Jim Krueger on stage, late 1970s

Bruiser

Jim Krueger grew up in Manitowoc, 25 miles up the shoreline of Lake Michigan from where I did. Friends affectionately/ironically called the soft-spoken guitarist “Bruiser,” and he became a musical force in the area before taking his talents to the West Coast. There, he joined up with established British singer/guitarist Dave Mason, eventually writing Mason’s signature song, the late-‘70s classic “We Just Disagree” (later also a top 10 country hit for Billy Dean). Jim rode that wave of success for several years, mingling with rock’s elite, playing mammoth stages and working in the studio with Bob Dylan and Michael Jackson. 

 

But Mason’s crowds thinned out in the ‘80s and Jim moved back to Manitowoc and started a band called the Happy Schnapps Combo. His goofy polka-rap Combo concoctions like “The Bears Still Suck Polka” have embedded themselves deeply in Wisconsin culture. Sadly, Jim’s life ended where it began in 1993 at age 43. I sure wish he was still around. I wanted you to know about him.

You went out west with a Strat on your back

A song in your head, and a voice you could stack

Into the sweetest harmonies  

 

Played your way into rock n’ roll heights 

Backstage blur in the Hollywood lights           

It was a quicksand life

Did you ever reach your hand up high?

 

You were hardly around

Long enough to be the toast of the town

You couldn’t see the future

They’ll sing your songs

Probably long after we’re all gone

They won’t forget you, Bruiser   

 

You came back here, to where you began

And you started a weird little polka band

The people came from all around 

 

Raise it up, drink it all down

Wipe your mouth to the roar of the crowd

And stumble off the stage

 

They buy you shots, slap your back

They don’t understand, so nobody asks

What it was like up there

A hundred-thousand miles up in the air  

 

You were hardly around

Long enough to be the toast of the town

You couldn’t see the future 

They’ll sing your songs

Probably long after we’re all gone

They won’t forget you, Bruiser

 

Just a 3-inch-long

Article that told the world you were gone

I won’t forget you, Bruiser

 

 

© 2020 Chris Richards / White Mare Music (BMI)