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Accordion player looking for a new gig

February 27, 1999|By RICHARD F. BELISLE

WAYNESBORO, Pa. - Darwin Good is a quiet, lumbering, somewhat somber kind of a guy, shy and easygoing until he wraps a 50-pound accordion onto his midriff.

His face lights as his beefy fingers search for a chord on the buttons on the left side of the shiny black-and-chrome accordion and his right hand runs through a melody on the keyboard. His hulking 270-pound frame soon becomes one with the instrument as he swings and sways with the music, be it a lively polka, German folk tune or some old chestnut from Tin Pan Alley.

Good, 51, lives in a big old brick Victorian he shares with his father on Fairview Avenue in Waynesboro, the same house he has lived in for most of his life.

A self-employed carpenter and electrician in his day job, he'd like to make more of his living with his accordion. He started playing one when he was five.

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Until a few weeks ago, he had a steady gig playing for diners at Schmankerl Stube, a Bavarian restaurant in downtown Hagerstown.

He'd been playing there for about 11 years before the owner got into a royalties flap with licensing agencies like the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) and BMI. The agencies license establishments where live music is played so royalties can be paid to the composers or their estates.

Good said Charles Sekula, the owner of the restaurant, opted to let him go rather than pay the $1,300 to $1,500 in yearly fees.

Sekula said the staff and customers miss Good and his music. "He was wonderful, the best accordion player in the area. He really had a perception of what people wanted. I hated to let him go, but I could not afford to pay the fees," Sekula said.

Good said he had played there "every Friday and Saturday night. It's difficult when you have a steady job like that and it suddenly goes boom. It hurts your income."

So, he said, "I'm looking for a steady gig somewhere else."

Before Schmankerl Stube, Good played his accordion at the Bavarian Inn in Shepherdstown, W.Va., for about four years. And, he played at what used to be the Sheraton Inn in Hagerstown for three years before that.

In the 1970s, Good formed the DG Trio, named after himself, with a drummer and base player. The little band kept busy with weddings, private parties and for dances at private clubs. The trio broke up in the mid-1970s.

Good has been advertising himself in area newspapers as an "accordionist extraordinaire," available for dinner music, dances, weddings, banquets, reunions, anniversaries and special occasions. So far, he hasn't turned up any new jobs, he said.

Good's parents were musicians. His father, H. Willard Good, 79, a mechanical draftsman by profession, played the violin, and his mother, M. Pauline Good, who died in 1997, taught piano in her home. She had as many as 100 students at one time, said Good, who is an only child.

"My parents wanted me to take lessons on some instrument. At first, I wanted to play the trumpet because my grandfather played coronet, but I had two protruding front teeth.

"The owner of the music store said I would split my lips on the trumpet. He showed his instrument display case and inside was a small red-and-silver accordion. I was five years old, but I knew right away that it was for me."

He took lessons and learned to read music. He also learned that he had perfect pitch.

That, plus the talent inherited from his parents, paved the way for a lifetime career in music.

He got his first full-sized accordion when he was 15 and spent at least two hours a day practicing. He started to play professionally in 1966 when he joined the Gene Richardson Trio, a local group.

Good said he also learned to play piano and drums and even took lessons for a year on the trumpet after he got his teeth fixed.

But, he said, "I never got good enough on anything but the accordion."

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