Remembering an icon: New Jersey Accordion Maker Al Iorio

Iorio Accorgan Accordion

 

About seven years ago when I was really getting into the accordion and playing for the first time in a band, I went searching for a new box that would enable me to plug in and be amplified.

I searched online and found some interesting and affordable used accordions all the way over in North Jersey in what appeared to be a residential neighborhood. I made the nearly three-hour trek from Wilkes-Barre, where I was living at the time and wound up in the lower level-garage of a modest home, which I would soon learn was the final base of opereations for the Iorio accordion empire, best known as Iorio Syn-Cordion Musical Instrument Co. I met an older gentleman who showed me around his garage and lamented how he was coming to the end of the line, but that it was a great ride.

Al Iorio courtesy of Northjersey.com

Al Iorio courtesy of Northjersey.com

On Monday, Amedeo “Al” Iorio, a mechanical engineer from Cresskill, N.J. and a family of accordion makers, died at age 94. Among his many credits include making the first electronic accordion, dubbed the Accorgan.

Even seven years ago, with the internet not quite as developed, it was easy to see just from searching online that Iorio was a brand that meant something, especially in the U.S.

Here I am playing my new (to me) Iorio in Bethlehem at the Blueberry Festival in 2007.

Here I am playing my new (to me) Iorio in Bethlehem at the Blueberry Festival in 2007.

In 1907, Iorio’s father Candido, whose family was in the music business in Italy since the mid 1800s, opened an accordion shop in New York City. Then the younger Iorio came along and revolutionized the business and the instrument. The company moved to the burbs in Jersey in Englewood, settling in an industrial park before packing up and downsizing into Iorio’s home not too long before my visit.

Here’s a video of the good folks at Liberty Bellows in South Philadelphia demonstrating one of those old Accorgans, which had a full MIDI setup and condenser mics.

Iorio was never a gigging musician but knew the accordion well enough to demonstrate and sell it. In 2002, he told The Record: “The accordion will never die out.”

Neither will your contributions, Al. Thanks for the deal on that old Iorio back in 2006 and for taking the time to give me some history lessons. Little did I know I was talking to American accordion royalty.

One Comment

  1. My Uncle, “Al”. will miss him dearly. Thanks for the very nice article.

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    1

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