Having performed throughout the McHenry County area – where he’s known for his song “Nippersink Creek” – for four decades, Will Kruger’s musical journey is getting a second wind.
The 63-year-old singer/songwriter from Spring Grove has joined the Las Vegas-based group Peter Paul and Mary Alive as “Paul.” The career move is the latest in a string of successes for Kruger.
Four of his songs will appear in the upcoming Lazurus Filmworks movie “God Where Are You,” including the film’s title song. A regular performer in Nashville, Kruger also was asked to perform as part of a John Denver Tribute Celebration in October at the Wheeler Opera House in Aspen, Colorado.
Hand-picked tribute artists from throughout the world sang in remembrance and celebration of John Denver, who died in October 1997.
“I’m pinching myself,” said Kruger, who grew up in Spring Grove, married the girl next door (literally), Chris, and raised two sons, Jared and Jason, both of whom are serving as captains in the Army. Kruger served in the Air Force for three years beginning in 1971, after graduating from Richmond Burton Community High School in 1970.
“I’ve been a musician and playing for 40-some years. The last year and a half, two years, it’s been quite interesting,” he said. “I was in Aspen for five days. It was magical. Being a John Denver guy, that was always on my bucket list to go play at that time of the year.”
It seems more items on that list are getting checked off.
Days before leaving for Las Vegas to rehearse with his new group, he said he’s always been a fan of the original Peter, Paul and Mary, a folk singing trio who rose to stardom in the 1960s.
“John Denver and Peter, Paul and Mary were always some of my favorites and in my wheelhouse. It seems like I’m getting to do both,” said Kruger, who’s also a fan of Gordon Lightfoot and James Taylor, “descriptive songs with wonderful melodies.”
He’s also getting to dabble in the film industry after responding to a social media request for songs. His music piqued the interest of De Miller, the producer of “God Where Are You?”
Two of Kruger’s original songs – “Imaginary Walls” and “Follow Your Heart” – will appear in the film, and he co-wrote two more – “God Why?” and “God Where Are You?” – with Miller.
His original song “Follow Your Heart” is available on his “Nippersink” album at www.willkruger.com, while the other songs will be on an upcoming album, he said.
The songs help tell the “God Where Are You?” story of a heavyweight champion boxer with one more boxing match before he retires. He ends up killing his opponent in that last match.
“They strip him of everything,” Kruger said of the character. “He becomes basically a homeless person. He’s wondering why God is doing this to him.”
The film is expected to be released in the spring.
Kruger already has seen a scene in which his song plays in the background.
“It was quite thrilling to see your song in a motion picture,” he said. “It was like, ‘Peel me off the ceiling.’”
Planning to commute between his Peter Paul and Mary Alive shows and Spring Grove, Kruger continues to perform throughout the area.
Upcoming shows are scheduled Nov. 29 and 30 as part of a “Home for the Holidays” event at Chapel on the Hill in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. His next Peter Paul and Mary Alive show is Dec. 21 in California.
The group is hoping to eventually embark on a national tour.
For now, though, Kruger has no plans to leave his hometown permanently.
“Spring Grove is my home base,” he said. “I’ve lived here all my life.”By JAMI KUNZER firstname.lastname@example.org