the Guckenheimer Sour Kraut Band
a band that produced the weirdest music of the 1950s
by consequently refusing to to play in time or on tune
In 1949, Richard Gump and a few musical friends set up a band: the Guckenheimer Sour Kraut Band. They were playing old German
oom-pah music. But not the way a traditional Polka band played it. The Guckenheimers mastered the art of playing the music
just a little out of time and a little out of tune.
This Bay Area band has recorded three LP's in the 1950s. The first was released in 1955/56 on San Francisco Records,
a local label that specialized in weird albums like "Hi-Fi Sounds For Hounds" (sleeve, see right;
very strange music indeed, though ... alas, my dog did not react to any of the tracks played).
The band played for 36 years and appeared on TV shows with Arlene Francis, Will Rogers Jr.,
Arthur Godfrey, Ernie Ford and Don Sherwood.
This site is dedicated to the band, a fantastic collection of very talented creative, intelligent and artistic, businessmen, craftsmen and musicians, who created this unique musical œuvre.
Discography - US-releases
The complete Guckenheimer discography consists of 3 LP's. The first two have that great cover art designed by George Lichty, who actually played the drum in the band, but is best known as famous cartoonist of his the weekly comic for newspapers Grin And Bear It.
On RCA- Victor a 45 rpm EP was released "Sour Kraut In Hi-Fi" (RCA EPS 1-1453) which has four selections: Wien-Wien/ Wiener Blut/ Der Lustige Musikant Polka/ Drink Mein Liebling.
Guckenheimer vinyl was also produced in der Heimat, Germany. Here the band's name was spelled the German way, Sauerkraut instead of Sour Kraut.
Additional German releases
I know of 2 Guckenheimer records pressed and printed by RCA Germany:
NINE MEN AGAINST THE MUSICAL WORLDby R.H. Hagan,
San Francisco Chronicle.
June 3, 1951
The Bay Area, long made famous as a music center by such organizations as the San Francisco. Symphony Orchestra and the San Francisco Opera Company, has lately produced a highly inharmonious contribution to the music culture of this country in "Guckenheimer's Sour Kraut Band."
This unique organization was founded in 1949, when nine Sausalito gentlemen of various professional backgrounds and previous conditions of rectitude decided to stop playing golf, canasta or pinochle in their idle moments and start playing low German waltzes, middle high German folk songs and high German opera for anyone whose ears were insensitive enough to be able to listen to the group for as long as ten unbroken minutes.
They have been playing their own remarkable interpretations of assorted gems from the German repertoire at lodge picnics, harvest festivals, charity drives, church socials, club meetings, and even street corners with unbounded success ever since.
Much of that success has come from a combination of qualities both visual and musical. On the visual side, one of the band's strictest membership requirements is the ability to wear with dignity and aplomb a set of Uniforms that obviously were classified as Army surplus shortly after the Franco-Prussian War.
On the musical side, one of the band's even stricter requirements is that each "member must be constitutionally unable to play in time or on tune. To date, the membership has been limited to the original nine members who passed this acid test. They include cartoonist George Lichty, Business Executive Richard Gump, Writer Barney Harrold, Insurance Executive Robert Entriken, Cabinet Maker William Phoedovius, Designer George Ashley, Salesman Cookie Conroy, Business Executive Harry Mohler and Architect Richard Hiatt.
This rigid selection of personnel has resulted in some highly esoteric musical achievements. The band proudly admits that it is the only musical group in nine counties that has completely mastered the art of playing "Du, Du, liegst mir im Herzen," simultaneously in three-quarter and four-four time, not to mention a version of "Under the Double Eagle," played strictly eight-to-the-bar, a feat which, the players are quick to point out, requires the ninth member of the band to stop playing or find a less crowded bar.
Proud as the 'band is of these musical achievements it is prouder of the various decorations and trophies which such musicianship has earned. Not the least of these is a "Medal for Valour", which was presented to the group last year at the Sonoma Wine Festival.
