(Reprinted from the Winona Post)
by Frances Edstrom
A couple of weeks ago, we ran a photo of the Schnickelfritz
band from a postcard supplied to us by Scott and Kathy Turner.
We asked for any information, and our request was granted.
Don Kiekbusch came to visit, and brought a wonderful collection
of Schnickelfritz memorabilia.
Schnickelfritz was the moniker adopted by Freddie Fisher,
a musician originally from Iowa. Freddie and his band, a forerunner
of the Spike Jones type of entertainers, combining music with
comedy routines, some rather irreverent, were the house band
at the Sugar Loaf Tavern, which was located near the intersection
of Hwy. 43 and Homer Road in West Burns Valley.
The Sugar Loaf Tavern was owned by Louie and Mae Biltgen,
and was a popular place to listen to music and dance.
Schnickelfritz and the band worked with New York agents, had
a recording contract with Decca Records, and were billed as "America's
Most Unsophisticated Band!" and "Still the Biggest
Novelty Recording Attraction."
Some of the band's
recordings were Tiger Rag, Red Hot Mama, Wabash Blues, I'm a
Ding Dong Daddy, Washboard Man, The Wild, Wild Women, Red Wing,
Goofus, The Schnickelfritz Waltz, and Lonely Me and Lovely You.
They also did an album of Old Time songs, which included such
standards as Oh, Susannah.
Don's parents, Herb and Della, became friends with Freddie
Fisher, who would walk to their house near Jefferson School from
Sugar Loaf to visit with the Kiekbusches.
After some time, Schnickelfritz and his band moved up to St.
Paul, where they played at the Midway. Friends of the band, including
the Biltgens and Kiekbusches, traveled to St. Paul to catch the show up there.
It was in St. Paul that an agent of singing and movie star
Rudy Vallee caught the Schnickelfritz show. He brought Rudy to
see the band, and they signed Schnickelfritz to a contract for
Don remembers seeing the movie sometime in the late 1930s.
The movie was already nearly complete when Schnickelfritz was
signed, so they filmed Schnickelfritz after the fact and inserted
the clip in the movie.
The Rudy Vallee movie took the band to Hollywood, where they
made a few more "shorts" which Don also remembers seeing
in the local movie theater.
While they were in Hollywood, the band fell apart. Band member
Stan Fritts took some of the band members and moved to the east
coast, where they formed the Korn Kobblers. That band, too, recorded
with Decca, and pretty much carried on the Schnickelfritz sort
of corny stuff. They had some success, and one of the members
of that band, Nels Laakso, ended up playing with Eddie Duchin's
Don can remember hearing both Schnickelfritz, who had his
own radio show (theme song Mood Indigo), and the Korn Kobblers
on various radio shows.
Freddie Fisher, Schnickelfritz,
stayed in Hollywood and opened a night club called the Radio
Room, somewhere near the Brown Derby, where Freddie, billing
himself as the "Original Colonel of the Corn," played
During World War II, Don found himself in Hollywood with some
Navy buddies, and looked up the Radio Room. He told his buddies
he was personal friends with Schnickelfritz, which was met with
Of course Freddie Fisher recognized Don and welcomed him warmly
to Hollywood, taking him up a notch in his buddies' estimation.
After a while, Freddie and his family left Hollywood and moved
to what was then becoming a new entertainment mecca, an old mining
town in Colorado, Aspen. In Aspen, Freddie ran a novelty shop
and played at the popular night club, the Red Onion. In the 1950s,
the Red Onion and Schnickelfritz, plus his son, King Fisher,
who was playing with him by then, were featured in a full-color
Fuller Brush catalog -- "And speaking of performance, the
Red Onion musicians really put on one for us - and they seemed
to enjoy it as much as we did."
You have to believe that Freddie Fisher did enjoy the life
-- music, comedy, the stage and bright lights -- which got its
start in Winona at the Sugar Loaf Tavern.
This article provided by, and copyright, The Winona Post. Used by permission.
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Members of the band included...
Freddie Fisher - woodwinds, vocals
Stan Fritts - trombone, vocals (left in 1939 to form Korn Kobblers)
Nels Laasko - trumpet (left in 1939 to form Korn Kobblers)
Charlie Koenig - bass (left in 1939 to form Korn Kobblers)
Paul Cooper - piano
Kennie Trisko - drums
Marty Gold - piano (replaced Paul Cooper) (left in 1939 to form Korn Kobblers)(Marty had been with Paul Napoleon's Band and was hired away while both bands were at the Paradise where Freddie was promoting Gold Diggers of 1938.
Harry Lindeman - Drums (replaced Kennie Trisko)
George Rock - trumpet (replaced Nels Laasko)
Freddie's Aspen live material besides Freddie featured...
Walt Smith - Piano
King Fisher - cornet
Jim McCabe drums, bass
Les Gaylord - bass
Freddies self issued lp on the Schnickelfritz label besides Freddie featured...
King Fisher - cornet
Don Ingle - valve trombone/vocals
Walt Smith - piano
Red Ingle - baritone sax