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Hank Winder * Sheridan, IL * Cedar Rapids, IA * Omaha, NE

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Hank Winder and his Orchestra

By son Gary Winder September 18, 2014

Hank Winder was from Sheridan, Illinois and was involved in Music from an early start.  His mother June, was an accomplished pianist and played with the Glen Victorians and Tom Owens and his Cowboys.  Hank joined Tom Owens playing Trombone and Banjo.  He was part of the WLS road show orchestra that traveled weekly throughout the range of the WLS signal. Other famous members of this Road show included Gene Autry and George Gobel.  Hank also played with Cowboy movie star Tom Gentry who formed an Orchestra in the mid- thirties.  He later joined the Ralph Slade Orchestra playing Trombone and writing many arrangements for the orchestra.  In 1941, he organized his own band (based out of Cedar Rapids Iowa) and was represented by the Vic Schroeder Agency (VSA) which managed many prominent Mid-West bands including Lawrence Welk and Ralph Slade.

With the outbreak of World War II, Hank was eventually drafted and turned over the management of his band to Jack Cole (Colebaugh).  Jack led the band until he also joined the Army.  During World War II Hank served as a Captain with the First Armored Division experiencing heavy combat in North Africa and Italy and earning a Bronze Star. In early 1946, Hank reorganized his Orchestra basing it out of Omaha Nebraska in (again represented by VSA) and began playing to Ballrooms all over the Mid-West.

  Prominent Ballrooms included:

 The Coliseum, Davenport Iowa, Peony Park and the Music Box Omaha Nebraska, The Pla-Mor Kansas City Missouri, The Blue Moon Wichita Kansas, The Rainbow Ballroom Denver Colorado, The Prom St. Paul Minnesota, Val Air Des Moines, Iowa, Danceland and Templar Park Cedar Rapids, Iowa, The Surf Clear Lake Iowa, The Frog Hop St. Joseph Missouri, The Corn Palace Mitchell, South Dakota and many, many other Ballrooms, Country Clubs, Elks Clubs, American Legion Clubs, VFW Clubs and Meeting Halls etc.. 

Musicians that played in the orchestra included, Pete Emich, Lead Tenor Sax for over 20 years, Mac McLain Trumpet, Rex Reckenthaler Trumpet, Bob Baer Trumpet, Dick Jenkins Tenor and Baritone sax, Freddie Emanuel and Bob Pell Drums, Del Clayton Tenor Sax and Phil Breton Piano.  The orchestra followed a style of Russ Morgan, Orrin Tucker and Lawrence Welk. Lawrence Welk was known to drop by the Music Box in Omaha to hear and dance to Hank’s Orchestra.  He also provided Hank with mentoring and advice since they were both represented by the VSA agency, which Lawrence Welk owned with Vic Schroeder.

In the mid- fifties, Hank took the Band off the road (limiting the band to engagements  within 200 miles of Omaha) and enrolled in Law School at Creighton University. He would go to Law School during the day and play engagements in the evening.   In 1958,  he sold the band to Bob Baer (Trumpet player in the Winder band) and it operated under the name of the Bob Vern Orchestra for many years. Subsequently, Hank spent several years as a special agent for the F.B.I., practiced law and worked as a Senior Attorney for the Board of Veterans Appeals in Washington D.C. before his retirement.  Hank was married to Madelyn Winder for 63 years.  They had one son, Gary.  Hank passed away in 2009 at 94 and Madelyn at 91 in 2012.  Hank always felt his time in the Music business was the most memorable and most enjoyable.

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