Tuesday, January 21, 2014

The Royalaires Accordionly Yours Cavern Custom Recordings 1971

The Royalaires Accordionly Yours Cavern Custom Recordings 1971 CAT# USR 3854

The Royalaires were a 22 piece teen orchestra from Belton, Missouri.  That's not strange, except that most these kids play the accordion.  It's pretty much an accordion orchestra, which I didn't know could exist until I found this at a Goodwill.  Props to them, though, because in a moment of absolute brilliance, the album is titled Accordionly Yours...seriously, I giggle every time I look at it.

The Royalaires were led by a Carl A. Jesse, who must have been the best accordion instructor in all of Missouri as he was able to convince kids to play the instrument, convince people that putting out an album was worth while, and he does an amazing job of adapting standards for orchestra and pop hits of the day for the accordion.  The pop hits include, "Close to You", "The Immpossible Dream", "Music to Watch Girls By", and in a stunning display of bravado, the "Overture" from the Who's Tommy; on accordion.  The back liners were written by Jesse and he admits the following, "We do not pretend that this recording is the ultimate in musical perfection."  So needles to say, as novel and as fun as the idea may seem at first, it's tough to get through the entire thing in one sitting, it's kids playing a bunch of accordions.  I'm not sure people ever wanted to hear more than 10 professional adult accordion players simultaneously, let alone an army of children.  It was recorded in Independence's Cavern music studio, so the numerous accordions sound great and have natural echo...but, again, it's a lot of accordions.

So, that's kind of where I'm at with this LP.  This was put out in 1971 in Belton which is right outside of the Kansas City.  How did all these teenagers get hooked on accordion and not guitars?  It's not an instrument played in school bands, or at church, or anywhere but Oktoberfest.  I mean, the guy who ran the local Belton music store must have had a banner year when 20 or so kids decided to force their parents to buy an accordion.  And, Jesse, had to be the only guy teaching accordion in town, he likely cleaned up as well.

As no logical explanation can exist, I started to think that maybe this band is owed to a short-lived Belton religious cult.  For family fun, the cult played accordion or something.  Having little or no access to the outside world, the kids thought accordion was "cool."  But, that can't be as there are no religious tunes on the LP and they cover the Who; the kids were hearing rock and roll.  Then I thought, maybe there's a large German population in Belton, MO., Germany is down with the accordion, right?  Nothing verifies any sort German culture in Belton.  No little German Town, no famous Oktoberfest, nothing.  Besides, cultural based neighborhoods were a thing of the past by 1971.  So yeah, I'm stumped.  But, props to this Jesse guy for pulling this off, I bet he's the guy that owned the music store in town.


  1. On a whim I decided to do a google search for Royalaires Accordion Orchestra. That brought me here.
    I was a member of that band and I'm the guy second down from the top with my back against the brick wall holding my accordion.

    I was the oldest member of the group at 20 and in college, but Carl Jessee had been my teacher since the mid 60's. Carl was a good teacher and taught us to play all kinds of music from classical to pop.

    The accordion was astonishingly still popular in the 60's which was what led to such a large number of kids playing it in the early 70's.

    Plus my instrument was electronic which gave me sounds such as organ, strings, brass and others.
    Believe it or not, there was an accordion festival held in Denver each year which brought hundreds of accordionists from around the country for competition. We competed in that festival for several years both as a band and as individuals.

    I remember well recording the tracks for this album at Cavern Studios which was actually a cave where limestone had been quarried previously. It had great natural reverb. I remember the recording engineers seemed pretty blase about the whole thing until we had been playing for a while. Then they seemed to get into it and were making suggestions on volumes and mike placement and seemingly enjoying the music.

    Unfortunately, Carl Jessee left KC later in 1971 for Denver to be closer to the mountains and the large music festival. I was asked to take over his students and the band and did so for a year. College pressures forced me to give it up in 1972.

    I'm now 64 and I still play today. I have been playing Irish Traditional music for about 15 years. The accordion is one of the popular instruments in that style of music.

    Kansas City is internationally known for its accordion department at the University of Missouri-KC Conservatory of Music, so KC is kind of a mecca for serious students even today.

    Maybe this explains the concept of the band and the group a little bit.

    1. Roger, thanks for reading and I'm glad you came across this obscure blog post of mine. Obviously, if I offended you at all with my smug attempt at humor, I apologize, it was just to get a laugh.

      Since finding this album, I've seen multiple accordion orchestra LPs. It's like once you own a certain car, despite never noticing it on the roads before, you suddenly see it all the time. So you accordion kids from Belton weren't the only ones around, it clearly was (and is a very popular instrument). I think I've seen a UMKC accordion album, but never picked it up due to the shape or cost, but thank you for the insight on UMKC, since I will eventually find a copy of that LP worth owning and writing about.

      Question, the orchestra did record this in the Cavern Studios, correct? Could you elaborate on the experience of recording this? Was it mass chaos? Were songs rehearsed for months? How many takes did each song receive?

  2. Oh My Gosh! I just googled this to see what would come up! I too was in this band along with Roger! I am the girl sitting on the front steps between the three guys! I learned to play the accordian when I was in 1st grade and took lessons from Carl Jesse until I was a senior in high school. I still have the same accordion that I played in the band and still play today. And, as Roger stated, the accordion was very popular in the 60’s. This band of kids had a lot of talent and to answer your questions about the recording: Yes, it was recorded in the Cavern Studios. No, it was not chaotic at all. This band competed for a lot of years and placed 1st as a group in many competions. I remember the recordings were kind of like being in front of the judges. You had one shot and then you were judged. During the recordings we were all hooked up to speakers and each of us had our own parts to play in each song. We would warm up a little on a song, stop, and then we were recorded in one or two takes and then the best one was put on the album. It was fun and a great memory.

    To clarify: The accordion is one of the hardest instruments to learn to play. It takes a lot of coordination to be able to play both hands up and down, keyboard on one side and blindly playing the base buttons on the otherside, while pulling and pushing the bellows to make the sound. If you don’t like the sound of an accordion at least appreciate the talent that it takes to learn to play it.

    Also, I can’t think of any one of us that “forced” our parents to buy us an accordion. LOL! To play this instrument growing up in the early 70’s was about the nerdiest thing anyone could ever do! However, I wouldn’t change a thing about it. It gave me a love of music, and an appreciation of all instruments. I not only learned to play the accordion, I also learned to play the piano, saxaphone, organ and ukelele.

    Enjoy the album and pass it along to someone else when you get tired of listening, after all, it is just kids playing a bunch of accordions.

  3. I just woke up with one of the songs from this album playing in my head. Yep. It’s all there in my gray matter because I grew up on this music. You see, Carl Jesse was my dad.

    I remember Roger and Jo. Though I was only 6 when we moved to Colorado, I can still see these teens (who I thought were SO cool!) at their rehearsals, concerts, and competitions.

    I think of this album cover anytime I hear one of the songs from the album or see someone wearing cat-eye glasses.

    And when I see a black felt tip pen, I think of my dad sitting at our kitchen table hand writing the arrangements of these and other songs for the band, emploring me not to jump around or shake the table as he carefully formed each note.

    Dad would be thrilled to read what Roger and Jo write here. Unfortunately, he passed away in January of 2005 after a brief battle with cancer. It means so much to me that his legacy lives on in these recordings and in the music of these and other talented musicians.

    —Janeen Jesse Puckett

  4. By the way, has anyone digitized this album? Or could someone? I’d love to hear it again. If you’re concerned about copyright, I guess as Carl Jesse’s daughter, I can give permission.