Serving Whitman County since 1877


Meet the Hankers

The musicians that have been hitting the spotlight lately in the band called The Hankers are a group of five professional musicians that have traveled all over the world, collectively performing at places such as Europe Disney, for our troops in Japan and South Korea, performed at the Academy of Country Music Awards, and even at the Country Thunder Music Festival in Wisconsin for 30,000 country music fans.

Julie (Green) and Keith Niehenke are the leaders of the band whose roots run deeply on the Palouse. The husband and wife team currently live in Oakesdale. They have been building their musical relationship since they started playing violin together at five-years-old in Colfax. If you have lived around Whitman County longer than 30 years, you would likely remember the young Keith and Julie playing music as children around the county. Both grew up in Colfax and graduated from Colfax High School. The two formed a childhood musical friendship that later in their careers developed into marriage and The Hankers Band was born.

From the moment that Keith, a nationally- renowned and champion fiddler, steps out on stage and touches bow to fiddle, he is recognized as the energetic and multi-talented artist who plays fiddle behind his back and blows fire from his violin.

Keith has been professionally engaging audiences with his unique and amazing musical talents and his heart-stealing smile for 25 years. Keith left the Palouse, bound for Nashville after college, and it didn’t take him long to get discovered. Unlike most musicians who set out for Tennessee, Keith was fortunate to start his career within two weeks of landing in Nashville and the rest, as they say, is history!

Keith has opened for and played with numerous acts including: Chris LeDoux, Blake Shelton, Trace Adkins, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Charlie Daniels, Waylon Jennings, Merle Haggard, Montgomery Gentry, Brooks and Dunn, Lee Ann Womack, Reba McEntire, Collin Raye, Joan Jett, Big and Rich, Gretchen Wilson, Terri Clark and many, many more.

Not only is Keith a fiddle player, he is also an accomplished guitar, mandolin, banjo and harmonica player.

The Hankers lead singer, Julie, has a powerfully rich southern voice and an energetic stage presence. She also has mesmerized audiences all over the nation at notorious rodeos, state fairs, televised sporting events and political venues. She is well-known for her incomparable rendition of The National Anthem sung from horseback. In addition to playing the fiddle at a young age, Julie started vocal training at the age of 10. She has had opportunities to learn from some of the best singers in the business, including Rosemary Butler of Los Angeles, Calif., who trained the familiar voices of Linda Ronstadt, Bonnie Raitt and Jackson Browne.

Lead guitarist Greg Stephens and bass player Keven Franklin, both of Spokane, have also played professionally for more than 30 years, and both have toured all over the world, opening for numerous big name acts.

Kevin Olsonberg, on drums, studied music at the University of Idaho and also has been playing professionally for 30 years. Kevin was nominated three times for Best Blues Drummer, and was a two-time winner of Best New Blues Band (Crosstown Blues Band) in the Inland NW Blues Society. He has opened for bands such as 38 Special and has now been with The Hankers for two-and-a-half years.

The Hankers have a full touring schedule this season, traveling to several western states. This year they have focused on booking more local events, and to kick off the summer tour they will be live in concert for Colfax’s First Thursday on June 7. This is a free concert, brought to the public by the Colfax Chamber of Commerce. There will be vendors, a beer garden provided by Fonk’s and a lot of music and room for dancing. Other local performances include the Colfax High School 30-year class reunion with friends invited, sponsored by the class of 1988.

The Hankers also will be at Old Mill Days in Oakesdale July 14 and the Return to Riverside music festival in Potlatch Aug. 25. Visit for a complete performance schedule.


“Hankerin for Apples and Chops”

10 min prep time. Makes 6 servings

1 pkg. (6 oz.) Stove Top stuffing

1 can (21 oz.) apple pie filling

6 boneless pork chops (1 to 1-1/2 lbs.)

Heat oven to 375 degree F. Prepare stuffing as directed on package. Spread pie filling onto bottom of 13x9 inch baking dish sprayed with cooking spray; top with chops and stuffing. Cover. Bake for 35 minutes, or until chops are done (145 F), uncovering for the last five minutes. Remove baking dish from oven; let chops stand three minutes before serving.

Crock pot “HANK-GRY” trail mix

The Hankers have long road trips. They don’t have a lot of time between shows and sometimes don’t get to eat at all! Here’s a sample of their road trip “fiddle food.” It is a gluten free, rich in potassium and protein road snack to keep the musicians from getting Hank-gry!

This trail mix will definitely give you energy, whether actually on a trail or snacking on the go! You can make it in a slow cooker. Mixed nuts combined with coconut sugar, coconut flakes and butter. Toasted perfectly in the crock pot to create a nutty, sweet taste. Then combine with dark chocolate chips and banana chips. Make a big batch and enjoy.

2 cups raw walnuts (halves or chopped)

1 cup raw cashews halves (or substitute whole almonds)

1 cup unsweetened coconut flakes (flakes, not shredded)

1/3 cup coconut sugar

1-1/2 Tbsp. butter, cut into slices (substitute 2-3 Tbsp. coconut oil to make vegan)

1 tsp. vanilla or butter extract

6 ozs. unsweetened banana chips or dried banana slices

1/2 cup dark chocolate chips or paleo fudge chunks

Parchment paper

Place nuts, coconut, sugar, vanilla and butter or oil in crock pot. Mix together and cook on high for 45-60 minutes. Stir a few times, checking to make sure coconut flakes do not burn. Note: Reduce to low heat after 45 minutes if flakes are cooking faster or browning. Then turn to low for the next 20-30 minutes.

Remove and place crock pot contents on the parchment paper to dry out. Be sure to let it cool for at least 15 minutes before adding the chocolate and bananas.

Add in your banana chips and chocolate and mix together.


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