Tuesday, August 24, 2010


Before kicking off with my next lot of Western LP postings, which are a nine LP box set compiled by Reader’s Digest and Polydor, of music conductors and songwriters Bert Kaempfert and James Last, I thought I’d post a mini bio of them as an intro.

“If people know my tunes, that’s enough. My music says everything I have to say” ~ Bert Kaempfert

Berthold Heinrich Kaempfert aka Bert Kaempfert (born 16 October 1923 in Hamburg, Germany) was a German music conductor and songwriter. A son of a painter and decorator, he was renowned for his easy listening and jazz music, and wrote the music for a number of well-known songs (for well known singers), such as "Strangers in the Night" (Ivo Robić) "Spanish Eyes" (Al Martino), "LOVE" (Nat King Cole), "I Can’t help Remembering You" (Dean Martin) and "Lonely Is The Name" (Sammy Davis Jr), to name a few. His famous instrumentals include "Afrikaan Beat", "A Swingin' Safari" and "That Happy Feeling" (which has been made into a Hindi song – a source of my sleepless nights not too long ago – long story - "Aap Ka Chehra" from the movie "Rootha Na Karo").

And he was only six years old when perhaps fate laid the first stepping stone on his path to an international career – in the guise of an accident with a taxi cab. The cab driver ran little Bert down and was ordered to pay 500 deutschmarks in damages, a small fortune in those days, and to which Mother Kaempfert decided that Bert was having a piano!

Bert studied music at the Hamburg School of Music and being 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, and wrote music for 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 official and commercially released recordings.

The list of the solo artists who scored success after international success with Kaempfert's inimitable compositions reads like a Who's Who of light music: Frank Sinatra, Al Martino and Dean Martin, Ella Fitzgerald and Shirley Bassey, Sarah Vaughan and Peggy Lee, Nat King Cole, Herb Alpert and Johnny Mathis, Brenda Lee, Caterina Valente, Andy Williams and Nancy Wilson – to name but a few.

On 21 June 1980, the world lost one of its best conductors and songwriters. Bert Kaempfert passed away, the result of a stroke suffered on Mallorca. He was just fifty-six years of age. The music world mourns his sudden and untimely death.

Source: Wikipedia and Kaempfert

James Last (also known as "Hansi") born Hans Last on 17 April 1929 in Bremen Germany is another great German composer and big band conductor.

James’ father was an official at the public works department of the city of Bremen. Like Bert, he learned to play the piano but then switched to double bass as a teenager. His home city was heavily bombed in World War II and he ran messages to air defence command posts during raids. At 14 he was entered into the Bückeburg Military Music School of the German Wehrmacht.

After WW II, he joined Hans-Gunther Österreich's Radio Bremen Dance Orchestra. In 1948, he became the conductor of the Last-Becker Ensemble, which performed for seven years. During that time, he was voted the best bassist in the country by a German jazz poll for three consecutive years (1950–1952). After the Last-Becker Ensemble disbanded, he became the in-house arranger for Polydor Records, as well as for a number of European radio stations. For the next decade, he helped arrange hits for artists like Helmut Zacharias, Freddy Quinn, Lolita, Alfred Hause and Caterina Valente.

James first released albums in the U.S. under the titles "The American Patrol" on Warner Brothers in 1964. He also released a series of nine albums in a series called "Classics Up To Date vols. 1–9", which were arrangements of classical melodies with strings, rhythm and wordless chorus from the mid sixties through the early seventies. James released an album, "Non-Stop Dancing", in 1965, a recording of brief renditions of popular songs, all tied together by an insistent dance beat. It was a hit and helped make him a major European star. James Last has released over 190 records, including several more volumes of "Non-Stop Dancing".

Although his concerts and albums are consistently sought after, he has only had two hit singles with "The Seduction", the theme from American Gigolo (1980) and "Biscaya" from the album Biscaya. Over the course of his career, he has sold well over 100 million albums. At 81, James Last still performs and his concert dates can be found on his official website HERE.


Anonymous said...

Great review and so well written. I was intrigued from start to finish. Thank you.


Veen said...

You are welcome Amy. And thank you for your kind comments.

Any middle-aged German Witch in Amerika, said...

Hello, I am very happy to find this Box Set of Last & Kaempfert here.

I have it already, but several tracks aren't playing anymore, so I have been looking for a replacement for over a year, and now I am quite glad to have found it.

Very cool, and also the scans of both front and back are great! Thank you so much!! I think I am going to become a follower of your blog, this looks really interesting.

Veen said...

Witch in America, thanks for dropping by and hope you do become a follower of my blog!