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Affinities #13: The Siren Song of the Squeezebox

Lauren Murrow | August 11, 2014 | Lifestyle Story Culture

See all the Affinities here.

“It used to be that if you made a crack about the accordion to the wrong person in San Francisco, you’d be in trouble,” says Peter Di Bono, 71, a retired police controller and one of the longest-running members of the San Francisco Accordion Club. Unlikely as it sounds, the accordion is the official instrument of our city—Di Bono has the ordinance, enacted by Mayor Art Agnos in 1990, to prove it. After lying dormant for decades, Di Bono’s club was revived in the ’90s by a handful of guys who liked to drink coffee, eat cake, and listen to the squeezebox. While the agenda is about the same today, membership now hovers around 200. The club meets each month at the Oyster Point Yacht Club, where an open jam session is followed by accordion-centric performances of Bach to bebop.

“We get everyone from Joe Blow to the best accordionists in the world coming to play,” says Di Bono. “Sometimes the music is unbelievable, and sometimes it’s absolutely in the toilet.” Fervor for the instrument isn’t limited to gray-haired polka lovers, either: A younger contingent convenes at the SoMa repair shop Accordion Apocalypse, and RenĂ©e de la Prade, aka the Squeezebox Goddess, has been producing an Accordion Babes pinup calendar since 2009. There’s a reason the accordian holds a romantic allure for its fans. “It’s such an expressive instrument,” says Di Bono. “It sits on your heart.”

Originally published in the August issue of San Francisco.

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