An old friend shows up again

Two years ago when I made the photos of some of the loveliest and rarest accordions in the world for my friend Paul Rammuni’s book, at the time he had offered me a lovely Hohner accordion that he thought I may be interested in.

At the time, though, the little Hohner Free Bass had instead caught my eye and it had joined my family and I have already had many hours of pleasure and fun with this accordion.

Well, today, another one of my good friends (Ed), contacted me by email letting me know that he had found this website called Accordion Heaven and that they had this $15,000 US accordion on the main page… and did I know the brand it was, because it was obviously re-branded.

Accordion retailers going all the way back to the 40’s and 50’s would often get accordions from manufacturers and remove their badging and replaced them with their own. This often led to some confusion as any single accordion could be bought on the market with 20 or more different names, but they all came from the same manufacturer.

In this case, I remembered seeing a very similar grill on another accordion in real life at the New England Accordion museum… but that one was a Serenillini… a high end accordion with a nice sound but very high price tag.

A quick google search indeed confirmed it, because on the “Planet Estrlla” accordion were the badges “Imperator” and only two other manufacturers ever used that name in the past… one of them was Serenillini, the other a more legendary name, brings up the other part of this story.

During the google search for the Serenellini IV accordion, I stumbled over the Hohner Imperator V accordion, and again it kind of caught my eye. It was just as beautiful as I recalled seeing it two years earlier… and at the time, I wasn’t quite aware of the fact that it was a rather special model.

You see, most higher end accordions may have 11, 13 or possibly 15 registers, and in some cases, several of them repetitions. The Hohner Imperator V was a 5/5 accordion with 21 register buttons and a palm master switch… giving it a total of 22 registrations, NONE of which were repeats!

This was the accordion that Paul had initially offered me, a big accordion with dual Cassotto and 29 lbs heavy! I chose the tiny Hohner FB36, a rare Free Bass beginners mode. But, now I was curious and had to find out… would he still have that accordion?

Truth to be told, I don’t call Paul as often as I should… and I was overdue.

Now, I didn’t know Paul’s schedule, and it was Sunday… would I be calling while he was with family or church or otherwise indisposed? I did not want to disturb, so I sent an email and started the process of catching up with an old friend.

Well, the time for the response was very short, and it was great to catch up, but he forgot to answer my question about the Hohner? That was ok, I had more that I wanted to share and catch up with, and again asked if he had the Imperator V in a 2nd email.

He did, and my next email was very short… “what was the friend’s price for it?”. 🙂

Well, I am not going to tell you what the price was, but I will tell you that:

1 – My jaw hit my chest
2 – I was actually uncertain if he was joking or not with his reply
3 – I knew that if he was replying to my emails that quick, he was available, and I had to speak to him!

There is a background story there that I am not going to include here at this time, but it did make it possible that in the future, I might actually be able to obtain this lovely piece of vintage history! I’ve always been a sucker for buttons, and this one had a LOT of them, and this accordion’s shape was so lovely… and the sound clips that I heard on the internet were nothing short of “wow”. One thing was for sure, Paul’s offer was so good, that I was actually uncomfortable with it… it was too low, and there was no way that in good conscience, I could accept.

Oh of course someone else may say “take it, he offered it!”, but in my heart, I know what this man is doing, he is preserving a piece of history that is near completely long forgotten, he is striving to keep alive something that for me has great value, the preservation of the accordion, and I know that he has a financial investment in it himself, certainly more than what his offer was, that is for sure!

I know some will now call me gullible, but my respect for this man would never let me even think about taking advantage of him in such a manner, much less accept his incredible offer. I explained my discomfort and made a higher counter offer and he basically accepted it. A part of that offer would be that I would make a video for him. That I would have done for him for nothing (and I have said so in the past), just to be a small part of helping promote his accordion museum. His Kung-Fu is strong, his cause is just. 🙂

So… what in the world does this accordion look like? It looks like this:

Here are a few YouTube videos of this accordion:

As of October 25th, we’ve made arrangements to have it shipped as I cannot cross the borders from Canada to USA at this time due to them being closed off thanks to the Covid-19 pandemic, but the day they do open, we’re zooming off to see Paul and his amazing museum again.