This first recording of the Guckenheimer group was made under conditions ideal for the true reproduction of the unusual range reached by Dick Hiatt on the flugelhorn, George Lichty's bass drum and Bob Kellogg's tuba.
Jenny Lind Hall in Oakland was the recording location. Recording engineer, Bill Engel, who is on the staff of Ampex Corporation used the latest Ampex model 350. One mike was used for pick up. Naturally, since this was a genuine German type band we used a Telefunken microphone! Levels were set at the session and natural dynamics are achieved by the absence of "monitering". The process was repeated at Capital by setting levels, adjusting for maximum volume peaks and transferring an almost exact replica of the type master to disc. Peter Dent handled the mastering. Newly developed Westrex amplifiers and recording heads were employed.
The same worried behind-the-scenes staff was present at the Oakland session: -- Richard Kepner -- financial wizzard stop-watch watcher and co-ordinator of San Francisco Records, kept notes op what was what. Al Levitt sat in a big chair with a furrowed brow shouting commands and generally confusing those about him! And here is the fruit of their labors! Welcome to it! You can expect the unusual and refreshing from San Francisco Records -- "Recorded without compromise and dedicated to documenting and preserving sounds and music."
NOTES BY RUBEN GARTERSNAKE
Basic text below is taken from the liner notes of the albums.
In minor font, I add some notes of information gathered elsewhere.
Richard Benjamin Gump (1906-1989) was son of the Gump family that owned the famous department store in San Francisco, specialized in Asian interior design. In 1947, when his father died, he became owner and managing director of Gump's. Dick Gump modernised the store (see Time Magazine 1949), with succes (see Time Magazine 1961).
The Non-Thinkers album was actually recorded on the main floor at Gump's, where the Steuben glass collection was kept. "Mr. Gump is pleased to announce that sonic breakage of this valuable glass was kept at a minimum", according to the liner notes.
Gump published a few books. In 1951 "Good Taste Costs No More" (left: scan of title page with Gump's autograph; illustration by San Franciscan cartoonist Gerhardt Hurt), advising how to decorate the house interior in a sensible financial way.
In 1962 he published "Jade - Stone of Heaven", a highly acclaimed standard reference on the gem stone.
Besides business, he was active on various artistic and social levels. A real homo universalis.
Gump donated his 35 acre estate on a Polynesian island Moorea to the University of California in 1981 to conduct research and take classes on issues including global warming, biodiversity and biogeography.
In 1989 Richard Gump's book "Composer, Artist and President of Gump's" was published, where he also writes about his Guckenheimer efforts.
ERNST SCHMIDFlugelhorn, is Richard Hiatt, a well-known architect. The teutonic tone of his flugelhorn little resembles his caressing viola, which he played at an early age with the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra.
Though the liner notes describe him as well-known at the time, nowadays there seem to be no traces on the internet left of the architect's works anymore. Anybody has more info?... -> mail
LUDWIG SCHMITZTrombone, is in real life George "Cookie" Conroy, whose 285 pounds is used to great advantage by the Crown-Zellerbach Paper Corporation testing the tensile strength of paper tissue.
No more additional info found
George Lichty, real name George Maurice Lichtenstein, lived 1905-1983. A very significant name for lovers and collectors of American newspaper comics.
Lichty was 16 years old when he launched his art career by selling his first cartoon to The Judge for $20. He attended the Chicago Art Institute, from which he was ejected after he had started to place his gags under the Rembrandts and El Grecos hung there.
Graduating from the University of Michigan in 1929, he began his newspaper career doing spot cartoons and sports drawings for the Chicago Daily Times. He created his Grin and Bear It series in 1932.
His artwork had a hastily drawn, loose appearance. Frequent subjects included computers, family life, excessive capitalism and Soviet bureaucracy.
