Old Franklin Township Historical Society

History of Area Music & Bands

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WHITE MOUND - Cheese factory with lean-to, dance hall, store garage. Taken 1920


Text taken from: The Ghost Village of White Mound And Its Surrounding Area "Billytown" by Phyllis Liegel Dearborn on page 13.


White Mound Orchestra - John H. Liegel and Albert Liegel on the volin, George Liegel on the brass horn, John Mick on the clarient, and Rose Mick on the organ.


Theresa Weitzel and Helen Cady both recalled the Harry Petersen Harp Band playing there. A toe-tapping good time could be had, dancing the squares sung by a caller.


White Mound known as "Billy Town"


Excerpts taken from a booklet donated by the Dean Blau family "The Blau Family ~ A Musical History."


1950 to 1951 - Squeeze Box Serenaders

   One day in 1950, the Blau boys went to the home of Mike Haller, probably to play some softball and hang out. Mike's mother, Agnes Beer Haller, loved to play the piano and sing. Joe Wankerl (a nephew of Agnes) was there with his guitar. Everyone ended up singing along while Mrs. Haller played the piano. A few days or weeks later, the Blau boys decided to go to Joe Wankerl's home with their accordions. One thing led to another and a group was formed with members Dean Blau, Harlan Blau, Louis "Louie" Nachreiner and Joseph Wankerl.

   How or what date the group chose "Squeeze Box Serenaders" as their name is not known, but they went by that name from their first days together until the Blau boys went into the Army in 1954. "Squeeze Box Serenaders" first appeared in print when the group played in their first amateur contest at the Sauk County Fair in Baraboo on August 31, 1950. Dean recalled the group most likely didn't use that name every time they played. In the beginning, "Joseph "Merle" Alt also played guitar with this group for a short time.

   Sometime before the Mary Prem and Bernard Brings wedding in June 1951, Joe Wankerl left the Squeeze Box Serenaders and went to play with the Fingerhut group called the "Badger Valley Boys." This is most likely when Duane Blau joined the Squeeze Box Serenaders with his guitar. Details are sketchy, but Duane was playing a guitar in August of 1950, and probably didn't formally play with the group until 1951.


 Above, left to right: Joseph Wankerl, Harlan Blau, Duane Blau, Dean Blau, Michael Haller.  Photo was taken in the summer of 1950 at the Joseph and Agnes Beer Haller farm home located about 3 miles north of Plain, Wisconsin. The car in the background is Dean Blau's 1939 Ford.


Excerpts taken from a "A History of Plain,Wisconsin" written by Hildegarde Thering - 1982


Page 74

Plain Band - 1902

   At a meeting held on November 12, 1902, a band was organized at Reuschlein Bros. hall with William Marshall, one of the best clarinet players, as instructor. William Marshall drove from Avoca for band practice, once every week, with the horses.

   The band consisted of the following members: John H. Liegel, Joe Schwartz, H. J. Reuschlein, Mike Gruber, Joe Ferstl, John Brechtl, Mike Paulus, John Frank, Alois Ruhland, John Mick, Philip Bettinger, John Weiss, and Charles Bremmer.

   The accordian and mouth organ were played by Joe Schwartz, violin by John Frank, the drum by John H. Liegel, besides the flute, trombone, clarinet and several cornets by the other members. The fox trot, waltz, two-step, and square dance were popular.

   On March 9, 1903, a concert was given in Reuschlein's hall for the benefit of the band by the Avoca band which was under special management of C. Kuerstine, comedian and dance artist.

   One of their first appearances was at the wedding of William Reuschlein and Rose Brechtl, where the band lent their services to the festivities.


Page 74

White Mound Orchestra

   A toe-tapping and hand-clapping band in the early days which kept the party going, was formed by John H. Liegel, violin; George Liegel, Sr., base horn; John Mick, clarinet; Rose Mick, organ; and Albert Liegel, violin. A favorite feature at gatherings were the square dances, danced to the rounds of the music with the directions, sung, by the caller.

   The Loreto Cornet Band played for the Thanksgiving dance at Reuschlein Bros. hall in 1903.

Page 90 & 91

Plain Brass Band -1915

   A mixed band was organized at Plain, in December 1915, with Julius Nold

of Black Hawk as the instructor. Practice was held on Friday evenings in summer on the Peter Peters lawn and during other seasons at the Bettinger's Hall. Though it was a well known fact that Plain had a good band, it was a surprise to many to see one of such instrumentation. Members of the band were as

follows: Clem Frank, Philip Bettinger, Sr., Clarence Bettinger, Louis Bettinger, Mrs. Clara Bettinger, Josie Bauer, Alois Ruhland, Mrs. Jucinda Ascherl, Ms. Clara Beck, Mrs. Adela Hetzel, Ms. Esther Weiss, Alphons Kraemer, Alfred Frick, Fred Grauvogl, Walter Liegel, Henry Reuschlein, Walter Neuheisel, Tony Neuheisel, and John Weiss.

   The band assisted in the entertainment at many local functions, such as the school programs, picnics, and at the patriotic meetings and Liberty Loan Campaigns of World War I. They were engaged to play at the Sauk County Fair on September 19, 1917, at Baraboo. With the signing of the Armistice, Novem­ber 11, 1918, the band gathered and helped with the celebration of that day.


 Left to right. Seated: Mrs. August Hetzel, Ms. Clara Beck, Mrs. Frank Ascherl, Ms. Esther Weiss, John Weiss. Middle row: Walter Liegel, Anton Young, Joe Bauer, Philip Bettinger, Louis J. Bettinger. Back row: Alphons Kraemer, Alois Ruhland, Henry Reuschlein, Walter Neuheisel, Joe Ferstl.


