Fisher revives the Kaempfert Sound

OF all the distinctive musical sounds which emanated form the 1960s, none can be more so described than that associated with the orchestra of the late Bert Kaempfert.

It was one of those rare, compulsive and instantly-recognisable sounds, with a main emphasis on a swinging beat, underscored by an air of rich quality, with many shades and facets - all of which had the mark of the Hamburg-born master stamped all over it.

Records by Bert Kaempfert sold in their millions: "Bye, Bye Blues", "Wonderland by Night" and "Swingin' Safari" to name but three. And to further outline the versatility of the man he was also an accomplished song-writer, penning numbers such as "Strangers in the Night" for Frank Sinatra, "Love", which was recorded by the late Nat King Cole, "Wooden Heart" for Elvis Presley, and "Spanish Eyes", which gave Al Martino one of his biggest all-time hits.


In fact, in this respect the list seems endless, for artists of the calibre of Peggy Lee, Sarah Vaughan, Ella Fitzgerald, Shirley Bassey and Vic Damone have all benefited by recording his songs.

To add a further string to his bow, Bert Kaempfert, who died this month back in 1980, also had an extremely good eye, and ear, for talent and it was he - despite the claims of about a hundred others - who first discovered the talents of John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, Pete Best and Stuart Sutcliff (the original Beatles) when they were working in a rather down-beat club, the Top Ten, in Hamburg.

Bert went on to produce two dozen songs with them, but he decided to hang on to the tapes for the simple reason that, at the time, no record company was prepared to take the chance and release them.

At the pinnacle of his career, and at a time when he had just completed a highly-successful tour of Great Britain, the world of popular band music was shocked at the news of his death. Naturally, for a long time afterwards, the famous and innovative Kaempfert sound hung around - it was too good to be lost.

But, like everything else, it eventually faded and was heard only intermittently. Now, not only is the sound back but the orchestra, too, in the form of a 17-piece big band, augmented by string and voice sections, which will be playing all the original Kaempfert arrangements. And it will be led by a Manchester musician.

One of Britain's top trumpet players, Tony Fisher, who was Kaempfert's original lead trumpet throughout the 1970s, teamed up with Bert's daughter, Marion, and between them the two resurrected those priceless arrangements from their safe hiding place, blew away the dust and the cobwebs and then set about assembling a new orchestra.


Marion, a record producer, and Levenshulme-born Tony, made the ideal combination in two ways: Marion for her foresight in bringing her father's original sound back to life, and Tony for his powers of persuasion in getting her to agree to what was his idea in the first place.

But then it's difficult to imagine any musician, other than Tony Fisher, who would dare to suggest a relaunch of the orchestra, at a time which coincides with Kaempfert being posthumously inducted into the world-renowned Songwriters' Hall of Fame.

Without appearing presumptious, this has to be partly on the strength of the numbers already mentioned and, by way of passing, the small fact that during his lifetime he just happened to sell something in the region of 150 million albums!

Taking on the prime role of keeping the sound of Bert Kaempfert alive, Tony Fisher says: "In my 30 years' experience playing in almost every orchestra in England - and indeed Europe - I thought it tragic that all that high-quality music was left unheard or performed, so I got together with the Kaempfert family and we jointly decided to relaunch the whole thing".

In so doing, Tony Fisher is the ideal man to take the new orchestra (which comprises 24 of Britain's finest musicians) out on a tour of this country, for he is a player who blew his first notes on a trumpet at a very early age (seven years old, in fact) when his father drafted him into the LMS Railway Band London Road - the original Piccadilly station.


He then passed through the ranks of various other brass bands before playing, in later years, on a regular basis at the old Levenshulme Palais with the Bill Edge band.

After being demobbed from the RAF he then went straight into the Ken Mackintosh Orchestra, and later played with the bands of Oscar Rabin, Eric Delaney and the great Ted Heath. These days he is regular member of the highly-popular band fronted by another ex-Heath stalwart, Don Lusher.

To underline his credentials for leading the Kaempfert line-up, Tony has also backed singers as diverse as the Beatles and Frank Sinatra, and played in the orchestras of Nelson Riddle and Henry Mancini.

In this respect, then, the fans of Bert Kaempfert and his music can relax; his musical sounds rest in the capable hands of a man who knows exactly what is required and, more importantly, who also knows how to deliver the goods.

by Tony Parker

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