Wednesday, September 16, 2015

"Martin" by Clarence Martin Jr.

Accordion: "Martin"
Builder: Clarence "Junior" Martin
Years: 1982 - Present

He got started making accordions after his wife bought him one, which he promptly dismantled in search of the sound. He had been playing music since he was 13. He is now 50.

After he realized he needed to build accordions, he went to the master, Marc Savoy of Eunice.

"I asked him what it took to make an accordion," he relates, letting the accordion rest on his lap like a loving child. "He told me you got to make a lot of them.

"And he told me one thing else. He said if anybody ever asked me how I got started, I should say that Marc Savoy told me how to begin."

This was an important thing to Martin. Many musicians and makers of musical instruments are secretive, jealous, downright hostile at times. Martin is proud of his mentor.

Now hear what Savoy had to say:

"I told him more than that," Savoy said in a telephone interview. "I said anytime anybody wants to know something about making accordions, you help him all you can.

"That’s the only way to keep this thing (culture) going. What would have happened if everybody kept their secrets? There’d be no libraries, no books, no songs. We’d be lost in the dark ages. Sharing is the only way.

"Teach the other person. Don’t guard the secret."

One secret that Savoy did not hold was how he managed the brilliant colors on the panels of his accordions.

"I asked him, ‘How’d you do that?,’ He winked at me and said ‘food coloring.’"

The brilliant greens, blues, even purples are simply lacquered food coloring. This is a family operation. His daughter, Penny Huval, 26, does the food-color dying. Wife Patsy claims her function is to complain, like a good Cajun wife.

The wood that Martin uses for the panels comes from all over the world. Some of it is so exotic a Cajun palate can’t pronounce it.

But he uses it and the sound from that diatonic (called here the French accordion as opposed to the piano accordion in less learned circles) is beautiful.

Often, the Martins will get telephone calls from such places as Haiti, Jamaica and Europe.

It takes 10 months to make an accordion, but he works on literally hundreds at a time.

"When I start cutting wood, I cut. I don’t fool around."

One of the popular items on his instruments is a crawfish in the bellows, growing and shrinking as the music blares.

Basically, Martin is a technician. But he is not unmindful of the magic of music. When asked if he believed music was magic he replied:

"You saw that smile on my face when I was playing? Man, when I cranked up that first one I made, you should have seen my smile then!"

Junior and his family custom craft fine Diatonic Accordions used by Professional and Amateur Musicians around the World.

2143 W. Willow St. Extension,
Scott, LA 70583.
 (337) 232-4001


Tuesday, September 15, 2015

"L'anse Grise" by Bryan Lafleur

Accordion: "L'anse Grise"
Builder: Bryan Lafleur
Years: 2007-present

According to Bryan:

I was born and raised in the little community of L'anse Grise, just north of Mamou, La, in the northwestern edge of the French part of Louisiana called Acadiana.  It was an area that, not too long ago, was totally French in language and custom. I am now living and raising a family about 75 miles east of Dallas.

At 18, I left home for the Marine Corps, then moved to the Dallas, TX. area after my discharge.  Though I was always intensely interested in Cajun music and culture, after I left home, I put it in the back of my mind while I experienced all that the "outside world" had to offer.  Somewhere around 2000, my dad sent me 2 cassettes for my birthday, one of Iry Lejeune, and one of the Balfa Brothers. Those cassettes woke up what had been a sleeping interest in the Cajun culture and music with a vengeance.

My first goal was to learn the language well enough to understand the lyrics to the music, then I thought it would be cool if I learned the language well enough to have a conversation with my parents in Cajun French, their first language.  With their help I accomplished those goals to a decent degree.

My next thought was to learn to play the accordion I loved so much.  I had never played any instrument and had no music knowledge whatsoever.  While debating whether it was worth the expense of buying an accordion in the off chance I could learn it well enough to play with my dad, a family friend, out of the blue, asked if I was interested in an old Hohner 114 accordion that had been sitting in her closet for many years.

