Bob Hamrick plays accordion with the Wichita band Pop and The Boys. He regularly attends the Walnut Valley Festival in Winfield, Kansas and is a loyal fan of the Grateful Dead. He explains that a gentleman is one who can play the accordion but chooses not to.
“My name is Bob Hamrick and I play the accordion.
I was trying to learn how to play the mandolin. I thought I could probably handle that. I took it down to Winfield and—just as a joke, my accordion. I heard four and five year old kids playing mandolin and realized I was never going to be that good. So, just as a joke, I got out the accordion and set out for a jam circle. I had one rule: I wanted it to be good. Actually, two rules: The second rule was I wanted there to be a banjo player there because I knew banjo players are at the low end of the totem pole and they would love to actually see an accordion come in and boost them up.
So, I went in and they reluctantly opened up a space for me and about three hours later, the banjo player came up to me and said, ‘You know, Accordion Guy, you were the first of your kind we didn’t want to kill and eat when we were done.’ I took that as a ringing endorsement. I don’t know if she meant it that way.
Accordion has been used for all kinds of music. Yo Yo Ma has done a concerto with an accordion. Art Van Damme was a jazz accordion player a long time ago. I think any genre can be played on an accordion. I’m not sure that every genre should be played on an accordion.”
This commentary originally aired on 05/02/2014.