This month our Song of the Week is marking the centenary of Bert Kaempfert - born in Hamburg on October 16th 1923. Kaempfert was a Teutonic bandleader whose distinctive arranging style was one of the defining sounds of the Sixties. That would be enough surely for any Teutonic bandleader. But, as I explain in this week's show, Bert Kaempfert has a further achievement: He's the only Teutonic bandleader to have played a critical role in the careers of the three superstar anglo pop acts of the mid-twentieth century: Elvis, the Beatles, and Sinatra.
So, on the eve of the Kaempfert centennial, here is the story of a blockbuster hit all around the world that nearly didn't happen - until Jimmy Bowen, a hugely successful producer from Dean Martin and Nancy Sinatra to Reba McEntire and Garth Brooks, saved the day with a bunch of twenty-dollar bills and some obliging air stewardesses.
Click above to listen.
Bert Kaempfert died suddenly and rather young in 1980. So I never met him. But I have met, over the years, his widow, one of his daughters, and many of his amazing musicians, and we will celebrate more of his work in the weeks ahead.
This is a Serenade Radio show that has not been heard before here at SteynOnline. All these episodes were produced by my friend and colleague Brian Savin, who died last month after a truly terrible and debilitating illness. Brian's contribution to all these shows was immense. For example, on this week's edition, he felt my story of the "bell tone" necessary to get Sinatra through the session would benefit from illustration. So he went to the piano and played a bell tone. And then, listening back to it in context, he decided to pan the piano so it was at the exact same spot on the spectrum as Michel Rubini's piano was at that 1966 recording session in Los Angeles.
I doubt one in a million listeners notice things like that, but cumulatively such details are what turn an okay show into a great show. This episode was one of Brian's favourites - not because he especially cared for the song, but because he liked the way all the storytelling came together.
Thank you for all your kind comments on our "Autumn Leaves" show, also produced by Brian. From William Thomson in the beautiful English county of Gloucestershire:
An enchanting half hour, perfectly presented.
Q: I know you sell The Book of the Song of the Week but is there a compilation of recorded "Song of the Week" shows, several CDs in a box set, say?
That's not a bad thought, William. I'll have a think on it.
From Steyn Clubber Larry Gavin on the Isle of Man:
What a superbly crafted show.
I've performed this song many times but never felt a total sense of demise.....the thought of the glorious vibrant colours cancels that somewhat... The radiance of life itself.
Meanwhile, here on the Isle of Man, we never get that glory. The leaves turn damply brown and slough off in the perma grey of autumn.....and form the dirty brown sludge and smell of rot.... that there don't seem to be any songs about.
Oh, I don't know, Larry:
The rotting sludge falls on my doorstep
The dirty sludge of grey and brown
I see your face, its wan complexion...
Well, maybe not.
From First Weekend Founding Member Fran Lavery:
This is really up there as one of my favorite episodes in the Serenade Radio Song of the Week shows. There have been so many up at the very top, too many I lost count. I now understand the indelible contribution owed to Brian Savin. I appreciated that close to the show without the applause.
I had hoped that this would make it to a SteynOnline Song of the Week entry because it was packed with the names of some French artists I hadn't heard before and wished I would get a chance to read the names in the transcripts. The last six years have been so marvelously enriched by all of your efforts to give us in your audience a varied breadth of the beautiful sounds you've discovered in your lifetime that I'll die remembering this very special gift. This is an especially melancholy season, indeed, when the most treasured people in our lives have passed and we know we will never have the joy to speak or laugh with them again.
~This airing of Steyn's Serenade Song of the Week is a special presentation of The Mark Steyn Club. We do enjoy your comments on the show. Steyn Clubbers are welcome to leave them below - or anybody can leave them over at Serenade Radio, where they love hearing from listeners.
Steyn's Song of the Week airs thrice weekly on Serenade Radio in the UK, one or other of which broadcasts is certain to be convenient for whichever part of the world you're in:
5.30pm Sunday London (12.30pm New York)
5.30am Monday London (4.30pm Sydney)
9pm Thursday London (1pm Vancouver)
Whichever you prefer, you can listen from anywhere on the planet right here.