When Ginny Mac came to the Fort Worth Magazine offices for an interview and photo shoot, there were only a couple of us hanging around the photo studio when she started playing her accordion and belting out classic tunes in her powerful Bobbie Gentry-meets-Big Mama Thornton voice. Slowly but surely, employees awoke from their working hibernation, escaped their cubicles, and filed in to watch her play. By the time she started taking requests — Mac can play almost anything on her accordion — nearly the entire office had surrounded her.
The crowd seemed a comfortable setting for Mac, and her confidence with the instrument is obvious and not without warrant. A previous member of Denton’s polka/rock group Brave Combo — who’ve been name-dropped by no less than Bob Dylan — Mac’s released two solo studio albums, has played with a list of top-notch sessions musicians that would make anyone with knowledge of musical history drool, and is set to represent all U.S. accordion players at next spring’s Akkordeonale, a festival that will travel through Germany, featuring the world’s most prestigious accordionists.
A native Fort Worthian, Mac’s prowess with the instrument is understandable; after all, she’s been playing the accordion since receiving one for her seventh birthday — an unconventional instrument for a child introduced to it only a short time earlier. “My parents asked me what I wanted for my seventh birthday,” Mac says. “And I said, ‘an accordion,’ and they wondered where on earth I got that idea. The reason is someone had played one at my school during an assembly, and I was so fascinated. I guess it just kind of stuck in the back of my head.
“I remember them saying, ‘Are you sure you don’t want a violin, or a piano, or a guitar or something else,’ and I was like, ‘No, no, no, it has to be the accordion.’ So, they rolled with it.”
And a quirky selection in musical instruments led to an eclectic taste in music. At a time when TLC, Boyz II Men and Goo Goo Dolls were topping the charts, Mac found herself enthralled with Western swing, old jazz and big band music.
“I loved everyone from Ella Fitzgerald to Dean Martin, to Bob Wills; I really didn’t listen to a lot of accordion music, which is funny,” Mac says. “There are a few accordion players that I really grew up loving; Art Van Dame and Frank Morocco are great jazz musicians, but I was more influenced by fiddle players and steel guitar players and horn players.
“It’s funny, I don’t tend to think of myself as an accordionist; I’m more like a musician that plays accordion, if that makes any sense?”
Her love of music and musical influences run so deep, she even refused to get braces to correct her overbite because her fear was it would affect her singing, and so she could have this in common with Freddie Mercury — another one of her influences.
Now, Mac’s taking her encyclopedic knowledge of music to Germany for the Akkordeonale festival in April 2019. If you’re still indifferent about the sound of an accordion, be sure to look up the bevy of
YouTube videos that showcase the amazing sounds from the festival. You’re sure to become an accordion convert.
“They’ve been doing it at least a few years,” Mac says about the festival. “It’s just accordion players selected from all over the world, and then there will be a small little ensemble accompanying us, but each artist does a few selections of their own with the musicians backing us, and then at the end of it, we all play a piece together.
“It will be really incredible, all these master accordionists from all corners of the globe that I’ve never met.”
Before she heads to Germany, Mac will continue her frequent shows in the DFW area. You can catch her every Monday at Magnolia Motor Lounge.
A Charlie Brown Christmas, Vince Guaraldi
The Stranger, Billy Joel
Crazy, Patsy Cline
Countdown to Ecstasy, Steely Dan
Pet Sounds, Beach Boys
Donald Fagan, synth bass
Neil Peart, drums
Svend Asmussen, violin
Django Reinhardt, guitar