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Tony Monaco

Tony Monaco

That B-3 cooker and bluesy singer Tony Monaco has released two CDs-the self-explanatory Burnin’ Grooves and the more varied Master Chops T, both for Summit-in the past seven months isn’t remarkable. But the fact that he can play the B-3 or sing at all is remarkable: As a 15-year-old accordionist, Monaco contracted a debilitating illness that destroyed nerves in his arms, torso, legs and throat.

“The disease is very closely related to polio-called neuralgic amyotrophy, meaning atrophy of the nerves,” says the 42-year-old Monaco. “It begins with severe pain for about two to three weeks-while the nerves are being destroyed by this virus, no pain pill seems to work and it feels like you’re on fire!-followed by weakness. Sometimes there is partial recovery of the nerve affected, sometimes there is complete atrophy where the nerve stops functioning all together. My right shoulder, triceps and deltoids were affected first. I still can’t really lift my right arm above my head-there was a lot of permanent damage-so it gets hard for me to hold my arm out for any length of time. Six months later my left shoulder, triceps and deltoids were affected. I did, however, gain some strength back in those areas. The only treatment is mass doses of steroids to reduce inflammation and hope for minimal damage and of course pain pills for some relief. After these first episodes, my dad bought me my B-3, because it hurt to have the accordion straps over my shoulders.”

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