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Back in 1996, Chuck Shaden's Nostalgia Digest printed an article on our boys by country historian Wayne Daniel. With their permission we present the entire article in full.

"ARE YOU READY HEZZIE"
And Other Harmonious High Jinks
Of Those Hilarious Hoosier Hot Shots.

For some three decades, "Are you ready, Hezzie?" was, in terms of current jargon, a way cool question. It was a widely used informal query among Americans who were in touch with the then most modern entertainment media. But like "I dood it," "Well, I'll be a dirty bird," and "In like Flynn," the once familiar "Are you ready, Hezzie?" has fallen by the vernacular wayside. Members of the pre-baby boomer generations will recall that the questions originated with the Hoosier Hot Shots, a quartet of merry minstrels who regularly committed musical mayhem on stage, screen, radio, and records from the mid thirties into the seventies.

The story of the Hoosier Hot Shots begins on a farm near Arcadia, Indiana, about 20 miles north of Indianapolis. It was here on September 13, 1903, that Kenneth Trietsch first saw the light of day. He was to be one of a family of four girls and five boys, children of parents with musical inclinations that included a banjo-playing father.

About 18 months after Kenneth's birth, Mrs. Trietsch, on April 11, 1905, gave birth to another son who was given the name Paul. It was these two brothers, Ken and Paul, who, because of their love of music and entertaining, eventually formed the nucleus of the Hoosier Hot Shots.

Except for a brief period when the family lived in Georgia and Alabama, the Trietsch brothers spent their formative years in rural Indiana, not far from where they had been born. By the time he was five years old Ken was coaxing melodies from a tuba which, since it was almost as large as he was, had to be placed in a chair before he could play it. In high school he won prizes for his corn crops and played in a 65-piece concert band. While still a young man he went off to New York where he played in the Paul Whiteman and Vincent Lopez orchestras.

Meanwhile, younger brother Paul was developing a taste for music which, due to household circumstances, took somewhat of an unorthodox turn. While growing up Paul found himself to be the one selected by Mrs. Trietsch to help with the Monday morning family laundry duties. His initial distaste for the chore soon gave way to fascination as he discovered the musical potential of the washboard. Between overalls and chambray shirts he amused himself and his mother by whistling and strumming an accompanying rhythm on what he would later call his "Monday morning piana."

One of Paul's other duties on the farm was bringing home the cows for their evening milking. Every cow had her bell, and their simultaneous ringing that would have been a vexatious clamor to others, sounded to Paul's sensitive ear like a pleasant pastoral melody. To his inventive mind it seemed only natural that he should attach a cowbell or two to the washboard for musical variety. He later augmented this bane of the houewife's existence with such other noisemakers as pie tins, wood blocks, bicycle horns, whistles, and garbage can lids. Over the years he wore out more than a dozen washboards before having one specially made of an enduring alloy which he allegedly insured for $10000. Paul's Wabash Washboard became the centerpeice of the Hoosier Hot Shots sound and visual image and was widely imitated by many other entertainers who aspired to mix a little merriment with their musical ministrations.

Ken and paul were not the only musically inclined of the Trietsch children. Early on the other brothers also got in on the act. When a minstrel show featuring local talent was staged in a nearby town the five brothers made their own instruments, dreesed up in outlandish costumes and presented the audience with a performance that was great to its liking. Inspired by the enthusiastic reception, the elder Trietsch joined his sons to form and ensemble that played for the American and Canadian Vaudeville circuit for several years. After the family act broke up, Ken and Paul went to work with another vaudeville group called Ezra Buzzington's Rube Band. Billed as Hezekia (Paul) and Rudy Vaseline (Ken) They played drum and guitar, respectively. The Trietsches no doubt felt quite at home in the Buzzington's band, which was known for its novel songs and unusual instruments.

While working for the Buzzington, Ken and Paul made the acquaintance of another member of the band, Charles Otto Ward, known to his audiences as Gabrielle Hawkins. Like the Trietsches, he was a Hoosier, having been born at Knightstown Indiana, on November 26, 1904. At an early age he began studying clarinet and saxophone, and over the years added fife, harmonica, and several reed instruments to his entertainment arsenal. Otto began his musical career as a solo clarinetist with the theater orchestra before joining the Buzzington aggregation with which he worked for eight years.

