Bert Kaempfert

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Bert Kaempfert
Bert Kaempfert.png
Bert Kaempfert in 1967
Background information
Birth name Berthold Heinrich Kämpfert
Born (1923-10-16)16 October 1923
Barmbek, Hamburg, Germany
Died 21 June 1980(1980-06-21) (aged 56)
Majorca, Spain
Genres Easy listening, instrumental, jazz, big band
Occupation(s) Orchestra leader, composer
Instruments Accordion, clarinet, piano, saxophone
Years active 1939–1980
Labels Polydor, Decca USA, MCA
Website www.kaempfert.de/en/

Berthold Heinrich Kämpfert, (16 October 1923 – 21 June 1980), better known as Bert Kaempfert, was a German orchestra leader, music producer, arranger, and songwriter. He made easy listening and jazz-oriented records and wrote the music for a number of well-known songs, including "Strangers in the Night" and "Moon Over Naples".

Early life and career[edit]

Kaempfert was born in Hamburg, Germany, where he received his lifelong nickname, Fips, and studied at the local school of music. A multi-instrumentalist, he was hired by Hans Busch to play with his orchestra before serving as a bandsman in the German Navy during World War II. He later formed his own big band, toured with them, then worked as an arranger and producer, making hit records with Freddy Quinn and Ivo Robić.

Bert Kaempfert & His Orchestra[edit]

Kaempfert's own first hit with his orchestra had been in 1960, "Wonderland by Night". Wonderland by Night, which was recorded in July 1959, couldn't get a hearing in Germany. Instead, Kaempfert brought the track to Decca Records in New York, who released it in America in 1959 (or fall 1960); with its haunting solo trumpet, muted brass, and lush strings, the single topped the American pop charts and turned Bert Kaempfert and Orchestra into international stars. Over the next few years, he revived such pop tunes as "Tenderly", "Red Roses for a Blue Lady", "Three O'Clock in the Morning", and "Bye Bye Blues", as well as composing pieces of his own, including "Spanish Eyes (Moon Over Naples)", "Danke Schoen", and "Wooden Heart", which were recorded by, respectively, Al Martino, Wayne Newton, and Elvis Presley. For Kaempfert, little may have brought him more personal satisfaction than Nat King Cole recording his "L-O-V-E".

Kaempfert's orchestra made extensive use of horns. A couple of numbers that featured brass prominently, "Magic Trumpet" and "The Mexican Shuffle", were played by both Kaempfert's orchestra and by Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass, whose initially Mariachi style, in fact, evolved towards the Kaempfert style as the 1960s progressed.[citation needed] The Brass covered "Magic Trumpet", and Kaempfert returned the favor by covering Brass compadre Sol Lake's number "The Mexican Shuffle". The latter tune evolved into a TV ad, The Teaberry Shuffle.

Promotion of the Beatles[edit]

In 1961, Kaempfert hired The Beatles to back Tony Sheridan for an album called My Bonnie. The album and its singles, released by Polydor Records, were the Beatles' first commercially released recordings.

In his capacity as record producer, Kaempfert played a part in the rise of The Beatles when he signed a Liverpool-based singer named Tony Sheridan. Sheridan had been performing in Hamburg, and needed to recruit a band to play behind him on the proposed sides. He auditioned and signed the Beatles, and recorded two tracks with them during his sessions for Sheridan: "Ain't She Sweet" (sung by rhythm guitarist John Lennon) and "Cry for a Shadow" (an instrumental written by Lennon and lead guitarist George Harrison).

On October 28, 1961, a man walked into the music store owned by Brian Epstein to ask for a copy of "My Bonnie", a song that was recorded by the Beatles, but credited to Tony Sheridan. The store did not have it, but Epstein noted the request. He was so intrigued by the idea of a Liverpool band releasing a record, he investigated. This event led to his discovery of the Beatles and, through his effort, their signing by George Martin to Parlophone Records after Kaempfert helped them elude any contractual claim by Polydor.

