Friday, August 18, 2017

Remembering Legendary Accordianist Dick Contino, who Single-Handedly Popularized the Accordian in America During the 1950s and 1960s





REMEMBERING DICK CONTINO

Introduction by Harley Jones

Dick Contino is a famous American accordionist and singer. Dick Contino was born in
Fresno, California January 17th, 1930.

He studied accordion primarily with San Francisco-based Angelo Cognazzo, and occasionally
 with Los Angeles-based Guido Deiro and was destined to become, one of the most famous
American accordionists of all time.

Read below a very passionate and thought provoking "Reflections" for the one and only
Dick Contino, who passed away on April 19th, 2017, written by his friend and international
competition winner and virtuoso accordionist Cory Pesaturo.

Also read below the obituary by our Accordions Worldwide Editor Rob Howard.

Remembering Legendary Accordianist Dick Contino, who Single-Handedly Popularized the Accordian in America During the 1950s and 1



 
Obituary by Rob Howard
Dick Contino (1930-2017), California – USA

 Dick Contino, born January 17th 1930 in Fresno, California, studied accordion primarily with Angelo
 Cognazzo, and also with Guido Deiro, demonstrating great promise on the instrument.

He graduated from Fresno High School in 1947 and enrolled at Fresno State College, but was
 unable to concentrate on his studies, explaining, "I enjoyed college, but while attending classes I kept thinking that if I was
 going to be a success, it would be my music that would take me there."

Contino got his big break on December 7th 1947, when he played ‘Lady of Spain’ (his signature 
piece) and won first place in a talent contest in Fresno, which was broadcast on national radio.
 Contino's song ‘Yours’ was his first hit single, number 27 in the American pop charts in 1954.

Contino toured with the Horace Heidt Orchestra and was billed as the "world's greatest accordion 
player." Also an actor and a singer, he became a well-known accordion soloist and appeared on the
 Ed Sullivan Show on national TV a record 48 times, and also appeared in several cinema movies. 
In his early career he was often referred to as “the Rudolf Valentino of the accordion”.

Contino’s career in music was interrupted when he was drafted during the Korean War, which
 involved some personal controversy and unfavourable publicity that for a while threatened his
 career and reputation. He recovered from this period, and went on to re-establish himself as a
 popular entertainer.

Contino married the actress Leigh Snowden in 1956, and they had 5 children, and they remained
 together until she died from cancer in 1982. Son Pete Contino has enjoyed a successful career in
 his own right as an accordionist and singer.

Dick Contino made many excellent recordings, and was a frequent headline guest at accordion 
festivals around the USA, becoming a highly respected ‘elder statesman’ of the current accordion
 scene.

He passed away on April 19th at the age of 87, and is widely mourned.

Contino in recent years, well into his 80s, still performing



Reflections by Corey Pesaturo


The Accordion. An instrument sometimes marred by a strong negative stigma, countless jokes, 
and a sea of looks when one plays that spill “You play…. Accordion….Why?” But this was not the
 case in the 1940’s and 50’s. The Accordion was of the Most popular instruments to play across 
the United States, to the point where even during its downfall in the early 60’s, there was an
 Accordion / Guitar duel-purpose magazine; something unimaginable today.
This immense success was largely due to the achievements of one single accordionist whom
 woman wanted, and men wanted to be. A showman of the stage whom appeared on the Tonight 
Show of its day, “The Ed Sullivan Show”, a staggering 48 times. That is in fact, more than the 
Beatles did.

This fame began when he won the very first of a new talent segment on the famed Horace Heidt 
Show. It was December 7th, 1947, the day the accordion changed forever in the USA. His name – 
Dick Contino. For the next 4 years, Contino would date famous actresses, have his own TV show,
 act in movies, and have his name in large letters at famous theaters over smaller letters that read 
famous names like Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis.

I was incredibly fortunate to closely know Dick from when I was 12 years old, made possible by my
 “Don’t take No for an answer” father who got us all to have dinner in Las Vegas one day. I cherish
 the pictures from that night, and they sit in view from where I do my practicing today.


It was around this time where I was becoming sure enough of myself and my playing, 
to know I had something special within me. The ceiling was not just another top accordionist,
 it was more.
Coupled with this, my longstanding battle with the accordion world was well in full force by then,
 and I saw myself as a rebel on multiple fronts. No one believed in what I felt outside of my
 teacher and my family, which of course doesn’t count for anything since they’ll always believe in you.

