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.
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 other tales HERE.