That poor little accordion not only saw me through my clumsy early months, but also became the subject of many experimental modifications.  As I do with all things, I looked at it wondering if I could build one.  After talking to Larry Miller, an accomplished accordion builder and cultural ambassador from Iota, La.,  who first tried to talk me into giving up the idea and going fishing, I became more determined to give it a shot.  I bought enough parts for my first box from Larry, who was also very generous in offering pointers once he saw I was too hard headed to give up the idea.  I then visited with a friend in Orange, Tx, Jude Moreau, who very generously showed me many things I would have taken many years to figure out.

Then, being as sentimental as hard headed, I scoured my grandfather's old barn in L'anse Grise for an old piece of wood suitable for a first accordion.  I found one piece of very old red cypress, exactly big enough for one accordion with none to spare.  Then began a journey in challenge and frustration, but about 4 months later I had a playable accordion.

My goal isn't just to make accordions, it is to make good accordions.  I'm enjoying experimenting with custom touches and with what affects the sound coming out of these contraptions.  I enjoy working with a customer in coming up with custom touches that would make the accordion more dear to that person.

In building my accordions, I wanted to remain traditional in form, but incorporate my own touches.  I turn my own stops, and use custom made corner hardware.  I enjoy making accordions to a customer's special wishes.  I feel it makes it more special to a person if the accordion they had built has unique touches.

881 VZ CR 4210
Athens, Tx 75752

Monday, September 14, 2015

"Mouton" by Greg Mouton

Accordion: "Mouton"
Builder: Greg Mouton
Years: 1990-present

Mouton's hand crafted Cajun accordions offer quality and craftsmanship that extends more than 40 years through our Louisiana Acadian traditions. In the years leading up to 1960 "Shine Mouton" repaired and serviced accordions and late that year produced the first of the Mouton Series Accordions. Honed by time and technology, nephew Greg Mouton still builds timeless (and priceless) renditions of Cajun accordions. 

We handle factory instruments from Hohner and Goodlin for the beginner or special instruments for traditional Cajun and zydeco bands.

Mr. Greg Mouton was born in Crowley, in 1966. His main occupation is building accordions. He learned to build accordions from his uncle, Lawrence "Shine" Mouton, one of Louisiana's best known accordion makers.

Greg began building accordions in late 1990. At that time, his uncle's health was failing and Lawrence Mouton could not stand at the saw very long to work. Greg started building the accordions and his uncle would help. Greg says, "He helps me in some areas and I help him with some things."

Mr. Mouton has a shop, Mouton Accordions, where each individual accordion is hand crafted very little work is done with the saw. Greg and Mr. Mouton use hand tools, various hardwoods, metal, leather, skins, and waxes to construct the accordions.

Greg also repairs fiddles and guitars, and says, "It is mostly cosmetic, using the techniques I use in making accordions."

Mr. Mouton has presented his crafts at the Louisiana Folklife Festival in Monroe, Louisiana, the New Orleans Jazz Festival, and various schools and festivals across the southern part of the state of Louisiana.

According to Mouton:

Mouton's is one of the oldest running Cajun accordion shops offering Cajun, Zydeco and Tex- Mex accordions.We also offer accessories such as leather straps, cases ,and microphones. In addition we offer lessons and instrument repair. Today we're proud to provide quality products direct to your doorstep through an experience you'll enjoy. And most of all, we hope you'll enjoy the products as much as we do.

