Back in late 60s and early 70s, I played the greatest instrument ever; the accordion. Okay, stop laughing, but I did play it for many years. For those of you who have no idea about accordions, the one thing that every accordion player had back in those days, which was a must, was a monkey sidekick, and I had the best.
Alfredo Fettuccini was his name and he was the greatest accordion monkey in the history of accordion monkeys. What? You never heard of Alfredo Fettuccini? I’m not talking about the pasta. I’m talking about the monkey sidekick who has been part of rock music’s greatest songs.
In 1968, before he was with me, when the Beatles were the hottest thing on the planet, he was right there with them and part of the song, “Everybody’s Got Something To Hide Except Me And My Monkey.” Yeah, that’s right. Although the Walrus was Paul, the Monkey was Alfredo. On loan by the Beatles, he appeared with the Rolling Stones when they recorded “Monkey Man” in 1969.
When the Beatles broke up, Alfredo was out of a job, and I found him sitting in a little café outside of Toledo and we took an instant liking to each other and I asked him, no begged him to be my accordion monkey. We were inseparable. A great duo the likes of Laurel and Hardy, Abbott and Costello, and Cheech and Chong. Although he was now my monkey sidekick, I loaned him out once to Steely Dan in 1974 and they used him on “Monkey in Your Soul.”
But, in 1977, after many years together, I realized that the accordion was not a chick magnet. I switched instruments, put away the accordion, and there was no more room for Alfredo. That didn’t stop him. No, he was one determined monkey. Soon every band and singer was calling him and songs were popping up everywhere. In 1982 there was “Shock the Monkey” by Peter Gabriel. In 1988 the Traveling Wilburys recorded, “Tweeter and the Monkey Man,” and in 1990 Aerosmith released, “Monkey on my Back.” In 2000 there was “Porcelain Monkey,” by Warren Zevon, 2010 Robert Plant recorded “Monkey,” and the list goes on and on and on. Alfredo was unstoppable.
Until he met her.
The monkey of his life. Her name was Lola, but he called her Claire and she called him Jamie; no one knows why. He had never met anyone that had made him feel so connected. He knew what she was thinking and she knew what he was thinking. He sang a line from a song, she finished it. She quoted a movie line, he named the movie it was from. They were inseparable, more than John and Yoko. The only thing they never discussed was politics. He was a Democrat she, a Republican, but that never stopped them loving each other. Alfredo was at the top of his game and nothing could stop this monkey.
Then it all came crashing down in 2012. Claire left him stating that he loved his music more than her, and she couldn’t handle it. But unknown to her, Alfredo was about to leave the music industry and retire on some island where he would settle down with her forever. Unfortunately, she was so hurt she left and he never had a chance to tell her and they never talked again. The monkey’s heart was broken.
Alfredo became a recluse not wanting to see anyone, not taking any more calls, and eventually, the music industry forgot about him. The last I had heard, Alfredo was on Skid Row, wearing a ripped red hat, broken cymbals on his hands, smoking a cigarette stub he found on the ground, stinking of urine and booze, and begging for money. It was a horrible sight. My poor, poor monkey.
Alas, there is good news. I was recently called to play an accordion track on one of the new releases by SOB (the Steve Oakley Band). After forty years, me and my accordion were back in business. The problem though, where was my monkey sidekick, Alfredo? You can’t play the accordion without a monkey. I searched Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, and the other social media outlets. I took out ads in Rolling Stone. Hired a private investigator. I got nervous thinking that maybe Alfredo hadn’t survived. I started looking through the obituaries. I called nursing homes. I was frantic.
Then, out of the blue, like an angel descending from heaven, an ace music reporter named Karen called me. She had heard about the story of Alfredo and his rise and fall. She was fascinated with this monkey. She grew to love this monkey. It was monkey infatuation. Finally, she set her mind to finding Alfredo and she tracked him down at a carnival outside of Cottage Grove, Tennessee, playing the broken cymbals for the people as they threw bottles and tomatoes at him. Karen convinced him to come see me and he did. It was like we never left each and we eventually recorded the song and a few days after we finished, while sitting a Five Points Coffee Shop, she walked back into his life. Nothing was said, nothing was needed to be said. The love of his life, Lola aka Claire was back and so was my monkey.
So the moral of the story is – never let go of your monkey… or your dreams. And to all those accordion players out there that forgot about their monkeys, put that accordion back on, play a few notes, and bring your monkey home.
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