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Playing the squeeze box

Twins keep musical tradition alive

August 10, 2012
By Beth Christian Broschart - Staff Writer , The Inter-Mountain

Around the state, traditional accordion music is being kept alive by twin brothers in their 70s who've been playing since age 11.

Music always has been a big part of the twins' lives. Joe and John DePollo were born in Thomas, in the upstairs of the present-day Purple Fiddle, a music venue and restaurant. When they started learning to play the accordion, the DePollo brothers took lessons from Paul Monda and practiced hard each day.

"We do this for our father," Joe DePollo said. "It was his dream that we learn to play the accordion like his father did."

Article Photos

The Inter-Mountain photo by Beth Christian Broschart
Joe and John DePollo keep their father’s dream alive as they continue to entertain music lovers with their polkas, waltzes and round dance music. The twins were born upstairs of the current Purple Fiddle in Thomas. It was their father’s wish that his twin boys learn to play the accordion like their grandfather did. The brothers host a concert each August at the Purple Fiddle in honor of their daddy’s birthday.

"Our dad bought us each our own accordions," John DePollo said. "We also learned by listening to records, tapes and CDs."

The DePollos said they enjoyed learning to play the accordion, and were happy to fulfill their dad's wish.

"When we were teenagers, we could not use the car to go on dates unless we practiced," the brothers said. "It was a great motivator."

Thomas was a thriving community when the brothers were growing up, before the mines began shutting down.

"Our dad owned and ran DePollo's store, which sold groceries, hardware and cold beer," Joe DePollo said. "We made our own activities and played in the neighborhood. When I used to get into trouble, I always blamed John."

Through the years, the DePollo brothers have entertained and played many venues, including weddings, anniversary parties, square dances, taverns and clubs.

"We do this for fun and as a tribute to daddy," Joe DePollo said. "If we had to do this for a living, we would be in the poor house. We do this as a hobby and just because we love to do it."

The name of their band has evolved over the years.

"We used to wear these shirts with polka dots, and our group was referred to as the Polka Dots," John DePollo said. "Later we were referred to as 'The Godfathers' when we wore red pants. Now we simply are called the DePollo Brothers Band."

The band plays polkas, waltzes and round dances, too, including songs like "Hokie Pokie," "Whose Spanish Eyes," "In the Mood" and "Beer Barrel Polka."

Playing the accordion is a feat onto itself.

"When playing the accordion, you have both a base clef and treble clef part," John DePollo said. "We also have to change chords and continue to pump the accordion as we play. The accordions also weigh 23 to 24 pounds, and they are strapped onto the body - so they get very heavy after a while."

The accordions the DePollo brothers play were custom made for them in Italy by Bulgaria.

"We are proud of our accordions," John DePollo said. "We enjoy playing them, especially for events like weddings, and whenever people are having a good time."

The brothers said they enjoy playing because it's fun - and it makes lots of the older folks happy.

Sometimes guitar player Alphonso Stalnaker and drummer Jeff Broschart come along with the DePollo brothers when they play.

"I have enjoyed playing with them," Stalnaker said. "I have played with them for the past three or four years."

Each year, the DePollo brothers return to the Purple Fiddle in August to perform a free concert. This year's event is set for 1 p.m. Aug. 25.

"Our father, John DePollo, was born in August," Joe DePollo said. "We always do a show close to his birth date as a tribute to him."

 
 

 

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