In 1965, Scribner, NE natives Jack Robart and David Hingst purchased an electric guitar and bass guitar respectively from Gambles Store in Scribner and Tom’s Music House in Fremont. After 2-piece living room jams for a year, they convinced Delbert Kruger to assist them on keyboards and vocals. They were 15 years old and inspired by many of the bands that played in The Scribner Roller Rink at the Dodge County Fair Grounds. Area bands that played regularly in their hometown were The Rumbles and The Smoke Ring.
They picked up Ken Hoefner from Hooper, NE on drums in late 1968 and played their first organized band jobs in early 1967 at Sweet Heart Dances, teen hops after sporting events, and some “out of town” gigs in Hooper and Uehling.
Hooper native, Steve Mallette, who had band experience by playing in The Shags at Wayne State College, joined on rhythm guitar. Their first female vocalist, Pam Morton also joined around this time. They experienced their first official “road trip”, after Bill “Partner” Meyer (long time operator of the Scribner Roller Rink) landed the band a 3-night stand on the Empress Cruise Boat at Arnold’s Park, Iowa. (Arnold’s Park – Lake Okiboji, IA - was also noted as the home of the legendary Roof Garden which featured the finest regional and national rock bands in the 60’s)
. In the summer of 1968, Hobart Yates from South Carolina, stationed at The Scribner Air Base, joined the band singing some great RB covers by James Brown, Wilson Pickett and others. Gary Cordes also joined the band on drums at this time.
1968 and 1969 was filled with bookings nearly every week. Mostly arranged by Dwaine Johnson of Oakland, NE the band ventured outside of eastern Nebraska to play school gigs at Bartlett, Spalding, Spalding Academy, Greeley, Greeley Sacred Heart and Wolbach, NE.
Jack Robart briefly left the band for school in Des Moines, and the band picked up two brass players, Phil Cordes and Stan Wuerth, both from Scribner (1969). The band played very little in 1970, but called on Clark Boschult (Scribner) often to help with brass, tambourine, lights and sound.
Original members, Robart and Hingst were back in Scribner by late 1972. They found Mark Von Seggern to play drums. By 1972 Steve Mallette was back in the band. Rod Sanger joined on drums from 1974-1975. During 1973-74, The Velvet Haze played Thursday, Friday and Saturday gigs at Fremont’s Alibi Lounge. Hingst left the band in May of 1974 and was replaced by Roy Morris (Hooper). During 1974 to 1976 the band added more lounges to it’s calendar, including The Rain Tree in Fremont (complete with its sunken dance floor, dance floor with flashing lights and a huge elevated “Rain Tree” above the dance floor that appeared to “rain” on the dancers below).
By 1977 the band was playing regularly at The Loft in Scribner. This version of the band had Jack, Delbert, Gary and David in the group. Jack Robart became interested in recording and the band made it’s only 45-RPM Vinyl recording in 1980. (“Chains” written by Carol King and “It’s Not For Me” penned by Robart). During this time, the band also recorded a 33 1/3-RPM Vinyl Album titled “Still”. It consisted of songs mostly written by Robart with the help of Del Kruger on “Sweet Thunder”. One song called “Polka Rock” (part rock beat and part polka beat – is still a favorite on the Moostasch Joe Polka Show on KHUB Radio in Fremont). The band started to add Wedding Dances and Street Dances to their booking schedule – and playing a full variety of music necessary for these types of engagements (rock, some country, big band, an occasional polka and whatever anyone else wants to hear --- and they did them all WELL). During a time when most other bands were choosing one particular type of music, Velvet Haze filled the void by becoming the ultimate “variety band” – and it worked quite well.
David Hingst retired from the band in 1981 and Gary Heitshusen (Uehling, NE) began playing Bass and trumpet. The band flourished during the 1980s’, purchasing excellent sound and lighting equipment and honing their vocals. They added Randy Haseman (Snyder) and Mark Hass (Scribner) on sax and trombone. With the added players, improved vocals and professional equipment, the band began to book high level jobs at the legendary Peony Park in Omaha, NE and was invited to play in San Diego, CA at the historic Hotel Del Coronado for an insurance company party. Toward the end of the 1980, Mark and Randy had left the band, which now went back to their 4-piece basic lineup.
In 1992, the band put on a free concert for their 25th Anniversary. Many former members performed with the band at The Mohr Auditorium in Scribner. After playing with the band from 1977 through 1992, Del Kruger hung up his keyboard and Julie Schroyer joined the band on keys and vocals through its final performance in 1997. The final performance was in the band’s 30th year and was held, naturally in Scribner, NE. Robart and Schroyer continue to perform as “The Haze” in 2001.
The Nebraska Music Hall of Fame welcomes this 30-year Eastern Nebraska Band. In the 60’s – fans traveled to a “Flipper Dance”. In the 1970-80’s fans traveled to a “Velvet Haze Dance”. They could always expect a large dancing crowd, the feeling of a rockin’ class reunion at every gig, an evening filled with music to please everyone from 7 to 70, a professional looking and sounding band, -working hard to please their crowds without a hint of ego, and always a good time. “STILL – VELVET HAZE”
Quote: “By Got – Doze boys can play” Bob Hupp – The Smoke Ring (1995)