The Accordion Babes Pin-Up Calendar began as a photo shoot, and then a joke… photographer Keith Brown had seen me rocking out my low-slung button box with my Irish band Culann’s Hounds in 2007. He offered to shoot photos of me in San Francisco’s Mission District. The result was a bunch of colorful, sexy, punky accordion street photos and I found myself wishing that there was some way to share this kind of art. If only someone would make a calendar of sexy accordion babes…
I shared this idea with Kimric and Vinny at the repair bench at Smythe’s Accordion Center and they loved it. “You should call it Accordion Hotties” Kimric joked. But that didn’t sound right. I wanted us to be glamorous, but also a bit silly, too. Pin-up. Amazing lighting. Legs for miles. Big bellows. An album with bad-ass independent music so that we could REALLY wow people. I wanted them to say, “Women musicians are so hot. How come I haven’t tried playing the accordion?”
I began talking up the calendar idea whenever I met women accordionists at festivals or in the accordion shop. “Hey, I want to put together a calendar with sexy musician ladies and their accordions, you would be perfect for this project! Do you want my card?” I got a lot of positive responses. The San Francisco Bay area is practically accordion ground-zero. There used to be 13 accordion factories on Columbus Avenue in North Beach. It’s the city’s official instrument. The city is flooded with accordion players. One day, my hero Big Lou the Accordion Princess walked into the shop and said, “What a great idea, I would absolutely do that!” And I knew that it had to exist.
How does a street-performer with no savings publish a calendar independently? Pre-sales. Sponsorships. Networking networking networking. Spreadsheets. Persistence. Hundreds of hours emailing people and using social media. Lots of help from smart friends and warm-hearted fans who order in advance of printing. The idea paid off… 13 editions later, the project is still going strong and is attracting talented, lovely musicians from a dozen different countries… it’s still a boutique production, still a small-run calendar. But since it started, we’ve experienced a change in how the accordion is perceived. It’s not just your dorky Uncle Walt’s fun box anymore. Actually Uncle Walt is really cool for being able to make us all smile with his accordion! Suddenly it’s popping up in all sorts of bands and Weird Al has even reached cult status. Heck, the accordion is probably going to be played on the front lines of the next revolution… you know, that one where we insist that culture and human dignity are more important than greed.
Anyway, if you’re wondering, who organizes this thing… I do. Musician, music teacher, fun instigator, theater lover, historical reenactor, closet guitarist and computer-nerd… street performer by day, guerilla art-marketer by night. And I’d be honored if you’ll support the project by ordering a copy and listening to what we women can do.
-Renée de la Prade
Editor / Accordion Babes Pin-up Calendar