an eternal melody

Lady of Spain: The History

As researched by Toby Hanson,
This info and picture originated with Jeroen Nijhof,

Lady of Spain was written in the 1920s by three English songwriters who were fed up with English dance bands that played mostly American music. They took an old Spanish folk form and write a new melody and words for it. It became popular with big bands, especially Guy Lombardo. It was written as a quasi-Spanish Fox-Trot. In the 1930s, American accordionists picked it up and began playing it as their "Spanish" piece. One of the earliest pictures of Lawrence Welk is him from his George Kelly touring days in a Spanish costume for Lady of Spain. It really took off when Dick Contino did the "authoritative" virtuoso version, complete with bellows shake and sudden modulation from C to Db. He made it famous playing on the radio in the late 1940s. Specifically, he played the piece on a talent search-type show and won the $5,000.00 grand prize with it. He also initially popularized Tico-Tico. [So it is not strange that the opening track of the anthology of American accordion music, `Legends of the Accordion' (Rhino, R2 71847) starts with Lady of Spain by Dick Contino]

Lady of Spain became a true accordion cliche from weekly national television exposure by Myron Floren. It, along with Tico Tico and the Clarinet Polka and Carnival of Venice became accordion standards. Nowadays everybody dreads Lady of Spain because it's seen as extremely corny. At the Northwest Accordion Society Social Monday night, I was talking with another player about L. of Spain. He claimed that the song ruined the accordion and that L. of Spain is the reason that nobody takes it seriously. I disagree. I love Lady of Spain. A month ago I did my two-year review (I'm a composition maj. at Cornish College). I had to perform before the music faculty to decide if I could continue my degree at Cornish. Rather than write a "serious" piece, I wrote and performed my World Tour Variations on Lady of Spain where I did the piece in various styles (Russian, Fr. Musette, Irish, etc.). The faculty loved it and I was invited to return and finish my degree. Moral: love it or not, Lady of Spain is here to stay. Ole!