A nice restaurant. I’m playing Christmas music on an accordion with a band.

I play accordion because my granddaddy played it before me. This instrument is in my lineage. And it’s in our history as a civilized race.

And thusly, I believe that as long as we have young accordionists, there is still hope for humanity.

A few children approach our stage.

“WHAT KIND OF INSTRUMENT IS THAT?” asks the redhead.

“It’s an accordion,” I say.


“That’s not very nice…”



“Hey kid,” I say. “Santa told me you’re getting nothing but underwear and deodorant this year.”

This kind of accordion shaming is nothing new. I’ve been ridiculed since my childhood. I have heard all the classic jokes.

Such as: What do you call a successful accordionist? A guy whose wife has two jobs.

Or: What are the first words an accordionist says after he knocks on your door? “Pizza delivery.”

But I don’t care. When I play accordion, I play for my mother’s father—the man who fought in Europe, and won a Purple Heart for his valiance. He was a farmer, a storyteller, a wood carver, a musician who could sing in Italian, German, French, Spanish, and Cajun.

And when he played “Lady of Spain,” it was magic.

Of course this can be embarrassing to admit at, say, dinner parties. Like the party I was at a few nights ago.

The attorney sipping gin remarked: “I’m learning guitar, I got one for my birthday this year.”

“Yeah,” added the thoracic surgeon. “I played a little saxophone in high school band.”

“Well,” I said. “I play the accordion.”

They laughed softly. Then, one man handed me his glass and said, “I’ll take a refill on this gin.”

No. People prefer guitarists. A guitarist can walk into a crowded party and females will hurl themselves at him.

An accordionist walks into a room, and suddenly a snowbird named Ethel is attached to his arm, talking about her grandkids in Sheboygan.

Even so, I am what I am. I started playing accordion because my family was Southern Baptist, and every Saturday night from my infancy, we watched what all evangelicals watched. The Lawrence Welk Show.

Admittedly, I’m not a big fan of any show that features thirty-eight guys who all look like your father’s dentist, singing for an hour about Hawaii. But there was one thing I liked.

Myron Floren. The gentle Dakotan would appear on the screen, wearing a 120-bass PAN accordion, and I would almost mess my britches.

He would play “Tico Tico” at a lightning fast tempo. His hair was greased with industrial cement, his teeth were porcelain, he was a god.

One Christmas, my parents got me a small 12-bass accordion. I would lock myself in my bedroom and practice “La Valse de la Belle” for hours.

Then, I would apply an entire can of my father’s pomade before going to baseball practice.

When I became a better accordionist, I entered the fourth-grade talent show. I played “Cajun Surprise,” followed by “Louisiana Joe.” I played superbly.

I expected applause. Or at the very least, a key to the city. But when I finished, the audience made no noise.

A man in the front row mumbled, “What’s all that sticky junk in your hair?”

I almost gave up the instrument for good. But my granddaddy told me that I couldn’t.

“If you don’t play the accordion,” he said. “Then pretty soon mankind won’t have any accordions left. The world is depending on you, son.”

So, my first professional gig was a funeral. I was fourteen. They paid me ten bucks. I’ll never forget it.

It was a Pentecostal service. The preacher asked me to play something mournful. So, I played “Peace in the Valley.”

One woman started crying, then another. And when the preacher’s baritone voice began singing with me, I almost forgot which song I was playing.

Since then, I have played my accordion for all kinds of occasions. Cajun soirées, country dances, beer festivals, Polka parties, quinciñeras, weddings, funerals, and one used car auction. And I have met interesting people along the way.

Like the nine-year-old boy today, who visited the restaurant stage while I was playing “Jumbalaya.”

“Hey, I like your accordion,” he said. “It looks really old.”

“It is old.”

“I play accordion, too,” the kid explained.

And I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. I almost hugged him.

“Will you play something for me?” I asked.

He agreed. I removed the instrument and handed it to him. The accordion was almost as big as he was.

He strapped it to his chest and played a melody so sweet it made my heart hurt.

He got a standing ovation—which almost never happens to accordionists.