I’m looking forward to playing this treasure!

November… FRIDAY the 13th turns out to be not a scary day, but a wonderful day! The Imperator arrived today and I unpacked it. What a beauty! One of the first things I did was pull it out of the tight packaging that Paul went to all the extra trouble of (he went way above and beyond packing the accordion tight in to it’s case and in a bigger box that locked the case in it too!), and let it sit open for a while until it came up to the same temp as the surrounding room… it was an ice block!

After waiting about 15 minutes for it to warm up, I slipped on the straps and then just slowly ran about 10 full sized bellows of air through it, bellows crackling away with each slow and full intake of air… and by then when it was near the same room temp and good enough to test, I hit a few chords and 2 things immediately hit me… first was the volume… wow, it was LOUD! The second thing was the vast richness of the tones, they were amazing and CLEAR and there is a lever that closes off the front baffles and masks a little of the high tones, making it sound very much like a LMMM accordion (this technology is usually called a Sordino)… one truly gets the best of EVERYTHING with this accordion… amazing tones, Double Cassotto. 5/5 reed setup in a LMMMH format and thanks to the lever, the sound of either a 5/5 or 4/5 accordion with 23 different and unique registrations all in ONE box!

I started to play with the different registrations and found many that I immediately really liked, and found a lot that were completely new to me, and amazing to hear. Each register kind of evoked a song or style in me that just matched that register, and I was having the time of my life!

The accordion came a bit dusty, so I cleaned it up… but that wasn’t to my satisfaction, so I pulled out some cleaning/polishing products and spent several hours working on the accordion and now it looks as good as it sounds and in that process I blackened several microfiber towels. I was surprised how the years of grime came right off and the “new” started to shine right through! Oh, I found an errant passenger inside under the treble cover… a big ole dead spider! Guess he was a refugee trying to escape in to Canada… lol Short of that, inside the accordion was immaculate.

I know that I want to make a little video with this accordion soon, but me being who I am, I plan to clean her up a little, make her a bit shinier and use this opportunity to make this another audio/video learning experience like I do in pretty much every one that I make… and this one is going to be focused on making a very FUN video! Maybe in a couple of weeks?

Now that it’s here, let me tell you a little more about it. It is a 41 key treble and 120 bass instrument, 5/5 reed setup in LMMMH format. DOUBLE Cassotto. Hohner calls it’s construction a “Metallbauweise” due to it’s metal internal construction (wow!), 21+1 “Doppeloktav” registers. It was produced and manufactured in Trossingen, Germany from 1961 to 1973.

Addendum: November 14: I was up early today and so I spent a couple of hours cleaning the accordion case and treating it to a protectant and then dove straight in to cleaning the accordion up a bit. It was a fun process!

Here are a few pics of my new baby during the unpacking and after she was cleaned up a bit:

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There are a few scratches here and there… expected from a used accordion, and the worst issue (lol) is some minor corrosion on the bellows corner tabs, but the bellows are *TIGHT* and don’t leak. If it bothers me enough, in the future, I can simply replace the bellows, Hohner still has them available.

Some small additional info. Apparently, I am the 3rd owner and the original owner was a man with a German background who had a job that involved travel and he bought it in Trossingen Germany from the factory and brought it home to the USA (very similar to the way my parents brought back my Hohner Morino VI N back to Canada for me!). If I get anymore info that I am permitted to share, I will. 🙂

Addendum: November 16: This accordion came with some nice straps, but if I want to play it over longer periods of time, I needed something with more support, so I found a place that had what is known as 4″ Elephant straps in velvet and ordered those.

The original straps were nice but lacking control… now I have a lot more control of the Imperator and can really feel it’s weight and it is distributed over a wider area, which will help in letting me play for longer periods of time.

Addendum: December 1, 2020

I finally got a little time to make that short video with my Imperator… here it is!


5:32 PM 4/10/2016