Popular local group enters digital age
The one and only girl -
For a brief time in the 1950s, the Radke Quartet included a female, their sister Darlene. From left: Darrel, Donald, Darlene and Leland Radke, circa 1953. Photo submitted.
Fred and Marie (Mary) Radke of the Hanover community liked to sing. Fred and his brothers Louis, Walter and Edmund sang in a quartet for their parents' 50th wedding anniversary, and Marie and her sister Frieda, Louis Radke's wife, usually sang a duet at family Christmas gatherings. They passed this love of music on to their sons and daughter, and in 1950 three of the brothers - Darrel, Leland and Donald- joined their cousin Gerald, Louis' son, to form the first version of the "Radke Quartet." Darrel, at 17 the youngest member of the quartet, was also the only one who could read music, as he also played the piano. The group sang at a few Hanover community events, and when Gerald, a high tenor, joined the service in 1953, his spot in the quartet was taken by the Radke brothers' sister, Darlene, until Gerald returned from the service. This quartet then continued to sing periodically until Darrel was killed in a car accident in 1954, at the age of 21. A tragedy, to be sure, but life goes on, and so did the Radke quartet a couple of years later, when Fred Radke's oldest son, Wayne, joined his brothers Leland and Donald and their cousin Gerald to form what would be the longest lasting and probably best-remembered version of the Radke Quartet.
Though the group continued to sing at area weddings, anniversaries and other events over the next 35 years, their fondest memories are of the years they performed as a "Barbershop Quartet," members of the Buena Vista Barbershop Chorus, starting in approximately 1960. The Buena Vista group would rehearse every week in Sioux Rapids, and the Radke men would rehearse in their car all the way up to practice - and all the way back home. If the wives went along, they rode in a separate car.
Radkes in a light moment -
The Radke Quartet (from left) Gerald, Wayne, Lee and Don perform at the annual Parade of Quartets at the Buena Vista Barbershoppers show in the 1960s. Photo submitted.
The Radkes also got involved in doing some radio commercials for Hawke Fertilizer of Alta in the early 1960s, recording a commercial jingle at the KAYL radio studios in Storm Lake, set to the tune of "Hey Look Me Over." When I spoke with Quartet members Donald, now 81, and Wayne, 83, for this article, they still remembered the words to the song, and broke into an impromptu rendition. As the brothers remember it, the quartet members decided, when they were at KAYL, that they should cut a record for their mothers. They ponied up the money to do so, recording several songs. Their guess as to the date of this session is 1963. The only other recording they ever made was in the early 1970s, when they recorded a tape at the old Hanover schoolhouse, again for their mothers.
The Radkes' peak performance years were probably 1962, when they performed 19 times and 1963, when they performed on 23 occasions - singing at weddings, funerals, banquets and other celebrations around the area, in addition to their barbershop participation and singing in the St. John's Lutheran church choir in Hanover. The quartet remained active for over 35 years, but performances over the last ten years have been increasingly rare.
The Radkes' most recent performance as a group was an impromptu performance for their mother in April 2004 at Sunset Knoll Retirement Home in Aurelia, on the occasion of her 101st birthday. Marie resided at Sunset Knoll at the time, and passed away the following year. Her nephew, quartet member Gerald, has now also died, effectively bringing the Radke Quartet years to a close.
Radke Quartet members Donald (left) and Wayne today. Photo by Dan Whitney
As for the remaining Radke quartet members, Wayne and Leland (Lee) Radke reside in Alta, Donald, the bass singer for the group, now lives in Cherokee, and their sister, 1950s 'fill-in' Darlene Lundin, lives in California.
Doug and Barb Radke of Aurelia were recently discussing the "Radke Quartet," and thought that they might have an old phonograph record by the group. After some searchingthrough the house they did, indeed, find a record by the Radke Quartet among the items belonging to Doug's late mother Lorine, who was married to Fred Radke's brother, Walter.
The record - the one recorded at KAYL in 1963 - was a 78 rpm record, and a search for someone who possessed a record player capable of playing the record then ensued. An appropriate player was found, thanks to Lyle Konrady of Aurelia, the former owner of Lyle's TV, and Lyle was also able to transfer the recording to a cassette tape.
Konrady did not have the equipment to further transfer the recording to a compact disc, however, and that's where Dr. David Klee of the Cherokee Recording Studio and DAK Productions enters the story. Dr. Klee was able to give the Radke Quartet recording a "digital makeover" by burning a CD, and he then sold a few copies, at a nominal fee, to family members.
So the Radke Quartet music survives in this digital age, and can now be listened to and enjoyed by generations of Radkes to come.