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Bert Kaempfert

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Bert Kaempfert


Bert Kaempfert (16 October 1923, Hamburg, Germany - 20 January 1980, Majorca) was a German composer and orchestra leader.

Kaempfert he received his lifelong nickname, Fips, early, 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 was a prisoner of war during the war and while in prison, he led a prison camp band. He returned to Hamburg and became director of North German Radio in 1948. In this capacity, Kaempfert wrote many songs that achieved wide popularity, including Spanish Eyes and Strangers in the Night.

He 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 Records, were the Beatles' first commercially released recordings.

Kaempfert's own first hit with his orchestra had been in 1960, Wonderland by Night. The single topped the American pop charts and turned Bert Kaempfert and Orchestra into international stars. Over the next few years, he revived a number of pop tunes, 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.

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.

As a producer, Kaempfert also played a part in the rise of The Beatles when he signed a Liverpool-based singer named Tony Sheridan, who was 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 the instrumental "Cry for a Shadow", co-written by Lennon and lead guitarist George Harrison.

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