Ed Fallon, a Democratic candidate for governor, did a little squeeze play at the Iowa State Fair on Monday afternoon. Fallon (shown in photo above) won second place in the 2005 Iowa State Fair accordion competition. He’s been fair champion twice before and finished third once, too. “My grandmother taught me when I was about seven or eight, and I’ve been at it ever since,” Fallon says.

Some accordion players have been inspired by the work of Lawrence Welk’s accordion man, Myron Floren, but Fallon says his grandmother has been his inspiration. “She was an artist and an accordion and piano player and up until her early 80s, she used to play with a group of grannies called the Crystal Bells,” Fallon says. “She was a real ham actually. She’d get up and sing ‘Bird in a Gilded Cage’ with a cage on her head and she did all sorts of antics with her accordion as well.”

The accordion Fallon played in the fair competition was a gift from a friend. “This instrument was given to me by a woman who purchased it for $30 about 10 years ago, and she played it for about six months before her family made her get rid of it,” Fallon says. “It’s held together with duct tape.” Fallon, who plays seven musical instruments, says music has an important role to play in society and can help bridge political differences. “People love music and I’m always happy to find a way to work music into my political work,” he says. “It helps keep me practicing.”

Fallon says if he wins the Democratic gubernatorial nomination and Jim Nussle — who has been known to sing in public — wins the Republican nomination, he’d be willing to accompany Nussle on the accordion at the end of one of their debates if Nussle “would keep the accordion jokes to a minimum.” “There’s no such thing as a good accordion joke, but if you’ve got to have an accordion joke, there are some that are less offensive than others,” Fallon says. “My favorite is the guy who went to play a gig in a big city and he left his car for a minute, ran inside to check out the digs and low and behold, his window was smashed and there was another accordion left inside.”

Fallon sat outside on a bench on the fairgrounds, playing his accordion for reporters before his big gig. Dianne Stroup of Mason City happened by, and while she’s a Republican, she appreciated Fallon’s musical talent. “He plays a mean accordion,” she said. “I’m of German background and so I grew up with accordion music and polka music and I like all kinds but (accordion music) gets your feet a-tappin’ doesn’t it?” But which do Iowans want to hear: a political speech or a little accordion music? “If the political speeches are good and the accordion music is good, I think they’ll probably settle for either,” Fallon says. “I think Iowans demand quality and hopefully I can deliver both on the accordion and at the political stump.”