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Cornstars: Rube Music in Swing Time

The Rise and Fall of Freddie Fisher and his Schnickelfritz Band…Stan Fritts and his Korn Kobblers…and the Hillbilly, Cornball, Novelty Jazz Music of the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s

ByJack NortonKitty Norton

New Orleans has jazz. Nashville has country. The Delta has blues. Garnavillo, Iowa (population 745) has corn. Thanks to the homegrown, farm-shucked comedic jazz of two heartland boys, a new musical genre called Corn plowed its way up the charts and across the globe in the 1930s. From the obscure tractor-dotted landscape of the Midwest to Hollywood, Manhattan, Europe, and all points in between, this is the comedic tale of stolen creative genius, betrayal, quirky passions, rags-to-riches luck - and perhaps even murder - which will knock your socks off. You may have never heard of Freddie Fisher’s Schnickelfritz Band and Stan Fritts and the Korn Kobblers, but the cornball jazz and novelty swing of these two groups would go on to have a profound influence on the landscape of American pop culture. Artists as diverse as Frank Zappa, Harry Nilsson, The Beatles, Tiny Tim, Captain Beefheart, OutKast and Weird Al Yankovic all call themselves fans of Fisher and Fritts: now you can find out why. “Cornstars" is a sweeping overview of American musical entertainment set in the later days of minstrelsy through the early days of television. Emmy Award winning author Jack Norton crafts a painstakingly detailed account told on vaudeville stages, over the airwaves of early radio stations, in the grooves of brittle old 78 rpm records and on the silver screens of Hollywood’s golden era. A treasure trove of Americana. They were bands with names like: Schnickelfritz, Korn Kobblers, Spike Jones and his City Slickers, Hoosier Hot Shots, Ezra Buzzington’s Rube Band, Five Harmaniacs, Captain Stubby's Buccaneers, Kidoodlers, Sweet Violet Boys, Pappy Trester's Screwballs, Cackle Sisters, Fiddle Bow Bill's Dew Valley Acorns, Crazy Tooters, Darrell Fischer's Minnesota Log Jammers, Zobo Band, Nebraska Sandhill Billies and Mrs. O’Leary’s Famous Musical Cow. Their sound was usually centered around the “whiz-bang”, an intricate musical washboard, along with traditional Dixieland jazz band instrumentation augmented by highly visual, Rube Goldberg-like comedic creations such as: the tootaboot, the horse collar, the squeezarina, the horncycle, the oralhorn, the piperubhorn, the skoocherphone, the greasybell, the tuberina and the blow-chicken. Yes, the blow-chicken was the name of a real instrument used by these jazzmen in the 1930s. Norton’s spotlight focuses on two musicians: Freddie Fisher (The Schnickelfritz Band) and Stan Fritts (The Korn Kobblers). Over 180,000 words and 950 photos!


Publication Date
Mar 16, 2022
All Rights Reserved - Standard Copyright License
By (author): Jack Norton, Edited by: Kitty Norton



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