VIDEO: The other accordion player’s tattoo

Tattoo Tale: Gary Chapin was visiting his friend and accordion mentor Sylvain Piron in France. They were at a dinner party and, as he is known to do, Piron began to play his accordion. But the crowd wanted Chapin to play and shouted for, “L’Autre Diatoniste,” which is French for ‘the other accordion player.”

The moniker stuck. Now, says Chapin, who lives in Gardiner, he always thinks of himself as the other accordion player. It’s what he named his latest album of diatonic accordion music. He also had the phrase tattooed on his arm, along with a picture of an accordion given to him by Piron.

Gary Chapin plays a button accordion given to him by his mentor, Sylvain Piron of France, at his house in Gardiner on Wednesday. Chapin has a tattoo of the instrument on his left arm. Troy R. Bennett | BDN

Gary Chapin plays a button accordion given to him by his mentor, Sylvain Piron of France, at his house in Gardiner on Wednesday. Chapin has a tattoo of the instrument on his left arm. Troy R. Bennett | BDN

Chapin came to the diatonic accordion by accident. Back in the 1990s, he was into playing traditional Irish music on the flute. But someone gave him an inexpensive concertina. About that time, he met a woman who also played concertina and she invited him over for a jam session. When Chapin arrived, she produced a diatonic accordion from a closest and handed it to him to try.

He liked it. He liked it a lot.

At this point I should explain what the differences are between a concertina, a diatonic accordion and a regular, old piano accordion. Chapin, himself, has a great discussion about that very thing on his excellent blog. Suffice it to say, the diatonic accordion is the smaller, more folksy, grandfather to the big-old-honkin’ piano accordion.

Anyway, later when trolling the internet for tunes to play on his squeeze box, Chapin stumbled on Piron’s traditional French music website. It was a treasure trove of just the kind of tunes he was looking for, even though he didn’t know it just yet. He learned many of the tunes and struck up a friendship with Piron.

More than a decade later, Chapin is now an accomplished player of accordion music from central France and Brittany. Recently, when going through a bit of a mid-life crisis, his daughters convinced him to get a tattoo. He had Sam Hill of On the Moon Tattoos in Hallowell design one that looked like the accordion Piron gave him, nestled inside his alias: L’Autre Diatoniste.

This Tattoo Tale is one in an ongoing series of stories behind some Mainer’s most personal, and permanent, artistic statements. See another tale HERE.

Gary Chapin shows off a tattoo of his favorite accordion at his home in Gardiner on Wednesday. Tattoo artist Sam Hill, of On The Moon Tattoos & Comics in Hallowell, did the work. Troy R. Bennett | BDN

Gary Chapin shows off a tattoo of his favorite accordion at his home in Gardiner on Wednesday. Tattoo artist Sam Hill, of On The Moon Tattoos & Comics in Hallowell, did the work. Troy R. Bennett | BDN

Sylvain Piron on a visit to Maine in 2003.

 

Troy R. Bennett

About Troy R. Bennett

Troy R. Bennett is a Buxton native and longtime Portland resident whose photojournalism has appeared in media outlets all over the world.