We all have a part of our lives we prefer not to visit again. Mine came when I was about 12. A traveling accordion salesman came to our house. I know, you think I am making this up. No, it was real. It happened. My parents were both home along with my younger sister and myself. It was a Saturday, a day that will live in infamy. The salesman only wanted a few minutes of our time and my parents let him in carrying a huge box with him. He said his music company was looking for local musical talent and opened that giant box revealing a black shiny accordion. My parent’s eyes widened because they loved the Lawrence Welk show. They had never seen an accordion in real life. He strapped it on to himself, unclipped the gigantic bellows, and the monstrous thing took its first breath, almost sucking the air out of the room. We all gasped. He then played a simple little accordion piece. I looked around to see if the Lennon sisters were coming in. If you don’t know who I am talking about it means you are not 70 years old.
Then he looked at me and said, “Son, would you like to try it?” It was an emotional moment. My parents were so excited, almost like Lawrence Welk himself was in their home and their son was being blessed by the master. Before I knew it, I was holding this 250-pound black shiny monster and sitting on a chair. He placed my shaking fingers on the shiny buttons and keys and said, “Just hold the keys down and squeeze. I held those keys so tight and some others as well and squeezed that thing with all my 12-year-old might. The horrific sound it made must have resembled a cat in a blender. Don’t ask how I know that sound.
The salesman looked at my parents in astonishment and exclaimed, almost shouting, “Your son has the talent!!” My parents were so proud. I later realized that may have been the first time. I was told when my dad first looked at me when I was born he said to my mother, “he looks like a plucked chicken.” That may be why my mother never told anyone about my birth, not ever her favorite sister. That sister called my mom to talk one day and heard this ten-month-old baby crying and said, “What’s that baby sound?” My mom said to her, “Oh, that is little Eddie.” And that was my official birth announcement. But now with that accordion strapped to my body like a straight jacket, they were proud of little Eddie. That was the day of my first musical talent evaluation. I did have one more music evaluation years later when my wife and I with our five children went to Canada to a Bible school. New students need to be evaluated for their musical potential since the choir is a mandatory course in the program. I was told to sing what the teacher told me. Apparently, that cat survived that blender and was trying again. I explained to the teacher that I could not play the radio. He sadly told me that in 20 years of being on staff at the Bible institute he had only exempted one person from the choir and now I was number 2. I am not making this up. It also turned out that this teacher played the accordion.
The day my parents bought that accordion and signed me up for music lessons was the day I began to understand what Dante wrote in “The Inferno,” He passed through the gate of Hell, which bore an inscription “Abandon all hope, ye who enter here.” From there it was just anguished screams, sort of like that cat in the blender. My friends were all playing neighborhood football and I was strapped to a beast in the seventh level of hell.
To this day I don’t listen to salesmen. So, I did learn something important. I do like accordion jokes and I relate to them. Here are three favorites.
A group of accordion players chartered a 747 from LA to go to an Octoberfest celebration in Germany. Unfortunately, the plane was Hijacked and forced to land in New York. The hijacker demanded 10 million dollars for the plane and gave a terrifying warning to the FBI negotiators. He warned that for every half hour his demands were not met, he would release an accordion player.
One of my favorite Far Side comics has two frames. The upper frame shows a line of people entering Heaven. Saint Peter handing out Harps and the frame below shows a line of people entering Hell and Satan handing out accordions.
A man was talking to his friend and mentioned he was trying to sell his old accordion but nobody wanted it. His friend suggested he just throw it away. Even better, his friend said,”There was an old abandoned car down the street that would be towed away. Just toss it in the back seat, no one will know or care.” So they did that. The next morning the man felt guilty about doing that and decided to retrieve his old accordion, but when he got to the car, there were five more accordions in the back seat.
My journey to the dark side came to an end after two years when I did my first recital. I played She’ll Be Coming Round the Mountain, and they stopped me after the first verse. My parents realized their big mistake and I never went back for more lessons. I went out to play neighborhood football with my friends and I broke my wrist. But even that was a great day. And I didn’t own a cat. Life was looking up.