Len Wallace has been dubbed "The Squeezebox from Hell”. An award winning virtuoso and Canadian national champion he treats the accordion as a serious instrument demanding respect.
“He’s the Scots exile’s Jimmy Shand.
He’s the Lawrence Welk to the aging
He’s the politician’s Tommy Douglas.
He’s the downtrodden’s Che Guevara.
He’s the guiding light at Ukrainian weddings.
He the Canadian folkie’s Phil Cunningham.
He’s the butt of a lot of accordion jokes.
He’s a giver not a taker.
He’s a damn fine human being.
He’s only the best accordionist in the country.
He’s a sound investment.
He doesn’t have to bribe me to say all the above.”
- Bobby Watt, performer and former Artistic Director,
Horseshoe Valley Folk Festival & Vital Spark Folk Society
“He’s the inheritor of the tradition.”
- Bruce Utah Phillips
“Len, RULES!” - Billy Bragg
One thing you can be sure about Len Wallace - he is what he plays.
Len’s is a passionate, powerful voice of conviction with songs that tell the tale of the extraordinary lives, histories, struggles, hopes and dreams of ordinary folk. He's a virtuoso instrumentalist who breathes life into his instrument. The result is a performance of fiery energy, joy and conviction.
Jan Vanderhorst, host of Brantford, Ontario CKPC-FM’s “Just Us Folk” pegged it - "Len's music is strong as steel, joyous music played at spine-tingling speed one minute and beautifully warm and soothing the next. Performed with integrity and conviction, this is music that stirs the soul, but doesn't forget a good spin on the dance floor can be just as uplifting to one's spirit."
”THE SQUEEZEBOX FROM HELL”
Although trained in classical music he is here to reclaim the accordion for folk music and reclaim folk music for the accordion. He’s played a significant role in bringing the accordion into the fold of the modern folk music scene
In his work Len honours and embraces the heritage of the Diaspora in North American culture. His take off of Celto-Slavic Fusion is a heady mix of Celtic Irish and Scottish Celtic melodies with Slavic Russian, Ukrainian and Balkan genres in a brilliant and grand weave and tapestry. Pushkin shakes hands with Robbie Burns and Taras Bulba rides with Rob Roy. But listen well and you will also hear the influence of other traditions - Klezmer, Latin, Balkan, Tex-Mex, Cajun, Blues and Jazz. The versatility in style and power are amazing and Len has played an important part in promoting the accordion in its rightful place in the world and roots music.
It’s music that makes you want to dance, weaves a tapestry, links traditions, paints a mural, and can break the speed barrier.
“Lawrence Welk was never like this!”.
- Bob Bossin
"Len Wallace has a reputation with an accordion the way
Pete Townshend had with a guitar."
- Toledo City Paper, Feb. 24 - March 3, 2005
”Len Wallace is the best thing since potato pancakes and I love potato pancakes!”
- Clifton Buck-Kauffman, Artistic Director,
Cotati Accordion Festival, Cotati, California
”What Is Surrealism? Len Wallace’s Accordion!”
- Franklin Rosemont, editor of
What Is Surrealism? Selected Works of Andre Breton
"We all get tired and weary from the drags and strains of our everyday
working lives. For all those moments, a strong dose of Len Wallace is
- The Scoop, International Union of Operating Engineers, Local 547
CELTIC SOUL, SLAVIC ROOTS and CROSSING BOUNDARIES
Len is a performer of many traditions and for over twenty-five years he has been a favoured performer of the Celtic Irish and Scottish music tradition. He learned the genre from musicians in the Detroit, Michigan Irish music scene steeped in the older traditions.
Remaining a solo artist he also teams up with guitarist John L.Sullivan and bassist Bill Misiuk
as part of the powerful and favourite trio called The Diggers.
or with performers Gerard Smith and Terry Murphy to become the up-tempo Bowsies.
