2015 Nebraska Music Hall of Fame Inductee – PfreeSpirit (Paul Ehernberger)

PfreeSpirit (Paul Ehernberger) is being recognized not only for his long career as a journeyman bass player, but as a music promotor. Starting his life in a musical family in Schuyler, NE (father Lumir & brother Richard were both accomplished pianists, Richard winning a competition and playing on the Ted Mack Amateur Hour). At age 13 in 1964 Paul traveled with older sister Bonita to Europe where he bought his first guitar in Spain. It was in Europe that he caught the Rock & Roll bug.

Returning from Europe Paul soon joined others interested in music, including Hall of Fame members Bart Becker and Kenny Lee, along with Jim Finley and David Cook to form the Hallucinations. Later with Kenny Lee, Mike Malena, Ford Craig, Russ Roether, Pete Schwichtenburg, Kenlon Johannes, Darwin Franzen, and Larry Marik the bus with the Web of Sound toured Midwest Ballrooms, Auditoriums and Colleges.

Borrowing the name of the home where he stayed while in Europe Paul then formed Butter-up Garde in 1968 with Kenny Lee, Jim Finley and David Cook. In 1970 a tape of the band was shared with Bill Graham, owner of Fillmore Ballrooms in San Francisco and New York. As they were preparing a West Coast Tour and a performance it Fillmore West Jim Finley decided to stay home and focus on his upcoming marriage. Regrouping the remaining member Paul and David joined with Larry Donohue to form the Power Blues Jam Trio called Dove. David was drafted in the army at the end of the Viet Nam era which brought an end to the band.

 

After these efforts Paul began to focus on other aspects of the music industry…recording, production, promotion, etc. Moving to Colorado Paul began to work with other musicians in the recording studio and local venues. His talents were shared with Rod Stewart & Faces, Neil Young, Rob Carmichael, Barry Fey and Brent Lewis. Returning to Nebraska Paul helped form the River City Allstars in 1971 with Joe and Jim Berg, and Billy Slane.

In 1973 Paul’s music career was almost ended when his right arm was caught in an auger shaft on the family farm. At this point he began writing concert and record reviews, interviewing several artists (Commander Cody member George Frayne, and the Platters), and booking a series of shows for Powerglide. This began a long-term friendship with the Johnsen Brothers which resulted in quality recordings of over 400 songs by international blues celebrities three decades later.

 

By 1975 Paul’s arm had healed enough to play bass guitar again. He brought some friends together to record his original song “Muchie Business” which is available on a collection of songs making up a special release CD of PfreeSpirit and Pfriends for this event.

In the late 70’s after playing with the Roadmasters (Greg Theis and Joe Morris), Paul turned his attention to studying college business and music courses. This led to his opening Good Music in Columbus, NE. From 1979-1981 he and former bandmate Kenny Lee provided the latest music to the Columbus area. In addition to selling records and installing sound systems, Paul also recorded and released an album for Dan Beck (“To Whom It May Concern”), co-wrote several songs with Billy Korthouse, produced his first TV Show (a full concert by Jack Mack & the Heart Attack at Wishbones) which features an interview with lead singer Max Gronenthal — another Nebraska Music Hall of Fame member. Music videos then became a learning experience for PfreeSpirit which continues to the present day.

From 1989 to 1991 PfreeSpirit focused on Christian Contemporary Music as Marketing Director for KJSK Radio station. He left radio to become a concert promoter for John Michael Talbot and others.

Moving into the political arena Paul was recognized by the American Civil Liberties Union for his “Erased Campaign” and Pfree Speech. This led to collaboration with Paul Weyrich in Washington, D.C. to establish National Empowerment Television (NET). In 1995 Paul joined the team for Alan Keyes’ Presidential campaign.

Returning to his musical roots in 2001 Paul joined Jason Lindberg and Blaine Morris in Paradigm, two young prodigies. And following his mother’s death in 2002 and Jason’s father’s death later that year, Paul chose to concentrate once more on film-making. The 1884 bunkhouse at the Historic Fuller Ranch soon was transformed. Digital Ranch was born and the 2003 “Mother’s Gift” short film was the inaugural project. The music bed was edited by Albion musician Paul Hosford (Painted Heart Records). Original poetry by PfreeSpirit and Omahan Jill Anderson established the setting for the project. Digital Ranch has recorded hundreds of songs by international artists. Film featured interviews have been commissioned to promote Free Blues festivals (“Playing With Fire”).

in addition to these projects PfreeSpirit has organized local musical jam session to promote and encourage young musicians. And through his work with the Rotary Club has actively promoted the development of young talent.

Paul continues his PfreeSpirit journeyman bass guitarist career having played with Jonesin’ For Janey from 2012-2014, and filling in for short-term projects with others including Virginia Tanous, Randy Vavra, the Tommy Bolin Music Festival, Katie.lane, and Jason Wheeler.

PfreeSpirit and Pfriends (including his love Valerie Olson — Rev) got together for their first performance on April 28, 2012 for a regional Peace Forum called “Get Together” promoting greater acceptance of immigra