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 immigrants. The membership of the musical enterprise is fluid and those who join on stage tonight hope you will enjoy the collaboration which began five decades ago.

2015 Nebraska Music Hall of Fame Inductee – Linda Wilmot

Linda Wilmot rented a guitar in 1977 thinking of just playing a song or two. Her joy of performing, which began as a Thespian in WJ Bryan High School, led to buying the guitar and beginning a lifetime musical career. She hit every open stage and jam session she could find. Moving to Arizona she played in a band called Mesa. In Oregon she joined a band from Dallas, TX called Friends on an Alaska Tour.

Health concerns brought her back to Fremont, NE where she would form her own band (Dark Colt). She moved to Kansas City to play with the interstate Band, opening concerts for Mel McDaniels, Johnny Rodriquez, and Tammy Wynette.

Again returning to her home state she performed as a solo act until noticed by a band called Illusion in Omaha. This led to a musical partnership with Brad Jones and a band called Black Rose from 1988 to 1992 adding keyboards to her repertoire. Following a short stint with Loaded Dyce (later Final Step), Linda sang with the Curtis Loew Band. Linda also continued her solo career and would occasionally sing with her sister —the Wilmot Sisters.

In 2001 Linda was selected from those who auditioned for a musical part in the movie About Schmidt which was being filmed in Omaha, NE. She can be heard as she sings at Walter Schmidt’s (Jack Nicholson) daughter’s wedding in Colorado. “The Wedding Song (There Is Love)” displays Linda’s beautiful vocal talent. One can enjoy this gift by purchasing her CD “Pillow at 4:20” (recorded in 2000) here at Rivers Edge Music Festival.

Linda and The Wilmot Sisters have been performing regularly at District 10 Social Gathering Place near Linwood, NE. She has begun a courageous battle with Leukemia and her stamina may affect the length of her performance tonight…but enjoy the road warrior, Linda Wilmot.

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2015 Nebraska Music Hall of Fame Inductee – Joe Cockson

Joe Cockson was inspired to become a singer/guitarist after watching the Beatles on the Ed Sullivan Show. He began taking lessons from Nebraska Hall of Fame Member Gene Hadley in the mid 1960s and began playing as a high school freshman with Blue Max.

In 1977, Joe helped to form Hidden Prairie, and in 1981 joined Tim Tarnick, Don Peterson and Bryan Grassmeyer to form the New Road Band (former members of Nebraska Hall of Fame band, Freedom Road).

By 1986, Joe had formed Downstream. In 1997, Joe took time off to further develop his solo career featuring his work on a 12-string acoustic guitar.

He currently plays solo gigs and is also a member of the acoustic group Rocks in a Pocket  with Dave Williams, Steve Hurt and Mike Palensky.

2015 Nebraska Music Hall Of Fame Inductees – Ernie & The Countrymen

Ernie Kucera of Bruno, Nebraska established a four piece band in the mid 1960s that began to light up the dance halls of the Midwest and beyond.

Original members were Ernie Kucera, Larry Sedlak, Lynn Lueben, and Art Hoffbar. The Countrymen eventually entered a competition; the Marlboro Country Music Contest, winning the local, state and national levels and gaining an appearance on the Grand Ole Opryand a recording contract, but before this could be realized, the band broke up.

Ernie continued working with new musicians and remaining members. Among them were: Larry Sedlak; Bob Pasonault (of The Troubadors & the Vince Kavanaugh Show; Kelly Kurtenbach; Glen Barber of Bitter Root & Shannon); Teresa Swerczek; and Ron Zoucha (of Carolina, Country Drifters, CC & Company).

Ernie continued playing until he was diagnosed with cancer in 1992 and passed away July 27, 1995.

The band continues to honor his influence as The Countrymen.

2015 Nebraska Music Hall of Fame Inductees – Bud Comte & Renee Sound Studio

Bud Comte (L) receives his induction by Nebraska Music Hall of Fame founder Jim Casey!
Bud Comte (L) receives his induction by Nebraska Music Hall of Fame founder Jim Casey!








Bud began his musical career with the family when his father, Albert, an accomplished marimba player, returned from work each day at 5 pm. Sister Virginia on piano, Bud on the drums and Albert on the marimba would often see neighbors gathering on their lawn to enjoy these free concerts.

By 5th grade, Bud was playing trumpet and playing for school dances with the family band. His drumming led to a stint with the Tommy Hilton Orchestra by age 16, the Gib Lueken Orchestra, as well as playing with a small group of local musicians called the Dinky Doos through the mid-to-late 1940s.

After graduating from high school Bud moved to David City, Nebraska, where he revived the Dinky Doos with local musicians there. This led to the formation of Bud’s dance band which became the Bud Comte Orchestra, a nine piece group that played throughout the Midwest through the 1950s to the mid 1980s. Bud’s Orchestra played their final concert on December 31, 1985, with their final song, “Good Night Ladies”, leaving off the final note ( a long-standing orchestral tradition.

Due to his vast experience in the music industry, Bud was approached for a management position by other artists, including fellow Hall of Fame inductees, Ernie & the Countrymen. This also led to his starting Rene (later Renee) Sound Studio in the mid 1960s where he could record promotional demo material and eventually producing commercial release for several artists for the next several years…an enterprise that continues today through his children’s children.

Bud even brought together a group of musicians called Country with a Touch of Brass which was featured on a 26 episode television program call Country Showcase.