He produced the first Beatles’ recordings…and on this day in 1961, he roared to the top of the charts…
“Wonderland By Night” by Bert Kaempfert and his orchestra became the new #1 single in the USA on 1/9/61. Charly Tabor provided the trumpet solo on the song, which stayed at #1 for three weeks. It’s the #6 rock era instrumental. The rock era is generally believed to have started with 1955 and it’s still doing on, having just turned 62.
According to writer Fred Bronson, Kaempfert was already making his niche in pop music when he produced the first Beatle recordings. I feel quite fortunate to own those songs as part of an incredible CD boxed set entitled, “The Beatles with Tony Sheridan…Beatles bop, Hamburg days.” There’s not only the CD but an equally incredible book.
Among those early Beatle songs to result from Kaempfert’s producing were “Cry For A Shadow” and “Ain’t She Sweet.” Plus, there were two more Beatle songs involving Tony Sheridan recorded: “My Bonnie” and “When The Saints Go Marching In.”
Bert Kaempfert was also the only person to have key connections with the Beatles, Elvis Presley and Frank Sinatra. He co-wrote Elvis’ “Wooden Heart” (sung in “G.I. Blues”) and Sinatra’s #1 1966 hit, “Strangers In The Night.”
Bert Kaempfert was also the first German to have a #1 single in the United States. I can only think of three other acts to have had at least one German in them. There was Silver Convention of “Fly Robin Fly” fame in 1975, Real McCoy with “Another Night” in late 1994 and Milli Vanilli (well, they may not count since they really didn’t sing on their hits).
Later on in January, 1961, we had a unique chart achievement that’s never happened since and probably never will. “Exodus” by Ferrante and Teicher was #2 and at #3 was “Calcutta” by Lawrence Welk. Thus, all three of the top three hits were instrumentals. The year 1961 would have the most instrumental top 40 hits with 40.
Kaempfert also had his “Wonderland By Night” album make #1 on the LP chart. He had 20 albums make the USA LP chart. Here’s one of LP cuts that I remember the most…and, yes, it’ll remind you of Lawrence Welk’s champagne music…
Bert Kaempfert was 56 years old when he died on June 21, 1980.
TOMORROW: THE SUN BOWL CITY HITS THE TOP
Bert Kaempfert: Wonderland By Night
That Happy Feeling – Bert Kaempfert (“Sandy Becker” theme)