By the end of the 20's, movies and radio were taking their toll on vaudeville, but it was the crash of '29 that ended that source of income for the Trietsch brothers and Otto Ward who had found among themselved a kindred spirit. Like many a refugee from vaudeville, they set their sights on a career in radio and, pooling their talents, landed a job at WOWO in Ft. Wayne, Indiana. It was there that they unintentionally became known as the Hoosier Hot Shots. One day, when they barely made it to the studio in time for their program, a clock-consious announcer, flustered by the prospect of their being late or not showing up at all, greeted them with the admonition, "Hey, you Hoosier hot shots, get in here!"

In 1933 while seraching for greener pastures, the Hoosier Hot Shots took their act to Chicago where they had a successful audition at WLS, the Prairie Farmer Station. Here Paul (now known as Hezzie) and Otto (answering to the name Gabe), and Ken were given free rein to develop zany routines that made them one of the station's most popular acts. "What we had to sell was a product called stupid," Gabe once told a newspaper columnist. "That's what it was-stupid-but it was what was needed at the time. Others have referred to the Hoosier Hot Shot's music as "fractured Dixieland" and a "cornball blend of bad jokes, ragtime sounds, [and] a little jazz." Their music was characterized by novel arrangements, comic songs, red hot rhythm, and when they wished, delightfully pleasant harmony. Though best known for song titles such as "I Like Bananas (Becuase They Have No Bones)" and "From the Indies to the Andes in His Undies," the Hoosier Hot Shots mostly played currently popular fare and such standards as "Ida," "Take Me Out to The Ball Game," and "Bye Bye Blues." Each rendition bore the unmistakeable mark of the Hot Shots' distinctive touch, including Ken's opening question-directed at his brother Paul-"Are you ready, Hezzie?"

In august of 1934, the Hoosier Hot Shots added a fourth man to their act. He was Frank Delaney Kettering, born January 1, 1909, in Monmouth, Illinois. His mother was a violin and piano instructor at the local conservatory. His grandfather taught him to play the fife, and at the age of five he was using the instrument to entertain civic groups in the area. By the time he was eleven he had graduated to the municipal band in which he played the piccolo. While attending Monmouth College, where he majored in engineering and English, Frank had his own band.

In the summer of 1927 Frank joined Ezra Buzzington's troupe and as a result of this turn of events made the acquantance of the Trietsch brothers and Otto Ward who were already working for Buzzington. Seven years later when this trio of Buzzington alumni, now known as the Hoosier Hot Shots, decided to expand, they sent for Frank. As a member of the Hot Shots, he assumed the responsibility for many of the group's musical arrangements and collaborated in the writing of many of their songs and tunes. On stage and radio appearances he blayed the bass fiddle.

At WLS the Hoosier Hot Shots had their own daytime programs, appeared on shows with the station's other artists, and were a regular feature of the Saturday night National Barn Dance which was heard on WLS and the NBC network. Through the week the Hot Shots toured the midwest, making personal appearances in theatres and county fairs. At WLS, the Hot Shots shared the stage a radio studio with such other National Barn Dance regulars as the Arkansas Woodchopper, Patsy Montana, Lulu Belle and Scotty, the Maple City Four, the Prairie Ramblers, Pat Buttram, and Red Foley.

Record companies took notice of the Hoosier Hot Shots' popularity, and the foursome soon became frequent visitors to the studios where their sound was captured on 78 rpm discs. Over the years, for such labels as Banner, Conqueror, Decca, Melotone, Oriole, Perfect, Romeo, and Vocalion, they made hundreds of records that were played in homes and on jukeboxes across the country. In recent years many of these old recordings have been reissued on long-play albums, cassettes and compact discs.

