Archdeacon: Froschauer wins with song and steed

It’s been quite a past few days for Jack Froschauer.

Friday night — on the final day of the four-month harness meet at Dayton Raceway — Lou’s Delight, his five-year-old gelding driven by Tyler Smith, overcame a tough trip in the sixth race that had him parked on the outside the whole way.

Regardless, he outran the nine other horses and passed Major Crocker A down the stretch to win the one mile pace in 1:52.3 and pay $11.60 on a $2 wager.

As Lou surged into the lead, Froschauer and Reggie, his wife of 42 years, were on the rail cheering, jumping and urging him home.

It was the second win in 13 days for Lou, who is trained by veteran horseman Jeff Brewer, and it made for quite a meet finish for the couple’s modest, five-horse stable.

But that wasn’t the biggest triumph of the week for the 70-year-old Froschauer, who is a jack of all trades when it comes to colorful pursuits.

On Christmas Day, one of the songs on the Christmas album he recorded in 2011 with Dale Walton — “Dayton’s king of rock ‘n’ roll,” as he calls him — became a surprising run-away hit this holiday season, outperforming the offerings of legends like Elvis Presley, Dolly Parton, Reba McIntyre, Alan Jackson and Bing Crosby.

The song, “Gypsy King,” was the No. 1 downloaded Christmas song in the world on Airplay Express, the music and video delivery service.

And earlier in the month, another song from their “Christmas is Everywhere” album —this one entitled “Little Train” — was the No. 1 downloaded song for a couple of weeks and won a platinum designation from Airplay.

In the process, the success of the two songs 11 years after their release proved the late Eddy Arnold, the Grand Ole Opry singer and Country Music Hall of Famer, to be a prophet for Froschauer.

Let’s let him explain that one:

“I don’t want you to think I’m gurming anybody when this happened,” he said using parlance that refers to someone who acts like a tourist or pretends to know celebrities and oversteps bounds in order to sidle up to them. The term is especially popular in Nashville and that’s where the encounter with Arnold took place.

Froschauer, who used to make trips to Nashville trying to sell his songs, had gotten a job there as a national sales account manager with a syndicated, coast to coast trucking network. And on this day he was waiting with another guy to be seated at a popular local restaurant for lunch.

That’s when Arnold, “The Tennessee Plowboy” who had 147 songs on the Billboard country music charts (second only to George Jones) and sold 85 million records, walked in and, with shades of the Pine Club, was promptly informed there was an hour wait.

“At the time, he was working on a Christmas album and had come in singing O Tannenbaum,” Froschauer said.

“We told him we were next in line and he was welcome to join us if he wanted. He did and he told us some great stories through lunch.

“At one point, he asked me, ‘Are you a singer?’ and I said, ‘Well, I’m a songwriter.’

“And he said, ‘Let me tell you something. You’ve got to have a Christmas album ... because it comes around every year.’

“I never forgot that.”

‘We had a ball doing the album’

Froschauer grew up in Trotwood “in the era when every kid had a garage band,” he said.

“And when the Beatles arrived, we all thought we were going to be famous.”

He was part of several bands in Trotwood and Wright State University when he went there, but he said the best group he was with was Fire & Ice when he was a Chaminade student.

When he got a job at Goldman’s Bargain Barn, he met Walton, a Meadowdale grad, who also worked there and they soon became friends.

“At the time, Dale was with 2nd Wind and he was a star ... a real star!” Froschauer remembered.

Walton, who would go on to become the longtime manager of the now defunct Gem City Records in the Oregon District, was a prominent fixture on the Dayton music scene for decades and was with other bands like The Rubbles and My Three Sons.

Froschauer became more of songwriter and had a DJ business in town here for many years. On his trips to Nashville he’d try to peddle some of Walton’s songs, too.

Years after meeting Arnold, Froschauer recalled that Christmas album advice.

He suggested to Walton that they do a holiday album and they produced one with 14 original songs that includes everything from doo wop, gospel and country-flavored arrangements to a story song and another called “Midwestern Christmas” that’s built around a Chicago blues riff and has a party track, complete with beer bottles clinking in the background.