“Where’d you learn to do that?” I asked.

“My granddaddy taught me,” he said. “I miss him so much since he died. One day, I wanna play as good as he did.”


There’s still hope for the human race.


  1. Naomi - December 18, 2018 9:53 am

    I had a close friend who played the accordion. She died too young from breast cancer just a short time after she got married.

  2. Brenda Hill - December 18, 2018 11:13 am

    Sean, you are a Renaissance man! I enjoy your writing very much, you always make me smile, sometimes through tears.

  3. Karen - December 18, 2018 11:21 am

    I love that you honor your grandfather in this way.

  4. Connie Havard Ryland - December 18, 2018 12:14 pm

    Learning to play a musical instrument, especially one as hard as accordion, is something to be proud of. Every band kid in the world can tell you-not all instruments are glamorous or the star of the show, but it takes every one to make a complete sound. There’s a lesson in that. ❤️

  5. Amy Crews - December 18, 2018 12:48 pm

    In my minds eye I can see everything you described. Sometimes I fancy the idea I missed a calling to be a director of films. Ha! But if I were one, I’d sign you up and we’d make a great tv series with these stories. We all need to remember these times and be reminded of the good stuff that you so magically remind us of. Thank you a million times over!

  6. Sherry - December 18, 2018 1:09 pm

    I played a little clarinet…and because of that music is not a mystery to me….I love all of it, including accordion…and one of my dearest friends, a very successful woman, plays! Thank you Sean!

  7. Emily - December 18, 2018 1:32 pm

    I love this so much! I will hug the next accordionists I see:). God save the accordion players!!!❤️❤️❤️❤️

  8. Alice - December 18, 2018 1:45 pm

    So glad you play I love to listen to that instrument I guess because I am French and a lot of our music used to have that sound in it thank you I hope one day you come to Dothan and play for us love you Sean God Bless Merry Christmas

  9. Harriet - December 18, 2018 1:55 pm

    This brings sweet memories, Sean. My mother, who is ninety-eight, played the accordion until her shoulders wouldn’t let her anymore. She continued to play the piano and organ though.

  10. Phillip Saunders - December 18, 2018 2:03 pm

    Hang in there with your squeezebox, Sean, and keep encouraging young players to do the same. I don’t play anything harder than rhythm sticks, but love to listen to good accordion music. There is always hope.

  11. Jess in Athens, GA - December 18, 2018 2:13 pm

    There was a boy in elementary school, Wayne R., that played a mean accordion. We enjoyed it every time he was allowed to play for us. I think we were mostly amazed at the sounds/music he could produce. As far as I know he might still be playing the accordion somewhere in Florida.

  12. Carol - December 18, 2018 2:15 pm

    I love to hear an accordion!!
    I’m from the Lawrence Welk era!!
    Keep playing!!
    Love ya!

  13. RoxAnn Wicker - December 18, 2018 2:42 pm

    I moved to France for a hiatus from a bad break-up. My motivation was to retreat to a city far, far away from any English speaking individual. I did not want to be asked what I may be pondering, or have a commentary on the delightful weather, or have anyone ask me what I was doing roaming aimlessly in Paris. I finally found a tiny cafe that served the best quiche and coffee, that’s all that I could afford. Outside on the patio was a gentle accordionist, his songs were like reminders of peace, sometimes tranquil and other times seemed to teleport you to another era. Day by day I depended on my quiche, coffee and Jean Francis. He got me through the roughest time of my life, the quiche and coffee helped too. Keep your grandfather’s legacy alive, some of us need to hear the peace of mind that comes without a price tag.

  14. Cecelia Arnold - December 18, 2018 3:15 pm

    Sean, I would like to add to the list of occasions you have played for – we have a crawfish boil each spring. What would you think about coming and enjoying crawfish with us and giving us a few songs on your wonderful instrument? You can think about it and let me know by ocntacting me at ceceliaarnold@hotmail.com.

  15. Debbie - December 18, 2018 3:32 pm


  16. Kristine Wehrheim - December 18, 2018 4:41 pm

    My cousin used to play the accordion for us at family get togethers- that was some 50 years ago!

