The Early Years
|Allan and his father|
Allan Gustav Eriksson was born on October 13, 1911 in the small village of Greksåsar west of Norastad in Västmanland, Sweden.
Allan had five older siblings. His father Teodor Eriksson was a forest ranger and hunter. His mother Emely died when he was only six years old.
The whole Eriksson family shared a great interest in music. Allan's sisters played the organ as did Allan himself, reluctantly. After he had borrowed a friend's accordion and played by ear at fourteen, his father came to realise it made his son happier to change instrument.
|Allan at fifteen|
Allan's passion for accordions had started many years earlier though. His very first musical encounter was listening to accordion duo di Zazzo & Porelli play "Rostoffsky Polka" on a Victrola.
When Allan turned fifteen his father bought him his very own accordion. It was an HB Registrato with a five button row at 225 Swedish Kronor.
After a year's practice Allan and a friend performed for the very first time on a party in Västgöthyttan. To make the short 10 song repertoire last all night they repeated it over and over and busked their fee of 3,75 Swedish Kronor with a hat on the floor!
In the years to come Allan improved his accordion playing, performed at parties and soon gained skills as a professional musician.
Moves To The Big City
To be able to fully work as a musician, Allan leaves Västmanland for Stockholm at the age of twenty. To secure his income he takes a job as a salesman in the Östermalm Velocipede Store and plays at night.
|Allan and a colleague outside the bike store in the early 30s.|
At this time both Allan and his future wife Hedvig are into traditional folk dancing in the dancing community "Allmogegillet".
|Hedvig & Allan|
However, Allan could not resist playing at the dances himself. After all, playing and not dancing was his true passion.
Allmogegillet held the dance sessions at the Vasa Realskola (Vasa Secondary School) where Allan later worked as a musician for many years.
Allan marries Hedvig in 1938 and stays in the Sankt Eriksplan area for many years. Eventually the whole family moved to Kristinehovsgatan 23 on Södermalm in the south part of Stockholm.
It turned out to be the place where Allan lived for the rest of his life.
Allan felt very much at home in Stockholm although a part of his heart and mind never left Västmanland.
Starts Working at Dragspelstjänst
Allan's friend Algot Bengtsson was a renowned accordion maker. His company Dragspelstjänst ("Accordion Services") was soon to start manufacturing the popular Bengts' accordions named after himself.
|Algot and Allan in 1936|
Allan starts working at the company in 1942. Well experienced with sales from his earlier job he is mainly a store manager but once in a while he also helps out building the accordions in the workshop too.
|Allan at Dragspelstjänst in 1963|
Since Dragspelstjänst was the place where the Swedish elite of accordion players acquired their instruments, Allan made many important friends in the store.
The place itself used to be a food store and Algot had kept the tiles on the walls and floor. This made a rich sound when his customers tried out the accordions.
At the end of the day Allan and his colleague, musician Gösta Westerlund, often played together in the workshop a couple of hours before heading home.
Allan bought his favorite accordion in early 1943. It bears the inscription "Allan" and was in fact one of the very first Bengts' accordions ever made.
This beautiful piece was featured on all of Allan's recordings and performances as seen in numerous pictures of Allan playing.
The "Allan"-accordion is still to this day in excellent condition and sounds as good as new even though it's almost 70 years old! Check it out in this clip..
The Career Starts!
Allan makes his radio debut on December 13, 1939. He performs with fellow musician Gereon Ringström in a radio studio surrounded by sandbags and military police. The Second World War had just started and called for extra security.
Throughout the 40s Allan had his own prime time radio show every Saturday evening between 7:30 and 8:00.
At first he mostly did duets with various colleagues (like Gösta Westerlund) but starting in 1950 he brings his full orchestra, Allan Eriksson's Quintet on the show.
As Allan gradually makes a name for himself the number of gigs increases and his first recordings, 78 rpm wax records, are released in the late 40s.
In the 50s Allan's name becomes closely related with outdoor amusement park Skansen when he plays there with Erik Öst's orchestra for four years.
During the Second World War Allan joined the "Field Artists" to entertain the Swedish troops.
|Field Theatre 1942|
Sweden was, and still is, a neutral country not taking part in any war. However, this did not stop the Swedish Military to maintain a constant readiness to protect the Swedish borders.
Many men in service were away from their loved ones for long periods of time so the military entertainers sure helped them feel a little less home sick.