OTTO SCHMITSClarinet, is more formally known as Robert Entriken, top executive in San Francisco for the National Surety Corporation. His earlier musical high was reached when he played clarinet in the University of Kansas Band, seated in the top row of the university stadium.
Robert Entriken (1913-2000) later worked as an executive for the Fireman's Fund Insurance Group for many years before retiring and becoming a professor and dean at Golden Gate University in San Francisco (pic left). He also was a captain in the Navy Reserve and enjoyed talking of his four careers (insurance, music, Navy and academia).
In the early years of his Guckenheimer musical activities, Robert divorced his wife Elizabeth, who was a former billboard model. He married Jean Finch in 1953 to whom he was wed 47 years, until his death in August 2000.
His oldest son Rocky is a journalist, now retired from 27 years at the local paper in Salina, KS., and since then a professional motorsport writer working for National Speed Sport News, SportsCar Magazine and Racer Magazine. Second son Edward (Bucko) builds boat trailers in Dallas. Third son Richard had a hard life the Sam Stone-way, after returning home purple-hearted but drug-addicted from Vietnam, fighting alcoholism, he founded the 1st Step Sober House. Sadly, he was robbed and murdered in 2008. Fourth son, Birch, is a pilot for Southwest Airlines living in Truckee, CA.
(Many thanks to Rocky Entriken for photo and information)
RUDI SCHMITTTrumpet, is Robert McDonnell who has worked under many conductors. In fact, Bob McDonnell is continuing his career as a fireman on the passenger trains of the Southern Pacific Railroad.
Darcy Edward McDonnell, as his formal name was, was born in 1925.
He wrote and illustrated, with his wife Gloria, stories about Frijolito, the Famous Mexican Jumping Bean.
He was living in San Rafael, CA and recently passed away (January 2010).
JOHANN SCHWINDTClarinet, is Hubert S. White, Jr. His excellent clarinet tone confused the other members of the band until they learned of his playing symphonic works while a college student. He is Assistant Professor of Dramatic Art at the University of California.
Hubert (Hugh) White (1916-1998) fought in Iwo Jima in World War II and received a Purple Heart.
After the war, Hugh worked as a scriptwriter for MGM studios and taught playwriting at the University at Berkeley. Then he went to New York, where several of his plays were produced on Broadway. Before retiring, he taught high school English.
Hugh was a founding member of the right-wing Institute for First Amendment Studies. He had a broad sense of humor and wrote limericks. The following limerick, written six days before his death, was his last.
A hot blooded youth was named Spencer
He wielded his tool like a fencer
Girls went amuck
when he started to...cry
Rhymes not because of a censor
(information taken from his obituary).
HEINRICH SCHWERDTTuba, is Bob Kellogg, more deeply dedicated to music than any other member of the band. He plays hot, cool, symphonic and German tuba, in addition to the operation of two music stores.
Robert Berkeley Kellogg (1921-1999), born in Berkeley, CA (thus his middle name). At school at Berkeley High he played Souzaphone. He continued his music throughout his life as a professional with Musicians Union Local Six where he was an insurance adjuster for a time.
Bob could play just about any instrument, but bass, tuba and guitar were his favorites. He had his own dance band (the Bob Berkeley Band) and played with the Paul Faria Orchestra.
When he was asked to play tuba in the Sour Kraut Band, he went to sit in at a rehearsal. His instrument was in perfect condition and his playing was superlative, and he remembered thinking, "My God, these guys are terrible!" As the rehearsal continued and the guys kept giving HIM odd glances, Paul Faria turned to him and said, "Bob, can't you even play one wrong note"?! It was at this statement that he got what the Gukenheimers were all about, and then he cut loose! A clown at heart, he had no problem screwing up from that moment on. Bob was with the band for many years.
Bob and his wife Aureba (Reba) owned and operated two music stores (San Lorenzo and Fremont, CA). Later they worked for one of their record distributors, Saul Zaentz, who purchased the Fantasy Records label and made it big by recording the hits of Creedence Clearwater Revival.
