Freddie Fisher: The Original Schnicklefritz

Freddy Fisher (1904-1967) was the leader of one of the most successful of those novelty bands that were so popular during the 1940s and the great age of radio, with an act that mixed swing and hillbilly music, perhaps a soupcon of polka (Fisher played clarinet) and lots and lots of broad, lowbrow comedy. Originally from Iowa Fisher first found success in Minneapolis before becoming nationally known. The outfit performed, under the names The Freddie Fisher Band, Colonel Corn and His Band, and Freddie Fisher and His Schnicklefritz Orchestra (in German slang, a Schnicklefritz is roughly a little scamp or rascal).

Fisher and/or his band could be seen in numerous movies ranging from features like Gold Diggers in Paris (1938), The Sultan’s Daughter (1943), Seven Days Ashore (1944), Jamboree (1944), That’s My Baby (1944), and Make Mine Laughs (1949) to soundies, Vitaphones and several other shorts released during the same years. They had numerous hit records, mostly on the country charts. Fisher’s last screen appearance was in a documentary short that showed his performing at Bill’s Gay Nineties nightclub in NYC in 1952. The last years of his life were spent in Aspen, Colorado.


The image you see above is what led me down this primrose path. The Korn Kobblers was a band formed by guys who split off from Fressie Fisher’s Band when it went west to appear in films. It was led by drummer and trombonist Stan Fritts. Esentially, the two bands carved up the country into turf. When Fisher went west, the Korn Kobblers went east, performing at the New York World’s Fair (where they opened for Guy Lombardo) and frequently perfoming on radio. Like Bob Burns with his bazooka, they played invented whimsical musical instruments with names like the skoocherphone.

Check it out! There’s a new book on these bands called 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, … Novelty Jazz of the 1930s, 40s, 50s, by Jack Norton. Or it may be a documentary film. Or both. I can’t tell. Get whatever it is here. And you can see many great clips of both of these bands on Youtube.

For more on vaudeville history, please see No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, and for more on classic comedy read  Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube.