live out the rest of (his) life." At least I think that's a happy ending.

Nudists Make the News

What gives? The weather turns chilly, and people start taking off their clothes and running around like idiots. In Music City USA, a naked woman runs into a Waffle House, followed closely by a similarly attired man. Nashville cops say a domestic dispute started at the Super 8 Motel next door, and that cocaine may have been involved. Get the full scoop (with video of the guy's bare foot as he squirms in the back of the black-and-white) from WBIR.

Meanwhile, here in the soggy Bay Area, police busted a guy naked as the proverbial jaybird and carrying a concealed weapon. Perhaps you can guess where he hid the 6-inch awl. (Check the Contra Costa Times story if you can't figure it out.)

Friday, November 3, 2006

Sing, Then Sleep, With the Fishes

Music-loving swimmers beware: The Finis SwiMP3 is a set of goggles with a built-in MP3 player. Cute name, but this little sucker could prove deadly. Just imagine swimming along, listening to your favorite song. Then comes that killer chorus, the one you just can't help but sing along with every time it rolls around. Glug!

Thursday, November 2, 2006

TDA Ponders a Multiple-CD Release

Those Darn Accordions are a bit overdue for a new release, so to make up for lost time the band is about to record its first CD in 3 years -- and is considering cranking out a kids' CD to boot.

"People have been telling us for years that we should do a kids' CD, so I've been squirreling away the tunes until the time was right," said TDA bandleader Paul Rogers. "Will this mean an afternoon show for the kids and an evening show for the grownups? We'll see."

Rogers says he's got a bluegrass CD in the works as well. Must be all that time he's spent "soaking" up the great Northwest. With all this impending recording, and the widely reported "death of the CD," the question of what extras -- photos, lyrics, stickers, shrubbery -- might be included with the physical recordings remains unanswered.

Wednesday, November 1, 2006

Beware the Technology of the Beast

Another Wednesday, another wacky geek humor column from Wired News' resident goofball, Lore Sjöberg. This time he's tackling tech through a most unlikely lens: the Bible.

An example:

"And in those days shall men seek death, and shall not find it; and shall desire to die, and death shall flee from them."

That's pretty much how I feel after a few minutes looking at homemade music videos on YouTube.

Now I'm sufficiently "girt about the paps" and hoping Lore doesn't kill himself if he watches our homemade video for "My Friend Jim."

It's Party Time in Milwaukee

And we're not talking a post-Halloween beer blast in "America's drunkest city." Nope -- this party is to celebrate Milwaukee's No. 2 rank in Maxim magazine's roundup of America's best party places.

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel columnist Jim Stingl writes the whole thing off as just another chance to reinforce the city's "most tired stereotypes -- beer, brats and bowling," but in my book, that's darn close to a holy trinity.

Stingl goes on to say that Maxim mentioned perennial fun spot Koz's Mini Bowl, but ran an unrelated photo of a chippie with a bowling ball to accompany the story. Too bad about that. Koz's is one of the coolest places I've been, and the only place I've ever knocked over the duck pins.

Bill from Milwaukee, our man on the street in Brew City, takes this latest honor in stride. "Go figure," he writes. "I think it was TDA's last swing through town that helped push us up the list."

Nice Interview With LynnMarie

We met intercapped polka queen LynnMarie when we opened for her in Cleveland a few years back. She was completely gracious, and man did she work that audience. Now she's gunning for a Grammy nomination.

Want to know more about her? The Independent (out of Marshall, Minn.) serves up a sweet little interview with the accordionist. Fave quote: "I stood backstage and thought, 'How did an accordion player from Cleveland, Ohio, get on The Tonight Show?'"