Reviews of Vaudeville Accordion Classics



    Excellent Album

    This two CD set is certainly worth the money. Henry Doktorski’s performance is indeed breathtaking. It is as if someone were transported back to the days when Guido Deiro himself was performing these songs. Guido Deiro was a recording pioneer who became the first star piano-accordionist, the first piano-accordionist to perform on the vaudeville stage, and to make sound recordings (I’ve got at least two of Mr. Deiro’s old Columbia 78 RPM records at home). In fact, Guido became the first person to coin the phrase “piano-accordion.” You’ll find plenty of good stuff about Guido in Mr. Doktorski’s liner notes on the two-CD set as well as on the GuidoDeiro.Com website. Mr. Doktorski’s sparkling performance certainly does Mr. Deiro’s songs justice.

Princeton, New Jersey

    guido deiro was the first real accordion virtuoso of the 20th century. he was a huge vaudeville star and composed a whole bunch of pieces when he wasn’t secretly marrying mae west. while not original recordings (the songs are played on this cd by henry doktorski), the songs are all fairly awesome, though I imagine listening to the full 2 disk set of this will melt your brain.



    Squeeze this!—Anyone who collects cylinders or 78s has found at least one recording by accordionist Guido Deiro (he made over 100 for Columbia). He was the first to play the accordion on the vaudeville stage and the first to record. He was also married to the famous stage and film sex symbol Mae West. A new 2-CD album, Vaudeville Accordion Classics (Bridge) documents his career and the complete 47-song output of compositions in newly recorded performances by Henry Doktorski. A lengthy essay and rare photos from Deiro’s family collection fill the 24-page booklet. Waltzes, marches, and polkas abound. An excellent document on an often-overlooked composer and performer.

Steve Ramm

Classics for Christmas

    From opera to vaudeville, Beethoven to Broadway, there’s something to please every music lover. ACCORDION: Something about accordion music says “stocking stuffer.” Two of the more purely entertaining CDs of the year feature the venerable squeezebox. Accordionist and composer Guido Deiro was a vaudeville star (and husband of Mae West for a while) whose repertoire ranged from Kismet Fox Trot to Neapolitan Polka to the Minneapolis March. These works and more are given an exuberant performance by Henry Doktorski in the two-CD Vaudeville Accordion Classics: The Complete Music of Guido Deiro (Bridge).

John Fleming

American Music Center

    Few recordings are made with as much tender loving care as Henry Doktorski’s CD of the complete solo accordion music of Guido Deiro. Prior to hearing this illuminating and extremely entertaining recording, the name Deiro was just a name I had heard and read about. I knew that he had something to do with the accordion—I believe there was even a music shop in Greenwich Village when I was just beginning my musical studies named for him (or his brother) which sold accordion arrangements—but I never had heard his music. To discover his music in a package that affords his work the same respect as the repertoire of the classical canon is truly a blessing; not only are these recordings respectful and definitive, the annotation couldn’t be better. (It actually makes you want to listen again and again.) The fact that the annotator and the performer are the same person is remarkable, but it makes sense that Doktorski’s passion for this music as a scholar would translate into vibrant performances and that his clarity in performance would be the result of his scholarship. I’m eager to hear more.

Frank J. Oteri

The Classical Music Magazine
Volume 81, Number 978

    The excitement that this recording is certain to generate among the accordion community is probably akin to what the Complete Scott Joplin might have been a few decades ago to ragtime enthusiasts. There are, in fact, more than a few parallels. Both feature music that harnessed rigorous technique to rigid structure, as well as musicians from American sub-communities who appealed to broad popular audiences. Like the ragtime revival of the 1970s, this recording opens the door to an American past that as been long forgotten.

    Although the piano has a broad enough legacy to withstand the decline of any one genre, the more populist accordion never really got over the loss of vaudeville. This recording, sadly, gives us a good explanation why. It takes only a few tracks—impeccably performed by Henry Doktorski and, just as importantly, superbly engineered to Bridge’s standards—to show the visceral appeal to audiences of its day, as well as the overall sameness of the instrumental timbre and the repertory itself that has caused it to fall so far in the public ear.

    Fortunately, anyone looking for additional cerebral stimulation after about fifteen minutes can turn to Doktorski’s superb liner notes, which shine a light on Deiro’s accomplishments. Not only was he the first accordionist to perform on the vaudeville stage, Doktorski tells us, he was the highest paid musician on the circuit, as well as a popular song writer and the first piano accordionist to make sound recordings. He was also featured in two Hollywood movies and married the future starlette Mae West, which hints that the accordion was rather more glamorous than it is today.

