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John Powell

Accordion: Not just for polkas anymore, say fans

Accordion: Not just for polkas anymore, say fans

Blame it on Lawrence Welk.

If you're unfamiliar with that name, members of the American Accordionists' Association will give you an extra-warm welcome to their festival in Baltimore this week.

Accordionists in this country have long struggled with the legacy of Welk, the bandleader known for "champagne music" and polkas. His TV show, which aired from the mid-1950s to the early '80s, and then for what seemed an eternity in reruns on PBS, always gave a prominent role to the accordion. That wasn't necessarily a good thing.

In the words of composer Nicolas Slonimsky, the Welk style had "a rudimentary sound quality that made him a favorite with undiscriminating...