Schnickelfritz Lives Again! Bandleader Jack Norton organizes a tribute to Freddie Fisher


Winona residents will be pleased to learn that on the anniversary of his 100th birthday (June 12, 1904, Lourdes, Iowa), there will be the first annual "Schnickelfest: A Tribute to the Life and Music of Freddie Fisher." This three-day event will stop in Winona next month on June 12, 2004 at the Winona Arts Center.

The leader of Schnickelfritz was the wonderfully eccentric, obscure, frustrated, and profoundly influential, Freddie "Schnickelfritz" Fisher. Freddie created a style of music and a band ("The Schnickelfritz Orchestra") that would eventually become the Korn Kobblers (popular comedy band of the early 1940s), the Hoosier Hot Shots (country jazz legends) and finally, the zany - and hugely popular - Spike Jones Orchestra. Perhaps you remember Spike playing a "whizbang," you know, the old washboard with nearly every sound producing thing imaginable attached. Well, fifteen years before Spike began to make his millions, Fisher, a small town Iowa boy, was living and working weekly in Winona at the Sugar Loaf Tavern all but creating the most popular style of music in the late 1930s and 40s, second only to swing.

While based in Winona, Freddie and his band of musicians (most of which were from this area), recorded some two hundred phonograph records for Decca (one of the largest labels at the time), appeared in over a dozen films alongside such mega stars as Rudy Vallee and Bob Hope, and toured the country to a salary of $25,000 a week (and remember, we're talking 1938 here, folks).

Popular bandleader Jack Norton, his drummer Dave Michael, and local resident Jerry Modjeski are putting together this three day event. On Friday, June 11, they will be appearing on KFAI FM in Minneapolis playing two commerical-free hours of Schnickelfritz recordings. Saturday, June 12, brings the boys to Winona for a show at the Arts Center featuring a nine piece jazz band performing exact transcriptions of Schnickelfritz recordings. Following the concert, there will be a screening of rare films featuring Freddie Fisher and the band. That same concert will again be performed on Sunday, June 13 at the Acadia Cafe and Theatre in Minneapolis.

"This will be a long strange journey into the holy and the profane. Fisher walked this line a thousand times. He was a man who possessed an encyclopedic knowledge of jazz and pop music and had such a profound respect for the music that he simply had to make it his own and in doing so he inverted our understanding of jazz, of pop culture, of social taboos. Freddie Fisher made comedy into a high art and literally farted in the face of progressive jazzers and rich tourists everywhere. His place in music history is alongside the likes of Spike Jones, Frank Zappa, and oddball rappers OutKast," Norton commented.

Ticket information for the June 12 show at the Arts Center will be available soon. Please visit:, or call Jerry at: (507) 454-5551.

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