Blog Article

Detroit boy eyed an accordion and never stopped playing.

As a young boy growing up in Detroit, Joe eyed a 12-bass accordion in the window of a music store around the corner from where his family lived. His dad told young Joe that if he bought the instrument for him, he’d have to work at it every day. Joe agreed and the accordion was his. The American House Wildwood resident is still playing the beloved instrument he first picked up at the age of seven.

“I took lessons and made all my spending money playing the accordion in Early American bands and Hillbilly orchestras,” Joe said with a smile. “They were always four- and five-piece bands. I had to wear a tuxedo every Saturday night for one of those bands.”

His dad was a German immigrant and came over as an indentured servant. “My dad was a farm boy and that’s how he was able to pay his passage, by working for a farmer in Hoosick Falls, New York, for one year. My dad served out his year very quietly as an indentured servant, then came to Detroit and got a job in the factories. He became a skilled tool and die maker.”

Joe attended the University of Michigan for two years before he ran out of money. He got a job, married and finished his degree at Wayne State University in downtown Detroit. He went on to work for the Ford Motor Company for 35 years. “I was a civil engineer for Ford, but never worked on cars. I worked on building the machines that built the cars and did the assembly work.”

When Joe retired, he moved to Maryland and bought a sailboat because he always dreamed of living by the water and getting away from the snow in Michigan.

“What I play on the accordion now is what was popular years ago. American House is a great place for me because the people here like the same music that I’m playing.”

Joe has four daughters and two live nearby and are all fans of their dad’s music. They are always in attendance when their father plays for the residents every other week. “My favorite songs to play are “St. Louis Blues” and “Beer Barrel Polka.” They get the crowd going. I just bought a new accordion about eight months ago from Italy and it doesn’t have any reeds in it. It’s one of the first ones in the United States that doesn’t have reeds. Most people don’t know it, but Italy is the center of accordion manufacturing today.”

Joe plays every other day to keep his fingers loose. He’s starting to get arthritis in his fingers so he doesn’t know how much longer he can play. For now, he’ll keep up his regular gig in the Wildwood saloon after it closes for the evening.

“When my wife passed away, my daughters wanted me to come live with one of them, but I didn’t want to be a burden. They looked at a few places, but to them American House was easily number one. It’s got the greatest food and many, many advantages. The people here are so nice. This is home.”

We all have a story. A story that taught us something, changed us and helped define who we are. At American House, your next chapter is waiting to be written. We’re here to help you write it. Your way.

Written By

Jim Dudley

With over 20 years of writing experience, Jim has worked for some of the biggest ad agencies in the Detroit area before joining American House. He earned a degree from Marquette University.

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