By Gary E. McKee
It’s a musical Valentine’s story: girl develops crush on boy she sees at church. Despite living only several miles across the pastures of deep rural Central Texas from him, she never talks to him. They travel to two different schools in the same town on different buses until her Catholic
schooling ends in the 8th grade and she transfers to his public school. They ride the same yellow bus 32 miles to school and back every day, and romance starts to blossom. They attend a youth group function and she asks him to dance. They become high school sweethearts. When he takes her to the prom, they first have dinner at (Gene) Hackemack’s Hofbrau House, where, white tuxedo-clad, he borrows an accordion from the house band, plays, and dedicates The Starlight
Waltz to her. This was the teenage love story of Alicia Brune and Tim Kulhanek, members of the emerging Lost Cause Band (LCB).
BORN TO SING, PLAY TRUMPET
Alicia Brune Kulhanek, was, as she said, “Born into the church choir.” Her mother sang and her father was the church organist at Sts. Peter & Paul Church in Frelsburg, north of Columbus. In addition to her parents teaching her music, she joined the school band, falling in the shadow of
her older sister, Leigh Ann. The instructor was so impressed with Leigh Ann’s abilities on trumpet,
he proclaimed Alicia would be a trumpeter, also. Well, the teacher was correct. Alicia’s talent took her as soloist and her school’s band (Columbus) to win many different competitions. After high school and during college, she slowed down on trumpeting, but was still very active in
the music of the church.
Alicia and Leigh Ann were among those kids who slept on or under the benches and had polkas and waltzes as lullabies. Her parents thoroughly enjoyed live music and never missed a picnic or dance in the area. Her years of singing harmony led her to really love just “singing along” with others. Occasionally, she was asked to sing a song or two with Central Texas Sounds (CTS) as
her husband, Tim, was a member of band by then. There is a big difference between singing with others and as a lead singer. She begrudgingly accepted and was successful making the
transition to occasional lead singing.
Tim Kulhanek, raised in Lone Oak (between Fayetteville and Frelsburg), was a somewhat typical child of the 1980s, listening to his dad’s scratchy AM radio. Tim was not overly impressed by the polka shows that his dad listened to. Those rock-oriented sounds that he heard on other folks’
FM radios and at the teen dances appealed to him more.
Playing music did interest Tim. He took one interesting piano lesson from Alicia’s cousin, Dena. Tim played the music as it should sound, he just played a different style than the classic form. It was obvious that he had the gift of learning and playing by ear. He was also interested in the saxophone and the accordion, but never seriously pursued them as a youngster. However, one day, on the way home from hauling hay, Tim and his dad stopped at Krenek’s Store in Fayetteville and bought a Dujka Brothers cassette and stuck it in the vehicle’s tape deck. John and Mark Dujka’s style of music awakened something in Tim, and he began to listen more to his dad’s music, especially The Vrazels. Soon, Tim was begging his mother to take him to wherever the Dujkas were playing, and he began absorbing the brothers’ arrangements. Their music, and that of the Vrazels and Lee Roy Matocha, began to feed his musical talent.
When Tim was old enough, he got a job washing dishes at Hackemack’s Hofbrauhaus, located north of Columbus. The restaurant owned by accordionist Gene Hackemack, was a German-themed restaurant complete with accordion virtuoso Jason Keepers (Enzian Buam) providing
most of the musical entertainment. Tim had been learning the accordion, and working with Jason
upped his skill level considerably. Gene loved to tell the audience, “Playing the accordion is easier
than it looks. Why, I bet my young dishwasher could play.” The trap was set for the diners. Tim would take the stage, fumble around a few minutes, and then leap right into several songs.
The crowd loved it.
The draw of the Dujka Brothers to Tim continued at a festival dance in Ellinger featuring the Bobby Jones Band and the Dujkas. John asked Tim to join them on stage. Tim said playing
those few songs with his musical heroes was one of his best times ever on stage. When Tim and Alicia were married in 2002, guess who played for the wedding - the Dujkas - and Tim got to serenade Alicia from the stage for the second time wearing a tuxedo.
TEXAS DREAM CALLING
In high school, Tim recorded a CD and started playing a few family reunions, but nothing serious. After graduation and marriage to Alicia, music kind of fell by the wayside as he focused on making a living. Then, out of the blue he received a phone call from Texas Dream. They were in a bind and needed a keyboard player the next Saturday, and without blinking he said, “Sure
I can make it.” There was only one problem. He had sold off most of his equipment including his keyboard.
