The Happy Schnapps Combo
"Pure Goodness in a World of Crap"
All biographies must start by looking back once to where it all began. So come with me, on a musical journey, as we take a look at The Happy Schnapps Combo – where they came from – where they have been – and where they are going – a behind the music look at the enigma known as the Happy Schnapps Combo.
In 1988, the late Jim “Bruiser” Krueger, known internationally for his masterpiece, “We Just Disagree”, had become fed up with the LA lifestyle. He decided to move back to his hometown, Manitowoc, Wisconsin. Jim soon realized that Manitowoc, with its Polish; Czech; German and Bohemian ancestry needed a sound all its own. Something that was unique to its people. Something that went great with beer! The answer? POLKA!… So it was… the Happy Schnapps Combo was born!
The original band was made up of Bruiser (Otto); Bill (Horst) Soucy; Steve (Wolfgang) Heise; Dave (Helmut) Heise; and Bruiser’s brother Rich (Wenzel) Krueger, who is still with the Schnapps today. The band cut two early albums, “100 Proof” and “Raise It”. Much of the music played by the Happy Schnapps Combo was written by Bruiser; however, Horst also contributed to this madness!
Bruiser was the band’s leader until his unfortunate and untimely death in 1992. But everyone knew that the “show must go on”. And so it did…from the first recording, “100 Proof” to its current album “Polka Power”, the Happy Schnapps Combo has had its mettle tested – and it has survived… to become Wisconsin’s Premier Show Band!
Fast forward to today… Sure, the look of the band may have changed – the names of the musicians may have changed,…but the Happy Schnapps Combo has remained true to its mission. It is what Bruiser wanted it to be…FUN MUSIC - YOU CAN DRINK TO!
Da Combo is:
Rich (Wenzel) Krueger – trap kit; gong; vocals: Rich is the only original member of the Happy Schnapps Combo, as well as being the leader of the band. Rich owns a day club that specializes in adult day care and blackberry brandy. He also runs a chain of rehab facilities. "Wenzel's Rehab" has a 99% success rate. "Ya just gotta cool it for a while", says Wenzel.
Dave (Stosh Dombrowski) Dvorak – harmonica, accordion, trumpet and Front Man. Stosh says, “Fat, drunk and stupid is a great way to go through life!”
Jay (Hans) Stulo - Used to play da blues guitar. But one night while playing Got My Mojo Working, ironically, his Mojo quit working. In desperation, he changed the order of the chords and accidentally discovered polka. Beer Belly you say? "Why stop at da belly!" says Hans.
Chris (Otis Stuka) Okkerse – master of the 6 string tuba (bass guitar): Otis was born with a smile on his face and a polka in his heart and has been infectious with these conditions ever since with no cure in sight.
Kaiser (Larry Byrne) Buerner von Kraut- Organ: filling out da combo wit the Hammond sound. Kaiser is a WAMI award winner and da oldest WW1 veteran alive. He was the original inspiration for Ronald McDonald and Alfred E Nuemann. von Kraut was a member of, "Dr. Bop and the Headliners". He currently also plays with Bryan Lee.
Ron (General Kaluga) Kalista – Manager, Agent, life long Friend. Himself a professional musician, Ron currently plays drums and sings with two other premier Wisconsin bands, Vic Ferrari and The Stringbenders.
As we close this biography, we can see that the Happy Schnapps Combo, armed with the talent of its musicians and manager, along with the great music of the late Jim “Bruiser” Krueger can be a great addition to any festival; fundraiser; picnic or corporate event..
General Mark, Friend, Songwriter and Accountant to the Combo