(Many thanks to Bob's daughter Jeannie for submitting the information)
WOLFGANG SCHWETTCornet, is Dean L. Coleman, an inspector for the Pacific Fire Rating Bureau in Oakland. He is a brass teacher in his spare time and hopes none of his pupils (including his own five children) hear this recording
No more additional info found
JOHANN SEBASTIAN SCHMITZ IIIClarinet, is Paul Faria, an interior designer, cabinetmaker and leader of his own dance band. He had a difficult time readjusting his intonation to the peculiarities of the German village-band tone.
Paul Coleman Faria (1918-2007) played saxophone and clarinet in many a band.
After graduation, he worked for his father in the Joseph W. Faria Furniture Co., making and finishing antique reproductions, doing interior design and decorating. At night, he would perform with various dance orchestras including the Neil Bondshu and Carl Ravazza Orchestras from 1936 to 1942, playing saxophone, baritone sax, clarinet, bass clarinet and flute. He traveled around the country with these bands, playing in fine hotels, doing radio broadcasts, making records and sound transcriptions.
Paul entered the Army Air Corps in early 1942. He was stationed in Texas, Oklahoma, and Nebraska and was with the 501st Bombardment Group in Guam as Special Services Officer and Information and Education Officer. After the war he continued in the Air Force Reserve and attained the rank of Lt Colonel, retiring in 1978.
After his active duty in the service, Paul worked as a traveling salesman for a Formica company but his his extreme drive to succeed resulted in his taking orders for such extraordinary amounts of Formica that the company could not fulfill them. In frustration, Paul left the company and accepted a stock clerk position with Gump's in San Francisco (1947). Eventually, he was promoted to Director of Gump's Interior Design and European Antiques departments.
He designed dining and living room furniture and had them hand-made in a cabinet shop. He also developed a unique finish on teakwood, that, once finished, looked half-way between oak and walnut. It was due to the simple classic design and this unique finish that Gump's sold millions of dollars worth of one particular dining table, which was sought out by people nationwide.
In the 1950s he had his 10-piece Paul Faria Orchestra. He played with the Guckenheimers beginning album 2 and has led the band a long time from then on, until well into the 1980s.
Paul Faria left Gump's in 1983. From 1984 until 2002 he successfully operated Paul Faria Designs, Inc., designing and selling custom furniture and antique reproductions.
(Many thanks to Paul's wife Sue Faria for submitting the information)
BARNEY HARROLDWriter Barney Harrold played tuba with the band in the early 1950s.
Barney was born in 1915 as John N. Harrold in Sausalito and died in Napa, CA in 1995. Barney was quite a character. He wrote short stories for Esquire magazine, had an unorthodox Sausalito art gallery, brewed his home-made beer.
The picture left shows the Guckenheimer Band around 1955, with Barney as second from right, black hat, holding the little Eb tuba. Other musicians (probably), from left to right: trombone, Cookie Conroy, flugelhorn Richard Hiatt?, clarinet Robert Entriken, rhythmic assistance George Lichty, tuba Barney Harrold and cornet? Dean Coleman?.
Many thanks to Liz Neumann, who sent me pictures of the band and information about her favorite uncle Barney. She also sent a scan of a newspaper cutting with an interview with Barney, that describes him pretty well.
BILL PHOEDOVIUSAnother Guckenheimer who played in the band (but does not play on one of the albums) was cabinet maker William Phoedovius (1921-2003).
The picture (as published in Helen B. Kerr's The Romantic Alta Mira, Marin This Month, March 1960) shows the Sour Kraut Band, probably circa 1955. Bill Phoedovius is on the right (trumpet), Barney Harrold second right, Cookie Conroy (trombone) center, and Robert Entriken (clarinet) second on the left.
MILT BOWERMANMilt Bowerman was an active Guckenheimer in the later years of the band.
