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Bert Kaempfert

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Bert Kaempfert (born Berthold Kämpfert; 16 October 1923 – 21 June 1980) was a German orchestra leader 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".


Biography[edit]Edit

He was born in HamburgGermany, 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. In 1961, he hired The Beatles to back Tony Sheridan for an album called My Bonnie. The album and its singles, released by Polydor, were the Beatles' first commercially released recordings.

Kaempfert's own first hit with his orchestra had been in 1960, "Wonderland by Night". Many of his tunes became better known as hits for other artists:

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.

Many of his hits during this period were composed and arranged with the help of fellow 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 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 1968 jazz trumpeter Al Hirt recorded the album Al Hirt Plays Bert Kaempfert. It, too, featured Kaempfert’s major hits.

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.

By the 1970s, sales of Kaempfert's music had dropped off somewhat, but he continued to record (his version of the Theme from Shaft was admired by Isaac Hayes himself)[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 a successful appearance at London's Royal Albert Hall. A cigarette smoker (as illustrated on the posthumous Best of CD), he died suddenly, at the age of 56, following a stroke at his home on Majorca, shortly after a successful appearance in Britain.

Kaempfert used many musicians who were available in Germany and other parts of Europe, including many of the same players who played for James LastKai Warner and Roberto Delgado. He featured such top soloists as trumpeters Charly TaborWerner GuttererManfred Moch and Ack van Rooyen, trombonists Ake 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.

Influence[edit]Edit

MemorialsEdit

Bert-Kaempfert-Platz, in the Barmbek district of Hamburg, Germany, is named in his honour.

Discography[edit]Edit

Note: titles are for European releases. U.S. releases have other titles.

U.S. Singles[edit]Edit

  • Wonderland By Night ( US # 1, 1961 }
  • Cerveza (U.S. #108, Music Vendor, 1959, his first US chart single) (recharted,U.S. #73, 1961)
  • Tenderly (U.S. #31, 1961)
  • Now And Forever (U.S. #48, 1961)
  • A Swingin' Safari (1962)
  • Afrikaan Beat (U.S. #42, 1962)
  • That Happy Feeling (U.S. #67, 1962)
  • Livin' it Up (1963)
  • Holiday For Bells’
  • Red Rose For A Blue Lady (U.S. #11, 1965)
  • Three O'Clock In The Morning (U.S. #33, 1965)
  • Moon Over Naples (U.S. #59, 1965)
  • Bye Bye Blues (U.S. #54, 1966)
  • I Can't Give You Anything But Love (U.S. #100, 1966)
  • Hold Me { AC # 37, 1967 }
  • Talk { AC # 39, 1967 )
  • Caravan { AC # 10, 1968 }
  • The First Waltz { AC # 30, 1968 }
  • Mister Sandman ( AC # 12, 1968 }
  • (You Are) My Way Of Life { AC # 17, 1968 }
  • Games People Play { AC # 30, 1969 }
  • The Maltese Melody (1969)
  • Someday We'll Be Together { AC # 27, 1970 }
  • Sweet Caroline (Good Times Never Seemed So Good) AC # 24, 1971
  • Love Theme (1970)
  • Only A Fool (Would Lose You) (1972)

Albums[edit]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)
  • Christmastide with Kaempfert (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) [sung by Frank Sinatra]
  • Greatest Hits (1966)
  • Hold Me (1967)
  • The World We Knew (1967)
  • Bert Kaempfert's Best (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)
  • 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)

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