    Whether nostalgia alone can justify two and a half hours of listening is up to the individual listener. More likely, this is a recording for the files to return to sparingly. But then again, who would have predicted the flood of ragtime recordings that filled the bins thirty years ago?

Ken Smith

Artistic Quality: 10, Sound Quality: 10

    Count Guido Deiro (1886-1950) was to the piano accordion as Barrios was to the guitar, Sousa to the marching band, Joplin to ragtime, and Zez Confrey to novelty piano. All but forgotten today (outside of accordion circles), Deiro gained renown in the early 20th century for his virtuoso live performances on the vaudeville circuit. He was a recording industry pioneer and something of a sex symbol (his romance and subsequent marriage to Mae West deserves a book in itself!). Deiro’s creative output largely consists of light, supremely crafted, and thoroughly entertaining fare. Who can resist the effortless melodic invention and rhythmic verve of his waltzes, tarantellas, polkas, marches, rags, and semi-classical period pieces?

    But perhaps only an accordionist can appreciate Henry Doktorski’s masterful left-hand-button/right-hand keyboard coordination and effortless control of the instrument’s bellows. For example, he knows exactly how much “air” he needs to sustain the soft, cascading runs at the outset of Moonlight Waltz without running out of breath, so to speak. The performances totally respect Deiro’s original intentions, yet Doktorski’s infectious sense of rhythm (those deliciously-timed solo chromatic runs leading into new sections!) and instinct for landing upon the perfect tempo enlivens the music miles beyond the faded printed pages. Doktorski’s marvelous annotations unravel Deiro’s colorful life story, with its ups and downs equally accounted for. There’s no question that this release lovingly revives a key figure (all puns intended) in popular American music, and I look forward to Bridge’s reissue of Deiro’s original 78 rpm recordings. Bravo to all concerned!

Jed Distler

Excellent Album

    This two CD set is certainly worth the money. Henry Doktorski’s performance is indeed breathtaking. It is as if someone were transported back to the days when Guido Deiro himself was performing these songs. Guido Deiro was a recording pioneer who became the first star piano-accordion, the first piano-accordionist to perform on the vaudeville stage, and to make sound recordings (I’ve got at least two of Mr. Deiro’s old Columbia 78 RPM records at home). In fact, Guido became the first person to coin the phrase “piano-accordion.” You'll find plenty of good stuff about Guido in Mr. Doktorski’s liner notes on the two-CD set as well as on the website. Mr. Doktorski’s sparkling performance certainly does Mr. Deiro’s songs justice.

Bob Nunes


    We all have our own musical predilections. I used to joke that the Fourth Circle of my own personal Hell was populated by accordion ensembles (the Fifth Circle had bagpipers, but that’s another story...). In my own defense, growing up on Long Island, I heard a lot of sub-par accordionists—a last resort for those whose wedding bands had canceled at the last minute. This recording forces me to eat my words, with a healthy side dish of guilt at casting aspersions on the fair accordion.

    Guido Deiro (1886-1950) was a colorful figure. In addition to being a prominent composer and virtuoso accordionist, he was also married to famous vaudevillian Mae West. He authored a book on accordion technique, The Royal Method for Piano Accordion (a piano accordion has piano keys in addition to buttons), was the first accordionist to play on the radio, and recorded 112 sides for Columbia, becoming their most prominent Italian-American accordionist.

    All of his compositions are available on this substantial two-disc collection, superlatively performed by Henry Doktorski. Sentimental tunes like Il Pentimento Waltz and Lido Tango recall a bygone era in which unabashed lyricism needed no ironic temperament. Others, like Deiro's Rag, Royal Flying Corps March, and his biggest hit, Kismet Fox Trot, remain stirring dance music, even for those of us uncertain of the steps.

    Deiro’s music is replete with imagery that recalls the turn-of-the-century immigrant experience in a rapidly modernizing America, personified in vaudeville shows, silent films, European dances, and incipient jazz and ragtime. It is music that looked both forward and backward from its own time. For us, however, it can remain not only a valuable time capsule, but also a musical document filled with timeless expression. What’s more, the liner notes, compiled by Doktorski, are filled with period photos and documents that serve as a wonderful visual accompaniment. A real treat.

