Shiner Hobo Band
The original Hobo Band was organized by a group of local, talented musicians after World War 1. During the war years, most dance and family bands were almost totally disbanded due to the men entering the service. After the war ended, the young GI’s and veterans returned home anxious to get back to old time music. A local group decided to form their own band and provide entertainment at picnics, wedding dances and civic affairs. They decided to dress in mismatched clothes with patches sewed on them. They were a happy go lucky bunch, who enjoyed their Czech and German music. The Spoetzl Brewery became their sponsor and it cost the brewery a keg of beer for each performance.
The Shiner Hobo Band gained fame in 1936 under the direction of Emmett Busch, with a toilet plunger as his baton. The Hobos marched and played in Shiner and surrounding towns, displaying a Hobo banner. They entertained crowds everywhere they went. Mr. Spoetzl would accompany the band during local parades and went from saloons to bars treating everyone to Shiner Beer.
This tradition continued into the 1950’s, when Curt Messer directed the Hobos in the same tradition of music, hospitality and refreshments. Due to the failing health of Mr. Messer, the band slowly disbanded.
In April 1986, Speedy Beal and Jules Silvers, new part owners of the Spoetzl Brewery, decided to meet with Joe Panus and Glenn Leist and try to reorganize the Hobo Band to entertain in the Texas Sesquicentennial celebrations. Joe and Glenn contacted several musicians and held a short organizational meeting at the American Legion Hall in Shiner. Approximately twelve to fifteen musicians were present and they voted to have Joe Panus as the director, who would wield the famous toilet plunger. There were two short practice sessions at the Kasper Pavilion. A comment was made that practice was not needed because almost all members were seasoned musicians with a few exceptions. One being Glenn Leist, who decided to pretend to play a replica of a huge base fiddle and tell jokes and agitate the director. The group was noted for not listening to instructions given by Director Joe. They played first at the Trinity Lutheran Home in Shiner and were an instant hit. They were immediately booked for the Shiner Catholic Church picnics on Memorial and Labor Day holidays and the “Come and Take It” festival in Gonzales.
Eventually, the Hobos had 30 active members, with approximately twenty-five making each function. Members came from Shiner, Kokernot Hill, Port Lavaca, Victoria, Yoakum, Wied, Houston, Cuero, Schulenberg and Weimar, to name a few. Their theme song is “The Shiner Song.” Spoetzl Brewery continued to provide refreshments.
After a few short years, Joe and Glenn decided to purchase an old school bus to use for transporting the musicians to out of town functions. The bus was painted white. Sign painter, George Kalisck from Moulton, painted instruments and ‘Shiner Hobo Band’ all over the bus. Speakers were mounted on the top of the bus and Hobo tapes were played as the band drove to their engagements. The band played continuously until the untimely death of the beloved director, Joe Panus, on June 30, 1996. The band continues to entertain without a director. Various members serve as Master of jokes, and pick the next tune to be played. One of the classic features of the Hobo’s is playing each polka and waltz from memory, with some tunes played from beginning to end as it was originally written. A new bus was purchased in 1999.
The Shiner Hobo Band is a non-profit organization operating with elected officers and is sponsored by the Spoetzl Brewery in Shiner, Texas.