|Adolph John Hofner|
June 8, 1916|
Moulton, Texas, U.S.
June 2, 2000 (aged 83)|
|Genres||Western swing, polka|
|Labels||OKeh, Columbia, Sarg, Bluebird|
Hofner was born into a family of Czech-German origin. He grew up listening to Czech and Hawaiian music. When he was ten years old his family moved to San Antonio. He and his younger brother Emil and Simon Garcia formed the Hawaiian Serenaders and performed locally. Influenced by Milton Brown and Bob Wills, Hofner became a singer in a band that played what was later called Western swing, a combination of country music and jazz. He kept his day job as a mechanic while performing at night in clubs in San Antonio.
In the 1930s, Hofner, Emil, and fiddler Jimmie Revard started the band the Oklahoma Playboys. Hofner made his first recordings with them as singer and guitarist. He made his solo debut in 1938 when he was offered a contract with Bluebird Records. With support from Eli Oberstein, the recording manager of Bluebird, Hofner formed the western swing band Adolph Hofner and His Texans. They made their recording debut on April 5, 1938 and they played their first gig outside Leming on May 13, 1939. Meanwhile, he recorded with Tom Dickey's Show Boys. Hofner had his first and biggest hit in 1940 with "Maria Elena."
In 1941, Hofner signed a recording contract with Okeh. During World War II, he and his band were hired by the Burt "Foreman" Phillips chain of dance halls to perform around Los Angeles under the name Dolph Hofner and His San Antonians. Some of his hits during this period were "Cotton-Eyed Joe," "Alamo Rag," and "Jessie Polka." Despite his relative success, he failed to have his contract renewed and he returned to Texas. Sponsored by Pearl Beer in 1950, he formed the Pearl Wranglers, performing at KTSA in San Antonio with a musical mix of swing, country, rockabilly, and polka. They recorded for the obscure Sarg label.
Among the Czech-American songs they recorded, many with the original Czech lyrics, are the "Happy Go Lucky Polka," "Prune Walz," "Barbara Polka," "Green Meadow Polka", and "Farewell to Prague" ("Kdyz Jsme Opustili Prahu"). In order to accommodate their sponsor, Pearl Beer, the Hofners recorded the original version of "Farewell to Prague", which had been known in the old country, instead of the more recent Czech-American "Shiner Beer Polka", the same song with the word "Prague" ("Prahu") changed to "Shiner". This avoided the implied reference to rival Spoetzl Brewery in Shiner, Spoetzl's being closely identified with the "Shiner Beer Polka". But the brothers could not resist inserting a joke in Czech at the end of the recording. When one of the Hofners asks the other to "give me a dark beer" ("Daj mne cervene pivo"), Spoetzl's Shiner Bock being the most well-known dark beer in Texas at that time, the other brother firmly replies, "No!" ("Ne!").
In the mid-1980s, Hofner and the Pearl Wranglers were filmed at the Farmer's Daughter dance hall for the British Channel 4 series The A to Z of C & W. Hofner's career ended in 1993 when he suffered a stroke. He died in June 2000.