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Fritz Guckenheimer, AKA Richard Gump
Mentioned here mainly for the surprise effect. In the late 1950s, RCA released a tongue-in-cheek takeoff on German beer garden "oom-pah-pah" bands with the striking title, Music for Non-Thinkers by "Fritz Guckenheimer and his Sour Kraut Band." The surprise is that Guckenheimer turns out to be Mr. Richard Gump, scion of the venerable family, whose famous department store, Gumps, has been a San Francisco institution offering china, linens, and other fine furnishings to the carriage trade for decades.
Perhaps Fritz Guckenheimer was an escape for Mr. Gump, or perhaps he wasn't quite so stuffy as a leading citizen, winner of civic awards such as the "Star of Italian Solidarity," might seem. Although his store is a fixture of the American upper class and Gump himself wrote and spoke on such topics as "Good Taste Costs No More," he was also a serious musician, having studied at Stanford and the California School of Fine Arts. He composed a number of classical works, including a piano sonata, a quintet for clarinet, and other solo and ensemble pieces.
Certainly the Sour Kraut Band was a musical escape for Mr. Gump. He and an assortment of his friends and acquaintances among the working musicians in San Francisco dressed up in old German uniforms and played a tongue-in-cheek version of beer hall music at Oktoberfests, wine festivals, and other organized excuses for public drinking. Gump liked to toss bits of musical tomfoolery in amongst the oompahs, although many of them probably went right over the heads of most of his listeners. The liner notes for his album are in the same spirit: "We all know that to realize true greatness, genius must suffer. I have suffered. The depth of my suffering is apparent in my singing in this number."
So should you run out and hunt for Music for Non-Thinkers? Probably not, unless you're dying for an Octoberfest fix or wondered what Spike Jones would have done to beer hall music. But it does go to show you that you never know what you'll discover when you start poking around these dusty old records.
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