Wailing on Each Other

Wailing on Each Other
A musical feud hits the accordion world

About a minute after the first caveman began banging two rocks together in rhythm, another caveman came along and called him a sellout for commercializing the avalanche sound. Since then, no genre of music has been without its bitter feuds, from Mozart vs. Salieri to Tupac vs. Biggie.

Squabbles can signify both a coming of age, as the Dixie Chicks vs. Toby Keith did for the Nashville sound, and the end of an era, as did Paul McCartney's 1970 lawsuit against the rest of the Beatles. Which of these, if either, applies to the Texas Accordion Association remains to be seen. Accordion teacher and performer Natasha Geddie's quest to unseat association founder Norman Seaton has all the passion of the other great feuds in music--and if that's not enough, Geddie does play a peppy version of the Beatles' "I Saw Her Standing There."

"Norman has been essentially practicing fraudulent business since 1989," Geddie says. That was the year that the TAA's nonprofit status with the IRS lapsed, three years after Geddie helped Seaton with the incorporation process. Since then, Geddie claims, Seaton has consistently steered callers offering paid accordion gigs to his wife, Sharon, in business under the name Accordion Entertainers. In fact, the TAA and Accordion Entertainers' phone number and address have been one and the same for years. The claim is one among several listed in the lawsuit Geddie, a paralegal, filed in June against the Seatons in Richardson.

Further muddying the waters is the fact that Geddie now actually is the TAA, at least on paper. When she found that the organization that Seaton heads didn't exist according to the state, she claimed the name for herself. "And guess what else didn't exist?" Geddie says with a note of glee in her voice. "Accordion Entertainers--so I bought that, too!" Seaton reincorporated under the name the National Accordion Association, and now the two have issued rival newsletters as Geddie tries to win over the old TAA's estimated 1,000 members.

Her success so far has been limited to a few members of her accordion group, the New Trick Band, named after her late mentor, accordion guru Al Trick. Convincing the rest to switch from Seaton's group may be an uphill battle, since many members are of the opinion that Geddie isn't quite right in the head--a point that Geddie readily concedes. "Everybody thinks I'm nuts," she says. "And I'm not nuts--well, I may be nuts. I do have mental problems, but I'm telling the truth." Geddie's diagnosed bipolar condition leads to much hyperbole in her correspondence. One letter to Seaton's lawyer asserts, "They'll say whatever they can to 'make Natasha go away,' literally, physically, metaphorically, legally or otherwise. When they've heard this story, the jury may be asked to consider whether or not Defendants and their board members aren't actually involved in conspiracy and organized crime. "

Reaction within the TAA has been one of consternation tinged with embarrassment. "We're talking accordions here, so how serious can it get?" says TAA (now NAA) chapter president Ken Swayze. "She basically bought a bagful of nothing because we sidestepped her and went on down the road." But Swayze admits the suit has been unsettling. "This is the last thing we need because accordions already get made fun of enough," he says in a thick Texas drawl. "I ride a Harley-Davidson and drive bulldozers for a living, and you ought to see the flak I get for playing the accordion."

Seaton himself is reluctant to talk about the allegations while the lawsuit is still pending, but his annoyance is evident. "Did she tell you she's bipolar? She loves that," Seaton says. "She's got the idea that she's not responsible for any of her actions." As evidence, he mentions Geddie's arrest in the 1980s for shoplifting and marijuana possession. Seaton, a computer science instructor at El Centro College in Dallas, is also the editor of a 1994 book, Who's Who in the Accordion World. Remarkably, he doesn't actually play the accordion, but he spends much of his spare time promoting the organization. "He's the best thing that ever happened to the accordion world," Swayze says.

Accounts vary on the incident that started the conflict, but all parties seem to agree that it was at last year's Addison Oktoberfest that the mood began to sour. Geddie was playing in the park as a paid TAA performer contracted by the city of Addison. Her official pass was hanging around her neck by the lanyard provided--out of sight behind her accordion. Thinking she was an unauthorized busker, police asked her to leave. Geddie says she straightened out the misunderstanding, while rumors spread that she had gone as far as to spit on the officers. Geddie sent an irate e-mail to several TAA members that night, and things haven't been the same since.

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