Fritz and the Fab Six Continue the Journey
By Theresa Parker
Fritz and the boys celebrated the band's 50th anniversary with a party at SPJST Lodge 18 in Elgin in September 2013, and just recently released a CD – Fritz Hodde’s 50-Year Journey with The Fabulous Six. The band chose the songs to record based on what their fans request the most at dances. “While it’s difficult to record all songs requested on one CD, we recorded a few on this CD and will select others on the next CD. We do try to record new songs for each CD, as well, in hopes that they might become synonymous with our group’s name. Others may have recorded the same song, but we hope that people might like our rendition of ‘The Fabulous Six’ style,” Fritz says.
Fritz is the only original band member still playing after 51 years. His son, Scott, joined in 1984. Russell Kalkbrenner became a member in 2002; Scott’s son, Brandon, in 2005, and Gary Greener, joined the group as the drummer last year although he sat in on occasion for about four years. Gary is also a good dancer, as he and his fiancé, Kara Walker, were voted King and Queen of this year’s National Polka Festival in Ennis.
Although the group numbers five, they decided to keep the Fabulous Six name to honor those who have gone before them.
“After losing many band members over the years, we decided we wanted to continue with our trademark, the original name The Fabulous Six,” Fritz says.
One band member they’ll never forget is George Strmiska. George played for years with the Vrazels then became one of the Fabulous Six, playing from 1998 to 2002. George passed away in 2003. “One of the songs chosen for this CD - I Told a Lie to My Heart - is dedicated to George. His guitar playing was remarkable and Brandon, following in George’s footsteps and loving George’s musical ability while playing guitar, did a great job emulating George’s unique style on this song,” Fritz says.
Fritz is happy that his son and grandson are continuing the polka band tradition. “Not only do they exceed my musical ability with all of the instruments they play, but both have excelled in the pronunciation of the Czech language and we couldn’t be more proud. I respect and admire their many talents and I’m proud and honored to share the stage with them,” he says.
Brandon has also produced his own CD – All By Myself (A JA SAM) – in which he plays and sings all parts. He has also gotten some of his polka buddies together to form a new band - The All Around Czechs. Their debut performance is set for Saturday, December 13, at Sefcik Hall in Temple.
Over the years of performing, Fritz has noticed the generation gap among the dancers widening. “But we are very proud to see the younger generation’s involvement of late to help carry on the polka tradition.”
One thing that hasn’t changed are the band’s fans, he says. “We have maintained quite a few loyal followers over the years that have always been there for us and we are proud to call them friends.”
Fritz Hodde and the Fabulous 6
Fritz Hodde’s 50-Year Journey with the Fabulous Six
15 tracks: 6 polkas, 5 waltzes, 4 country
Polkabeat faves: Who’s Gonna Love You Polka, Grinders Polka, Katherine’s Waltz, I Told a Lie to My Heart
Brandon Hodde All By Myself (A Ja Sam)
15 tracks: 8 polkas, 6 waltzes, 1 country
Polkabeat faves: A Ja Sam, El Golpe Traidor, Isabella Waltz
Available: Polka On! Store