WBEZ | accordion accordionist music http://www.wbez.org/tags/accordion-accordionist-music Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en 76-year-old accordionist still going strong http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/76-year-old-accordionist-still-going-strong-105786 <p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="http://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=http%3A%2F%2Fapi.soundcloud.com%2Ftracks%2F81085474&amp;auto_play=false&amp;show_artwork=false&amp;color=ff7700" width="100%"></iframe></p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/jerry2.jpg" style="height: 351px; width: 300px; float: left;" title="In his beret and boat-neck shirt, accordionist Jerry King is a familiar sight at events around Chicago. (Courtesy of Jerry King)" />Inside La Creperie on Chicago&rsquo;s North Side, faded Parisian travel posters paper the dark wood walls and couples sip champagne under dim lights.</div><p>Jerry King straps his accordion to his lanky frame and expertly maneuvers through the tightly packed tables.</p><p>&ldquo;When someone mentions the word &lsquo;accordion,&#39; the first thing that comes to mind is polkas,&quot; his wife Mary said. &quot;But he just makes the accordion sound so beautiful.&rdquo;</p><p>Jerry, who&rsquo;s 76, started playing professionally at 13. He spent years playing with his father&rsquo;s band and then his own band, while working a day job as an electrician.</p><p>Today, Jerry repairs accordions and plays weekly at La Creperie and caffe De Luca in Forst Park. He&rsquo;s also a familiar sight at events around Chicago.</p><p>Jerry and Mary live in suburban Westchester.</p><p>&ldquo;Hi Rebecca, come on in, watch your step,&quot; Jerry said as he welcomed me to his home. &quot;How about some cookies? How about some milk?&rdquo;</p><p>The couple ushered me to their dining room table, where we talked about the songs Jerry&#39;s picked up over the years.</p><p>&ldquo;Jerry knows thousands and thousands of songs from memory. He doesn&rsquo;t look at sheet music,&rdquo; Mary began.</p><p>&ldquo;I do to learn the song,&quot; Jerry interrupted.</p><p>&ldquo;Well, to learn it, but he learns it within&hellip;&rdquo;</p><p>&ldquo;Oh, a lot of them I can pick up, you can hear what the changes are, you can pick them up real easy. I pick up a lot of songs that way.&rdquo;</p><p>At this point, Jerry disappeared down the hall to his office to get his accordion. When he returned, I was serenaded with several classica pieces, including &quot;Who Can I Turn To?&quot; and &quot;La Vie en Rose.&quot;</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/lipsticklongue_0.jpg" style="height: 243px; width: 300px; float: right;" title="Jerry's father Norm accompanies him on guitar at the Lipstick Longue in 1961. (Courtesy of Jerry King)" />His music career began with his dad, who played guitar in a band called the Escorts. Jerry remembers staying up late, listening to hear his father perform live on the radio.</div><p>But it wasn&rsquo;t the guitar that captured Jerry&rsquo;s interest, it was the accordion.</p><p>He even tried to make one of his own.</p><p>&ldquo;They used to take these cardboards and tuck them into my father&rsquo;s laundered shirts,&quot; Jerry remembered. &quot;I would take them out and draw keys here and buttons here, and then I would pretend like I was playing.&rdquo;</p><p>Pretty soon, Jerry&rsquo;s dad bought him his own accordion, and he joined the band. They played venues like the Limelight Longue and Club Cairo.<br />Jerry remembers smoke-filled rooms, dance floors packed with waltzing couples, and restaurants where mafia figures were common.</p><p>His first professional gig, at the Melody Longue, paid five bucks.</p><p>&ldquo;Believe me,&quot; Jerry said. &quot;For a 13-year-old kid, that&rsquo;s a lot of money, five dollars.&rdquo;</p><p>At 76, Jerry&rsquo;s still playing. But despite his long career and vast repertoire, Jerry insists he&rsquo;s not a master musician.</p><p>&ldquo;There&rsquo;s so many good accordion players, and bad accordion players,&quot; Jerry began.</p><p>&ldquo;But there&rsquo;s no one like Jerry,&rdquo; Mary interjected.</p><p>&ldquo;Oh, you can&rsquo;t say that.&rdquo;</p><p>&ldquo;Yes, I can.&rdquo;</p><p>&ldquo;Really, there&rsquo;s guys out there a hundred times better than me,&rdquo; Jerry said.</p><p>Jerry said he&rsquo;s still guided by one piece of advice his father gave him.</p><p>&ldquo;If you want to have fun and earn money,&rsquo; he said. &lsquo;Learn all the songs you can Jerry, and play for the people. When you play for the people, you make them happy and then they&rsquo;ll remember you.&#39;&quot;</p><p>Back at La Creperie, customers watched as Jerry&rsquo;s long fingers fly up and down the keyboard.</p><p>For some, like customer Chris Fenner, it&rsquo;s a trip back to a time when door-to-door accordion salesmen were the norm.</p><p>&ldquo;When I was 12, I won 10 accordion lessons,&quot; she said. &quot;I played for a little while and really enjoyed it, so I really enjoy hearing it.&rdquo;</p><p>For the younger crowd, it&rsquo;s a new experience, and Jerry&rsquo;s winning some converts like Sam Toninato.</p><p>&ldquo;My only other judge is Weird Al Yankovic,&quot; Toninato said. &quot;But he seems like he&rsquo;s got Weird Al beat.&quot;</p></p> Thu, 28 Feb 2013 08:00:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/76-year-old-accordionist-still-going-strong-105786