Blue Midnight (1964)
Bert Kaempfert And His Orchestra

  1. Blue Midnight (Bert Kaempfert/Herbert Rehbein)
  2. L.O.V.E. (Bert Kaempfert/Kurt Schwabach/Milt Gabler)
  3. Red Roses For A Blue Lady (Roy C. Bennett/Sid Tepper)
  4. Java (Allen Toussaint/Alvin O. Tyler/Freddy Friday/Marilyn Schack)
  5. Almost There (Gloria Shayne/Jerry Keller)
  6. Lonely Nightingale (Bert Kaempfert/Herbert Rehbein)
  7. Cotton Candy (Russ Damon)
  8. Three O’ Clock In The Morning (Julián Robledo/Arr.: Bert Kaempfert)
  9. Free As A Bird (Bert Kaempfert)
  10. Love Comes But Once (Bert Kaempfert/Herbert Rehbein)
  11. Treat For Trumpet (Bert Kaempfert)
  12. Goodnight Sweet Dreams (Bert Kaempfert/Herbert Rehbein)
    Bonus Tracks
  13. The Big Build Up (Bert Kaempfert/Milt Gabler)
  14. Dancing In A Dream (Bert Kaempfert)

Trumpet solos by Fred Moch

1 – 12 issued as Decca DL 4569 (mono) and Decca DL 74569 (stereo)
1 – 12 issued in Europe as Polydor LPHM 46 446 (mono) and Polydor SLPHM 237 646 (stereo)
1 and 2 issued as single Decca 31638
3 and 6 issued as single Decca 31722
5 and 11 issued as single Decca 31666
8 issued as single Decca 31778
13 and 14 issued as single Decca 31611

That glowing trumpet sound, of course, is the trademark of any Bert Kaempfert recording. And here again, the special soaring quality sound puts in a Kaempfert class by itself…Credit the talented Fred Moch, who is featured on the trumpet solos; but, most of all, recognize the distinctive touch that Bert’s conducting and arranging genius lend to every number.

Blue Midnight introduces what Bert Kaempfert called his “6 plus 6” formula: 12-song albums, half made up of “old favorites” while the other half were “fresh” new originals. This formula was used to fashion the remainder of Kaempfert’s subsequent albums released in America. But, like all formulas, it tended to tamp down the uniqueness of any particular Kaempfert record, leaving titles like Blue Midnight to set the appropriate mood.

The mood here is that familiar warmth of those lingering after-hours to accompany an evening made of dancing and romancing. There are the waltz-like chestnuts in “Red Roses for a Blue Lady” and “Three O’clock in the Morning.” And, of course, there are the whispery continental sounds of “Blue Midnight,” “Lonely Nightingale,” “Love Comes but Once” and “Goodnight Sweet Dreams.”

But Blue Midnight also highlights how beautifully Fred Moch’s trumpet can work up a bit of a sweat, swinging on Kaempfert’s superb originals “Treat for Trumpet” (which seems pitched at Herb Alpert, who never took the bait) and “Free as a Bird.” Kaempfert also covers New Orleans trumpeter Al Hirt’s chirpy “Java” and the similarly-styled sequel “Cotton Candy,” American chart successes that were likely inspired by Kaempfert’s earlier trumpet-led hits.

Hirt’s presence here likely inspired the Dixieland delivery of “Love” (a.k.a. “L.O.V.E.”), the Kaempfert-Gabler song that gave crooner Nat King Cole the title of his last album and, notably, his final hit single.

“Red Roses for a Blue Lady,” originally a 1949 hit for singer John Laurenz, was, here, a million-selling record that reached number 11 on the Billboard Hot 100 and earned Kaempfert another Gold record. The song became one of his signature pieces and inspired many other covers of the song at the time, including versions by Vic Dana and Wayne Newton that were in the Top 40 at the same time as Kaempfert’s.

“Three O’clock in the Morning” broke the Top 40 in 1965 to hit number 33. It also debuted at number 12 on Billboard’s newly-launched “Easy Listening” chart1 (right ahead German pianist Horst Jankowski’s “A Walk in the Black Forest”) on June 5, 1965. “Three O’clock in the Morning” eventually reached number 2 on the Easy Listening chart.

