DOES THIS SQUEEZEBOX

Make me look fat?

I coulda been a rock star.

The timing was perfect. I was in high school when the British Invasion hit. No one was a very good musician yet, though there were some excellent songwriters, and if you picked up a guitar on Monday you could be rich and famous by the weekend.

I had one important, outstanding rock star talent: a willingness to let my hair grow long. My Catholic high school wouldn’t allow that, of course, but once I got out of there, it mushroomed enough for local rednecks cruising down Lomas Blvd. to yell obscenities and question my manhood. Screw ‘em. It took being drafted into the Army to touch that hair. (This may be unimaginable as an issue to anyone under the age of 40, but when Easy Rider came out at the end of the ‘60s, all us hip hirsutes were looking nervously over our shoulders.)

 

BUT IT WAS TOO LATE FOR ME

I had already been scared (scarred) off the stage at the tender age of 13.

I’m not sure how I got talked into taking up the accordion at 8. All parents back then felt the obligation to torture — I mean, give their children the lifetime opportunity of music, so pick your instrument, kid, and you will practice every day no matter how many games of kick-the-can you have to skip.

The accordion seemed like a good idea at the time. Drums were out of the question, violin looked too difficult, we had no room for a piano, and when it came time to pick an instrument I chose the coolest accordion ever: Italian, metalflake gold keys on pearl, thick gold straps, 120 bass buttons, a carrying case lined with luxurious velvet. 300 bucks, I smashed the piggy bank and paid half.

 

FIVE YEARS OF TORTURE

And I got pretty good. Real good. When Jim Purvis, who had a TV cowboy kiddies show, came calling to my accordion school band teachers asking for the best player, to duet with his daughter, at one of his live stage shows, I was tapped. Trapped! There were a few thousand people there at Tingley Coliseum, I messed up and was completely mortified and swore at that moment wild horses couldn’t drag me onto a stage again (and Purvis had some). I loved music but I wanted to be out there in the audience, hearing it. Writing about it…

I waited a month to announce my retirement so my parents wouldn’t think, correctly, that “the incident” was to blame, and try to talk me out of it. There was a kid at school named Bobby Anesi who took it up about the same time as I did. Couldn’t hold a Lady of Spain fan to my playing. But Bobby kept at it, and my mother would throw that Catholic guilt in my face every so often.

“You know, you can always pick it up again,” she would cajole. “Bobby Anesi is going to be able to work his way through college playing weddings and Bar Mitzvahs.” Or, Mom, I could poke a sharp stick in my eye and get people to pay to look, to cover those college costs. Sometimes she would trot out squeezebox superstar Myron Floren of the Lawrence Welk Show as something to shoot for. “Don’t forget,” she would add as a deal-closer, (dancer) “Cissy King is from Albuquerque!”

If I had known about zydeco music then, my whole life could have been different.

 

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED: “THE ALAMO” (I finally saw it, wasn’t what I expected, was more than that, it builds, it’s really good), Fri, Sat, 8 PM, Sun 2 PM and 3/9-18, Ruskin Group Theatre, SM Airport,  $17-$30.

X, MIKE WATT & the MISSINGMEN (you must see X live before you die, Minutemen founder Watt is a Pedro icon playing a rare hometown gig), Sat, 6 PM, Brouwerij West, San Pedro, $20.

Jazz Bakery presents BENNY GREEN, VERONICA SWIFT (Green is a master jazz pianist, my favorite on the planet, Swift a lauded young NY vocalist), Sat, 8 PM, Ann & Jerry Moss Theater, New Roads School, SM, $25, $35.

YO-YO MA, EMANUEL AX, LEONIDAS KAVAKOS, Brahms Piano Trios (are you kidding?! why wouldn’t you want to experience two colossal giants of music, and a pretty awesome Greek guy getting there, playing Brahms together?), Sun, 7:30 PM, Walt Disney Concert Hall, downtown LA, $58-$137.

JAKE SHIMABUKURO (34 bucks for a ukulele player? — how about one who has drawn the praise of Eddie Vedder and Queen shredder Brian May, been compared to Hendrix and Miles Davis, throws in flamenco, classical, bluegrass and more and went viral with his 2006 youtube vid of “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” live in Central Park? — I’ve seen him — go!), Sun, 9 PM, Saban Theatre, Beverly Hills, $34-$64.

 

RECOMMENDED: DENGUE FEVER (Phnom Penh had a thriving garage/psychedelic rock scene in the ‘60s, brought to a violent end 4/17/75 when tyrant Pol Pot took over and slaughtered an estimated 2,000,000, almost a third of the population, artists and intellectuals first,  Long Beach’s Dengue Fever has revived that music and added its own touch, with singer/beauty queen Chhol Nimol crooning seductively in Khmer), Sat, 7 PM with others at Burger-a-Go-Go, 1720, downtown LA, Sun, 8 PM, Alex’s Bar, Long Beach, $20-$25.

TERRY RILEY, GLORIA CHENG (2 pianos, 1 minimalist genius and 1 celebrated acolyte, who knows? but any opportunity to see Riley should be seized), Sun, 3 PM, Boston Court, Pasadena, no cover, Tues, 8 PM, Colburn School of Music, Zipper Concert Hall, downtown LA, $35.

K.D. LANG, Slava Grigoryan (Lang has cruised from Canadian country roots through most every genre with style and mastery, opener sounds interesting, an Australian-Armenian-Kazakhstani classical guitarist), Mon, 9 PM, the Theatre at Ace Hotel, downtown LA, $55-$99

 

BAND NAMES OF THE WEEK: Jerry Joseph & the Jackmormons, Dr. Savage & the Shrunken Heads, Badbadnotgood, Patsy’s Rats.

 

LYRIC OF THE WEEK: “I been warped by the rain, driven by the snow, I’m drunk and dirty but don’t you know I’m still, willin’, I been kicked by the wind, robbed by the sleet, had my head stove in but I’m still on my feet and I’m still, willin’. And I been from Tucson to Tucumcari, Tehachapi to Tonopah, driven every kind of rig that’s ever been made, driven the backroads so I wouldn’t get weighed.” — Lowell George (“Willin’”)

 

Charles Andrews has lived in Santa Monica for 32 years and wouldn’t live anywhere else

in the world. Really. Send love and/or rebuke to him at  therealmrmusic@gmail.com

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