The Free-Reed Journal
Articles and Essays Featuring Classical Free-Reed Instruments and Performers


The Columbia Record Catalog
Volume 10, Number 8 (1912)

Illustration of Guido Deiro (1912) Editor's note: This charming story which appeared in the Columbia Record Catalog in 1912 is a good example of the extent promoters use hyperbole to sell their product. As it is, the article is mostly fiction, created by an imaginative copywriter to help sell records. (Twenty years later, in the 1930s, Pietro Deiro's music publisher exaggerated in the same way when he erroneously claimed that Pietro "invented" the piano accordion.)

Guido Deiro's son, Count Guido Roberto Deiro, wrote in a letter dated October 1, 2001,

"The Colombia Records Promotional page with the line drawing of Guido is baloney; so full of inaccuracies. They have Guido born in Bologna instead of Piedmonte, which is equivalent to saying an American born in Boston came from Atlanta. The whole rendition of his childhood is something someone at Colombia made up.

"Guido's father never supported his becoming a musician. It was his Uncle Fred who gave him his first accordion. According to my father, my grandfather, Carlo, worked both sons like serfs and wanted them to continue the family's farming and retailing business. That's why both of them left home at an early age. Carlo wanted Guido to enter an arranged marriage with a competitor's daughter.

"The only accordion playing Carlo approved of was Guido was playing in front of the fruit stand on market days to drum up business. Father said he had to play all morning and then work loading the heavy purchases made by outlying families until dark. He said he would fall asleep holding on to the wagon tailgates on the walk home...his father wouldn't let him ride as he wanted the load of traded goods to be light on the horses going back up the mountain. Carlo was a tough bastard (my father's words).

"When I visited Italy twenty years ago my now deceased first cousin, Teresa Gherna, and several other more distant relatives confirmed these oral histories. Guido never returned to Salto. Pietro waited till the death of his father Carlo and then went back to see if he inherited anything. They did, but not much due to taxes and "Il Duce's" land reforms."

The Columbia Record Catalog Article

Nearly thirty years ago in Bologna, Italy, a woman whose husband played an accordion had a son. He grew up and, like all the other kids of the locality, he, too, reached out accordionwards seven days after he cut his first tooth -- for the accordion is to the Bolognese as the bagpipes are to the Highlander of Scotland, the guitar to the Spaniard, the shillelagh to the Irishman. The father would hold the instrument while the baby's little fingers stumbled uncertainly over the keys; and the baby and the father would chuckle together over the unrehearsed wails that they two coaxed out of the instrument.

And by degrees the little one came to associate cause and effect. He came to know that if his short, fat thumb fell over itself and sat down in the vicinity of a certain round white note, something inside made a noise like a remorseful gander, and that when he placed some more fingers among the black notes in the midrib section of the contraption it would shrilly squawk like an irascible cockatoo. Thus was his ear for music developed.

One day he came upon the instrument all alone and he picked out the first four bars of a local ditty; and his mother from the next room ecstatically murmured, "He will be a genius." But, alas! in the middle of the fifth bar the accordion gave a convulsive heave and sat on him, and the resultant racket scared his mother into hysterics and his father had the time of his life trying to sort things out. You see the kid was so very, very small and the racket was so very, very big that it was kind of confusing and not by any means easy to tell t'other from which, so to speak.

For the next two years they had to chain the accordion in one end of the living room and the baby in the other in order to prevent further mutual damage. But the baby grew fast and sturdily, and -- well, it was his destiny, anyway. He found a neighbor's accordion and stuck to it closer than a brother. And he and the accordion came to know each other and one day a stranger passed that way and was amazed. For a very small boy with a very big accordion were communing with each other and the result was music, real music.

Before long the kid had made quite a reputation in the little village, and as he grew up he developed an ambition and he wandered into one city after another, always with his accordion, and always welcomed. Then his wanderings sought a wider field and he came to America, and here he grew in musical stature until today he, Guido Deiro, whose first accordion sat on him, is an acknowledged star from coast to coast. Managers seek him and audiences acclaim him. Today he has reached the dignity of a vaudeville headliner, and he and his wonderful instrument are famous from coast to coast.

His playing is on Columbia Double-Disc Records, and the man's art has been reproduced with startling fidelity. Somehow or other the accordion is not generally reckoned as an aristocrat among instruments, but Guido Deiro's playing is marked by spirit and temperament. When he plays ragtime it has the kick and the punch; when he plays grand opera his playing is stamped by real musical expression and feeling. Further -- and this is a point by no means to be despised -- his records are good sellers, and Columbia dealers who are not making the most of them are not making quite as much profit as they otherwise would.

For the actual facts about Guido Deiro, see GuidoDeiro.Com

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