23466 Crowley Eunice Hwy, 
Crowley, LA 70526
Toll Free 1-877-715-2768



Saturday, September 12, 2015

"Bon Tee Cajun" by Larry Miller

Accordion: "Bon Tee Cajun"
Builder: Larry Miller
Years: 1980-present

Larry was born of predominately Acadian ancestry (Leger, LeJeune, Cormier and etc.) and reared in Acadia Parish near Iota in the heart of the Prairie Cajun region. He grew up speaking only Cajun French, like most of his age group in the late 30's and 40's, and had to learn English upon entering school. His father Abraham played accordion well while his older brother James Calvin played guitar and later accordion with Larry on the triangle and spoons. Later, after spending 22 years in the Acadia Parish School system as a science & math teacher and eventually principal, retired to enter business, then retired from business to devote full time to preservation of Cajun Culture. Among his endeavors in this area as a charter member of the Cajun French Music Association he worked for 10 years as various officers to become the National Gov. Body President for 1989-91.

In addition he plays in a Cajun Band and has helped to organize several ongoing jam sessions where new comers are helped along.

Before Larry retired from the school system he began to build accordions as a hobby just because the thought of his people producing these machines by hand was intriguing. Later he learned to build triangles because his father built them, then added the Cajun style spoons in a handle and the vest type scrubboard (frattoir) to his line of instruments. With some part-time help he also has a complete line of accordion parts to service other builders.

Bon Tee Cajun Accordions are custom made with the best handmade reeds that Italian factories can offer (nobody manufactures reeds and bellows in USA to speak of) as well as premium Italian bellows. For 18 years Larry has worked on his building skills and the design of the fingerboard and bass boxes to develop optimum comfort and response.

All accordions are sanded very smoothly, two coats of vinyl sealer, resanded very fine and then four coats of catalyzed semi-satin lacquer. All screws are stainless steel and all other materials are of the best quality. Leather straps are made of top grain cowhide in the Bon Tee Cajun shop. These instruments are keyed like harmonicas and can come in any key desired. The most popular keys in order of preference to date are, Keys of C, D, Bb, A, F, & G. 

For a new Bon Tee Cajun Accordion, Larry offers a free tuning after about 100 hours of playing when the breaking-in period of the new reeds has occurred. Like most accordion builders he also repairs and tunes other accordions.

886 McMillian
Iota, Louisiana, 70543
Phone: +1 (337) 779-2456
Fax: +1 (337) 779-3080


"Bon Temps" by Jude Moreau

Accordion: "Bon Temps"
Builder: Jude Moreau
Years: 1984-present

Jude Moreau, bandleader of the Bon Temps Playboys and an inductee in the Cajun Music Hall of Fame, started playing accordions back when they were all handmade. Every time something had to be repaired on his instrument, he had to travel to Lake Charles to have it fixed. So Moreau decided to start fixing — and building — accordions himself.

“It’s a Cajun thing,” Moreau said. “My daddy was like that too. If I can do something myself, I’m gonna learn to do it.”

It started with a lesson in tuning from John Lloyd Broussard. Soon after, with a little encouragement from another Broussard, Moreau did what any Cajun would do — he opened up his accordion to see how it was made.

Since then, he has passed along his knowledge to anyone willing to put in the time and effort.

“The first was Ed Poullard, a very dear friend of mine,” Moreau said. “He wanted me to build an accordion for his daughter. I told him, ‘You know what? You’re going to build it for your daughter. I’ll help you do it.’”

“A lot of youngsters — Wayne Toups kind of revived it for them — they want to play a progressive style of French music,” he said. “I just want them to remember where it came from. I can do it the new way, but I want to bring it back to the roots.”

4800 Grant
Groves, Texas 77619
(409) 963-0135


Friday, September 11, 2015

"Poullard" by Edward Poullard

Accordion: "Poullard"
Builder: Edward Poullard
Years: 2003-present

Beaumont's Ed Poullard makes accordions so that his family's heritage could be handed down.

Poullard was born in Eunice, La., in 1952. Nine months later he moved with his family to Beaumont, where the oil industry was growing and jobs were to be had. John Poullard Sr. worked for the county as an equipment operator and truck driver.
His father was one of the best accordion players around, Ed Poullard said. Three uncles and his late brother, Danny Poullard, also played.
Ed Poullard learned to play the music by watching his father. No private lessons or music camps like there are now.