The March 13, 1937, issue of Prairie Farmer announced that the Hoosier Hot Shots were Hollywood bound to appear in a Paramount motion picture called "Mountain Music" featuring Bob Burns and Martha Raye. Two years later the Hot Shots made another trip to the West Coast, where they were cast in the Republic Studios' western "In Old Monterray" that starred former National Barn Dance artist Gene Autry. Also appearing in the film were Smiley Burnette and the Ranch Boy, two other acts that had once worked on the Barn Dance. During the next ten years the Hot Shots appeared in more than 20 movies, including "National Barn Dance," the 1944 film based on the WLS-NBC radio show of the same name. Most of the movies, which included westerns, musicals, comedies, and all combinations therof, were made for Columbia. In many of the the leading actor was the western star Ken Curtis. In the movies where they appeared, the Hot Shots shared billings with such country and western stars as Dale Evans, Carolina Cotton, Bob Wills, the DeZuric Sisters, Johnny Bond, Merle Travis, Foy Willing, Jimmy Wakely, and Red River Dave.

During World War II, the Hoosier Hot Shots were at the peak of their career, and like other entertainers of that era they made their contributions to the coutnry's effort ont he behalf of the conflict. In 1944, Frank Kettering, the youngest member of the group, left for service in the armed forces. The Hot Shots were chosen for a USO Camp Shows tour to entertain American Troops stationed in North Africa and Italy. While performing for a Red Cross blood drive at the Douglas Aircraft plant in Long Beach, California, the boys realized the strength of their popularity when the Douglas folks christened one of their new bombers "The Hoosier Hot Shot."

When Frank Kettering left the Hot Shots, he was replaced by Gil Taylor who hailed from Alabama. In 1946 Taylor joined the others as the Hoosier Hot Shots bid farewell to Chicago and departed for the West Coast where they continued to make movies, records and stage appearances.

They were also heard on radio, and during the 1950-51 season had their own program, "The Hoosier Hot Shot Show," on the Mutual network.

When televisiou came along they took advantage of the new medium and were seen on such TV shows as the Tex Ritter Ranch Party. The Hot Shots did well in California. A 1947 magazine article reported that they all owned homes in the San Fernando Valley, a few miles from the Columbia movie studios. They were members of the San Fernando Country Club, and found time to persue hobbies of golfing and water sports, including excursions off the California and Mexican coasts for deep-sea fishing.

By the end of the 1950's the Hoosier Hot Shot's career had begun to wind down, but they did not disband until the death of Paul "Hezzie" Trietsch on April 20, 1980. Frank Kettering had died in 1973, and Ken Trietsch passed away on September 17, 1987. The last Survivor of the original Hoosier Hot Shots was Otto "Gabe" Ward, who continued to perform solo after the others had died or retired. Billing himself as the Hoosier Hot Shot he sought bookings as a clarinetist, master of ceremonies and comedian. In the years immediately preceeding his death he regularly entertained at a senior citizens center near his home. Otto Ward died on January 14, 1992.

The Hoosier Hot Shots were not just a comical music act, they were the inspiration for a musical genre that thrived during the '30's and '40's.

Among the acts that were influenced by the Hot Shots were the Schnicklefritzers, the Korn Kobblers, and Bob Skyles and his Skyrockeet. Skyle's group acknowledged the Hot Shots influence in its 1937 recording titled "We're Not the Hoosier Hot Shots."

The most famous of the hoosier Hot Shots inspired acts was Spike Jones and His City Slickers. Jones, called "The Man Who Murdered Music," fronted a band that featured a washboard and played havoc with songs bearing such titles as "Drip, Drip, Drip (Sloppy Lagoon)." "I Dream of Brownie With the Light Blue Jeans." and the one that energized his cacophonous career, "Der Fuehrer's Face." Jones biographer, Jordan R. Young, writes that the Hot Shots were of "particular inspiration" to Jones and Paul "Hezzie" Trietsch "made perhaps the biggest contribution to the Slicker sound.

If Spike Jones was the man who murdered music, the Hoosier Hot Shots first beat the victim to a pulp, making it easier for Jones to deliver the lethal blow.


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Copyright © 1996-2001 The Hoosier Hot Shots Museum, Nostagia Digest and Wayne Daniel