Darrell Meuser was a true music maker

Published 12:00 am Sunday, August 20, 2006

By Ed Shannon, staff writer

Among the latest contributions to the Freeborn County Historical Museum are two songbooks and a 1947 &8220;Tiger’s Roar&8221; poster which could be real nostalgia nudges for some residents.

These three items were recently donated by Phyllis Meuser Nielsen, who now lives in

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Colorado Springs, Colo., as historical mementos from her late husband, Darrell Meuser.

Two of Nielsen’s contributions were songbooks once used by Darrell during his appearances as a keyboard and/or accordion player at area nightclubs, bars, fraternal clubs and restaurants.

Meuser used the songbook concept as an item to be used by his audience to sing-along when he played popular standard songs.

This booklet contained the words, but not the musical notes for 151 songs. Thus, Meuser could tell his audience to turn to number 20, which was &8220;Coney Island Baby.&8221; As he played the melody, the audience could join in to confidently sing the song’s words. Then again, the next number for the program could be 120, &8220;Red Roses For a Blue Lady.&8221; Other popular songs from the 1960 and &8216;70 era in the booklet included &8220;Beer Barrel Polka,&8221; &8220;Sioux City Sue,&8221; &8220;When Irish Eyes Are Smiling&8221; and even &8220;Sentimental Journey.&8221;

Darrell Meuser was born in Albert Lea on Feb. 14, 1932. His first real appearance as a musician could have occurred as a student in the eighth grade. He and four other members of the junior high school band formed a group called the Korn Kobs.

The intention for the Korn Kobs was to be part of the entertainment for the &8220;Tiger’s Roar&8221; presentation on March 4, 1947. This novelty version of a German-style old time band became the most popular part of the student talent show that year.

Roger Lonning,

retired school librarian and county historical researcher, said the 1947 &8220;Tiger’s Roar&8221; was the second in what has now been a part of tradition at Albert Lea High School for 60 years.

The Korn Kobs started with Meuser, Rollie Green, Bill Kuchera, Roger Naylor and Eslie Bergstrom. Two more musicians, John Sturtz on saxophone and LeRoy &8220;Dutch&8221; Van Proosdy of Hollandale on bass horn, were soon added to the group.

After their &8220;Tiger’s Roar&8221; appearance, the Korn Kobs played for a hotel’s grand opening in Duluth, were on Radio Station KDAL in that city, played at the VA Hospital in Minneapolis and on KATE Radio several times, were the entertainment for a regional Lions Club meeting in Winona, and were in several parades. These musicians even won second place in a WCCO &8220;Stairway to Stardom&8221; talent broadcast in 1948.

However, the era of the Korn Kobs ended in 1949. Then the group became the nucleus of the 11-member Albert Lea High School Swing Band which included several young women. The music became new time and more modern for this group, which played for student dances, proms, class reunions and other events in the area for a few more years. (Green, Bergstrom and Van Proosdy later became members of the Blue Banners Orchestra.)

Meuser graduated from Albert Lea High School in 1951 and served in the U.S. Air Force from 1952 to 1956. He was very versatile musician, playing the bass horn, trombone and trumpet, and was assigned to the Air Force base bands at Great Falls, Mont., and later Mountain Home, Idaho.

After returning to Albert Lea, he worked at the Wilson plant, attended the McPhail School of Music in Minneapolis, and performed as a professional musician with several orchestras and combos, plus his own solo appearances at various locations where the songbooks were used.

Meuser was a member of Grace Lutheran Church, active in the choir, played with the Lutheran Brass, and served on the church council.

For 17 years he operated the Meuser Piano Tuning Service and Sales and eventually organized his own musical group, the Darrell Meuser Trio.

The musician whose memory was remembered with three contributions to the Freeborn County Historical Museum died on Dec. 12, 1982, at St. Marys Hospital in Rochester and is buried in Hillcrest Cemetery.