top of page
The Franz Klaber Orchestra in EPCOT in the 1980s

Here's the story


Hamilton, Ohio’s oldest band!

Although the FKO is a popular band at Oktoberfests and other German functions, the band has never been strictly German in nature.


The original Franz Klaber Orchestra was founded in 1930 and led by Franz Klaber, a German immigrant from the Saxony region of Germany, who taught himself to play stringed instruments even before he had an instrument.


He used to fasten a string to a windowsill and pluck out tunes! He taught himself to play mandolin and violin, and later, the saxophone.

Franz Klaber Sr. & His Orchestra
Franz Klaber Orchestra


The first version of the Franz Klaber Orchestra consisted of a five piece band of fellow German-Americans that played a lot of German folk songs at gatherings and festivals of the Deutscher Hausverein, the local German Society.


Franz Sr.’s vision was a band that mixed popular music with traditional German songs. Franz’s daughter Mary Ann sang in the band, and Bill and Franz Klaber, Jr. both joined the band while they were in junior high school. 


passing the torch

At the age of 24, Franz took over the band when his father died in 1963 (and played a gig the very next day after Franz Sr.’s untimely death). 


Franz Jr. took his father’s musical passion and built upon it; leaving his own indelible mark by expanding the band, its repertoire, and instilling an enthusiasm and showmanship that is truly unique.


Under his leadership, the band played in Disney's EPCOT Center! While he was at the helm, the band affectionately became known as the Klaberheads. It’s a name that is used for the band as well as the fans!

Franz Klaber and the band at ECPOT in the 1980s
A close up picture of Franz Klaber singing with a smile


In 2006 Franz suffered a stroke and, through his unbelievable determination and courage, was able to make a comeback and resume performing with the band.


Through physical therapy he was able to recover from his paralysis and regain his speech and the ability to walk. He even regained the ability to play his trombone and sing! 


While he was recovering, he turned over the group to his daughter, Erika Klaber who is the current leader. 



Erika has continued with her father and grandfather’s vision, and has put her own imprint on the group as well.


At her father’s urging, she began to play her steel drum in the band. No one could have imagined how well this beautiful instrument would blend with German music! 


With a Masters degree in Music Education and Ethnomusicology, Erika has been able to expand the musical repertoire, even adding some original music to the line-up. 

Erika Klaber the band's leader in a dirndl and boxing gloves punching towards the camera
Erika & Her Children

a family affair

The fourth generation of Klabers are making their mark as well. Erika’s daughter, Emily Klaber, has been an active member of the band for over a decade. 


Several of Franz and Bill’s children and grandchildren have been apprentices and active members as well. Two of Erika's sons, John-Wallace and Franz, have also begun their apprenticeships. They are the two young guys you see selling the merch!



The Klaberheads have not only kept a family tradition alive, but have helped keep German Heritage alive musically in Southwest Ohio.


Because of the foundation Franz Sr. laid down, and Franz Jr. helped build upon, the Klaberheads have expanded their operating territory and have performed at Oktoberfests in Cincinnati, Columbus, Minster, Cleveland, Indianapolis, Lexington, Maysville, Mt. Angel, OR, New Braunfels, TX. Knoxville & Nashville, TN., St. Charles, MO. Ruidoso, NM., Oktoberfest of the Palm Beaches, and most recently Gilbert, AZ. 

View our About Page to see the map of previous show locations!

Klaberheads group picture in a field

band Memories

Erika Klaber, Band Leader 2001-Present

"This band is made up of a family, and the members, both former and present, whether blood relatives or not, are related. Our band family has been through marriages, births, illnesses, divorces, deaths, some heartaches and growing pains that only our music has helped heal.


Conversely, such joy that can only be expressed through music and through our togetherness on the bandstand. I am so proud of our history and where this band continues to go. I am very grateful to my parents for immersing me in the Franz Klaber Orchestra.


There is no doubt in my mind that we will make it to year 100!"

bottom of page