Page 121

Plain Hot Shots

   In 1948, Harlan Fingerhut and Joe Wankerl started playing with the Badger Valley Boys, a band that played for WWCF radio station out of Baraboo.

   Being of an innovative nature, these two musicians decided to form their own local band and soon, with several friends, they were beating out polkas, waltzes, and country western tunes. Harlan Fingerhut played the drums, Joe Wankerl the tuba, Kenneth Rieder the accordian, LeRoy Walters the trumpet, Dick Strait, vocals, guitar, or banjo, and Hank Dederick trumpet, tuba, or base guitar; a formidable group!

   Their most requested song, "E-I-O Polka," was recorded in 1967 and crossed the ocean to Bavaria. In 1975, this outgoing group cut their first album, "Saturday Night with the Plain Hot Shots," at the Sauk City recording studio.

   The popularity of their infectious rhythm won wide recognition and soon
they were taking in larger areas, traveling to La Crosse, Madison, and Waunakee.




Page 198

Ederer Brothers Band


The Ederer brothers of Plain formed a family band with an occasional singing and dancing assist from the youngest in the family - three year old Bob. Regular band members were Fred, John, Carl, and Don. They started to play together about 1960 for parties and wedding anniversaries. Their musical attainments spoke for themselves.

   Not only did the play at community functions but also for outside commitments such as at Camp Waubeek for the orthopedically handicapped, located above the Wisconsin Dells..


Page 173 & 174

St. Luke's Choir


Singing hymns in their language gave a very strengthening effect to the few early families that gathered in their homes to participate in the Mass. Especially exalting was the closing hymn, "Grosser Gott, Wir loben Dich" ("Almighty God We Praise You").


It is to be conjectured that with the arrival in 1878 of Fr. Buss and his two nieces, one of whom (Lizzie) was a musician, that the melodian was acquired at this time for the parish. According to Mrs. Ferry Ederer, the choir revolved around the Hutter family and was called the Hutter choir.


With the marriage of Lizzie Buss on January 7, 1882, at Madison, to John Zilg, son of Conrad and Regina (Schreiner) Zilg, the next organist was Lizzie Hutter. At about this time the choir began to struggle with the Latin mass. Following the marriage of Lizzie Hutter to Joseph Thering in May 1884, her sister Christina took over the choir.


With the arrival of the Sisters, a Sisters' choir was formed. They sang the requiem at the funeral mass of Ms. Annie Horning, niece and adopted daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Philip Neuheisel on June 18, 1901, at Spring Green. Ms. Horning met a tragic death at the explosion of their kerosene stove.


Mrs. Herman Hutter recalls the beautiful rendition of the "Silent Night" given one Christmas Eve when Sister Gregory, who was here through the years of 1899 to 1905, played the organ at the Midnight Mass, with John H. Liegel and John Mick playing the violin and Mrs. Molly (Volk) Meise playing the zither.


With reference to an article given in the Weekly Home News in December 1914, hereby is the following:

Christmas was celebrated at St. Luke's church in an unusual splendor at midnight and at the 10 o'clock high mass. During the month of September, the two church choirs were reorganized under the direction of Rev. G. Pesch. Ms. Grace Brechtl, having completed a ten months course of instruction in vocal, piano, and pipe organ under Professor Stempher at the Milwaukee Conservatory of Music, was ably assisted by the following singers:

Sopranos: Mrs. H. Hillenbrand, Mrs. William Schoenman, Misses Emilia Dischler, Mae Aron, Lucinda Liegel, Margaret Blau, Margaret Hartl.

Altos: Mrs. Lawrence Beck, Misses Nellie Heiser, Bernadette Nach­reiner, Elizabeth Liegel, Margaret Brickl, Eulalia Brei, Clara Soeldner.

Tenors: Messrs. John Weiss, Philip Bettinger, Henry Reuschlein, Albert Beck, Charles Bremmer.

Basses: John Brechtl, Herman Brickl, Joseph Schwartz.

Ms. Grace Brechtl, the director and organist, together with the choir, displayed a remarkable musical ability in rendering the Van Bree's Mass No. 1. The $3600 pipe organ proved its power. Ms. Ruth Bluecher accompanied some of the Christmas hymns with her violin.


In the fall of 1914, a children's choir was formed with the upper grades participating. This choir sang at the requiem masses during the weekdays.


Rev Fr. Monarski, a talented violinist, showed an interest in the choir during his residency form 1923 to 1926 as associated pastor.


Rev. A. M. Kammer, associated pastor, organized a men's choir in the fall of 1926. They presented for the first time their own complete musical program on Christmas morning at the five o'clock Mass. The soloists of the Mass were: Anthony Blau, Leo Weiss, Sylvester Heiser, Zeno Weiss, Anthony Blau, Anthony Neuheisel, and Clarence Bettinger.


At the closing, St. Luke's high school orchestra accompanied the choir in the Christmas March.


During the pastorate of Fr. Raymond McAleer, the ladies joined the men's choir, in 1966



 Page 193 - St. Luke's Choir
Left to right: First row: Herman Lins, John Schmitz, Joseph Weiss, Sylvester Heiser, Edward Laubmeier, Zeno Weiss, Edmund Weiss, Frank Haag. Back row: Charles Schutz, Linus Kraemer, Wilfred Weiss, Herman Brey, Joseph Wankerl, George Blau, Albert Thering.


 Page 182 - St. Luke's Band - Director, Sister Margaret Mary