In the 1930s, at the height of the Depression, rural Americans desperate for a laugh tuned in their radios to enjoy the cornball musical antics of the Hoosier Hot Shots. Their odd-sounding blend of a slide whistle and clarinet as the two lead instruments, the solid rhythm of the washboard, and their bizarre song lyrics made them the top novelty act of their day and the true precursor to the latter-day success of Spike Jones & His City Slickers. In the passage of some 50 to 60 years since their heyday and in the current climate of digital samplers, it becomes hard to imagine just how weird this four-piece combo sounded to the average listener. As clarinetist bandleader Gabe Ward put it, "People started to laugh as soon as we started playing. We had a funny sound with the whistle and the clarinet. The way Hezzie played it, it was funny." The Hezzie that Ward refers to was one Paul "Hezzie" Trietsch, the washboard-playing, slide whistle-blowing heart of the group. Ward had met him and his older brother Ken in their teenage years. All three had music in their blood and by the late '20s, they were playing together in an outfit called Ezra Buzzington's Rube Band. Buzzington's outfit worked the vaudeville circuit, its main claim to fame being its huge assortment of freak musical instruments. It was here that the trio stared honing their chops, with Ken becoming equally adept on guitar and banjo, Ward's clarinet style veering from swing to sweet to silly, and Hezzie coming into his own playing washboard, slide whistle, and a wild assortment of whistles, bells, and horns.