Bio: Kuester, Thomas "Tom" (Autobiography - 2015)
Contact: Dolores (Mohr) Kenyon
Surnames: Kuester, Nelson, Meitner, Pfaff, Cole
----Source: Thorp Courier (Thorp, Clark Co., WI) 4/01/2015
Kuester, Thomas ‘Tom’ (Autobiography - 1940 - 2015)
Barman and Balladeer Kuester recalls colorful career
By Ben Bromley of the Baraboo News Republic
Sauk County residents know Tom Kuester, Sr. as a restaurateur, softball star, and occasional politician, but most don’t know he’s a balladeer who has jammed with classic country artists.
In his youth, the now-74-year-old Kuester sang and strummed guitar alongside Willie nelson, Waylon Jennings, and Ray Price. Kuester heard, ‘Anita, You’re Dreaming’ while Jennings was still working on it. In more recent years, Kuester made recordings of his original country songs.
All of this came as news to Kuester’s friend and insurance agent John Meitner. ‘It’s kind of a shame the people of Baraboo don’t know this,’ Meitner said. ‘He’s well known in Baraboo, but they don’t know this side of him.’
Meitner recently uploaded several of Kuester’s songs to the video website You Tube. He also recorded interviews with Kuester about the inspiration for each song, which served as introductions to the songs. Meitner said he enjoys Kuester’s stories, which abound.
Some of those stories are about the bars Kuester and wife Darla have bought and sold over the years, which number 20. (Perhaps best known for owning The Farm Kitchen and Hooty’s in Baraboo, they now own Kuester’s Pub and Grub in North Freedom.) Other stories are about the national senior softball championships his Hooty’s team won. Still others involve being elected sheriff in his native Clark County.
The story of Kuester’s music starts in his hometown of Thorp, where his mother sang and played piano. In high school, Kuester entertained classmates on bus trips with serenades. Soon he was getting hired to sing at birthday parties.
‘It just took off from there,’ Kuester said.
After graduation Kuester went to Nashville, where he landed an entry-level job at a radio station laying out 45s for the DJs. Kuester became a regular patron of the Grand Ole Opry, where he met Patsy Cline.
Just by hanging out with musicians--and having drinks with them--Kuester found himself invited to join in on jam sessions. Kuester’s ability to play guitar and sing harmonies made him a welcome addition.
‘They were a lot of fun. (And) crazy,’ he said with a chuckle. ‘I’ve had a lot of fun doing it, and I’ll tell ya, I’ve met a lot of people.’
He later tended bar in Fort Worth and dealt cards in Nevada. At each stop, he met the big names, performed alongside them and often landed solo gigs on small stages while headliners played the big rooms. Kuester had planned to make music his career, but bartending took him a different direction.
Kuester loved music and enjoyed the scene, but quickly noticed that even talented musicians slept on park benches. ‘There just wasn’t any money in it,’ he said.
Besides, he always preferred writing songs to performing them. Kuester’s original works are old-school ballads about country life. Many touch on themes of good friends, traditional values and patriotism.
‘My passion is writing, really,’ he said.
The call of family brought the Kuesters back to northern Wisconsin. He and Darla were recently married, and Tom Jr. was on the way, so it was time to settle down. They bought a bar and supper club, starting a career that has lasted decades.
On The Farm Kitchen property, Kuester built a recording studio with help from Jerry Pfaff, a former sound man for Natalie Cole tours who is now a Baraboo Priest. It was there Kuester recorded such songs as ‘Boys from Baraboo,’ ‘Country Lad’ and ‘K D Ville,’ about the Double K-D Ranch campground in Baraboo.
Kuester said songwriting affords him much-needed solitude, away from the hectic bar and restaurant business. ‘It’s so relaxing to me,’ he said. ‘I try to sing a little bit every day.’
He’s still writing new songs, which Meitner plans to upload to YouTube and promote via social media. ‘We’ve got more stuff to do,’ Meitner said.
You can check out Tom Kuester Sr.’s, music on YouTube by searching for: ‘K D Ville,’ ‘Boys From Baraboo’, or ‘Country Lad.’
The Thorp Courier has learned that Tom passed away on Monday, March 30, 2015. See his obituary on page 4 of this issue.
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