Skip Wagner has been in the entertainment business for over 50 years.
His musical talent is astounding!! Skip is probably best known for playing
TWO TRUMPETS AT ONE TIME....IN HARMONY!!
Skip got his start playing in polka bands for weddings when he was just 16 years old. His musical background includes playing for the 392nd U.S. Army band at Fort Lee, Va. He was the band director at St. Florians High School, and a member of Frankie Yankovic's polka band. Skip was also the TV staff musician for "The House Party," a program on WISN-TV in Milwaukee, and spent time time playing the Holiday Inn circuit out East and in Canada.
Skip has performed at Caesar's Palace in Las Vegas and at Harrah's in Lake Tahoe. Having the opportunity to play Las Vegas permanently, Skip turned down the offer in order to remain close to his daughter, the first poster child for Spina Bifida. The northwoods area allowed Skip to continue performing and yet be near his family.
Skip doing his popular skit, "The Lone Ranger"
But I'm getting ahead of myself. Henry Gerald Wagner Jr. was born to show biz. His father, Henry Gerald Sr., was a 1920s vaudeville roller skater known as "Wagner the Great," whose specialty was skating without rear wheels. He also was a man about Milwaukee, the manager-owner of a series of Prohibition establishments, including the Hayloft Roadhouse on Port Washington Road.
As a boy, Henry Jr. began to manifest a propensity for showing off. Henry Sr. found an outlet for his own theatrical frustrations by becoming a stage father. He had Skip playing the accordion at age 8 and trumpet at 11. At 13, Skip formed a band called The Hungry Five, which played in talent shows and events at the Pershing School.
Skip also studied magic with the Milwaukee magician Clarence Wellnitz, and within a year was appearing between film screenings in Milwaukee theaters as "The Great Kafoozelum." At the same time, Skip was playing trumpet with the West Milwaukee High School Band and, without formal training, developed dexterity on the string bass, banjo and tenor saxophone
At 19, Skip (Skipovich) organized the Hank Wagner Polka Band, which played at school and weddings. He worked by day as a display artist and sign painter at a Schuster's store, and later began his own sign painting business, which he still does to this day.
In 1957, "Uncle Skippy" ( he must be Polish....his first name starts with "Ski"), was drafted into the U.S. Army. After taking his aptitude test, he was placed in a band training unit at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., and later in the Fort Lee, Virginia, Post Band, where he said, "I wound up playing everything." He returned to Milwaukee in 1959. As usual, one job wasn't sufficient for his explosive energies, and became a WISN-TV staff musician as well as band director at St. Mathias School.
By 1962, he was leading his own Dixieland band at the Tunnel Inn on Front Street, in Milwaukee. The band continued for three years. In 1966, Skip made a national tour as front man and comedian with the Keith Phillips Six, playing such places as Harrah's in Lake Tahoe, and Ceasar's Palace in Las Vagas. Since then he has worked in Wisconsin,appearing with his own show at the Red Carpet Inn and Nino's near the Milwaukee Airport. It was during this time that Skip started appearing at summer resorts in Eagle River and Three Lakes, Wisconsin.
Skip first began his appearances in Three Lakes at The Other Place,
one of Three Lake's most famous old landmarks on Big Lake. Following that,
the Black Forest in downtown Three Lakes became home for the Skip Wagner
Show. In 1985, Skip moved the show to the Oneida Village Inn, where he performed
each summer untill he announced his retirement in the spring of 1999.
Several years ago, Skip was stricken with a heart attack on stage during one of his bands summer shows in Three Lakes. Even though he was carted off to the hospital, his band continued the evening's show in true show-biz form. Skip returned to finish out the season, and he returned every season since. Skip was honored in 1986 with a special plaque from the Wisconsin State Legislature for his 20th year of entertaining northwoods audiences.
So, not only for his musical and comedic talents, the names Skip Wagner and Three Lakes are truly synonymous! In fact, a recent article in a local newspaper ran an article suggesting that Three Lakes re-name one if its streets to "Skip Wagner Lane" - an idea with which no one in the world would have reason to disagree.
Update: As of the 2000 season, Skip Wagner has retired from his Las Vagas style performances. He does however, remain active in performing locally with several musicians.
Last updated 10-16-01