President Clinton had my back as well, but he didn’t know Steve Dominko from Lawrence Welk.
 I needed assurance from someone who had nothing to gain by saying it. Dick was the one, and 
the quotes he gave me so early on have been my most cherished. A Rebel who did not get along
 with the accordion world, didn’t believe in the same rules and regulations, and just forged his own 
path. I saw myself in him from a different generation, and that confidence he gave, played a vital 
role in any challenges I ever faced. Additionally, his longstanding friendship assured it.

Now everyone of course knows that Dick Contino was not anywhere near Coupe Mondiale level 
for playing ability, whether he was trying to be or not. And he knew it. But this here, has always 
been the foundation for the rift between the accordion world and Dick Contino. “He didn’t deserve
 his fame, it should have been Frosini, Galla-Rini or X, Y, Z.” Trust me, I’m always one strongly 
fighting for actual ability over showmanship and marketability, but one cannot sit and sulk today about how the accordion remains unpopular, and then be angered about the one person that did make it truly
 popular.

A beggar, cannot be a chooser, and with it, no one can deny Dick’s still unbeaten charismatic 
stage presence and ability to culminate what technical talents he did have, into a captivating
 show that did to audiences what Elvis did to his audiences.


Furthermore, Dick is not only an inspiration to me; he IS in fact, the reason I play accordion. 
I of course only play because my father wanted me to, and he only played because he became
 so overwhelmed with excitement after seeing Dick Contino time and time again on television,
 and live in Las Vegas in the 50’s as a child.
And that’s just it – So many people around the country played in that Golden Era directly
 because of Dick Contino, and many who pick up the accordion today, do so because their parent
 or grandparent played…. and they don’t realize how that very parent or grandparent played,
 because of Dick Contino. The Contino tree, is still bearing fruit.

I am a man of statistics, and I would truly love the exact numbers, but I can say this; When I 
was last in Castelfidardo, Italy, 2 officials at one of the longstanding accordion manufacturers
 told me “When the accordion was the #1 export of Italy in the 1950’s, approximately 60% of 
that was going to the USA, and 80% of that 60%, were sales directly due to Dick Contino’s 
success and popularity.” So yes, forget the USA, an argument could be made that Castelfidardo’s
 heyday, was also largely due to this one man.

The great and powerful accordion schools of the past which had 1000’s of students in various
 locations across the US can confidently say they produced all the students to make the instrument 
popular. Absolutely. But without an inception in a human’s mind, there is no driven interest to learn.


Dick Contino gave that interest in the 4 year run of high profile fame he had, and in his continued
 performances to full audiences into his early 80’s. Again, I don’t have the exact numbers, and with
 Dick’s passing I will begin to look into this, but I can tell you, across my career, with total honesty 
and confidence, that every other person I meet who comes to talk about the accordion with me, 
played it or had interest in the instrument, mostly, because of Dick Contino and interestingly, 
not because of Pietro Diero, or Charlie Magnante, or the Coupe Mondiale events, or the main 
accordion organizations’, who all push to attain interest in the accordion and have done so over 
many decades.
As I type this, just hours after Mr. Contino has passed away, still processing the news, my dear 
friend and accordion devotee Dr. Ian Fries texted me, and might have summed it up best,
 “A staff of music is quiet tonight of which we once all enjoyed hearing.”

The Contino tree, is still bearing fruit, and his fingerprints are all over accordion fans today whether
 they know it or not.

I’ll miss you so much Dick. The entire accordion world all will.

Musically and Sincerely -

Cory Pesaturo 

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Surprise Father's Day with Elvis at Shopping Center in Pleasant Hill CA


'one night with you'

Surprise Father's Day with Elvis at Shopping Center in Pleasant Hill CA
I just happened to stop by Nob Hill Foods in Pleasant Hill and who should I come upon?  I heard some Elvis background music  as I approached the store and followed the music around a corner just behind a speaker to find a man sitting at a table  while a sound machine was playing the backtrack to 'One Night With You'. But, nobody was singing the words. I quickly realized this was Elvis with  awaiting an audience.  When he realized he had one, of sorts, he perked up and started singing! It was a fun way to spend a portion of Father's Day... 




'One Night With You/ And I Love You So'




'Hound Dog'  Fast and slow versions




My conversation with Elvis / Can't Help Falling in Love




MORE TO FOLLOW

Thursday, February 2, 2017

58 Years Ago The Music Died - Buddy Holly, Richie Valens, Big Bopper Perish in Iowa Plane Crash




THE DAY THE MUSIC DIED -Documentary






Only two known video clips of Buddy Holly/Crickets performing but here is some nice behind the scenes video of Holly and friends. It opens with Vi Petty, wife of producer Norman Petty, who performed the celeste part on 'Everyday' , originally, and again here, post Holly \




*

 
Fun scene from oscar -nominated Buddy Holly Story movie starring Gary Busey as Holly. Apollo Theater crowd doesn't expect to see a white audience at this all-black theater. There was also a black group named the Crickets in the early 50s the crowd may have expected. Artists were seen much more than heard in the 1950s.  







