Monday, March 5, 2012

Never Too Old

For an old-timer who has dreamed of playing the Cajun accordion, this sign at Mouton Accordions north of Crowley, LA, was an encouraging pronouncement.

Seeing and listening to Errol Verret of “The Basin Brothers” in 1985 at Mulate’s in New Orleans was the origin of this dream, and, more recently, attending jams featuring August Broussard and Sheryl Cormier, served to fan this desire.

But it was a conversation with Greg Mouton that led to the first step toward the realization of this dream.

Our first visit occurred on Greg and Theresa’s anniversary, and they were preparing to leave for a family celebration. We only had time to look at the fiddles, guitars, drums, a number of music-related items--and get a recom-mendation for lunch.

Our second stop found them busy, but with time to talk about accordions, Cajun musicians, traveling, and more restaurant recommendations.

Greg listened to my questions about the availability of sheet music for Cajun songs (there is very little), how people learn to play so many different songs, and the difference between the virtuoso and the "back porch player" of the accordion.

As Greg talked, his love of teaching, his understanding of how students learn, and his pride of the Cajun culture and music were readily apparent.

But it was his skill at building accordions that had brought us to his shop. On one workbench were four instruments that he was repairing; on the shelf was one of his custom-made accordions that he brought down to show us (see photo #3 above).

On another shelf were some old instruments from Germany. While talking about the German-made accordions, Greg proudly stated that the step-father of one of his uncles (I think that was the relationship) was finally recognized by the Cajun French Music Association as the person who wrote "Jolie Blonde," often referred to as the Cajun national anthem.

His workbench had strips of rosewood used on the body of the accordion. He makes just about all of materials--the wires, buttons, leather straps and countless other parts that make up the instrument. Only the bellows and reeds are imported from Italy.

The strip of inlay in the front panel and the veneer panel show the detail and decorative work on this accordion.

The main part of the accordion--the reeds--are shown in the portion at the top of the photo.

And yes, in a few days, when the repairs are completed on a beginner's accordion, I will begin the learning process on my own squeezebox.

No comments: