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


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