Pietro Frosini: The Wizard of the Accordion

Pietro Frosini (1885–1951) was vaudeville’s premiere Italian accordion player. Born in Sicily, Frosini had begun to take up the instrument as a child. He moved to San Francisco in 1905 where he was spotted by scouts for the Orpheum Circuit. He began making popular recordings for Victor and Edison a couple of years later. Frosini’s original repertoire was mostly classical or from the opera canon.

Around 1910 he would be both eclipsed and assisted by the arrival of another in his line, Guido Deiro. Deiro was to be an actual heart throb in a way that Frosini could not hope to be, but he did give Frosini some useful pointers, At Deiro’s bidding, Frosini began to include pop tunes in his repertoire. And he disguised the chromatic button accordion he played so that it would look like the more popular piano accordion, which is the type Deiro played. When the big time vaudeville circuits petered out in 1932, Frosini went to work for WOR radio in New York, where he played on air for nearly two decades until his death in 1951. He also taught music, which he had done throughout his career. Frosini composed over 200 original tunes throughout his performing years. Since 1984, the Frosini Society, founded by Lars Ek, has striven to keep his memory alive. Their web site is here. 

To learn more about vaudeville, please see No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous,