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Thiel plays way into WCC Hall of Fame

On his golden anniversary of playing in a band and 44 years with his concertina, Chuck Thiel of the Jolly Ramblers is being inducted in to the World Concertina Congress (WCC) 2012 Hall of Fame. Induction ceremonies are planned for Sunday, Oct. 14, 2012 in New Prague, Minn. Others that will be inducted are Keith Zwack of Corcoran, Ernie Stumph of Belle Plaine, Walter Frank Kensy of Arden Hills, Leon Arnold Olsen of New Ulm, Dale Kenneth Dahmen of Buffalo and Gilbert Maux (deceased) from Pierz. The WCC Hall of Fame honors those concertina players who unselfishly elevate, promote and perpetuate the concertina as a musical instrument. The WCC Hall of Fame has been rewarding concertina players since 1976 and has been doing it on an annual basis. Thiel, the concertina player, lead vocalist and leader, is the son of the band’s originator Albert Thiel, who passed away May 12, 1994. Chuck has been a Jolly Rambler since 1962. Father of Jason, Jeremy and Jamison, he makes his home in Lester Prairie. After teaching high school English for 25 years, Thiel plays music, organizes and guides tours, provides weekly hospice music, and continues to DJ his Polka-bration show for KDUZ radio on Sunday afternoons 20-25 times each year. It’s been said he performs about 200 dates a year. In August he made 22 hospice visits and for the year he has made well over 100 visits to hospice. Since he started playing at hospices he has visited nearly 1,400 homes. He also does church services and averages about 50 per year. His son, Jason, is a third generation Jolly Rambler who became a full-time member in January 1995. Jason plays keyboard, does vocals and arranges music, but occasionally will be found behind the drums and even playing trumpet. A graduate of St. Cloud State University, he now works for WCCO-TV in Minneapolis and lives in Bloomington with his wife Mary and sons Jacob and Noah.They have a third child on the way this October. The Jolly Ramblers feature a wide variety of musical styles, from German/Czech old-time to modern and swing to ‘50s, country, and country rock. In 1991 they added the ‘polka mass/service’ to their library and have since released five Christian CDs/cassettes. Christian ministry through music has become a major part of their annual schedule. Beautiful, My Savior Be and Good Old Polka Rhythm are their latest releases. The Jolly Ramblers have recorded 19 albums/cassettes/CDs. Other Jolly Rambler members are Ken Schmidt who has been with the band since 1971. He plays trumpet, saxophone and valve trombone and does many of the vocals. He also arranges much of the band’s music. Ken and his wife, Cathy, live in LeCenter, where Ken recently retired as a high school science teacher. David Kroells, a member since 2005, has drummed with many bands — most notably Earl Schmidt and Jerry Schuft. He lives in Mankato with his wife, Joyce. Leon Haefner, a retired band director at Northfield High School, became a regular with the Jolly Ramblers in 2008. He plays saxophone and clarinet and works with many other bands. Myron Muehlbauer has been a musician for nearly 40 years. He plays trumpet, saxophone, and clarinet. He plays about 20 dates with the Jolly Ramblers each year and also plays with many Minnesota and Wisconsin bands. Gary Baggenstoss is a longtime musician with the Deutschmeisters and now plays the tuba with Dale Dahmen.

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