Christian Carey


    Long ago, before the singers were stars, and before there were movies with sound, people went to see live entertainment. One such was Guido Deiro (1886-1950), an accordionist who was something of a cross between Warren Beatty (babe magnet—in fact, he was married to Mae West, the Madonna of her day, albeit with lots more talent) and B. B. King (popular virtuoso) in his day. Virtually forgotten today, Deiro was a bona fide star—he played and composed rags, polkas, marches and waltzes specifically for the accordion, which at one time was as popular as the guitar (and the turntable) is today.

    Unaccompanied, Henry Doktorski has filled two CDs full of Deiro’s compositions, and his mastery of the instrument is flawless, full of vitality and genial humor, and he retains the curious innocence and bouncy, Old-World-Meets-New-World wit in Deiro’s tunes. While not “exactly” jazz, this music is part of the American crazy-quilt that bred and influenced it.

Mark Keresman


    Henry Doktorski is one of our country’s most versatile and accomplished soloists and captures the scope and fire of Deiro’s music. He successfully embraces the spirit of vaudeville’s Golden Age with authority and danger. His playing, in fact, takes a quantum leap with this recording; he has never worked harder, risked more or achieved greater results than he has here.

    His command of both hands is impressive, and his Stradella playing was especially good, capturing the sense of when the bass system was a fresh, important artistic element. He blends, accompanies and solos without ever lapsing into what is often heard today (even from accomplished players); that cursive oom-pah-pahing and a sense that we’re hearing a bass machine that threatens at any moment to overrun, fall behind or drive the other voices into mindless acceleration.

    Mr. Doktorski plays the marches with enviable fire and precision. In fact, Henry displays some of his best playing on these pieces, embracing the fast tempi and intricate cadenzas with clean phrasing, spacious dynamics and lots of spirit.

    It’s a tribute to Deiro’s talent that the music is still enjoyable and tells us so much about the man and the times. Guido Deiro, Jr., and Mr. Doktorski are to be congratulated for beautifully and affectionately producing this album.

Dr. Paul Allan Magistretti

Classical CD Reviews

    Speaking of accordion, here’s another disc which doesn’t fit either our classical or jazz sections. It’s from a classical label so lets deal with it here.

    This is an absolutely fascinating musical and literary document, and let me point out right away that the recordings are newly-made—not of a historical nature. Count Guido Deiro lived from l886 to 1950 and was a main figure in popularizing the accordion in the early 20th century. He was performing in vaudeville by 1910 (I’ll bet my father, who was a touring autoharp virtuoso at about this same time, must have run into Deiro.)

    He was the first piano accordionist to make recordings and to do solo radio broadcasts. In 1913 Deiro met the young vaudeville performer Mae West; they had a passionate romance and married secretly. Doktorski details their torrid relationship in his liner notes and there are items from Deiro’s own scrapbooks. The Italian count evidently kept careful track of his compositions, and Doktorski has been able to record all 47 of his rags, marches, polkas, waltzes, novelty tunes and other music which he wrote. They are fairly simple light music of the period and of course sound quite dated now, but the virtuosity of some of them is quite unexpected.

    For nearly two decades Deiro was one of the most popular musicians of the vaudeville stage. He had an opulent lifestyle with women who attended his concerts attracted to him; his life was not unlike that of a modern rock star. Deiro had a studio in the heart of San Francisco’s North Beach and inside the back of the jewelbox is a photo of it, though uncredited.

John Sunier

Strictly Classical

    Doktorski Squeezes Out Unique Album

    Sometimes it’s fun to listen to the “unusual.” I thought that this, my first column of the new year, might be one of those times. So put on your “unusual” ears, and let’s give a listen.

    VAUDEVILLE ACCORDION CLASSICS. The performer on these CDs, Henry Doktorski, is one of this country’s leading concert accordionists, so what you are hearing is this music by Deiro just about as well as it can be played.

    This is a lot of accordion music. And, yes, it does tend to become repetitious. Might be better not to try to swallow all of it at one listening. But if you stick with it, you’ll discover just what a wide variety of music can be written for the accordion. And this music was written “for” the accordion. There are no transcriptions here.

King Durkee

New Classics—Instrumental Music

    On this unique 2-CD set, Henry Doktorski gives dashing and dexterous performances of Deiro’s music, with 47 delightful compositions that include Pink Slippers Valse, Hand Grenade Throwers March, Deiro Rag, Lola Fox Trot, Valse Pirouette and The Accordion Girl Waltz. This welcome release is a deliciously diverting glimpse into a world that has long disappeared.


