This Senior Will Keep Your Toes Tapping

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Richard Shaw carries the melodies of his life strapped to his torso. Expanding and closing the bellows on his accordion, he shares his songs with others.

"I've been playing a long time," Shaw said. He will be 75 in May.

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"Laura's Theme" is one of the songs Richard Shaw performed for the Payson Senior Center audience on Silly Hat Day.

"I can't read music at all, so I listened to cassette tapes. I played them over and over until I got it right. It wasn't easy," he said.

"Richard was pretty handicapped when he was a young kid," Darlene Shaw said. She is his sister-in-law and guardian.

The fact that young Shaw was home much of the time due to his handicap did not stall his natural curiosity or gifts.

His friend Jimmy, a "neighbor kid around the corner," played the accordion.

Intrigued with the instrument, Shaw taught himself to play.

"The Old Rugged Cross" was the first song he learned.

"I amazed myself," he said.

The fingers of his right hand play the keys while the fingers of his left hand press buttons on the opposite side of the squeezebox. A sparkling crystal on one of the buttons tells his fingertips he is on "bass c."

He completes the triad of movement required for sound by pushing and pulling the bellows back and forth.

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Building model cars from kits is another one of Shaw's pastimes. He also enjoys Special Olympics. He is proudest of his 1993 first place bowling trophy. He bowled "well-over 200."

"I like to play. It gives me something to do, but, I cannot stand rock music and I'm not too fond of jazz," Shaw said.

"I like good old polka music. You should hear my friend Klaus play," he added.

Klaus Wandel and he became friends when they both worked at Safeway, Wandel in the meat department and Shaw as a grocery bagger.

Though their musical styles are different -- Germany-born Wandel's forte is polkas, bit Shaw's is religious music. They have jammed together on their accordions in Shaw's home.

"He's a good player," Wandel said.

The accordion might be a more difficult instrument to learn than the piano or organ.

"When you do bass on a piano, you play four or five keys. On an accordion, you have buttons. You can't look at your hands, so you really have to learn what's what," Wandel said.

Shaw's La Melodiosa accordion is a 12 bass. A teacher from Frontier Elementary School gave it to him.

The La Melodiosa, is shiny black and weighs about 20-pounds which is not nearly so heavy as the 120 bass Shaw doesn't play anymore.

"My brother's friend in Texas played an 80 bass. It was red," he said.

Shaw is tired of black. He would like to trade his two accordions in on a new, white, medium-sized model.

Myron Floren, a popular accordion player on The Lawrence Welk Show in the 1970s, is Shaw's accordion hero. "He's gone now," Shaw said.

In addition to teaching himself to play the ‘squeezebox,' Shaw also taught himself to play the organ.

"He used to play song on only the black keys, can you imagine that? Then (as an adult) he taught himself to play the white ones too," Darlene said.

Shaw is inspired by the way Bob Ralston, the man Welk called the ‘King of Keyboards,' plays the organ.

"I met Bob Ralston in person at Music City in Denver Colorado. Of course, he was quite a bit younger then," Shaw said.

Shaw moved to Payson 20 years ago to be with his brother, sister-in-law and mother.

He worked in several restaurants before his years at Safeway, so his face is familiar to many folks.

A few years back Shaw broke the ball joint in his hip, so a cane now gives him stability walking.

He sets it aside to play, for his music requires both hands and giving it up is not an option.

Ever ready with a smile and a song, Shaw plays monthly at Beyond Limits church services and a few times a year at the Payson Senior Center.

"In the Garden" is Penny Mayer's favorite song Shaw performs at the Senior Center. "How Great Thou Art" is Evelyn Wright's favorite. They both like "Please, Release Me."

"We all just love his entertainment," Mayer said.

Shaw's other crowd pleasers include, "Somewhere My Love," "My Happiness" and "Walk with Me."

The senior center was fortunate to have Shaw on-stage prior to lunch near Christmas-time this past year.

Something broke in the oven, delaying the meal a few minutes.

"I kept whispering to Richard, play another song," said H. Reed Cox, executive director of the senior center.

Shaw performed six more songs.

Not many noticed the meal was late, so Shaw saved the day.

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