IPA Hall of Fame Categories


IPA Hall of Fame Biography

It was Polka Day, 1962, when Peter and Paul’s father, Herbert Wendinger, purchased their first concertina from the Christy Hengel display in New Ulm. They began their lessons on August 1st of that year in Hutchinson, MN, with teachers Leonard Krulikosy, Merle Zuehl, and Janette Weber. After one year, they continued lessons with Johnny Helget of New Ulm, MN.

Their first playing engagement was on October 1, 1963, for the wedding reception of their neighbors, George and Marian Altmann of St. George. For their compensation, each received a pair of black socks! Their first actual “paid” job was on January 15, 1964, for John Deere Day in Gibbon, Minnesota.

In these early years, Peter played many times with Harold Loeffelmacher and the Six Fat Dutchmen, where he learned to play in front of large crowds.

In the beginning, most of Peter’s jobs were in local taverns with a three- or four-piece group. As he acquired wedding dances, he added brass instruments, making a six-piece band. At that time, he started playing more ballrooms and then added three-part harmony on the vocals with his musicians.

The Wendinger Band made their first recording with Lodestar in December of 1968. The second record was made with Czech Records of Omaha, Nebraska. At the 1970 Polka Day celebration in New Ulm, Czech Records set out to find a new sound to add to their record label. The staff members and guests of Czech Records chose to dine in the Pumpernickel Room adjoining the ballroom. It was there that they first met the Wendinger Brothers while they were entertaining with their “twin” concertinas. That meeting led to a recording contract, and the second record was released in July of 1971. A third record was produced two years later, in July of 1973, with the same company. Recording number four was made through Johnny Durham of Cedar Rapids, Iowa. This record came out in March of 1975. Mr. Durham also made their fifth recording. This was their double album, which was released in 1977 after the death of their friend, Johnny Durham. Since that time, numerous recordings have been made through JBM Sound Productions of New Prague and, most recently, through Alpenrose Studio in Mayer, MN.

The Wendinger Band participated in the first Polka Mass ever held in the Minnesota area in July 1975 at the St. George Catholic Church, where they are members.

Peter and Paul began their adventures driving a 1964 Buick Station Wagon and then progressed to a 1969 Dodge car, pulling a small trailer. For 14 years, the Wendinger Band was easily recognized as traveling the countryside in their 1974 Dodge van, which accumulated half a million miles. People who knew them jokingly placed bets on the van’s retirement date! The day finally came. In May 1988, a brand new Ford van began another chapter in the travels of the Wendinger Band.

The bicentennial year of 1976 marked the beginning of a new venture for Peter and Paul, when they hosted a tour to a polka festival in Honolulu, Hawaii. Since then, the two brothers, partners, and friends have introduced Wendinger Band & Travel to the world. This business has grown to a tour listing of 5,000 names, all of whom have accompanied them on their worldwide adventures.

The recording “Gold Tyme Memories,” in honor of Peter & Paul’s parents’ Golden Wedding Anniversary, was one of the 50 nominees for the Best Polka Album in the prestigious Grammy Awards. Peter and Paul found themselves once again being nominated for the Old Tyme & Variety Band Awards with the M.B.O.A. Association in the years 1987, 1990, 1991, and 1992. A highlight of their career was being able to share their musical talents for the grand opening of the Mall of America in Bloomington, MN.

Peter has been on the Board of Directors of the Minnesota Music Hall of Fame, located in New Ulm, Minnesota, for 42 years.

In addition to the musical and travel side of the business, Peter was farming with his brother until Paul’s death in 2010. Paul Wendinger was inducted into the International Polka Hall of Fame in the deceased category in 2012.

In the 60 years, he has performed at approximately 5,600 engagements and driven 1,500,000 to and from these band jobs. He has hired 225 musicians during this time.

Special recognition over the years:

  •  1985 MN Ballroom Operators Old Tyme Band of the Year

  •  Minnesota Music Academy Award

  •  2005 Induction into the Polka Hall of Fame at Ironworld, Chisholm, MN

  •  2005 Induction into the World Concertina Congress

  •  2007 Induction into the Minnesota Music Hall of Fame

  •  Weekly Sunday Radio Show broadcast on 860 KNUJ AM and knuj.net

To date, the Wendinger Band has 25 recordings. Their CD “Following Dreams” commemorates Peter Wendinger’s accomplishment of FIFTY YEARS in the music industry. “Miles of Smiles” delivers a pleasant variety of toe-tapping music.

Peter is retired from farming. His two children are taking over the farming, but he still operates the Wendinger Band and does some escorting with the travel business. His daughter, Sheila, and her husband Michael have taken over the Wendinger Travel business.