"The World Accordion To Corky" Blog #0001, August 1, 2020
Updated: Aug 10
Hi, my name is Leighton Wiley Brumble, better known as Corky Bennett, The King of Reno! This is the first installment of my new monthly blog. I am most honored with your presence!
Today’s blog will be about my very first years in show business, and some of the people I have met and worked with!
I was born in 1942. The room next door was 1943. I grew up on a dairy farm in a little town named Sequim, Washington. I remember my dad taking me aside. Then he left me there.
I wanted to learn how to swim in Sequim, but there were no swimming pools in Sequim. We did have a lake, however. My dad would take me out in a rowboat to the middle of that lake and throw me overboard. I’d have to get back to shore. Three weeks in a row, he did that. That’s how I learned how to swim. That was the easy part; getting out of that gunny sack was tough!
When I was ten, my parents moved to Seattle and didn’t tell me. I thought maybe it was just an oversight. Hey, I’m kidding. I started playing the accordion when I was eleven years old. I had heard the great Dick Contino on the radio a few years before and I knew that that was what I wanted to do. I told my mom, “When I grow up, I want to be an accordion player.” She said, “Corky, you can’t do both.”
So, I became an accordion player! I studied with the very best teachers in, Seattle, and practiced every day! I worked after school at Petosa Accordions, where I got to meet all the famous accordion players of the day, including Dick Contino! Joe Petosa, Sr. became a life-long mentor to me.
Today, some folks like to make fun of the accordion. In those days, nobody did. You could get beat up! Dick Contino was hugely popular and every kid on the block wanted to be like him! On my block, there were twelve kids who played the accordion. Rock and Roll had just barely been invented.
I studied for a while at the Cox Music Store. I played in an accordion band and was getting quite a musical education. I started teaching there when I was thirteen. During this time, I was part of a Country band called “The Buckaroos.” We played out of the Blackstone School of Music, in Seattle. We performed in a lot of amateur contests and won them all! We were awesome! During my high school years, I studied accordion from the maestro, Tony Facuitto.
One day in the summer of 1960, I was practicing the accordion in Petosa’s store and a gentleman walked in and began listening to me. He introduced himself as Karl Carlson, the owner of the Music Mart in Fairbanks, Alaska. After a while, he asked me if I would be interested in going to Fairbanks to teach the accordion.
I left for Fairbanks immediately after high school, and started teaching accordion. I had a ton of students and was teaching day and night. I soon met some of the professional musicians in town and started playing gigs in nightclubs.
I left Fairbanks after a year, or so (couldn’t deal with -55 degrees), and joined a Nevada group that played the casinos. This was exciting to me. Our first job was in the ex-mining town of Searchlight, Nevada! I felt like I had made the “big time.” Searchlight had one motel, one casino, one cab, and one hooker (or so I was told.) It was in the middle of summer and the average temperature was about 117. Hey, I was in show business and loving it!
Every week on our night off, the drummer and I would take the Greyhound (a dog) to Las Vegas, where we discovered big-time sho-biz! We watched shows by Louis Prima, The Mary Kaye Trio, The Characters, and Don Rickles. Also, George Burns, Bobby Rydell, Connie Francis, and Jack Benny. I was enthralled by all of this!
I’ll tell you a few stories in the coming weeks about my life as a road musician and entertainer.
By the way, I must eat and feed my dog, Peeve (my pet Peeve). So, if you feel like you would like to help, here are some links to Venmo and Zelle. Only send what you can afford. All donations greatly appreciated!
Zelle: (775) 287-2050
Hey, check out this video!