In these years Allan worked full time with the Field Artists performing alongside celebrities like Swedish actor Elof Ahrle and comedian Thor Modén.
|Allan (second from the right) with fellow military entertainers|
His daily pay as military entertainer was 18 Swedish Kronor.
Allan Eriksson's Quintet
In 1945 Allan starts up his band, the "Allan Eriksson's Quintet" that was soon to be one of the country's most popular dance orchestras.
The quintet played traditional Swedish dance music like polka, hambo and schottische (="gammaldans"). At the same time American music like jazz started to heavily influence contemporary music. Allan's orchestra therefore became a sharp contrast that obviously was highly appreciated by the old school accordion enthusiasts.
The members of the original quintet were:
Allan Eriksson Accordion, Band Leader
John Weiland 1st Violin
Ture Hedberg 2nd Violin
Per-Henrik Lindström Double-Bass
Ragnar Olsson Guitar.
Shortly after the orchestra had started up they landed a job as an in-house band at Vasa Real School (Vasa Secondary School).
Svenska Ungdomsringen (The Swedish Youth Society) held dances in the school's gymnasium at the weekends. The crowd danced around the orchestra sitting in the center of the room.
There was always a great atmosphere at Vasa Real and the audience loved both the music and the events. So did Allan and his orchestra, they stayed there for a total of 16 years.
|Saturday Night at Vasa Real!|
Saturday nights were hectic though since the band's radio show started at 7:30. After the last note was played they had to make a speedy transfer from the radio studio at Karlaplan in Stockholm to Vasa Real at Odenplan on the other side of town.
One time when the band arrived at the radio studio for rehearsals at 6 o'clock, the doors were locked. They waited for over an hour in chilly 10 degrees weather before they finally were let in with no time to prepare.
Cold and frozen they still managed to play their songs on the air and were very surprised when they were later told that it was their best radio performance ever!
Talk about a tight and experienced orchestra..
Because the band was tied up at Vasa Real and all the band members had ordinary 9 to 5 jobs, they did not do much touring in these years. They did however find the time to make single appearances at events such as home district festivities and Midsummer celebrations.
|Den Gamla Fäbodstugan 1976|
(The Old Chalet Cottage)
Piano players Gösta Bäckström / Nils Viklund joined the orchestra at the Vasa Real performances. This made a special sound that was quite different for Swedish gammaldans. In 1976 as Allan recorded the album Den Gamla Fäbodstugan in the Decibel Studio, he specifically tried to recreate the sound from the years at Vasa Real by bringing in a piano to the set.
Allan's son Lars played the piano on this album.
Allan on the Big Screen!
In the accordion heydays of the 40s, the Swedish film industry was soon to catch up with the trend. In 1946 they produced the motion picture One Girl and a Hundred Accordions (100 Dragspel och en Flicka).
Swedish actor Elof Ahrle plays the inventor who has come up with a new revolutionary accordion. His competitors play rough to stop him from using it to win an accordion contest.
Allan made a guest apperance where he and his partner Sölve Strand plays Andrew Walter's "Accordion Boogie".
In the scene the opponents' accordion is to pass the test by the two experienced accordion pros.
Allan delivers the line:
-"They don't stand a chance!"
For that he not only earned the musician's fee of 40 kronor but also an actor's fee of 35 Swedish Kronor!
Some years later in 1950 Allan also made a short appearance in the motion picture "Me and My Sister" (Min Syster och Jag) starring Swedish actress Sickan Carlsson.
The Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra
The early 60s was the beginning of the end of the Swedish gammaldans era. The mainstream audience prefered popular music and the amusement parks ("folk parks") that nourished the gammaldans orchestras slowly disappeared one after another.
As the company Dragspeltjänst canceled in 1964 Allan started to work for the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra as a studio assistant.
His job was to make sure every issue was solved and pull everything together for the big orchestra to function. In other words a perfect job for Allan, the thorough perfectionist with a great sense of detail.
Allan spent his senior years before his retirement working for the Radio Orchestra and had a wonderful time with trips all around the world. Too often Allan was the one to give his colleagues directions during these travels!
He quickly made many friends in the orchestra and was named their "106th member" even though he did not actually play with them.
After he retired he was elected honorable member of the Radio Orchestra Society.
Allan also turned out to be an indispensible resource for the orchestra in a quite unusual way. In the 60s the orchestra was led by Romanian conductor Sergio Celibidache. He was well known for his bad temper that made him burst out at the members of the orchestra during rehearsals.
For some strange reason Allan had a calming effect on the maestro even though they did not speak any mutual language. So once Celibidache had lost his temper the word around the orchestra pit was "-Get Allan!".
