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”.
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.
Kaempfert’s own first hit with his orchestra had been in 1960, “Wonderland by Night”. Recorded in July 1959, the song couldn’t get a hearing in Germany, so Kaempfert took 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. 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.
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. (by wikipedia)
The album “A SWINGIN’ SAFARI” was one of the first productions undertaken by the Polydor studio in Hamburg-Rahlstedt. As with “WONDERLAND BY NIGHT,” which marked the beginning of Bert Kaempfert’s career in America, this production was also first released there. Both Kaempfert compositions “A SWINGIN’ SAFARI” and “AFRIKAAN BEAT” were soon world hits. Dean Martin made the title “TAKE ME” famous with his own vocal version, and “THAT HAPPY FEELING,” “MARKET DAY,” and “HAPPY TRUMPETER” became long running hits on American radio.
Bert Kaempfert always had a special love for ‘black music.’ When he first heard a South African recording of the so called ‘penny whistlers’ he was so impressed that he wanted to procuce an LP in the same vein. And Bert Kaempfert went on to do just this, but at the same time remaining faithful to his own inimitable style; he was never an imitator of other musicians. Combining strings, choir, and his famous trumpet solos, he still managed to reproduce the penny whistle sound which runs through his arrangements like a clear stream. Ladi Geisler, long standing bass guitarist with the Kaempfert Orchestra, remembers: “Bert Kaempfert tried to swap the penny whistle for a piccolo. Now that was a real piece of innovation. Then, finally, it was all ready and Bert was really pleased, he had managed it, he had captured the sound of the penny whistle using the piccolo.”
The huge success of this album, which in the meantime had made its debut in Europe, was soon to be rewarded with a golden LP. Over and over again “A SWINGIN’ SAFARI” made new friends. In addition to other prizes, Bert Kaempfert was to receive in 1968 a second golden LP for this production and with it equaled the world record of 9 golden LPs, which until then had been held only by The Beatles. But Bert Kaempfert was to be even happier to learn of the popularity of this production in South Africa.
Knowledge of this recording is still immense. Nearly everyone who hears the opening bars of “A SWINGIN’ SAFARI” realizes that they have heard them before. And the intro to “AFRIKAAN BEAT” is today one of the most unmistakable symbols of Bert Kaempfert and his Orchestra, with its typical ‘cracking bass’; again Ladi Geisler recalls: “We musicians were, as always, spread out in front of one microphone. My amp stood about 9 feet away, the same distance as the trombones. Bert Kaempfert advised me to go easy on the lower notes (these were to come from the double-bass) and the high notes were to be accentuated so that it would ‘really crack.’ This was how the term ‘cracking bass’ was born.”
Bert Kaempfert and his Orchestra …
… featuring Lady Geisler on the “cracking bass”
01. A Swingin’ Safari (Kaempfert) 3.07
02. That Happy Feeling (Warren) 2.53
03. Market Day (Kaempfert) 2.29
04. Take Me (Kaempfert/Brüsewitz) 3.03
05. Similau (Clar/Coleman) 2.57
06. Zambesie (de Waal/Hilliard/Carstens) 2.49
07. Afrikaan Beat (Kaempfert) 2.25
08. Happy Trumpeter (Kaempfert) 2.37
09. Tootie Flutie (Kaempfert) 2.09
10. Wimoweh (Campbell/Ilene) 2.41
11. Black Beauty (Kaempfert/Dumont) 2.34
12. Skokiaan (Msarurgwa/Glazer) 2.50