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'Grandma Drummer' Mary Hvizda has long history in drumming

By Pauleen Le, ple@wkbt.com
Published On: Jul 22 2013 10:34:51 AM CDT

WKBT, News8000.com

LA CROSSE, Wis. -

The YouTube video of the "Grandma Drummer" got more than two-million views in just the last couple of days.

The mysterious rocker comes into coalition drum shop in La Crosse, rocks out on the drums and then just disappears.

Thanks to News 8 viewers, the mystery is now solved. The woman in the video is Onalaska's Mary Hvizda.

"I was having a lot of fun," said Hvizda. "I really was."

But 63-year-old Mary Hvizda's love for the drums started many years ago at the age of 15, when she was inspired by her brother to pick up a pair of sticks.

“He was a drummer and I thought I'd really love to play and drum, and that was my chance,” said Hvizda.

She joined the Chantells later that year. They were the first all-girl rock band in La Crosse -- pioneers in a male-dominated industry.

It really took a lot of tolerance with the customers, or other male musicians, to hang in there and to just keep going if they laughed at us or made fun of us,” said Hvizda.

She still plays her old cassette tapes from time to time, as a reminder of life on the road.

“It was like every weekend and sometimes it was like five nights a week, and all kind of locally you know, but I loved it,” said Hvizda.

But Chantells was just the beginning. During the next 25 years, she played in nearly a dozen bands, both in rock and country western.

Then, in about 1990, the band On the Road Again broke up. It would be the last group she'd play with.

“I couldn't find no other bands to play with, and then I did quit,” said Hvizda.

Soon after, Hvizda sold her last drum set, but she never really lost her love for playing.

“I still kind of like to go to the music store and play a drum set, and then that's it,” said Hvizda. “My music urge has been satisfied.”

Her last music urge caught the eyes and ears of more than one million people across the nation, making her the newest internet sensation.

It seems a bit ironic, considering Mary doesn't have a computer and up until a few days ago, she had no idea what YouTube even was.

“It makes me proud to think that people still think I'm somewhat good and still think I'm still something they're interested in watching,” said Hvizda.

As for the nickname, "Grandma Drummer" she said that may also take a little getting used to.

“It's different,” said Hvizda. “I can't get used to being called Grandma. I've never had children of my own and I never got married, but I am 63 and that is certainly grandma's age,” she laughed.

Throughout her career, Hvizda only played at local bars and high school dances around La Crosse County. She said if there was anyone past or present that she'd love to play for, Merle Haggard, Willie Nelson, Loretta Lynn or Reba McEntire.

The Coalition Drum Store is giving Mary her very own electronic drum set. It will be delivered this Monday.

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