Friday, June 29, 2018

Entertainer Bill Ramsey The jester of the economic miracle

He sang about the "Belly Dance Doll" and the Mimi, who never goes to bed without thrillers: Bill Ramsey had his first hit 60 years ago. A visit to the import mood-cannon - at heart a jazzman.

Bill Ramsey was only 22 years old when he received the nicest compliment of his life in Frankfurt. And that by the First Lady of Jazz: Ella Fitzgerald.

She was in Germany in 1953 for a concert; Ramsey, at that time was a producer at the US Army transmitter AFN, had taken up it. Then we sat on the same ide of the glass together. Colleagues urged Ramsey to sing two of his songs. Disconcerted, the young man agreed to a blues number and a ballad.

Fitzgerald turned to Ramsey's boss and said, "This guy has a black voice - all you got to do is close your eyes". Just close your eyes. And the very white, slightly overweight American sounds smoothly like a black one.

"Wow! It could not be better," says Ramsey, giggling in astonishingly bright tones. And brings the air of his apartment in the chic Hamburg Elbchaussee to a vibration, with a few bars of Ray Charles: "In the evening when the sun goes down, and When nobody else is around".

He came, sang and won

65 years have passed since Ellas Fitzgerald's praise. Bill Ramsey, the white guy with the grandiose, black voice, is still singing, even at the age of 87. He never dropped his memorable American accent.

It has always been the trademark of Ramsey, the imported post-war era humor cannon. How would the German economic miracle just succeeded without hits like "The sugar doll from the belly dance group"? Without the "Wumba-Tumba chocolate ice.

Ramsey came, sang and won: For 29 weeks, his song "Souvenirs, Souvenirs" of 1959 was in the German hit parade, around half a million fans bought the single. Ramsey blared "Do you know the sugar doll from the belly dance troupe, of which all Morocco speaks? The little cute bee with the tulle curtain in front of the baby doll face?" And everybody sang along.

"People should laugh, forget about their everyday worries, that's the whole point of the hit stuff," Ramsey said. He actually says "stuff" and means it - winking, not pejorative. Something he did and that he lived well. Although Ramsey has always been a jazzman at heart, he is already thrilled as a three cheek heir to the music of black people in his hometown of Cincinnati, Ohio.

Door to door with Edelhure Nitribitt

William McCreery Ramsey was born in 1931 as the son of a successful advertising manager and a teacher. Because his parents had a lot to do, he spent his everyday life especially with Tom Jones. The black housekeeper called the chubby boy "Mr. Bill" who chauffeured him to fishing on the lake, but he was not allowed to fish by himself. Because he was black.

The future of the "White Anglo-Saxon Protestant" sprouts seemed predetermined: As a child, Bill went to a distinguished boarding school on the East Coast, then to sociology studies at the elite Yale University. But Bill did not want to become like his father, he wanted to make music and imitated the black blues and jazz singers until he sang just like them. He never finished his studies.

Instead, Bill Ramsey was drafted in 1951 and was fortunate not to be forced into the Korean War, which killed more than 36,000 Americans. As a US soldier, he landed in Frankfurt am Main and lived for a while in the same apartment as Rosemarie Nitribitt. The noble whore blocked the bathroom for hours at a time, Ramsey reminds himself.

In Frankfurt, they quickly recognized his talent: Ramsey became the chief producer of the US radio station AFN, in the "Jazzkeller" he met the producer and Caterina Valente discoverer Heinz Gietz.

The singing cuddly bear

"Do you want to sing rock'n'roll or something funny?" Gietz asked the American in 1957. "Rock'n'roll was banned for jazzmen back then, a mix of hillbilly and pop, I did not care," says Ramsey. And decided on something funny.

In the fifties and sixties, the Germans were on the one hand eagerly on Schnulzen à la Rudi Schuricke ("If at Capri ...") or Lale Andersen ("A ship will come"). On the other hand, the economic miracle country could not be satiated with lively nonsense, from "Water is There for Washing" (The Peheiros) to "I Do Not Want Chocolate" (Trude Herr). There was a lot of room for international interpreters like Caterina Valente, Wencke Myhre or Chris Howland. And also for musicians with roots in jazz, but who became famous through hits, such as Paul Kuhn and Nana Mouskouri or Bill Ramsey.

From then on, he became the singing cuddly bear in a large-scale jacket, fleshly carefreeness. A jester with a bouquet of colorful balloons in his hand. "He has a voice like a lion who is terribly hungry," enthused the Hamburger Abendblatt in 1960.

And because the hit was also so well-riddled as a film, Ramsey was seen in almost 30 theatrical films, with titles such as "Music is Trump" (1961) and "Liebesgrüße aus Tirol" (1964). Mostly he took over comical supporting roles and played himself: the singing Bill.

He was loved and despised for that. "There were people who did not greet me anymore," Ramsey says. And he complains about the elitist "jazz police" who accused him of betrayal because he had turned to the easily digestible, commercially profitable genre.

"It does not matter what you play, but how you play," he quotes Louis Armstrong. And sticks to the Schlager drawer: "Strictly speaking, that was not a hit, that was Novelty! There was no such thing before," Ramsey emphasizes. Ironically funny nonsense texts to a music that damn swings.

"Listen," he shouts, "you flick on two and four with your fingers." Then he starts: "Without a thriller, Mimi never goes to bed, never to bed, two, four, two, four, rum-dada-dab-dab-schnapp-schnapp!" Nevertheless, the features column Ramsey scrounged Ramsey a pop singer, complained the "continuous flushing of German auditory canals by radio waves with simply fabricated Bla Bla rhymes in a common setting," said DER SPIEGEL in 1963.

Good mood clown against his will

In the 1960s Ramsey tried to emancipate himself from underground music and sought his way back to his jazz roots - "a difficult road". Because the image of the good-mood clown had stuck to him. "The public wants his Bill as a mood cannon and not as a jazz interpreter," said producer Gietz 1966 SPIEGEL. It was not until Ramsey made a financial contribution that his record company was ready for an album of blues and ballads.

Even decades later, when Ramsey had long since recaptured his reputation as a jazz great, people always wanted just one thing: the sugar doll. "Well, that's just my fate," says the man with the snow-white hair. He's wearing it with humor.

Ramsey played a piano player in Apaches Last Battle (1963) with Lex Barker and Pierre Brice.

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