Songwriting[edit]

Throughout the 1960s, various artists recorded renditions of Bert's music:

In 1963 jazz trumpeter Bobby Hackett recorded a complete album with 12 Kaempfert compositions, Bobby Hackett Plays the Music of Bert Kaempfert. It has now been re-released in the United States under the Sony Records label in the Collectable Jazz Classics series, along with the album Bobby Hackett Plays The Music of Henry Mancini on a "2-in-1" CD. In 1967 jazz clarinetist Pete Fountain recorded the album Pete Fountain Plays Bert Kaempfert in Hamburg, Germany, with musicians from Kaempfert's orchestra. It featured Kaempfert's signature hits. In 1967 the Anita Kerr Singers released the LP Bert Kaempfert Turns Us On!, a tribute to Kaempfert, featuring the standard hits.

In 1967, Jimi Hendrix included the melody of "Strangers in the Night" in his improvised guitar solo for his famous guitar-burning version of "Wild Thing" at the Monterey Pop Festival.[1]

In 1968 jazz trumpeter Al Hirt recorded the album Al Hirt Plays Bert Kaempfert. It too featured Kaempfert’s major hits. That year, BMI awarded accolades to five of Kaempfert's songs: "Lady", "Spanish Eyes", "Strangers in the Night", "The World We Knew", and "Sweet Maria". Many of his hits during the 1960s were composed and arranged with the help of German Herb Rehbein, who became a successful bandleader in his own right. Rehbein's death in 1979 shook Kaempfert deeply. Both Kaempfert and Rehbein were posthumously inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame.

In 1970 Johnny Mathis issued a double-LP album set, Sings the Music of Bacharach & Kaempfert, for Columbia. It consisted of a total 21 tracks in a heavyweight gatefold picture sleeve. The Kaempfert tracks were done in his arrangement style, and the Bacharach tracks were done in the American's unique upbeat style. The same year Kaempfert composed the score for the war film You Can't Win 'Em All, starring Tony Curtis and Charles Bronson.

By the 1970s, sales of Kaempfert's music had declined, but he continued to record. His version of the Theme from Shaft was admired by composer Isaac Hayes[citation needed] and remained popular with audiences. He expanded the musical scope of his band and recorded in a wide variety of styles. He also began to play live concerts with his orchestra, beginning in 1974, with an appearance at the Royal Albert Hall in London.

Kaempfert is sampled in the 1998 song "One Week" by the Barenaked Ladies. The songs lyrics also declare that "Bert Kaempfert's got the mad hits".

Collaborations[edit]

Kaempfert used many musicians who were available in Germany and other parts of Europe, including many of the same players who played for James Last, Kai Warner and Roberto Delgado. He featured such top soloists as trumpeters Charly Tabor, Werner Gutterer, Manfred Moch and Ack van Rooyen, trombonists Åke Persson and Jiggs Whigham, and sax/flute player Herb Geller. Drummer Rolf Ahrens supplied the characteristically simple but steady beat, often playing just a snare drum with brushes.

Another contributor to Kaempfert's music was guitarist/bassist Ladislav "Ladi" Geisler, who popularized the famous "knackbass" (crackling bass) sound, using the Fender Telecaster Bass Guitar, which became the most distinctive feature of many Kaempfert recordings — a treble staccato bass guitar sound in which the bass string was plucked with a pick and immediately suppressed to cancel out any sustain. It was Geisler who lent his guitar amplifier to The Beatles for their recording session with Tony Sheridan, after the band's own equipment proved to be inadequate for recording purposes.[2]

Death[edit]

Street sign for Bert-Kaempfert-Platz, a street in Hamburg, Germany named in Kaempfert's honour.

Kaempfert died suddenly on 21 June 1980, at the age of 56, following a stroke at his home on Majorca, shortly after a successful appearance in the United Kingdom.

Bert-Kaempfert-Platz, a street in the Barmbek district of Hamburg, Germany, is named for Kaempfert.

Discography[edit]

Titles are for European releases; the U.S. release may have a different title.

