From the Believe It or Not Archives:
By Christopher Wood, Publisher –
When it comes to the most iconic, well-known and truly loved Packers’ songs, Go! You Packers Go! is usually near the top of most older people’s lists. It also has the distinction of being the oldest and very first NFL team “fight song”.
However, the one that’s even more well-known and usually the ‘Number One’ on most people’s lists is The Bears Still Suck Polka by The Happy Schnapps Combo. It’s always near the top of most knowledgeable, seasoned veterans’ rosters of Packers songs.
The Happy Schapps Combo cassette, including the iconic song The Bears Still Suck Polka, the first song on Side B.
It was included on the band’s first and foremost cassette release in 1991 – entitled “100 Proof” – and the first track on side B. It became an instant hit around these parts and over the next few years, received consistent regional airplay during the football season!
One of the first lists of Packers song compilations I recall seeing was in The Green Bay Press-Gazette nearly 20 years ago (Jan. 15, 1998). It was a story about the many Packers songs that had proliferated in the previous year, starting right after the first Packers’ Super Bowl win of the modern era over the New England Patriots in ‘97. The lead story with the header “Pack Tracks” listed nearly 50 songs in different categories on the front page of the MORE section. The Bears Still Suck Polka by The Happy Schnapps Combo was placed in a song category of those with “A Bears Twist.”
The Happy Schnapps Combo was the brainchild of Jim Krueger, a talented guitarist and songwriter from Manitowoc, Wis., who had just finished a nearly 20-year stint with the Dave Mason Band. The band had a top 20 hit with We Just Disagree peaking at #12 in the fall of 1977. Notably, Krueger had written the song and was playing guitar in Mason’s band during that period.
Liner notes from The Happy Schnapps Combo’s album Raise It!
After nearly 20 years of it, he had grown tired of the road and decided to return to his hometown roots in 1987. He started a band called The Normal Adults (who were anything but) with some talented area musicians he knew, including his brother Richie.
They played out in area clubs and bars on a regular basis in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s. They also performed polkas and some fun, Krueger-penned “Wisconsinese” songs; such as Fleet Farm (A Love Song), We’re On A Beer Run and Com‘ere Once.
Krueger wrote and they recorded The Bears Still Suck Polka in 1991. He had written a slew of other wacky “Wisconsinese” songs and the band played out as a sort of alter-ego polka band to The Normal Adults, calling themselves The Happy Schnapps Combo. How could one be from Wisconsin and not like a band featuring the accordion as the main instrument?!
The song was well received by Wisconsin folk spread throughout the entire state and was selling briskly through Vann’s Liquor store in Manitowoc, which was owned by the Krueger family.
The cover art for the Happy Schnapps Combo album 100 Proof.
Since that time, it’s been listed in most articles that have come out rating Packers’ songs specifically and NFL songs generally. However, the Billboard ‘Top Ten NFL Fight Songs’ released in the fall of 2014 mentioned neither this one nor Go! You Packers Go! in their story, which around this area made them conspicuous by their absence. It did, however, list Bear Down Chicago Bears at number 6.
Like most of the rest of the Packer Nation, we had been well aware of The Bears Still Suck Polka by The Happy Schnapps Combo. I knew the guy in Manitowoc who owned and operated the studio, Mr. Dave Scroggins. He had engineered all of the sessions when my group had recorded an album there that summer and he was the one who made it all happen.
When I asked him about what it was like recording The Happy Schnapps Combo, he said they were excellent musicians who were very creative and talented. However, they also liked to party hearty, so it was a manic, wild and crazy scene because they liked to do it in a big way while they were recording.
The Happy Schnapps Combo Side B of the Raise It! cassette.
It had taken us the summer to record our 12-song album and it took them a couple of sessions with a few takes. Since The Bears Still Suck had been around for over 22 years when we put together our ‘Top 15’ list of Packers songs a couple years ago, it was a tough call to make for the #1 ranking between it and Go! You Packers Go!
Ultimately, we had to go with the historical and iconic first NFL fight song ever released, that being Go! You Packers Go! However, The Bears Still Suck Polka came in a very close second. In the interest of full disclosure, I should mention we had produced a recording of Go! You Packers Go!, which is being retailed around town and represented the song in this event.
Earlier this year, the Press-Gazette ran a story on “Packer Music To Party By” featuring their top ten list of “Timeless Green and Gold Hits.” The Bears Still Suck was #1 once again despite having a lot of competition, with some being more recent recordings and some being old, tried-and-true favorites. There were several true classics included in the lineup; including I Love My Green Bay Packers (Eddy J), We Go Green Bay (Bill Etten & The Heritage Band), (I’m a) Cheesehead, Baby (Cheeseheads With Attitude), Packer Rock Anthem (featuring Lucas Cates), Packerena (Dan and Jane), Go! You Packers Go! (The Wizenhiemers) and We Love the Green and Gold (Pat McCurdy).
The liner notes for the Happy Schnapps Combo, with funny pseudonyms for the players.
But truth be told, if it ever came down to being just about the total number of sales each song has generated, The Bears Still Suck would be far and away ahead of all of the rest of the songs on any and every list!
That includes Go! You Packers Go!, which has had the benefit of 31 more years of sales than The Bears Still Suck. Also, Go! You Packers Go! was released on vinyl by a major record label (RCA Victor) with the songs of 11 other NFL Teams in 1960.
Following on the heels of the success of The Bears Still Suck, The Happy Schnapps Combo released another cassette/CD in 1982 titled Raise It! It had the aforementioned whole slew of wacky, ‘Wisconsinese’ songs, people loved it and the band continued to enjoy great popularity on a regional basis.
Sadly, Jim Krueger met an untimely death in 1993 at the age of just 43. While the band carried on and continued without him, it could never be what it had been and eventually it was just a shadow of that. It was the first two releases that had the heart, soul and really defined the spirit and sense of humor of the band.
Side A of the same Happy Schapps Combo cassette, 100 Proof.
The Bears Still Suck has been wholly embraced by a new generation of Packers fans and is as alive and well as ever! So long as it continues to be played and enjoyed by Packers fans here and there as well as most anywhere, the legacy of Jim Krueger and The Happy Schnapps Combo is alive and well and lives on!
So enjoy it while you can, because one thing you can be sure of and that is there will never be another Happy Schnapps Combo or The Bears Still Suck Polka – they were both one-of-a-kind; unique in space and time!