LET'S GO RIGHT NOW TO LUBBOCK and HEAR BUDDY HOLLY'S FAVORITE RADIO STATION, KDAV, STILL ON THE AIR TODAY. Every fifth song, or so, today, the 55th Anniversary, is a Buddy Holly , Richie Valens or Big bopper song... http://KDAV.com - click LISTEN LIVE














58 Years Ago The Music Died - Buddy Holly, Richie Valens, Big Bopper Perish in Iowa Plane Crash....




Big Bopper, Buddy Holly, Richie Valens



BUDDY HOLLY CENTER in Lubbock, Buddy's hometown, along with statue of Buddy, below, fairly recent contributions made possible from loving fans around the world and city folk.   Giant Glasses were the work donation of a fan .  Stories @ http://facebook.oldiescountry





























 55 Years Ago The Music Died - Buddy Holly, Richie Valens, Big Bopper perish in Iowa Plane Crash




Feb 3, 1959:

The day the music died

FROM THE HISTORY CHANNEL
On this day in 1959, rising American rock stars Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and J.P. "The Big Bopper" Richardson are killed when their chartered Beechcraft Bonanza plane crashes in Iowa a few minutes after takeoff from Mason City on a flight headed for Moorehead, Minnesota. Investigators blamed the crash on bad weather and pilot error. Holly and his band, the Crickets, had just scored a No. 1 hit with "That'll Be the Day."
After mechanical difficulties with the tour bus, Holly had chartered a plane for his band to fly between stops on the Winter Dance Party Tour. However, Richardson, who had the flu, convinced Holly's band member Waylon Jennings to give up his seat, and Ritchie Valens won a coin toss for another seat on the plane.*(see EDITOR'S NOTE BELOW)




*


Holly, born Charles Holley in Lubbock, Texas, and just 22 when he died, began singing country music with high school friends before switching to rock and roll after opening for various performers, including Elvis Presley. By the mid-1950s, Holly and his band had a regular radio show and toured internationally, playing hits like "Peggy Sue," "Oh, Boy!," "Maybe Baby" and "Early in the Morning." Holly wrote all his own songs, many of which were released after his death and influenced such artists as Bob Dylan and Paul McCartney.
Another crash victim, J.P. "The Big Bopper" Richardson, 28, started out as a disk jockey in Texas and later began writing songs. Richardson's most famous recording was the rockabilly "Chantilly Lace," which made the Top 10. He developed a stage show based on his radio persona, "The Big Bopper."
The third crash victim was Ritchie Valens, born Richard Valenzuela in a suburb of Los  Angeles, who was only 17 when the plane went down but had already scored hits with "Come On, Let's Go," "Donna" and "La Bamba," an upbeat number based on a traditional Mexican wedding song (though Valens barely spoke Spanish). In 1987, Valens' life was portrayed in the movie La Bamba, and the title song, performed by Los Lobos, became a No. 1 hit. Valens was posthumously inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2001.
Singer Don McLean memorialized Holly, Valens and Richardson in the 1972 No. 1 hit "American Pie," which refers to February 3, 1959 as "the day the music died."





BUDDY HOLLY MP3S







According to first hand knowledge , Dion, now 74,  who was on the tour, told us just last month his version of the story.He says that he gave up his seat to Buddy Holly due to the 'extreme' cost ($36) which his mother needed more than he did....





































Three stars, tribute to the three, was written by Tommy Dee . It was recorded here by Eddie Cochran, another rising  rock and roll star who would also perish the following year, in a car accident.









TOMMY DEE ORIGINAL VERSION OF THREE STARS TRIBUTE






Program for the concert the night of February 3, 1959 which Buddy , Richie and Big Bopper would never make.Only Dion and a young Bobby Vee, who filled in for Buddy, would perform as top billed acts


GO TO HTTP://FACEBOOK.COM/OLDIESCOUNTRY for more pictures, articles, music...









Pick One:

Like/Share this if you feel sad to this day about the loss of Buddy Holly, Richie Valens and the Big Bopper and what might have been











RICHIE VALENS AMAZON STORE





















BIG BOPPER AMAZON STORE







VISIT OLDIES COUNTRY for More




55 Years Ago The Music Died - Buddy Holly, Richie Valens, Big Bopper Perished in Iowa Plane Crash....

and it's Never Been the Same Since