He has toured extensively through the United States with singer/songwriter Charlie King and can be heard on Charlie’s albums, Brilliant: Songs of Ireland and I Struck Gold. He teamed up in concert with Scottish singer/songwriter Bobby Wattand appears along with fiddler Oliver Schroer on the big man's album, C'est Watt. Len also joins Canadian folk artist Valdy on his double CD releaseViva Valdy.
CITIZEN OF THE WORLD - SINGING THE SPIRIT OF FREEDOM
"The epitome of the tireless, socially conscious modern folk singer."
- Jeff Trainor, The SOURCE Weekly, Bend, Oregon
Len Wallace is the rebel voice of people having something to say about their history, their hopes and dreams, the condition of
their lives and the condition of this world. He's a card carring member of
the Industrial Workers of the World and carries on the tradition of
fanning the flames for the cause that never dies. He was the first Canadian
representative on the founding board of the American Federation of Musicians Local 1000, the Traveling
Musician's union out of the AFL-CIO. He .
Singing for workers has long been a part of Len's life. The songs he
writes reflect his commitment to recording and recounting the history of
forgotten struggles, telling the extraordinary dreams of ordinary folk,
giving people hope and encouragement to build a better world.
Countless times Len has performed on picket lines, rallies,
demonstrations, marches, for the autoworkers, steelworkers, farmworkers,
food and commercial workers, restaurant employees, public service
workers, postal workers, delivery workers, grocery store and retail
employees including 200,000 workers at Ottawa’s Parliament Hill and for tens of thousands in Ontario’s Days of Protest. Add onto that list those working for environmental rights,
women's organisations, peace, disarmanent, social justice and
1996-97, Len Wallace wrote the music, provided research and acted in the Canadian Artists' Workshop theatrical production of "BROOKS" written by playwright Rex Deverell, directed by Patricia Hennessy Laing about the life struggles and murder labour leader Charlie Brooks.
He's also Organizer and founder of the Windsor Folk Music & Arts Society and headed the Windsor Labour Arts Festival. Currently he is Dean of the
Canvas Campus Educational Initiative and activist core organizer with Windsor's Making Waves movement.
IN THE SPIRIT OF JOE HILL
"Len Wallace - the 'Squeezebox from Hell',
and one of the finest rebel songster/musicians
in the Joe Hill tradition."
- Franklin Rosemont,
Joe Hill: The IWW & the Making of a Revolutionary Workingclass Counterculture",
Charles H. Kerr Publishers.
In 1991, Len received a special gift from the Toronto members of the Industrial Workers of the World - a red leather locket containing some of the remaining ashes of IWW rebel, union organiser and songwriter, Joe Hill, murdered by the authorities in Utah in 1915. It was given to Len for his work in keeping the rebel tradition of Joe Hill alive.
Around 1989, Mimi Conway, a Labor Heritage Foundation board member, was conducting research at the National Archives of the United States in Washington D.C. Mimi noted a list of items that the Archives was getting rid of because they were not paper documents. One item was an envelope containing
the last remaining ashes of the IWW martyr.
Joe Hill's last testament was that his ashes be scattered across the country (except in the state of Utah). The Industrial Workers of the World took responsibility for distributing the ashes. It seems that one envelope of the ashes was confiscated by U.S. federal agents on the grounds that you cannot transport the remains of a body across state lines without family permission. Joe Hill, a Swede, did not have family nearby to grant permission. Perhaps U.S. government authorities still believed that Joe Hill's ashes were too hot to handle.
Mimi contacted labour activist and singer, Joe Uehlein just as he was leaving for a concert in Miami for the International Labor Press Association, and before singing the Joe Hill's Last Will. A reporter for the United Auto Worker's magazine, Solidarity, was in the audience and it was published by editor Dave Elsila.
The IWW's Chicago office read the article, contacted Joe Uehlein and the envelope of Joe Hill's remaining ashes were turned over to the IWW at a small ceremony outside the National Archives.
