The Magical and Mysterious History of Sgt. Sauerkraut's Polka Band
Danny Donuts came up with the concept of Sgt. Sauerkraut's Polka Band in 2001 as a novelty act entry in the Battle of The Beatles Bands at Chicago's Fest for Beatles Fans (which was then called Beatlefest). Their one performance of the Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band/ With A Little Help From My Friends parody written by Danny and co-arranged by Danny and Big D Dan Phillips went over quite well and almost made it into the final 3 playoff. Terri Hemmert played Big D's Demo recording of the song on her Rampant Beatlemania show on WXRT. Danny always wanted to reassemble the band for another Battle of The Bands performance, but it just didn't happen. In 2006, Danny got his own time slot on the main stage which made him ineligible for any more Battle of The Bands competitions.
Several years later, Danny and Gintas Buinevicius started a friendly competition trying to see if they could outdo each other building junk band instruments (tamboranjo, washbitar, pogo cellos, washtub bass) and started talking about doing a comedy movie featuring their wacky instruments. Danny thought Sgt. Sauerkraut's Polka Band would be a good fit. The band could play these instruments and be interviewed about how they think they influenced The Beatles. In 2015 Danny realized that they have to stop talking about it and commit to really doing it. As he was writing the story (he didn't write a script as he wanted the dialogue to be mostly improvised) he simultaneously started looking for 2 other musicians who could both play in the band and act in the movie. In Danny's eyes, the band was mainly assembled to be in the movie and to play maybe 2 gigs- the movie release party and Whiting, Indiana's Pierogi Fest. He got the Krauts booked at Pierogi Fest before he had the band assembled. His attempt at finding an accordion player fell through and that's when he contacted Johnny Burnett, a keyboard player who Danny met at his first Beatlefest in 1997. Danny and Johnny got together a few times to work on the arrangements. Since Tony Giangreco was already going to be at Pierogi Fest (he was the drummer in Danny's music comedy band) Danny asked him to sit in on this performance and Gintas couldn't make the first performance so Paul Barile was on vocals and electric washtub bass.
Danny says, "I thought I was going to be the pogo cello player but the same day I showed Gintas the pogo cello that I built, he went out and built one for himself. He's a natural percussionist and drummer so I gladly stepped aside and moved over to the electric washtub bass that I built. Because we had so many percussion instruments, I was thinking we really didn't need a drummer, but we just sounded a lot better when Tony was on drums. In the movie, Tony plays the college student filmmaker and Freddy Atkins plays Wally, the accordion player. The live band utilizes Johnny on keyboards (the horizontal accordion) so he plays tamboranjo and washbitar in the movie. So the way it naturally evolved is we have 2 separate bands- the old geezers who play in the movie and us young handsome men who bring all the high energy from a rock and roll show and put it into our Beatles polka band."
The band that was assembled to presumably play just a couple of shows has been a hit every time they take the stage. And this story is just getting started. So may we introduce to you, The Beatle Polka Pioneers, Sgt. Sauerkraut's Polka Band!