Camp Director - Hayward La Honda Music Camp
LLOYD SMRSTIKLloyd J. Smrstik (1922-2010) played the drum, following up George Lichty.
Lloyd played drums, many years, for Big Name Bands in the San Francisco Bay Area, belonging to the Musician's Union Local #6 for over 50 years. Lloyd retired from the California Ink Company in Berkeley, California after 42 years of service.
(information taken from his obituary).
Stars and Stripes Forever
the classic song of 'March King' John Philip Sousa.
Johann Strauss' "An der schönen, blauen Donau" being violated.
in the Netherlands better known as Sinterklaas-medley "Daar wordt aan de deur geklopt" and "O, kom er eens kijken".
a very merry song.
Der Lustige Musikant Polka
the Merry Musician's Polka.
Come Vere The Band Ist Playing
another vocal performance by Fritz in treue German-English mix: "when the band is spieling, we have our Beer mit Schnapps".
The song is composed by Richard Gump himself.
LinksI more or less started this web page because Wikipedia had very limited and incomplete information about the band. But a few weeks after I published this site, the Wiki page was extensively updated by son of Otto Schmits and it now contains a lot of interesting detailed information.
There is a currently active San Francisco band that was greatly inspired by the Guckenheimers:
John Kelley of San Antonio, TX, brought to my attention H.L.Mencken (1880-1956), who must have been some sort of precursor of the Guckenheimers. John wrote me: "This merry group of amateur/professional musicians reminds me of H.L. Mencken's Saturday Evening Club. In one of his memoirs (Heathen Days?) Mencken describes the effort of this group of amateur musicians (in real life doctors, lawyers, and newspaper men) to bang out all nine Beethoven symphonies in a single evening. After stopping several times for beer and sandwiches the performances became more and more erratic. Mencken professes to not know for certain if they ever completed the entire set."
Another reincarnation of Guckenheimers?
CommentsOver the years I've got many kind reactions from all over the world.
To quote a few:
Mike Skay: You've made my day. I grew up with these guys and have two vinyl albums safely stashed away. I tried to explain this group to my daughters but found that the only way to really appreciate them was to listen to them. As I told them---you really have to be good to play that bad. I was a fan of "Grin & Bear It" and have visited Gumps on my travels to SF.
I'm really glad that you are keeping these guys alive as the world needs a good laugh at least once a day
Barbara (Smrstik) Elling: I just have to say THANK YOU for your website. I have told my daughter about the crazy band that my uncle, Lloyd Smrstik, sometimes played with. I really appreciated seeing him included on the site.
Victor Krone: Als liefhebber van kromme muziek hoorde ik, ongeveer 40 jaar geleden, een zelf opgenomen cassettebandje van de Guckenheimers en, u raadt het al, ik was gelijk verkocht. De cassette, waarop w.s.l. de derde LP stond, is lang geleden verloren gegaan. Daar we de naam van de band en de titels van de opnames niet wisten, heb ik mij suf gezocht. Tot mijn grote geluk kwam ik ze, puur toevallig, op You Tube tegen en dus was het vinden van uw site een kleine stap. De info en de 6 songs heb ik natuurlijk overgenomen; hier ben ik heel erg blij mee.
Patrick Hydrick: I looked but could not find any of your tunes on iTunes. My father loved, in particular, the Music for Non-Thinkers album. I have many fond memories of him playing the album at its loudest and laughing at the miscues. I had completely forgotten the album until I went to my granddaughter's sixth grade recital this week. Thanks for the wonderful memories.
John Kelley, San Antonio, TX: Thank you for your very informative website devoted to the Guckenheimer Sauerkraut Band! In 1970 a friend gave me a much used (abused?) copy of "Music for Non-Thinkers". Ever since I have tried to introduce new friends to this hilarious group. I also have tried to find out more about the Band but until I encountered your website I had come up empty-handed. The background information that you provided is very interesting (and hilarious).
Thanks again for your excellent research and for making the results available to the world! Now if only we could persuade RCA to release the GSB's peerless performances on CDs!