Blue Midnight turned out to be Kaempfert’s highest-charting album, hitting an astonishing number five in April 1965, and earning Kaempfert the second of his three Gold album awards.

“The distinctive Kaempfert instrumentation,” wrote Billboard, “shuffle beat and mellow trumpet – are the order of the day here. The arrangements are all smoothies, tops for dancing or relaxed listening.”

Kaempfert Talks of Touring

With the success of “Red Roses for a Blue Lady” in 1965, promoters sought to bring Bert Kaempfert to America for a concert tour. The concerts were intended to be presented much like those at the time by Mantovani or Henry Mancini.

“I’ll probably use an 18 to 20-piece band,” said Kaempfert during the planning process, “with five of my most important musicians from Germany and the rest American. I would want to use a vocal group as well.” The Los Angeles-based APA agency was working out all the details. But nothing ever came of it.

The closest Kaempfert ever came to an American concert was his appearance on the December 30, 1967, telecast of The Jackie Gleason Show, filmed in Miami. Kaempfert wanted to bring the whole orchestra with him, but he was only allowed to bring four musicians: trumpeter Fred Moch, bass-guitarist Ladi Geisler, bassist Kuddel Greve and drummer Rolf Ahrens. (They were required to hire American players for those roles, who never played but sat off stage, likely drinking or playing cards.)

“I was asked several times to tour in the United States,” said Kaempfert in an interview that was published on the day of his death, “but there were always union problems: I could not take the musicians with me.”

The truth is Bert Kaempfert was never really interested in touring. He was perfectly happy to stay at home writing or spending hours in the Hamburg studios.

Finally, after much persuasion, Kaempfert made his world concert debut for two concerts on April 22, 1974, at London’s Royal Albert Hall. The 56-piece orchestra featured his choice of German musicians as well as British associates. Kaempfert also enlisted the Anita Kerr Singers, who had released their own Kaempfert tribute album in 1967.

The English audience was more than enthusiastic and an album chronicling the event, Bert Kaempfert – Live in London (1975 – not issued in the US) was a European success, launching Kaempfert on to a string of hugely popular concerts in his native Germany. At the time of his death, the German bandleader had just completed a hugely successful five-date tour of Britain, including a return engagement at London’s Royal Albert Hall.

Still, no one in the United States ever saw Bert Kaempfert perform live.

Bonus Tracks

In between the 1964 Bert Kaempfert album releases of That Latin Feeling (which yielded no single release) and Blue Midnight (featuring three singles, two of which were hits), Decca issued a non-album single of “The Big Build Up” coupled with “Dancing In A Dream.”

The catchy “The Big Build Up” consciously riffs off those American TV Westerns that were popular at the time, such as “The Big Valley,” “Gunsmoke” and “The Virginian.” But by the first key change, when Ladi Geisler’s “Knackbass” kicks in, we’re clearly in Kaempfert country. Each key change thereafter – the big build up – ramps up Kaempfert’s orchestral flourishes to a feverish pitch.

(While Kaempfert’s tune is not the same “The Big Build Up” that Charlie Rich recorded around this period, only a German radio band called The Explosions is known to have covered the Kaempfert original.)

The record’s other side is the dreamy waltz “Dancing In A Dream,” a feature for Fred Moch’s swinging trumpet. Sharp-eared Kaempfert fans will recognize “Dancing In A Dream” as a jazz-ed up take of Christmas Wonderland‘s “Children’s Christmas Dream.”

“International wax favorite Bert Kaempfert comes up with another of his instrumental goodies that the jocks will be on in short order,” wrote Cash Box magazine at the time. “The title, ‘Big Build Up,’ is the key to a bouncy arrangement which builds to a big beat finish. Also eye the easy-listening, danceable item on the flip. The [orchestra] could score with both ends.”

Sadly, neither scored and were quickly lost to time. Both “The Big Build Up” and “Dancing In A Dream,” however, were resurrected as bonus tracks on the 1997 Taragon CD release of Three O’Clock In The Morning while the former also appeared on the 2002 collection The Bert Kaempfert Story (A Musical Biography).

  1. Prior to the chart being called “Easy Listening,” Billboard sporadically published a “Middle-Road” chart that essentially served the same function. Many years later, the chart would become known as “Adult Contemporary.”  Hits once charting as “Easy Listening” are today considered “Adult Contemporary” hits. ↩︎