    A monumental recording of great historical perspective. FIRST RATE playing and recorded sound! I am repeatedly impressed by Doktorski’s impeccable playing. He has outstanding technique backed with a fine ability to render any musical selection with the “soul” that raises music to an art form. A special treat was hearing The Sharpshooters March played twice: once on Henry’s fine Victoria concert accordion, and again on Guido’s very own 1924 Guerrini. The other selections on this recording are not only a snapshot of the music of the “Golden Age of the Accordion,“ but also the types of music our country was listening to early in the century.

    I can't imagine ANY accordion aficionado NOT owning this CD; a real winner.

Robert Karl Berta

Springfield, Illinois

    Henry Doktorski has created a legacy of recordings that should find their way into the collections of all accordionists and enthusiasts. Doktorski’s virtuosity matches Deiro’s in every respect. He has captured the spirit and essence of accordion playing that enthralled vaudeville audiences from 1910 to 1930.

Jay Landers, president

Te Awamutu, New Zealand

    I was amazed at the quality and sheer brilliance of the music, and your very fine, clear and spirited playing, including the shadings between “pp” and “ff.” I believe that if more people had the opportunity of hearing music like this, and playing like this, the accordion could become very popular again. Especially for music for which it is best suited.

Roger Nightingale, Secretary

Watford, Herts, England

    This 47-track CD is an important record of the pioneer accordionist Guido Deiro. Henry Doktorski has great control of his instrument and plays with sensitivity and genuine feeling. He chooses an order of tracks that varies the style of each piece and also makes good use of changes of registration. They are mainly short pieces suited for an act in a variety show, as was American vaudeville. There is only one extended piece, such as his brother Pietro wrote (i.e. Tranquillo, Trieste, Imperia, or the concertos). This is Egypto Fantasia and is in descriptive oriental style, sensitively played with good use of tone colour.

    Henry Doktorski is to be congratulated on this project and also for taking on the editing of the sheet music edition of Guido Deiro’s complete works, which will be available perhaps later this year. I am looking forward very much to obtaining my copy and playing these pieces myself. This will be a valuable addition to the accordion repertoire, absent for players in this country for too long a time.

    Peter Ayres

Lenoir, North Carolina

    I just finished listening to the CD Vaudeville Accordion Classics. What a WONDERFUL experience it was! Although all wonderful I think my favorite selection is the Deirina Mazurka.

    Henry captures the emotion of this period very well. It is all acoustic accordion with no other instrumentation. The songs are very well played. It is clear that Henry is very accomplished. The phrasing is never interrupted by a change in bellow direction. His choice of reed combinations is interesting at times but always appropriate. I think this CD is a MUST PURCHASE for accordion players and lovers.

    Seth Hickel, president


    As I listened [to Vaudeville Accordion Classics] I had to jump from track to track thinking I can’t wait to hear Kismet Fox Trot (and thinking “Gosh! this is my favorite”) then jumping to Royal Flying Corps March (and again thinking “Wow! this is my favorite!”) and then to Egypto Fantasia (and again thinking the same thing). Soon to realize the entire CD is a real treasure!

    Paul Pasquali, Executive Director


    It’s AWESOME!

    Karen Adam, President

Monmouthshire, England

    Just a quick mail to let you know that the CD arrived this morning. WOW!!! I am afraid I have only heard the Sharpshooter’s March. . . . I have had it on repeat for nearly 2 hours!!! I had been looking for a recording of the Sharpshooter’s March for about 3 years, as my late Grandfather used to play it with an accordion band in the 1940s and I wanted to be able to hear it at last. My father came over to hear the Sharpshooter’s, and he just broke down during the first few bars!!.... It has made his day.... AND MINE!!!.... He told me about my grandfather and when he used to play it. Thanks again!!!!!!

Lancaster, Massachusetts

    I listened to your CD set today, Vaudeville Accordion Classics: The Complete Works of Guido Deiro. I love it! Thanks for such a beautiful recording and treasure. Your playing is simply amazing, and I’m so happy to have these CDs. Thanks again for your wonderful CD.

San Antonio, Texas

    When I received this CD from Henry Doktorski I was not really prepared for what he has done! To begin with, he is a marvelous accordion talent and obviously feels a connection to this wonderful music. Not only is the music beyond brilliant, the liner notes are a complete history lesson giving us a glimpse of the vaudeville era and it’s stars. I would not call this music classical—but classy! It is familiar, “hum-able,” danceable—some wonderful tangos! In short, I would highly recommend this CD set (2 CDs!). It is a refreshing change from what most of us play and usually listen to. On a scale of 1-10, it deserves an 11!

