While in LA this last weekend for a Fresno Import turned Fresno Export's* wedding I found all kinds of reasons to love Fresno and reinforced a lot of my long-standing loves for Fresno. Of course, I could anticipate the hours of traffic and crazy drivers. I hadn't anticipated the Goodwill find that would send me careening into Fresno-based accordion lust.
We had time to kill, and there was a thrift store across the street, so I went with my ladies of the night, Cho and Elisa, to see what kind of haul we might be able to dig up and drag home. While sifting through the records, I immediately was drawn to one with serious crush potential. A hottie with an accordion surrounded by swooning girls, it's everything I look for in a record. It was to our utter pleasure to read on the back cover that Mr. Dick Contino is straight outta Fresno. The hottest guy to ever play that good old squeezebox, and he's one of us.
This has spurred a whole bunch of internet stalking and chatting my grandmother up, and the consensus is that Dick Contino was hot. And it wasn't just his own hometown supporting him either. In 1947, when Contino was 17 years old, Horace Heidt came to town with a nationally broadcast talent competition, and according to Contino's bio, "Dick gave his rendition of "Lady of Spain" and the bobby-sox audience stomped, clapped, and yelled with frenzy, declaring him the winner by a margin of a full 30 points on the electric applause meter" Contino went on to have a hit single with "Lady of Spain" that made it to #47 on the charts, be a guest on numerous shows including the Ed Sullivan Show and even was in a few movies in the 50's and 60's, including Daddy-O. I especially like this video clip:
OMG, what a stud right? Daddy-O was even resurrected from the vaults and made into a MST3K episode. And to think, he was a student at Fresno High, one of our own- MST3K'd.
Mr. Contino lives in Las Vegas nowadays, and it doesn't look like he makes it home much to play**, but he does still tour and make the music festival rounds. If you're reading this, Dick, I promise I will learn to polka if you make your way through Fresno and I'll be there front row!
If you have any stories about Dick Contino, I'd love to hear them. My parents and grandma got so animated when I asked them about him that I knew that my generation was definitely missing out on a major gem of Fresno's history. I am so excited to have found something else to love about living in Fresno- hometown of the Accordion Virtuoso Dick Contino!
*Congrats, Ben and Aurora Pringle! I'd deal with LA traffic any day for you guys. Especially on the same weekend as the Electric Daisy Carnival. OMG some folks were TUH-rippin on the freeway! The wait isn't so long when the guy in the car next to you is freaking out about his hand's reflection in the rearview mirror.
**...but he does have a smokin' hot wife who can help your back itch with a salve.
All of my information came from the liner notes on the back on the album, Contino's website and the Wikipedia article.
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