When he’s not patrolling, this police officer loves to play
At work, John Fencl is an 11-year member of the Lincoln Police Department who cruises the nighttime streets to keep the Capital City safe.
On stage, he’s Johnny Rod, a guitar-strumming, country music-singing Nebraska boy who’s always ready to get the party started.
The 32-year-old Bruno native picked up a guitar while attending Wayne State College and started playing “just for the fun of it.”
His hobby became a side gig in 2013 when Fencl joined the Silas Creek Band then started performing solo acoustic shows as Johnny Rod — a childhood nickname — about a year later.
The 2003 graduate of East Butler has played about 100 shows a year since then, hitting eastern Nebraska bars, wineries, weddings, birthday parties and even pumpkin patches.
“It’s just a fun hobby,” said Fencl, who lives in Eagle with his wife Katie and three children. “It’s one of the few hobbies where you can actually make money — or at least maybe come out even.”
As a solo artist, Johnny Rod isn’t afraid to mix it up on stage. He’ll play some Garth Brooks and Brooks & Dunn, then toss in Lil Jon & the East Side Boyz or “Gin and Juice” to feel out a crowd.
“Either it’s a hit, or people will just stare at me in disgust,” he said with a laugh.
The sound changes some when he teams up with the other members of the Silas Creek Band — John Palensky on lead guitar, Richard Crowder on bass and Casey Hevlin on drums.
Those guys are natural rockers, Fencl said, so the shows tend to be high-energy. A typical set list covers decades of country music, including today’s hits, with some classic rock sprinkled in.
“We try to mix in everything to keep people happy,” said Fencl, who has played with the current band lineup for about two years.
Silas Creek will entertain the New Year’s Eve crowd Sunday night at Maximus Restaurant and Sports Bar, 329 23rd St. That show starts at 9 p.m.
Fencl, who was part of Lincoln Police Department’s motorcycle unit for six years before switching to nights, has also had the opportunity to play for crowds he was part of while growing up.
He will perform at the Butler County Fair for the fourth consecutive year, including three with Silas Creek, in 2018 and the group has played at the Madison County Fair in Norfolk.
Fencl, whose grandmother Marge Fencl was a well-known singer in the Butler County area and grandfather Math Sladky is a member of the Sokol Omaha Polka Hall of Fame and International Polka Association Hall of Fame, has also taken the stage at some of the venues they used to frequent, including Wahoo’s Starlite Ballroom.
“It’s awesome to do those shows,” he said.