Niels Swinkels: Ik ben geboren en getogen in Helmond, maar ik woon sinds 1995 in San Francisco. In mijn vorige leven was ik Chef Kunst van het Brabants Dagblad en ik werk nu voornamelijk als freelance journalist/schrijver/vertaler en radio/podcast producer. Uit een of andere diepe krocht van mijn geheugen kwam onlangs de Guckenheimer Sauerkraut Band boven drijven; ik ken deze band al sinds Willem Duys er in zijn programma 'Muziekmozaiek' op zondagmorgen een keer iets van draaide, ten minste dertig jaar geleden. Maar aanvullende informatie bestond niet, of was in ieder geval toen niet te vinden. Ik heb nog ooit viavia een cassettebandje op de kop weten te tikken van 'Mädel Wasch Dich' en later ook nog gezocht of de muziek op cd te koop is, maar dat is niks geworden.
Hoe dan ook: dat kwam allemaal zeer onlangs boven drijven, en toen ik via Google weer op zoek ging naar meer informatie kwam ik -uiteraard- terecht op jouw uitgebreide en goed gedocumenteerde website. Daar zag ik ook dat de Guckenheimer Sauerkraut Band uit San Francisco kwam (hetgeen mij lang geleden ooit verteld is, maar ik was het weer vergeten). Vanwege de link met San Francisco lijkt het me aardig om een kort radio-programmaatje te maken over de GSB. Ik werk (als vrijwilliger) voor KALW, een plaatselijk 'public radio' station en produceer af en toe mijn eigen stukkies. Mijn vraag is of ik gebruik mag maken van de informatie op jouw website - en ik neem aan dat dat geen probleem is, maar ik vraag het toch maar.
Robert Noyes: I bought the "Oom Pah Pah..." LP when it came out. My fatal mistake was to lend it to someone. You know the rest of that story. Anyway, Google brought me to your page. You are doing a great public service for the world of music by posting this valuable data.
Chad Leich Stegina: Wow... What a surprize to find your Web Site on the Guckenheimer Sourkraut Band. How well I remember listening to their albums especially 'Music For Non-Thinkers' when I was a little boy. My Dad, an ex Marine, saw serious fighting against the Japanese in the South Pacific. During the late '50's many of his Marine buddies and their wives would come over to our house on a Friday night for an evening of music and party. Often we would have 50 or more people and the night was always wild with the beer flowing and folks dancing, expecially to the Guckenheimer Sourkraut Band. What a great memory you have brought back. Thanks for your site.
Bert de Gooijer: Hallo ik ben blij dat ik niet de enige mafkees ben! Ik heb ongeveer 25 jaar geleden de GSK band voor het eerst gehoord in een nachtprogamma van de VPRO [paesens en moddergat] en dat nummer [stars and strips forever] nooit vergeten. Via mijn speurtochten naar de Portsmouth Sinfonia [vast niet onbekend] vond ik GSK's Music for; op internet, vanaf die tijd lijden mijn collega's dubbel! Ik ben 54 jaar maar nooit volwassen geworden, dus een voorkeur voor vreemde muziek, bv Gothic, War metal en muziek van bv Toby Rix, Bob Bouber enz.
Thanks...with kind help of:
Luc Borgmans, Rocky Entriken, Susan Faria, Jaap Hazewinkel, Freek Horst, Jeannie Kellogg Keyes, Liz Neumann, Ruud Sempel.
Guchenheimer Guckenheimer Saur Kraut Band Guckenheim Sour Kraut Band, Guckenheimer Sourkraut Band Saurkraut Band Guchenheim Kuckenheik Gukenheim Kukenheim Gookenheim Goochenheim Guckenheim Souer Kraut Band Sower Kraut Sowerkraut Sauer Kraut Band
(c) 2008, Kees van der Hoeven, Eindhoven NL; last update Apr. 2013