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Shiner Hobo Band plays on

By GHENI PLATENBURG - GPLATENBURG@VICAD.COM
Sept. 1, 2011 at 4:01 a.m.

Joe Strauss plays the accordion for the Shiner Hobo Band. TODD KRAININ/TKRAININ@VICAD.COM

SHINER - What do you get when you mix beer, hobo attire and good music? Naturally, the answer is the Shiner Hobo Band.

For more than 50 years, the Shiner Hobo Band has entertained crowds with it's mismatched clothes and lively performances of waltzes and polka music, often with a keg of Shiner Bock beer in tow, courtesy of the band's longtime sponsor, the Spoetzl Brewery.

"It's another way to promote the beverage and have fun," said band president Larry Krupala, who plays tenor saxophone in the band.

Started in Shiner in the late 1920s, the Shiner Hobo Band was organized by a group of local, talented musicians at the behest of the Shiner Fire Department.

Not long after its inception, The Spoetzl Brewery, known as the "little brewery in Shiner," began sponsoring the band.

Often accompanied by the brewery's founder, Kosmos Spoetzl, the band, which back then was a marching band, provided entertainment at picnics, wedding dances, civic affairs and parades.

In 1936, the band gained even more fame when then conductor Emmett Busch began using a toilet plunger as his baton.

"I can remember when my Mom, Dad and I would watch the parade in Schulenburg when I was around 7 or 8. Unlike traditional bands, the band would split up, go through alleys and meet back up at the next block. I thought that was neat synchronization," said Krupala. "It made an impression on me years ago."

These days, the band, whose roster is comprised of many longtime members, continues to perform an average of 24 engagements a year, most of which are within a 150-mile radius of Shiner.

Today, the band, which is a nonprofit organization, is made up of an instrumentation of accordions, saxophone, trumpets, trombones, basses, drums, guitar and a harmonica.

Members include people from throughout the Crossroads area from all walks of life including doctors, elected officials, businessmen and retired people.

Although the Shiner Hobo Band mostly plays "The Shiner Song" and songs of Czech and German heritage, its repertoire also includes more mainstream hits including Mississippi John Hurt's "Frankie and Johnnie" and Fats Domino's "Blueberry Hill."

"We just put on a show, It's real, good, pure entertainment," said Laddie Kurtz, drummer and booker for the band.

Despite retaining many of the band's longtime nuances, they have nixed one thing - marching.

"Marching has become more of a challenge," chuckled Krupala, who explained many of the band's 34 members are now age 50 and older, with the vast majority being older. "Now, we participate in parades on floats."

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