PAUL HEMMER SWING ORCHESTRA
Paul Hemmer has been involved in the Dubuque music scene since 1960. Paul worked his way through college performing
at Timmerman's Supper Club from 1963-1967. He's led his own very successful orchestra for more than 35 years. Hunter
Fuerste played his first jobs with Paul's band. Paul even helped Hunter with arranging while Hunter
was still a high school student. Recently, Paul revived and expanded "The Paul Hemmer Orchestra" for a series of variety shows
for the Celebration Belle staged at The Grand Opera House in Dubuque. His band will doing a new series this summer.
During Paul's days
at WDBQ and KIWI in Dubuque he did dozens of big band remotes from the Fairgrounds Ballroom, Royal Palais, Lombardi's,
and Timmermans. The remotes included bands such as Chuck Foster, Don Glasser, Eddie Howard, Jan Garber, Al Pierson
Paul Hemmer was born in 1944 in Dubuque, IA. His earliest memories
of "live" music was a daily radio program called
"A Rainbow of Musical Moods"
performed by organist Bob Gribben from the studios of AM 1370 KDTH, a station
by Hemmer and two partners. Paul began piano lessons in 4th grade
and Hammond organ several years later. He organized a
Ambassadors" while still in high school. The quartet performed at school
dances, church picnics and
While majoring in Music Education at University of Wisconsin-Platteville he he
studied theory, composition
and arranging and help organized the first "stage
band" at UW-P to perform campus events.
During those college years
(1962-66) Paul played substitute piano for the Joey
Paradiso and Larry Foster Orchestras in Dubuque, and then picked up
Friday through Sunday evening job in the trio at Timmerman's Supper Club in
East Dubuque, IL playing both organ
and valve trombone.
In 1965 he completed enough arrangments to take out his own 12 piece orchestra
with big band
arrangements of contemporary rock and pop tunes to play for area
proms and occasional country club and private party jobs.
By 1969 he had added
enough "ballroom style" arrangements to start accepting engagements at area
these years Paul had also become active "on the air" as a radio
personality for WDBQ-AM in Dubuque. Upon graduation from
UW-P he accepted a position as morning announcer and stayed there until 1994 when he ventured out on his own and constructed
97.3 KGRR-FM in Dubuque. Paul, his son, Steve, and wife Jan operated the station successfully with a staff of 9 until June
2000 when he and two partners formed "Radio Dubuque" to operate KGRR-FM, KAT-FM, WVRE-FM and KDTH-AM. He continues as
morning host on KGRR, and in August 2007 will mark his 40th anniversary as a morning radio host in Dubuque, IA.
1975 Paul was commissioned to write an original musical comedy for
Dubuque's celebration of the nation's bi-centennial.
The result was "Get The
Lead Out!", which ran to rave reviews for 22 performances at Five Flags
Theater during July
and August of 1976. The show was based on Dubuque's early
lead mining history and based on historical fact. That year he
was named "First Citizen" by the Telegraph Herald newspaper - the youngest person to achieve that distinction.
Sent Me!" followed in 1978. It is a prohibition era musical loaded with
jazzy 1920's style tunes and gangster comedy that
poked fun at the Al Capone
connection to Dubuque during the 20's. "Joe Sent Me" ran for a month in
Dubuque as well as
2 weeks at Theatre Americana in suburban Los Angeles, CA.
For the next 12 years Paul concentrated on the big band sound
performances at hotels and ballrooms from Des Moines to Chicago. The band
recorded 1 LP and 4 cassettes of their
brand of big band "sweet swing", often
logging more than 120 dates per year.
In 1989 Paul's 14 year old son, Steve,
joined the band on alto and tenor sax
and he remained with the band until he left to join a classic rock/blues band
Paul took another step into musical theater in 1991 with "Seamboat Comin'",
another original show that
played 3 months at Five Flags in Dubuque as a
summer tourist attraction. And he combined forces with another local composer,
Resnick, to write "Sketches from a Drawing Room" which ran in 1996 and
"The Paul Hemmer Swing Band" was reorganized
in 2004 to produce a series of 90 minute variety shows for The Celebration Belle Mississippi River Cruise
company and staged
at The Grand Opera House in Dubuque. The band includes
veterans of the Glenn Miller, Jan Garber, Dick Jurgens, Eddy Howard
name bands and Paul is delighted to have his son, Steve, back in the sax
section - often featured on "Harlem
Nocturne" or Jimmy Dorsey's "So Rare." The
stage show includes vocalist Sheila Cottral, banjo artist David Richter, and
Paul's band just completed recording a new CD that will be on sale this summer
during their performances.
And, he's currently completing work on a revival
of "Joe Sent Me!" which will be staged at The Grand Opera House in February
Paul's love of "The Great American Songbook" is evident each evening on AM
1370 KDTH where he hosts
a pre-recorded 9p-1a feature called "Nice & Easy"
that spotlights the music of Sinatra, Bennett, Damone, Cole, Doris
Lee, as well as that of the new talents like Diana Krall, Tierney Sutton,
Michael Buble, Harry Connick, Michael
In recent years he's also been writing full orchestral arrangements for pops
concerts by The Dubuque
Symphony Orchestra and The Northwest Indiana
Orchestra. His original composition, "We Remember Christmas" for chorus and
has been featured several times by the DSO and he's currently
completing work on "Christmas Time is Here" from "A Charlie
for childrens chorus and full orchestra under license from Hal Leonard Music,
From 1999 to 2003 Paul joined with 2 other musician partners and opened a jazz
club - "Duke's Place" - modeled after
New York's legendary "Birdland." The
beautifully appointed room was designed by Paul's wife, Jan, and featured
photos of big band and jazz musicians, as well as original art with a
jazz theme. A full grand piano was put to good use
by groups large and small
in the jazz, blues and big band genres. Live music was featured each Tuesday,
& Saturday night ranging from dixieland to name blues acts.
The club had seating for 140 persons. Business slowed after
9/11 and the
partnership sold out in April of 2002 and, unfortunately, the new owners
turned it into a sports bar.