THE FIGHTING 63RD: The Village Idiots
The Village Idiots Band have been playing at Ottawa Legion games since 1996. The following article was written by Nancy Kline and appeared in the Putnam Voice.
GLANDORF – Lawrence “Pop” Giesken couldn’t read music, but 70 years ago he was known as “Mr. Music,” in the area. On Monday night a band started by Pop Giesken celebrated the anniversary of the band by performing at The Well in Glandorf.
The Pop Giesken Booster Band started in 1941. Giesken couldn’t read music, but he could play by ear through sheer instinct. Giesken was a trombone player with the band. Prior to starting the band he played in several other bands in the area.
When Giesken started the band he was quoted as saying “It is a hobby with us. We play because we love music, love people and like a good time.”
This is the theme that continues 70 years later with the band. In between playing songs requiring musical talent on their instrument, the band members tell jokes to the audience, each other and make up outrageous words to accompany their songs.
The band played at several venues in communities including the Kalida Pioneer Parade, Glandorf Social, Strawberry Festival in New Bavaria.
In 1941 Pop was approached about putting a band in the Ottawa Halloween parade. Pop knew some old timers who liked to play music, including several members of the Alstaetter family. There were five brothers and a nephew who played instruments. Giesken said without them they would never have had the band.
The band would practice in the Glandorf City Hall four times yearly, but performed numerous times at area festivals including the Glandorf social, throughout the year.
When requests came in for the band to perform in parades Pop asked his best musicians to be part of a rube band led by Bubbles the Clown. The band became known as Bob the Clown Booster Band. Eventually in the late 1960’s they changed their name to The Village Idiots.
“It’s a hobby for me,” said current band member Charlie Doepker, Ottawa. He started playing clarinet with the band in 1969 but said he took a “ ‘20-year army band sabbatical’ from the band before rejoining. the band. “It’s not a job. It’s just a lot of fun. We don’t’ do the gigs we used to so that makes it easier.”
Bill Burwell, who started with the band in 1975, said his father Bob had also played with the band. “He played with the band beginning in the 1950’s,” Bill said. He enjoys teasing his brother Jack Burwell as they play songs.
“I can guarantee that this is by far the best Dixieland band in at least a 100-mile radius of Lima,” he commented. Following a trip to New Orleans, Bill said he didn’t see anything that compared to ‘The Idiots.’
“We always start our shows by playing the Beer Barrel Polka,” Jack Burwell said. He joined the band in the early 1970’s while his dad was still a band member. “They needed a trombone player so I joined the band,” he said.
In 1978, the band became regular performers for St. Patrick’s Day at the Casa Lu Al in Lima.