"Before I ever tried to play a song, I knew every note in my head, how it was supposed to sound," Poullard said.
His first instrument was the drums and then the guitar, and then he picked up the accordion and fiddle.
"I've been following in musical footsteps ever since I was a little kid," Poullard said.

For years, Poullard earned a reputation, playing the fiddle and accordion in competitions and bands. He also has worked for 27 years in a plant now owned by Lucite International.

In addition to music, Poullard was a dedicated woodworker who had worked as a cabinet maker. Danny Poullard was the first person to suggest he combine the two interests by making accordions.

It was a music called "traditional French music," or Creole music, that predated zydeco. As his father performed it, the songs were in the French spoken by Creole and Cajun Louisianans, and the instruments usually included an accordion.

"It was whatever they could get," Poullard remembered. "A lot of times it was an accordion or fiddle or maybe a washboard or someone beating on a book or something."

But about four years ago, Poullard decided to start crafting not just the music of his family history but also the wood, bellows and reeds of an actual accordion.

"There were no Creoles building these instruments," Poullard said.

The detailed work required was frustrating, he said.
"This is a pretty complicated little box," Poullard said. "If this is not functional or operational to do what it is designed to do, all you have is a box."
As a musician and woodworker, Poullard was also concerned that making intricate wood cuts would be dangerous.

"I was afraid to lose my fingers," he said.

951 Hillebrandt Road, 
Beaumont Texas, 77705. 
409-656-3591 (cell), 
409-835-7114 (home), 


Tuesday, September 8, 2015

"Acadian" by Marc Savoy

Photo by Tadd Myers
Accordion: "Acadian"
Builder: Marc Savoy
Years: 1960-present

Marc Savoy is an American musician, and builder and player of the Cajun accordion.  He has performed with Robert Bertrand, Dennis McGee, Rodney Balfa, Sady Courville, Dewey Balfa, D. L. Menard, and Michael Doucet, the latter of whom he plays with in the Savoy-Doucet Band. He also plays in the Savoy Family Band with his wife Ann and their sons Joel and Wilson.  He hosts regular jam sessions and mini-festivals at the Savoy Music Center.

According to Marc:

At age twelve I got my first accordion, a Hohner from Sears for $27.50.  By age fifteen I began thinking about how my little Hohner might be improved to sound more like the famed pre-war Monarch and Sterling accordions, which had such a gutsy, rich tone compared to my little Hohner. 

In 1960 I built my first accordion using the pre-war accordion as a guide. I built something that looked like an accordion and first I was so proud of my job. But the more I looked at it, the more I realized how bad it was. So one day not too long after I completed it I lit a fire in the barbecue pit and burned it. I knew I could do a better job on the next one. So with a hand drill, an electric circular saw, and a lot of elbow grease and patience I built #2, which actually I was pretty satisfied with.

I was playing house dances around the area using my #2 accordion, and the word began to get around that I was playing an accordion that I had built myself. It was at one of these house dances that a man came up to see my accordion, and after looking it over for some time, asked me how much I would charge to build one for him. My first customer! Number three led to number four and......

By the fall of 1965 I had pretty much taken up my father's outdoor kitchen with my accordion building hobby. Accordion parts were scattered all over the place. Sawdust from the woodworking covered all the surfaces, so my father, who realized that I had developed a pretty good little business with accordions, told me one day, "Well, it looks like you want to be a musician and instrument maker, and since I would like to have my outdoor kitchen back, would you please re-establish yourself somewhere else?"

On November 19, 1966 I opened the doors to Savoy Music Center. Since that time nearly 1000 Acadian accordions have gone out to accordion players all over the world. Today, myself along with luthier Tina Pilione, continue to build Acadian accordions. Even after those many years of discovering "what makes it tick", we continue to make improvements as better materials are found and techniques refined. 

P. O. Box 941, 
Eunice, LA 70535. 
(337) 457-9563.