Dick Contino is remembered today for his performances in notoriously (and, one might add, enjoyably) bad movies such as Daddy-O (1959) and The Beat Generation (1960). But for about three years, from 1948 until 1951, Contino was a star attraction as a musician, earning 4,000 dollars a night. He had a recording contract with RCA Victor and an instrument named after him, could write his own ticket, and all of that as an accordionist. True, the accordion has been in eclipse for decades as a “serious” instrument, Robert Klein probably put it best on Child of the 50’s when he described the accordion as “groovy if you’re in a prisoner-of-war camp, someplace where you don’t have access to ‘real’ instruments” but at one time in the mid-20th century it was popular, and Contino was its most popular exponent in a period before electric guitars were played by anyone outside of the jazz field.
Born in Fresno, CA, in 1930, Contino took up the accordion as a boy and began entering talent competitions during the mid-’40s, ultimately winning first prize during 1947 in a contest run by bandleader Horace Heidt. He put Contino under contract and featured him on his weekly radio show, the Horace Heidt Original Youth Opportunity Program, where the teenager became a star. Contino’s two most popular numbers were “Lady of Spain” and “Bumble Boogie.”Â Notes by Bruce Eder
This CD, comprised of songs from the first album Contino recorded for Heidt and the first of only two albums that Contino recorded, features songs the charismatic accordion player performed on the Original Youth Opportunity Program which aired on national radio. Contino Boogie which is actually Contino’s version of Bumble Boogie shows the great musicianship of the young star. Lady of Spain is the song that Contino is most associated with. He appeared on the Tonight Show many times playing this song. “Ciribiribin” the famous Harry James song showcases Contino’s ability to dazzle an audience instrumentally.
This CD was original released as an album of 78s on Magnolia Records in 1947. We thank Horace Heidt, Jr. for preserving the album for future generations.