Accordions And Prison Music - a followup

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Let’s take a moment to follow up on two recent stories we brought you this week.  First, the rise and fall, and rise again, of the accordion.  We had no idea so many of you were fans of the instrument – or at least, had strong feelings about the instrument.  The responses we got ranged from across styles and generations.  Our guest, Marion Jacobson (author of Squeeze This), left a long reply to some of your comments, so make sure to check that out on our webpage.

John from Long Island, NY

My 15 year old son was never moved by the few instruments he tried. Suddenly in the last year, he's become fascinated with the accordion. He attends a public high school on North shore of Long Island. I immediately went to his public high school music department, hoping they'd take him into the fold. There was no place for him, only traditional orchestral instrumentation. What a shame.

Email from Charlotte

The accordion brought my mother and father together - they met when he was playing the accordion (by ear) at a party, earning 50 cents for the evening.  She always called it the "accordeen".   That was about 1905.   I never heard him play it because he'd given it up by the time I came along. 

Email from Janis

(The accordion) was also part of the Brooklyn Scandinavian community ...     as a child I took lessons from Walter Eriksson, popular in his time in the Scandinavian community, learned Scandinavian tunes and Lady of Spain too. I still pick it up once in awhile.

Now "Lady of Spain" doesn’t have explicit lyrics, which means that prison inmates may soon be able to download it onto their newly purchased mp3 players through a program we examined earlier this week.  The Bureau of Prisons is going to offer inmates access to digital music because, they say, mp3 players will make the whole environment safer, much safer than cassettes or CDs. 

Well, Scott from North Carolina, listening to us while driving a big truck through an even bigger thunderstorm in Louisiana, wrote in to claim that cassette players were banned from federal prisons over two decades ago.

Cassette players, he writes, have little motors. Wily inmates were making tattoo guns from those motors. Remove the motor from the deck, fashion a cam mechanism on it, make a needle from a guitar string and you are up and running.

Takes some doing but inmates have a lot of time on their hands.

Tattooing (another topic we covered recently on Soundcheck, by the way) is prohibited inside the prisons, yet it goes on frequently.

Scott doesn’t tell us how he knows all this, but he does sign his email "Scott, retired pot grower."  And I’m sure he meant to add a warning to all you kids out there to not do drugs and stay in school. Right, Scott?