Superior button accordions - the story so far:
A couple of years ago when I was researching the McNulty Family for a paper
I was presenting,
I realized Ann 'Ma' McNuty was playing a Superior accordion, a brand which I had never heard of.
As it turned out, she had two of them. No one of all the top artists I asked had ever heard of a
Superior, except Joe Derrane. Joe pointed me toward Tom Senior, whose box was in the care of
a grand nephew. As of now, Apr. 2009, I have seen or have pictures of, five Superior's. That's it!
Only 5! So if anyone reading this, knows of the existance of any of these rare boxes, please let me know.
It was Ann McNulty's 'mystery' box, the Superior, that caused me to start gathering
on Irish button accordions, especially those made, and/or sold in NY city from the 1920's thru the 1950's.
The 5 are pictured below. Like the Baldoni's in another post, I'm laying this
story out so otheers
with more information can add to it. 'Superior' was the brand name of Frank Umbriaco. Frank
had a store on 116th St. in NYC. He played piano accordion, gave lessons, manufactured and sold
instruments. He even made some early recordings for Victor. Accordiong to Aldo, Ottavio Curione
was the employee who built the button boxes at the Unbriaco shop. As for timing, the ad
with the McNulty Family, pictured below is from an accordion magazine published March 1939.
We also know from the Senior family that Tom's box was purchased in 1940.
Please HELP! In my limited experience, all the Superior boxes had rectangular
keys, some of the Walters had them,
and a few of the Baldoni's. The question is, did Superior make all the rectangular key instrumments,
some sold with their name and some for sale by Walters? Answer is no - there are many internal differences between
the Superior's and the other manufacturers.
Ann 'Ma' McNulty of the famous McNulty Family entertainers, with one of her
two Superior accordions. Both of these
accordions have now been located. The above box is in 'C'. Below is Ted McGraw with this box and Johnny McDonnell,
2009, who had the box from his father to whom it was given by Ma McNulty. The senior Johnny McDonnell was in the
'Jackets Green Orchestra' who were part of the McNulty Family Irish Showboat concerts at the Brooklyn Academy
for over a decade.
Rose Kelly, a grand neice of Ma McNulty with her other Superior, this one in
the key of G, 2007. Note the difference in the
way the Shamrocks on the keyboard are pointing as a distinguishing feature to tell at a glance in what key it was tuned.
The symbols on either side of the name are also different. Ma McNulty used 5 accordions each tuned in a different key.
She had a Baldoni, two Superior's and two Walters. As of Oct. '09, the Walters have not been located.
Timmy Cronin recorded two albums for Avoca, 33AV111 and 33AV102 with Jackie
Roche. Timmy was also a well
well known step dancer in the 1940's and 50's.
Tom Senier's DC# Superior which he used with the Emerald Isle Orch. This was
purchased in 1940. This box is
similar to Timmy Cronin's above.
Keyboard view of Tom Senier's Superior. Thanks to Richie Senier for the pix!
Richie Senier, Tom's son, and myself at the Comhaltas meeting in Albany, 11/08,
where Tom was inducted into the Hall of Fame.
This ad appeared in Accordion World magazine, March, 1939.Many thanks to Pat
This 15 key Superior is in Albany NY. It is in resonably good playing condition.
The 8 small bass keys on this 15 key box are unlike the others.
Another ad for Superior Accordions of unknown date.