The last package of ashes was divided up into many envelopes and sent to IWW locals around the world. A pinch of Joe Hill's ashes were given to singers Utah Phillips and Mark Ross who placed them in their guitars. Activist Abbie Hoffman and folk rocker Billy Bragg also received ashes which they consumed.
IWW Branch Secretary and singer-songwriter Jerzy Dymny in Toronto, Ontario presented Len with a pinch of Joe Hill's ashes during the Toronto Mayworks Festival. There was a bitter strike of Sears workers on Jarvis Street that winter. Joe's ashes were mixed in with some of the ashes from the oil drums in which wood has been burned to keep strikers warm.
The whiff of ash was sealed red leather locket fashioned by singer, songwriter, guitarist Rick Fielding, stamped with the initials I.W.W. and Joe Hill's words to fellow workers before his execution - "Don't Mourn - ORGANIZE!". They were given to Len so that Joe Hill could keep on singing in the spirit of Joe Hill. He proudly wears the locket every time he performs.
THE WORLD ACCORDION TO LEN WALLACE
"The courage of his convictions and his onstage presentations are both genuine.
And that's what Len Wallace is all about. He carries on that tradition of singing about
the lives of everyday people. He clearly has some militant ideas. Unlike the canned
culture which jams the commercial airwaves, he sings about trade unionism, about working
in the mines, and about the east coast fisheries crisis. Still, Len doesn't preach about
issues like the unjustly imprisoned native American,
Leonard Peltier. He just sings 'em the way he sees 'em. He should not be missed."
- Norm Walker, Artistic Director of the Regina Folk Music Festival
"A great accordionist, singer and songleader."
- Pete Seeger
"This is honest, passionate music about real people's lives."
Marie-Lynn Hammond, singer/songwriter
"Great stuff! And damn well sung and played."
- Max Ferguson, The Max Ferguson Show, CBC
"Len Wallace offers a voice we need to hear."
- Canadian Folk Music Bulletin
"The fastest fingers this side of Florence." - Valdy, Canadian folk singer/songwriter
"Couple political activism with a dangerous sense of humour, and accompany them with accordion styles ranging from Eastern European traditions through Celtic airs and reels and you have one of the most highly entertaining singer/songwriters imaginable."
- Mariposa Folk Festival
Dreaming a better world. CLASS ACT by Len Wallace, on his new recording CULTURE SHOCKed:
We work in the factories, offices and homes
Some on welfare, some on the dole
The ones at the top say "Don't ask why!",
But I'll tell you all why,
It's a Class Act!
You're working for a paycheque each and every day
And try to get a lot from a little bit of pay
But you can't even buy the things you've made
Well, welcome to the world of the Class Act.
It's a Class Act when they put you in your place
It's a Class Act when they make you run the race
It's a Class Act when they try to keep is down
We can turn it all around with a Class Act! . . .
The Inspiration given by Phil Ochs:
The poet seeks the truth and anger spins his motion.
He laughs at the great ones spinning out the lies.
And through the unforgiving streets the singer walks the lonely beat
Raising up his voice and lays his heart out on the line.
- from Len Wallace's "The Poet's Cry (song for Phil Ochs)"
Complete lyrics HERE thanks to Manfred Helfert.
“Folk music at its best: realistic, committed and traditional at the
Empowering and entertaining.”
- Canadian Dimension magazine
“Heady stuff guaranteed to raise your pulse.”
- The National Chart
“Beautiful and dramatic.”
- Concertina & Squeezebox magazine
“I’m fighting to an urge to list all the rave adjectives I know, then
start at the beginning again
- Mark Manning, Victory Music Review
"He looks like a hoodlum, sings like an angel, and plays accordion like
- Cat Haston, Victory Music Review
“Len Wallace offers a voice we need to hear.”
- Canadian Folk Music Bulletin
Return to the Len Wallace Homepage
Len Wallace Recordings
email Len Wallace: NEW ADDRESS!