The artwork on the cover was done by Walton’s wife, Lesley, a well-known artist here in Dayton and in the Twin Cities area of Minnesota where the couple has lived for over a decade.

My favorite song on the album is “Little Train” and its make-believe trip on a toy train that comes to life and takes you on a ride through a canyon of presents, bows and tinsel trim from the Christmas tree above.

“We had a ball doing the album, but the royalties we get now when someone downloads it on Pandora or Spotify are like .001 (of a dollar),” he laughed. “It takes a long time just to get a $20 royalty check and then I send $10 of it to Dale and he’s like, ‘Alright, I’ll go buy some beer with my $10.”

‘We need to own a horse’

Jack and Reggie’s interest in horses began when their two children, John Jr. and Carrie, were little.

“Back in the days of the old Lebanon track — when the kids were very young and we didn’t have any money — you could go down there for an evening and spend 20 bucks betting on 10 races,” he said.

“Everybody would take turns and they’d pick a horse by its name or color or something.”

He started to laugh: “It certainly was not high-level handicapping, but the kids had a big time with it and they could run around and act like horses along the rail and all that sort of thing.

“And as they got older, even we they were going to Bowling Green, we’d make sure to get down to the race track every year.

“But after that it was kind of out of sight and out of mind for a good while.”

Not long after Dayton Raceway opened nine seasons ago, Froschauer said he and Reggie were there with some friends watching races when he said he suddenly had a brainstorm:

“I said, ‘Reg, you know what? We need to own a horse!’

“Well, over the years she’s heard all my gypsy schemes come through and she kind of thought it would be like most of the rest.

“I’d have been drinking beer and the next morning I’d wake up and say, ‘Now that was a stupid idea.’ But this time that didn’t happen. The idea stayed with me.”

He called their son, who lives in Dallas, and at John Jr’s urging, he decided he ought to do a little research first. He talked to trainers, including some of the guys like the late Tom Gray, who used to hang out at the old Montgomery County Fairgrounds.

After calling the Ohio Harness Horsemen’s Association, he was put in contact with Eleanor and Forrest Collier, who owned a couple of horses.

They suggested a woman who had a fractional group at Scioto Downs. That allowed someone to join others, buy a piece of a harness horse and take a modest step into the business.

He did that for while and then decided to buy a low-end claimer on his own. Along the way he met Dan Ater, the late Hall of Fame trainer, who helped him get started.

“We were lucky,” he said. “We bought a ($10,000) claimer named Old Man River and he went on a hot streak and won enough to help us launch our little stable.

“That gets us to today and along the way we’ve had 50 or 60 horses, claimers that you have for a while before someone claims them from you. "

He now has five horses, one trained by Dean Glispie of Washington Courthouse and four trained by Brewer, who won the Dayton training title in 2020 and 2021. (His son Jason won the crown this year, which makes them to be the first father-son duo to be so honored.)

The Froschauers are the sole owners of all the horses, except for Odds on Buckeyes, which is co-owned by Gordie Brookhart, a Purdue grad who disrelished the name.

“He’s from Purdue and his favorite athlete is Drew Brees (the former Boilermakers quarterback) so we call the horse Breesy,” Froschauer said.

At the 70-card Dayton meet, his horses got a combined eight wins and each time he felt the same:

“There is no sensation any more exhilarating than when your horse comes around that last turn and comes down the stretch and is either leading or out in the middle of the track, charging hard.

“And when he crosses the finish line you can see a 70-year-old man look like he’s a spring-loaded jack in the box.

“It truly is the thrill of victory. It’s exciting.”

‘That’s pretty cool’

Although he said few people in the paddock at Dayton Raceway know of his and Walton’s Christmas album, the popularity of those songs has gone worldwide.

“Surprisingly, when we’ve gotten those royalty checks, we’ve found out the songs are played a lot in South Africa and Australia,” he said.

“And you might ask if it’s real media exposure or not, but I say, ‘Well, the guy is sending our music out and it’s playing somewhere on this great globe of ours. So someone is hearing our songs and for me, that’s some sort validation.

“And when Dale and I fantasize about it, we picture these people out in the bush country somewhere and they have a boom box and they’re jumping around a little fire singing ‘Little Train’ or “Gypsy King.’

“That’s pretty cool.”

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