Franz Grasegger may have left Germany 31 years ago, but memories of the accordion player’s talent still linger in his homeland decades after he crossed the ocean and settled in the Columbia Valley.
When German band Koitaboch Musi booked a month-long gig in the United States and learned that their accordion player couldn’t manage the trip, Franz was the first person they called.
“They reached out to me after all those years so I thought that was pretty cool,” he said. “That band still remembers me from the band that I used to play in… Everybody kind of knows each other in the music world back home.”
Franz agreed to join forces and will be joining Koitaboch Musi for JulyFest with a series of shows in St. Louis, Missouri.
“It’s going to be a big event, and we’ll be playing 28 nights, like, no rest for the wicked,” he said.
Ever since he was five or six years old, the accordion has comprised the soundtrack to Franz’s life. That’s when his late brother Tony, who was five years older than Franz, took up the instrument.
When Tony moved on to an apprenticeship, Franz, then a boy of 10, started taking formal lessons too.
“Mom just saved up all the money she could save and paid for our lessons and that kind of inspired me because my older brother played the accordion and I wanted to be just like him,” he said.
At around 12 years old, Franz took to the stage in a band of children. They performed for about 600 people. After the
show, his mother asked if he had felt anxious playing in front of the crowd. He hadn’t.
“I’ve never really been nervous when I play my accordion in front of people,” he said. “If I had to speak in front of people without my accordion I would totally freak out, but if have my accordion on my chest I feel totally comfortable.”
As the brothers grew, so did their appreciation for their instrument of choice. They travelled together and arrived in the Valley where they performed at the Black Forest Restaurant in the ‘80s and ‘90s.
“We used to play together a lot,” Franz recalled, adding that he and Tony performed across the United States before Tony moved away. He died in 2010.
Losing his brother hasn’t quieted Franz’ enthusiasm for performing.
“It’s just nice to put a smile on people’s faces and it’s nice that the accordion is actually still always big in demand,” he said. “A lot of people of make fun of it and so many people actually really appreciate it and love it.”
Nowadays accordions are growing in popularity, he said, and can be found everywhere from classical music to hard rock.
“I played bass as well and guitar but I always preferred, always loved, the accordion,” he said. “It’s amazing what you can do with it too. I mean an accordion is almost like a piano. You can do anything if you’re good enough. It doesn’t really limit you.”
His biggest fans can follow him to the Hofbräuhaus in St. Louis, Missouri for his JulyFest shows with Koitaboch Musi. There they will perform traditional German, Bavarian, Austrian polka music as well as contemporary music.
Those wanting to enjoy the accordion closer to home can check out his gig with the band L8 at Panorama Mountain Resort on Sunday, April 21st, the last day of the ski season. L8 will be performing from 12 to 5 p.m. at the Great Hall patio.
To find Franz online, visit www.europeantouchband.com.