Although he might not be as well remembered as the guys we mentioned in a recent piece about accordions (Lawrence Welk and Myron Floren), Art Van Damme had some distinctions of his own. In addition to a long career in radio and TV, he was a respected jazz musician with an international reputation, and he continued to entertain fans right up until his death in 2010 — at age 89.
Born in the Michigan Upper Peninsula, Van Damme picked up his first accordion as a child, and when his family moved to Chicago during his early teens it gave him the opportunity to crank up his music studies. By the time he reached adulthood he was working professionally, not only playing in well-known bands but also appearing on radio.
In the post-war years he became a regular on NBC radio, where he stayed for over a decade, providing music for stars like Dinah Shore and eventually even hosting his own show. Later he also worked extensively in TV, and along the way began to make some well-received records. By the 1960s he was leading the Art Van Damme Quintet, performing on tour and spinning out a number of good jazz records for appreciative fans.
In later years, Van Damme continued to bring his music to fans all over the world, while also appearing many times on TV and in stage shows in Las Vegas and elsewhere. He was also voted the best jazz accordionist in countless polls through the years. By the time he died in 2010 his career had stretched for seven decades.