  17. Mike Guilday - December 18, 2018 5:05 pm

    A salesman came by when I was about 6 or 7, selling accordion lessons. My mom gathered all the boys together, there were five of us, and each of us were given a small 12 button bass accordion and told to try it. After we finished, the sales gentleman took my mom aside and I could hear him whisper to her, that curly haired one has some talent. And my accordion career was launched. I took lessons on that 12 button device for about three months and once again that nice sales gentleman came knocking at our door. This time however he wasn’t selling lessons, he was selling a $1,500 Accordion. We’re talking 1955 when you could buy a new car for less than that musical instrument. As you probably guessed, my blooming musical career came to an abrupt end, but this experience has left with a special place in my heart for accordion players. Can you play “Three Blind Mice” Sean? That was my favorite.

  18. Diana - December 18, 2018 5:07 pm

    My brother learned to play the accordian at ten years old. He wanted that accordian more than anything in the world. When he learned to play Lady of Spain, I realized my brother was a musical genius. I was in awe.

    Sadly, when he hit high school he discovered the guitar. You’re correct – girls do hurl themselves at guitar players. I can’t tell you the number of girls who attempted to befriend me when they discovered he was my big brother.
    As his baby sister, I felt it was my obligation to tell them all he also played the accordian.

    Love your work, sir. Thank you for every single post, even the ones that make me cry.

  19. Arelene Mack - December 18, 2018 5:39 pm

    One of my most favorite Christmas Eve memories was 3 accordions playing a trio at my Mama and Daddy’s house one Christmas before anyone was sick, before anyone died, while everyone was healthy and happy. All the family was gathered, we had a fine feast and opened gifts. Then my sister Rene, dear friend Jan and I played our accordion trio. Christmas songs, Gospel songs, fun songs and good times. Not one, but three accordions. It was magical.

  20. Jo Brooks - December 18, 2018 5:56 pm

    What a great story! I played the accordion too, AND I got to be part of a concert with Myron Floren in a San Diego amphitheater. He was my hero too. Nowadays, though, I can’t play. I’m happy that you still do.

  21. John Skelton - December 18, 2018 8:06 pm

    I played accordion, too. My mother had played when she was younger and here was the one that got me hooked. I never used here because it was so old, but my parents soon got one for me. They set me up with a music school that taught students a variety of instruments, but they also had an accordion band. Once a year we would have a concert held at the American Legion hall.

    And then there was the time I had a chance to play an electric accordion. A woman my parents knew brought here over to our house. Didn’t have to do all that pulling and pushing. I liked that because, at heart, I’m lazy. Even so, I do remember picking out by ear the song “”Snoopy’s Christmas Carol” on the accordion by playing the record over and over and writing down the notes.

    I still have my accordion and some of the music I learned to play. I haven’t touched it for at least 15 years, and only then to show my young son what was in the suitcase.

    You post brought back memories. Thanks.

  22. Debora Colvin - December 19, 2018 12:02 am

    Loved it! About 15 years ago I read an amazing book called”Accordion Crimes” by E. Annie Proulx. It follows an accordion through serveral owners over as many generations. Those accordion players weren’t wooses! I have never forgotten it and have read it at least twice!

  23. Mary T - December 19, 2018 1:15 am

    My dad was stationed in Germany in the early 50’s. My parents bought me an accordion and I took lessons. I don’t play now, but I still have the accordion.

  24. Jack Darnell - December 20, 2018 5:14 am

    Love the accordion. My sister played one. She won a contest in 1951 and appeared on that new invention TV. As the executor of her estate, that was one of the things I looked for first. Never found it. I still wonder who has it.
    Anyway keep trying maybe you will get ‘Lady of Spain’ down. Love that song…..

  25. Emily Kistler - December 21, 2018 5:58 pm

    My best friend teaches the blind. Her husband is blind and plays the accordion. I sent this to her for him; I know he will love it. He has played for us when we made dinner for the people at Godtel, a homeless shelter and they all loved it. Thanks, Emily


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