After a quick trip to Collins Music in El Campo, he bought a keyboard, his natural musicianship kicked in, and by Saturday Tim was on stage and played with them for two more years. These were very formative years as he learned stagecraft and explored musical boundaries with the band. Since Texas Dream primarily played Saturday nights, Tim had Sundays off. This gave him an opportunity to begin occasionally sitting in with CTS. After a while, he left Texas Dream and began playing with CTS more. When a spot became open in CTS, bandleader Larry Sodek
called Tim and offered him a full-time position. Holding down the keyboard, saxophone, and accordion positions in CTS, Tim was able to play the music that his dad loved so much and, thanks to the Dujka Brothers, Tim felt at home with.
The Lost Cause Band was officially formed in 2014. Tired of being a “no-name” band, drummer Spencer Schneider had the wild idea to borrow the initials from the Liquor Control Board for fun, and instead made it stand for Lost Cause Band. The name stuck. The five-piece group plays a
wide range of music from country to polkas to rock, and is composed of some members who also play in a favorite band based in Fayetteville called Central Texas Sounds (CTS).
In addition to Spencer, LCB/CTS members are Joey Krchnak, guitar; his son Walter, bass; and Tim Kulhanek, keyboards, saxophone, and accordion. Alicia, on trumpet, accordion, and vocals rounds out the sound of LCB. Joey, who works at Huebner Concrete as a truck driver, learned guitar while playing in his father’s band, The Western Stars, in Houston. His father, Dan, was one of the twin fiddles in the band that played major dance halls such as Magnolia Gardens and Dancetown. Joey was singing with them at the age of seven and soon was playing rhythm guitar for several
years. After moving back home to Central Texas he joined a band out of Brenham, Country Keys, and later became a 17-year veteran of the Sil and Ray Krenek Orchestras. When CTS had an opening for a guitarist, Joey jumped in and began a long run with them providing spot-on classic
country guitar licks. Joey’s guitar style was influenced by two of the most innovative players:
Merle Travis and Eldon Shamblin, the innovative rhythm and lead guitarist of the early Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys.
Joey’s son, Walter, started playing bass when he was 14 and learned by playing along at home listening to tapes of the Vrazels and other topnotch artists. He played bass for a while with Southbound FM 955 and CTS, and then took a break to go to college. After returning home, he
rejoined CTS backing up his dad in addition to providing the back beat of the LCB. During the day, Walter is a technician with Winkler’s A/C & Heating.
Percussionist Spencer Schneider, is the musical co-anchor of LCB along with Walter. Spencer, who spends his days as an inspector for the City of Giddings, began learning his stagecraft
in a country band in the Giddings area in the mid-1970s. However the band’s sound went disco during that period. Spence has a philosophy: “When it quits being fun, I’m going fishing.”
Spencer chose fishing over disco. He left and hooked up with The Ellinger Combo in 1978 and began a long and happy time playing drums for them, then CTS, and now both CTS and the
Once CTS played a battle dance with the Vrazels. Spencer, like many other musicians, was in awe of Thomas Strmiska’s drumming for that legendary polka band. As they were setting up drum kits side by side by side, Spencer was a little intimidated. Thomas came up to him and politely said, “You have your style of drumming and it’s great, and I have my style, so let’s give the dancers a
great show.” They were good friends till Thomas’ passing.
Tim’s tan gives him away as a laborer for the Kulhanek Construction Co., and Alicia is an assistant vice president/real estate lender/loan officer for Industry State Bank in New Ulm. The group plans to record a CD in the near future.
LCB members would like to thank the top members of their fan club for the love and support they have received. These are Tim’s parents: Delbert and Laura Kulhanek; Alicia’s parents:
Lambert and Carol Brune; Joey’s wife: Lori; and Spencer’s wife: Carolyn. Lost Cause has a cool promotional video on YouTube that can be found by a search for “The Lost Cause Band”
or Erik McCowan, who filmed it among other musical events. If you need a great all-around band for an event, please contact Tim at 979-732-4065 or Alicia at 979-733-4481, but hurry as the 2017 dance calendar is filling up rapidly!