Varberg, Sweden

    The new CD of Henry Doktorski performing the works of the legendary Italian/American accordion virtuoso Guido Deiro is an important tribute to the accordion world. Mr. Doktorski performs Guido Deiro’s compositions in a very artistic way. He has both technical and musical ability to make superb interpretations of Guido’s beautiful compositions. This CD is an important contribution to preserving the music of the old accordion masters, and it should be in every accordionist’s record collection.

Genova, ITALIA

    Dear Henry,

    I have received your CD today morning, and I have ravenously listened to both. Your performance is, in my opinion, the sublimation of the accordion!! Grazie e cordiali saluti da Filippo Bruzzo.

Belleville, Illinois

    Queen of the Air really rocks.

London, England

    The c.d. arrived here this morning, thanks

    I put it on {here in the office} Everyone that heard it said it transported them to Italy {a few mentioned Naples}

    So there --------- ! !

Shipley West Yorkshire, England

    I have listened to your cd and honestly I love it, tunes I have never heard before but find fascinating. Our accordion orchestra meets on Tuesday nights so I am taking my CD player to let my fellow members listen to your performance. What impresses me most is the color, shade that you achieve—it is definately my style of music. Thank you—it is now turned 11 p.m. and I am still listening !!

Fairbanks, Alaska

    On a seven-hour drive to Valdez, I put on the double disc set of Guido Deiro, and I LOVE EVERY SINGLE SONG! Family favorite is Hand Grenade Throwers March. What a gift that you have preserved and performed all of his works. I don’t think I’ve ever owned an LP, cassette or CD where I loved every single piece.

Tobo, Sweden

    In 1980, when I was fourteen years old, I captured a radio programme with Guido Deiro’s music to tape, and that tape (now transferred to CD) has over the years remained one of my most cherished musical possessions. During the years I didn’t play, I amassed a collection of classical music, American big bands of the Swing Era, historical opera recordings, folk music, salon music, and military music—but Guido Deiro was always there as an unattainable ideal. I love his recordings even more today than I did when I was fourteen, because now I know what an immense concentration and knowledge it takes to play with that seeming effortlessness. I have a saying that the world has known three complete musicians—Guido Deiro, Enrico Caruso, and Maud Powell. Their mastery of their instruments was complete, and their sense of musicality so deep that it wasn’t a second nature, it *was* their nature. Naturally, I was overjoyed when Archeophone (over the years, I have bought a copy of every disc they have released) started to re-issue his complete recordings.

    I have listened to the tracks from your Vaudeville Accordion Classics CD. I would say your interpretations are very reliable, you bring out the composer’s intentions—not all musicians are equal to that task, independently whether the composer be Deiro or Puccini. Interpreting Guido’s music is difficult, one wants to play in a style as explosively forceful as he did, and yet one knows it would lead to utter failure if one tries to. Your style of playing is distinctively your own, yet you manage to play in true Italo-American style, with the short, efficient basses and careful playing in the right hand.

    I am particularly happy you have retained the old, powerful style of playing. I don’t know what it was like in the USA, but for many years, Swedish accordionists played in a style they called “nuanced“—to me, it just sounded emasculated and half-dead. Now, as I have started to listen to accordionists once again, it seems to me that they have reverted to something more reminiscent of the hearty old style.

    I was annoyed by some reviewers’ remark that 34 tracks with solo accordion was “boring”; partly because I prefer solo accordion and partly because playing solo is the only way to bring out the bass, which is absolutely essential to this kind of music. As I listened to I don’t care, I also realized your Victoria must have a very fast mechanism—I always thought playing that tune on a modern accordion was almost impossible due to their slow mechanisms. My Mario Galla, on the other hand, reacts instantly. I also liked the clear-sounding bass of your instrument; far too many modern accordions have a bass that sound like the mooing of an ox.

    Well, this letter was rather wordy, but I wanted to explain my reason to consult you. I realize the praise of an amateur is nothing to a musician of your calibre, but Guido Deiro’s music has been my love and my joy for more than a quarter of a century, and I’m so happy that someone cares to keep it alive, and to play this music in the old, straightforward manner.

Listen to Sound Files from Vaudeville Accordion Classics
Essay: “Who Was First?” and the Recording of Vaudeville Accordion Classics
Back to Vaudeville Accordion Classics
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Back to The Homepage of Henry Doktorski

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