Honorary Director of the 1996 Cotati Accordion Festival
Art Van Damme died on February
Art Van Damme was born on April
He recorded 130 episodes of the 15-minute ‘The Art Van Damme Show’ for NBC Radio, and from the 1940s onwards also enjoyed a successful and extended recording career.
Van Damme toured Europe and was also popular with jazz listeners in Japan, and regularly won the US ‘Downbeat’ magazine reader’s poll for his instrument. He also toured in Russia and New Zealand. In 2005, Art Van Damme, Myron Floren
Art Van Damme, in his prime years, played so many gigs in clubs, hotels and concert stages across the USA and Europe that it is said that he never needed to do any practice. He was constantly in action, developing and honing his skills and repertoire, pioneering the use of the accordion as a jazz lead instrument. So influential was Art’s playing style that he has influenced most of the western world’s jazz accordionists. One musicologist made the following neat comment: “The hippest cat ever to swing an accordion, Art Van Damme dared go where no man had gone before: jazz accordion”.
Art Van Damme died on February 15th 2010. He was 89 years old, and had been ill with pneumonia for several weeks. He had three children and six grandchildren. Although he had retired to Arizona and then to Sacramento California, he continued to perform nearly to the age of 90.
Article as it appeared in CAF Program in 1996
From soloist to trio, to quartet to
At the age of
In the fifteen years at NBC, other than their own shows, the group worked with many top entertainers: Dave Garroway, Hugh Downs, Ransom Sherman, Howard Miller, Bob and Kay, Dennis James. The quintet did a number of spots for top singers and instrumentalists: Ella Fitzgerald, Peggy Lee, Dizzy Gillespie, and Buddy de Franco.
Record contracts followed: 1945 through 1952 with Capital Records; 1952 through 1965 with Columbia Records; and 1965 through 1973 with MPS Records of West Germany. During this time the quintet recorded 42 albums plus many singles, including recordings with Jo Stafford, Fran Warren, Johnny Smith
Since 1973, recordings have been made in Sweden, Norway, Finland
Besides having the group in the top ten instrumental
After leaving NBC in 1960, Art opened a music studio in suburban Chicago operating until 1965. The quintet also made television guest appearances on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, The Today Show, The Mike Douglas Show, The Lawrence Welk Hour and The Dinah Shore Special.
Night club work has included The Desert Inn, Las Vegas; the Sahara Tahoe, the Bonaventure Hotel, Montreal; the Bayshore Hotel Vancouver; Harrah’s, Reno; Disney World in Florida and other U.S. jazz clubs.
Art has made 35 tours of Europe since 1967 for recordings, television, radio and concerts. He is married and has three children. Art and his wife, Dorothy, celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary in 1991 and have six grown grandchildren. Art’s hobbies include all kinds of sports – especially golf. Art and Dorothy now live in Scottsdale, Arizona.