Members of Those Darn Accordions! are not the same slaves to Lawrence Welk's style of polka that your parents or grandparents listened to on a Saturday night. Their accordions are just as likely to belt out quirky and comical renditions of Led Zeppelin or Grand Funk Railroad tunes as heart-pumping, old-fashioned polkas. Original tunes, full of clever twists and centered on such topics as bowling or science fiction films, also are featured in the repertoire. To get a good mental picture of one of the band's shows, picture a tattooed octogenarian belting out "Do Ya Think I'm Sexy." Or "We're an Accordion Band," sung to the tune of "We're an American Band." It's sort of like polka's version of Weird Al Yankovic, with an accordion in his parody-loving hands.
The group started out in 1989 supposedly for a one-night only gig, thanks to accordion player Big Lou, previously of Polkacide. At San Francisco's Paradise Lounge, she pulled together all of the accordionists she could who wanted to play a set one evening. One of the musicians who took her up on her invitation was Clyde Forsman, who remained with the group once Those Darn Accordions! became established. The band's other accordion players include another former Polkacide member, Suzanne Garramone; Patty Brady, who previously worked with the Ramonas; Paul Rogers, and Art Peterson. All six of the accordionists also contributed vocals. The remainder of the band included bass guitarist Lewis Wallace and drummer Billy Dee Boom, who previously worked with the Witnesses. A later, smaller incarnation of the band was comprised of front man Rogers, Garramone, Brady, Wallace, and drummer Bill Schwartz.
At first, Those Darn Accordions! boasted a full dozen accordions and was fond of executing commando-style raids on local eateries, where they would rush in from the street, play "Lady of Spain" or something similar on their accordions, then sprint out the rear exit. In time, Rogers took over the helm and led the band away from their raiding excursions. He took Those Darn Accordions! in a more serious direction, but one that was no less fun. Some members, however, dropped out at the prospect of stricter band rehearsals, among other issues. By 1992, the group was headed to an accordion competition held in Italy. As a fund-raiser to cover expenses for the overseas trip, members devoted a solid eight hours to playing nothing but "Lady of Spain." Thanks to that experience, band members rarely play that number anymore. But the Italian competition, if not a success, did result in some positive press. The region's newspaper put the group on the front page, but the contest judges didn't really appreciate "Stairway to Heaven" as played on an accordion. Fortunately, later fans were more accepting, and in 1998 the group performed in Los Angeles during the American Music Awards. ~ Linda Seida