U.S. singles[edit]

Albums[edit]

  • April in Portugal (1958)
  • Ssh! It's Bert Kaempfert & His Orchestra (1959)
  • Combo Capers (1960)
  • Wonderland by Night (1960)
  • The Wonderland of Bert Kaempfert (1961)
  • Dancing in Wonderland (1961)
  • Solitude (1962)
  • Afrikaan Beat and Other Favorites (1962)
  • With a Sound in My Heart (1962)
  • A Swingin' Safari (1962)
  • That Happy Feeling (1962)
  • 90 Minuten nach Mitternacht (1962)
  • Dreaming in Wonderland (1963)
  • Living It Up (1963)
  • Christmas Wonderland (1963)
  • That Latin Feeling (1964)
  • Blue Midnight (1964)
  • Let's Go Bowling (1964)
  • The Magic Music of Far Away Places (1964)
  • Love Letters (1965)
  • Bye Bye Blues (1965)
  • Three O'Clock in the Morning (1965)
  • A Man Could Get Killed (1966)
  • Strangers in the Night (1966)
  • Greatest Hits (1966)
  • Hold Me (1967)
  • The World We Knew (1967)
  • Bert Kaempfert's Best (1967)
  • Bert Kaempfert/Pete Fountain (MCA Double Star Series DL 734698) (1967)
  • Love That Bert Kaempfert (1968)
  • My Way of Life (1968)
  • Ivo Robic singt Kaempfert-Erfolge (with Ivo Robic, 1968)
  • Warm and Wonderful (1968)
  • One Lonely Night (1969)
  • Traces of Love (1969)
  • The Kaempfert Touch (1970)
  • Free and Easy (1970)
  • Orange Coloured Sky (1971)
  • Bert Kaempfert Now! (1971)
  • 6 Plus 6 (1972)
  • Yesterday and Today (1973)
  • To the Good Life (1973)
  • Greatest Hits Volume 2 (1973)
  • The Most Beautiful Girl (1974)
  • Gallery (1974)
  • Live in London (1974)
  • Love Walked In (1975)
  • Forever My Love (1975)
  • Moon Over Miami (1975)
  • Kaempfert '76 (1976)
  • Safari Swings Again (1977)
  • Tropical Sunrise (1977)
  • Swing (1978)
  • In Concert (with Sylvia Vrethammar, 1979; also released as a video)
  • Smile (1979)

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ The Spinning Image, Monterey Pop Year: 1969 Director: D.A. Pennebaker Stars: Jimi Hendrix, Otis Redding, The Mamas and the Papas, The Who, Ravi Shankar, Big Brother and the Holding Company, Jefferson Airplane, Paul Simon, Art Garfunkel, Country Joe and the Fish, Hugh Masakela, Canned Heat, Eric Burdon and the Animals; Genre: Documentary, Music http://www.thespinningimage.co.uk/cultfilms/displaycultfilm.asp?reviewid=142 (Uploaded March 14, 2012); P*Funk Review, Jimi Hendrix Black Experience, 'Voodoo Child: The Jimi Hendrix Collection' (A Slight Review) -- “12) Wild Thing (7:41), Monterey Pop Festival, Monterey, Ca. June 18, 1967]; This was yet another song that Jimi came to hate, but he always seemed to put an interesting spin on the song when he played it live. First of all, he always seemed to have an extended intro to the song and here the segue from The Star Spangled Banner is perfect. Then he usually seems to play it slower and FUNKIER than on the radio version of the song. Finally the totally unexpected segue into Strangers in the Night by Frank Sinatra is always surprising.” "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2012-03-06. Retrieved 2012-03-14.  (Uploaded March 14, 2012) Who Sampled, Jimi Hendrix, Wild Thing, Live at Monterey Experience Hendrix 1970 http://www.whosampled.com/sample/view/96723/Jimi%20Hendrix-Wild%20Thing_Frank%20Sinatra-Strangers%20in%20the%20Night/ (Uploaded March 14, 2012).
  2. ^ Lounge Legends, The Original Masters of Lounge, zaterdag 26 November 2011, In Memoriam-Ladi Geisler - (27 November 1927 – 19 November 2011) http://loungelegends.blogspot.com/2011/11/in-memoriam-ladi-geisler-27-november.html[permanent dead link].

External links[edit]