Ralph E. Szubski

 

Ralph E. Szubski, born and raised in Cleveland, Ohio, USA, is of Polish ancestry on both his mother’s and father’s sides of the family. Second generation Americans to be exact. Born in 1942 just before the heyday of the accordion and the coming of America’s Polka King, Frankie Yankovic, Ralph was destined, by his father’s demand, to be an accordion player.

His dad played violin with some Polish wedding bands in the area and this added to the fire! A violinist playing polkas? Give us all a break! But then again, all early Polish bands had violin players, and they usually sat next to the “cordeen” or “hadmonia” player. And many times that’s where his dad sat during the long, arduous practices which cut dramatically into Ralph’s baseball time at the local playground. Drats! Maybe that’s why the Cleveland Indian’s scouts never called; they didn’t have any opening for accordion players! Even in the squeeze plays!

Ralph hated playing that squeeze box which often times ate his belly with the backs of the bellows. Practice, practice, practice makes Ralph a dull boy. And to add turpentine to the fire, oil was too expensive, Ralph’s teacher was Polish and used Polish polka sheet music as the lesson guide. For three years. Ralph was not allowed to play anything except polkas, both Polish and Slovenian, waltzes, and obereks, a fast hop-like dance in 3/8.   Cas Senowicz, Ralph’s teacher, had the patience of an angel but never shared his dinner with anyone. His wife always seemed to bring his dinner into the practice studio whenever it was Ralph’s turn at “lessons.”

Lessons lasted maybe 4 years or 5 at the most. Besides the mainstay of ethnic music, Ralph also learned the “standards” of the times:

Lady of Pain
Espania Cani
Under the Double Eagle March
El Cumbachero
Cruising Down the River.

Times changed and in 1958 Ralph joined his first combo in high school. Wow! Playing accordion and getting paid! A new concept that Ralph embraced. The only kid in high school paying off a new Ford! Cool! The first “stable” band, The Suns, spelled S-N-U-S backwards, lasted until 1978. Polish weddings were getting to be far and few between.   There was this thang called a “geetar” and this noise called Rock ‘n Roll. Times were changing and fast too! The band broke up, and the Accordion Man went into a sabbatical for only a year.

Look out! His fingers were itching to get back into it; he joined a six piece wedding/party group with “geetars” and horns. Something new, something good! From here on it was learning new styles: jazz, swing, rock, country, 20 ethnic styles, Latin American.  Engagements included everything from weddings, house parties, fraternity (Belushi-style) parties, dances, picnics, anniversaries to dance studios.  For three years he played exclusively for bar and bat mitzvahs, weddings and Klezmer events!

Accordion Man was in the very, very early stages of development. Styles that were being tested and honed are still evident in Accordion Man’s music today which is a combination of keyboards, acoustic accordions, and midi-accordions. The scope of Accordion Man has been changing and evolving into much more than an accordion-playing, energy-filled musician.  He now gives accordion lessons, buys and sells accordions and accordion sheet music and has moved to the next step in the evolution of the accordion.

He purchased one of the first Roland FR-7X Virtual Accordions in Ohio.  The Roland has unbelievable capabilities and surpasses midi-styled accordions.  It sounds like a full orchestra even when he is strolling.  He has a red Roland 7X and a white Roland 7X which surprises a lot of people who thought that accordions come in only one color: black Oh, yes, he also has a new BLACK Roland 4X.

A day without music is a day without sunshine!