And thanks to Allan, they were able to eventually continue rehearsing.
Lead by Conductor Stig Westerberg they together perform Allan's most famous song När Lyckan Ler
(A Smile of Luck).
With a hundred man orchestra and a beautiful score by Hans Wahlgren, Allan's 1949 waltz shows its full potential!
Allan's Playing Style
Allan's distinguished style with which he played his instrument is what sets him aside from the other accordion giants of his era. You can instantly hear it's Allan playing.
The way he handled the accordion reflected his whole persona and that is exactly what defines any great musician: Play from your heart!
And yet with all the feel Allan put into his playing he was still a perfectionist. All the notes were in the right places. The beat was rock solid to please the dancing crowd. Allan knew his target audience as he used to practice traditional folk dances himself in the 30s. Dance music is and has always been all about rhythm which Allan was quite aware of.
Paying attention to details in Allan's playing one can easily spot how he flicks the ending of phrases. Another trick is to pull the bellows on long notes much like the bow techniques used by the country people ("allmoge") fiddlers.
Remarkable about Allan is that he settled for a three row button accordion whereas most people using buttons have four or five rows on their instruments.
Here is Allan in a TV broadcast on New Year's Eve 1976, shortly after he retired from his job.
He once again joins his old friends in the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra to perform Andrew Walter's "Afton på Solvik" (score by Bengt Hallberg).
The TV show was "Music, Music!" hosted by Swedish actor Ernst-Hugo Järegård.
In this performance soloist Allan is backed up by 90 musicians playing in the symphony orchestra and a choir of 30 people singing. Conductor was Gustaf Sjökvist.
The Works of Allan
As a musician Allan had a huge repertoire. He did however make a greater impact as a composer even though Allan was not comfortable with the title as he thought it sounded too pretentious.
The reason he started composing was that besides traditional folk tunes there were at the time very few songs written especially for accordion as opposed to other instruments.
So in 1937 Allan had a go at writing in a moment of shear frustration and the result, the waltz Solskensfröjd (Sunshine Delight), turned out to be really good.
One after the other his songs came to life and under his whole life he managed to finish a total of 70 songs.
The songs were mainly born out of pure inspiration with the schottische Brunetten (The Brunette) being the only exception as a custom order job.
Many of Allan's songs have been recorded by other bands and his music has been used for various purposes. One example is the waltz Sommarbruden (The Summer Bride) that was scored for a military band that played it on the Gustaf Adolf's Square in Stockholm during the Royal Wedding in 1976.
The songs were often named after places in the area where Allan grew up. For example:
Dans på Älvamossen (Dancing on the Moss of Fairies). Älvamossen was a place only minutes away from where Allan was born. As a child Allan himself witnessed the fairies dance on the moss at dawn.
Silverbäcken (The Silver Brook) is a beautiful little brook not far from Älvamossen.
Vid Kvarnbäcken (By the Mills' Creek) is where Allan used to play as a child.
Other examples are Hälltjärnsbäcken (Halltjarns' Creek), Sommar i Bergslagen (Summertime in Bergslagen) and Den Gamla Fäbodstugan (The Old Chalet Cottage).
Some song titles refered to an event or a special person Allan had met with, like Blondinen (The Blonde), Den Blyga Violen (The Timid Girl) or one of his last pieces written in the spring of 1988: Vänskapslycka (The Joy of Friendship).
In this clip Allan tells us the background story of Vänskapslycka in a radio show with Gnesta-Kalle and the Skansen Fiddlers recorded in 1988.
(You can listen to "Vänskapslycka" on the Music page.)
Allan did try other genres than just Swedish gammaldans but that was something he kept to himself locked in his desk drawer.
The United States
Allan had a special relationship with the United States of America. His father lived there for a couple of years in the 19th century and the family had many relatives among the emigrants that left Sweden during the hard times in the 1800s.
|Promoting his new album in English Pub|
Greenwich Village NYC, 1973
Letters from America arrived daily at the Eriksson residence in Greksåsar when Allan was little. Undoubtedly the stories in these letters inspired him when he named his polka Vilda Västern (The Wild West) years later.
Allan's brother Gunnar moved early to America himself. Allan went overseas to visit him several times and made friends with many Americans sharing his interest for Swedish gammaldans music.
In the late 40s the American radio showcased Allan in a syndicated radio show about Swedish gammaldans. The program became very popular and Allan started to receive fan mail from overseas!
