Guido Deiro

Columbia Italian Record Catalog 1916 Guido Deiro recorded a total of 111 known sides beginning in 1911, almost exclusively for the Columbia record company. Each side contained the equivalent of one track, about three minutes of music in the standard ten-inch format. The records were enormously popular in the day, and, along with his vaudeville stardom, helped to propel Deiro to the status of a minor celebrity in American culture by the late teens.

Throughout the teens and well into the 1920's, Guido Deiro was the dominant voice of accordion for Columbia's Italian-American market. At times, this was effectively a monopoly. For example, in the substantial seventy-page Columbia Italian catalog of 1916 (image of title page at left), apart from one side by his brother Pietro, Guido's are the only accordion records in the entire catalog, and they are numerous: 37 in all.

Clearly, this monopoly was not going to remain unchallenged for ever. By 1919, there were also 6 sides by Giacomo Mosconi, and 8 by an Italian trio of clarinet, accordion, and guitar, called The Three Vagrants. Throughout the 1920's, however, Guido remained the most important and prolific accordionist for Columbia, certainly until 1929, by which point the record industry was on the point of collapse. This was a crucial and unfortunate development for Guido. His last recordings were made in 1928 while on tour in Australia. (See End note 1.)

Deiro explained why he played for Columbia and not Victor Records:

During an interview with Mr. Camicia of the San Francisco Chronicle, three weeks ago, he desired to know why I did not play for the Victor Talking Machine.

When I was playing Keith's, Philadelphia, in 1911, the Victor agent requested a demonstration. Three weeks later I received a letter while playing the Grand, Pittsburgh. The Victor people wanted to know when I was going to return to Philadelphia, and the same time requested my price for making records. The figure I quoted was not approved of by them, they claiming my work was not worth the salary asked. Two years later another letter was received at the Temple, Detroit, again asking for my services. It was impossible for me to return, as I was previously booked over the Orpheum time.

When I played at the Palace about three years ago the Victor agent twice appeared around the stage door and begged me to come to some understanding with the company. But again I was forced to decline the offer, having entered into a contract with the Columbia Phonograph for five years, only two weeks before.

My brother, Mr. Pietro, was present and overheard the conversation, asking me the reason for not accepting the proposition; I told him the reason, at the same time telling him to fulfill it in my place.

THIS STATEMENT IS ABSOLUTELY TRUE, AND CAN BE PROVEN SO. Now, Mr. Camicia, the above will probably be sufficient to make you understand why I am not playing for Victor.

DEIRO. (See end note 2.)

End note 1: The first three paragraphs above were quoted from a paper by Peter Muir, The Deiro Recordings: Italo-American and Other Ethnic Issues 1911-1933, presented at a symposium titled The Accordion as an Icon of Italian American Culture at the City University of New York on March 19, 2001, and sponsored by The Center for the Study of Free-Reed Instruments and The John D. Calandra Italian American Institute.

A complete discography of Guido Deiro's recordings by Peter Muir will be published here as soon as it is made available to the webmaster.

End Note 2: Deiro's explanation appeared in a full-page advertisement in Variety, ca. 1917. (Deiro scrapbook No. 1, page 42.) To see the full context of the explanation, go to the Reviews page.

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