After recording his first 78 rpm records in the Attik Hall of Stockholms Konserthus (the Stockholm Concert Hall) in 1948, several EPs followed with the Allan Eriksson's Quintet in the 50s.
|EP - Dags för dans (1958)|
(Time For Dancing)
|EP - Upp till dans (1959)|
|EP - Till dans|
|EP - Till dans igen|
|EP - Allan Erikssons Kvintett|
Allan Eriksson's Quintet
In the 1970s Allan became less active as a working musician so he spent more time in the recording studio instead.
By this time technology with multi tracking was available so one could punch in and correct errors. Allan as a perfectionist did not waste any time to use this technology in his strive for perfection. He never stopped working on something until he was absolutely pleased with the result.
Numerous albums were recorded filled with songs from Allan's catalog, old ones as well as the new ones. Even other songs from the band's repertoire were included, many who were written by the other band members John Weiland and Ture Hedberg.
|I Noraskog 1966|
(In Nora Woods)
In 1966 Allan Eriksson's Quintet recorded the album I Noraskog.
By this time 1st violin player John Weiland was the only original member left from the old quintet.
Sven Stiberg was the new guitarist and Folke Eng the new bass player.
Former piano player Gösta Bäckström played 2nd violin.
|Dans på Älvamossen 1970|
(Dancing On the Moss of Fairies)
Allan made the record Dans på Älvamossen in 1970.
The album was recorded in Studio Savoy in Solna, just north of Stockholm.
|Sommar I Bergslagen 1973 |
(Summertime in Bergslagen)
Allan often brought his son Lars in to play with him, like on this album Sommar i Bergslagen 1973.
Folke Eng and Sven Stiberg plays along on double-bass and guitar.
The album Solskensfröjd was named after the waltz that was Allan's first composition.
The record features almost the full original setup from Allan Eriksson's Quintet (although it's "orchestra", not "quintet").
Gösta Bäckström plays the piano.
The album was recorded in the Electra label's own studio.
|Den gamla fäbodstugan 1976|
(The Old Chalet Cottage)
Allan's son Lars plays the piano to bring back the sound from the days at Vasa Real on Den gamla fäbodstugan 1976.
|På Sommarängen 1981|
(Upon Summer Meadows)
På Sommarängen was recorded with a setup of guitar, double-bass and no less than four accordions!
The album was recorded i Pajala-Hasse's studio "Morgongåva" in the vicinity of Allan's home district in Västmanland which was a two hour drive from Stockholm.
Once back home listening through the recorded material, Allan spotted a flat note in the bass register. It was hardly noticeable but Allan sure could hear it. The band had to get in the car again and head back to re-record that single note.
That's life as a perfectionist..
(An Idyll at Skansen)
In 1982 Allan released his final album, Skansenidyll.
Just like the previous one, "På Sommarängen", the record was made in Pajala-Hasse's studio with the same musicians.
Allan was also featured on various compilations and mix records with artists like Calle Jularbo, Conny Sahm and others.
The Final Years
Allan was playing music until the very end. As a senior he joined Järfälla Accordion Community mentoring and coaching its younger members.
|Stockholms Melodiklubb 1980|
(Stockholm Melody club)
He played at parties and dance classes and with his friends in the Stockholm Melody Club.
He was a frequent and well-known visitor at accordion events and concerts. He recorded albums and kept composing new songs.
On January 14, 1993 Allan passed away in his home on Södermalm, Stockholm at the age of 81.
The funeral ceremony in the Högalid Church reflected his dedication to music and his strong bond to his home district in Västmanland.
A group of musicians from the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra's violin section honored Allan by playing "När Lyckan Ler" exclusively scored by conductor Anders Dahl.
Allan's ashes were spread in the Memorial Grove at Skogskyrkogården (The Woodland Cemetery in Stockholm) where he came to his final rest..
Allan Lives On..
With all his beautiful music and with all the people who have danced to his playing, Allan certainly made his imprint in the Swedish gammaldans culture.
|Allan Eriksson 1911 - 1993|
Many of us remember the magnificient musician and the true friend that was always generous and giving. Many of us can testify that friendliness was the word of honor for Allan who always kept his spirits up and remained calm even in the most stressful situations.
For many years in the 2000s a special accordion event was held in Allan's home town Greksåsar to honor him.
Now it's up to the future generations of accordion players to carry his legacy and play the works of Allan. Because despite the fact that Allan left us nearly 20 years ago his memory and his music lives on..