Het bestuur van de Stichting Professor Teeuw Fonds nodigde me eind 2009 uit deel te nemen aan een internationaal academisch symposium, ‘Musical encounters between Indonesia and the Netherlands’. Op 20 mei 2010 hield ik in Leiden een presentatie met YouTube filmpjes van o.a. Lydia, Tielman Brothers, Ria Valk, Blue Diamonds, Anneke Grönloh en zangeres Zee Avi (Borneo).
Ook Lutgard Mutsaers hield een betoog. Lutgard heeft Rockin’ Ramona geschreven. In het boek uit 1989 vertellen Nederlanders met een Indische afkomst over hun muziek en de acceptatie ervan in ons land.
Speciaal voor het symposium schreef ik tevens een artikel (‘paper’). Drs. Cos van Teylingen ben ik erkentelijk voor zijn medewerking aan de Engelse tekst. “We intend to publish the symposium proceedings in an edited volume”, las ik in de voorbereiding. In het artikel geef ik onder meer een aanvulling, een andere kijk, op Rockin’ Ramona. Met de publicatie van de ‘papers’ is na afloop twaalf maanden lang ogenschijnlijk niets gebeurd. Een jaar na het symposium kreeg ik bericht dat het niet zeker was dat het boek zou verschijnen. Recentelijk werd me gevraagd of ik mijn bijdrage flink wilde veranderen, zonder enige zekerheid dat er dan iets mee zou gebeuren. Bovendien bleek er ineens enorme haast te zijn.
Onderstaand het artikel zoals ik het in mei 2010 gepresenteerd heb.
8 augustus 2011
Dutch-East Indies artists and their role in the music industry 1950-1970
During the last few decades, pop music, as performed by Dutch-Indies artists, has acquired a mythical reputation. When you read present-day articles, books and the standard work Rockin’ Ramona (1989) and read up the websites, dedicated to the so-called indo-rock, it seems that Dutch-East Indies music – and certainly the music of the Tielman Brothers – has played a prominent role in the history of the Dutch pop music. These publications, however, were mainly conceived from the perspective of the musician.
In the research for this paper I have especially concentrated on contemporary sources. Furthermore, I have tried to place the result of this research in the context of the international development of the record business. Hitparades, in my opinion, are a trustworthy indication of the popularity of the artists and the music.
Blue Diamonds in Phonogram studio, met Ruud van Lieshout
Developments in popular music
Now looking back to the early Fifties with today’s standards in mind one cannot deny that popular music in those days was above all romantic by nature. Records with a driving beat were hardly to be found in the best selling singles pop charts. Joel Whitburn’s Top Pop Records 1940-1955, based on the bestseller lists of the American trade paper Billboard, has a list of disks that over the period 1948-1955 were in the top 20/30 for twenty-five weeks or more. There we find songs such as ‘Be my love’ by Mario Lanza, ‘Vaya con dios’ (Les Paul & Mary Ford), ‘Blue Tango’ (Leroy Anderson), ‘Mona Lisa’ (Nat ‘King’ Cole), ‘Little things mean a lot’ (Kitty Kallen), ‘Some enchanted evening’ (Perry Como) and ‘Tennessee Waltz’ (Patti Page). Number one on the list: Bing Crosby with ‘I’m dreaming of a white Christmas’ – at the end of every year it was sold in very large quantities.
In his book about the Fifties Arnold Shaw gave an explanation of Perry Como’s success as a singer. “From small-town barber to best-selling baritone – Perry Como’s voice had the soothing quality of a hot towel or a gentle massage of the scalp. In the year that World War II ended, he marched onto the record scene with an adaptation of Chopin’s Polonaise in A Flat. ‘Till the end of time’ contained an echo of the war in the stately, martial rhythms of the polonaise. But its appeal was doubtless in the expression of a world’s yearning for permanence. To the men and women who survived the travail of the war, his low-keyed style became the sonic expression of the peaceful life, clean fun, controlled ebullience, and tranquil rather than passionate love”.
Popular American music at that time didn’t preach any revolution.
The liberation of Europe by the Americans created an enormous interest in the American culture in Western-Europe. As to popular music that was certainly the case. When a song was successful in America, most European countries embraced it immediately. English-speaking Great-Britain was in the lead.
A survey of the British hit singles shows the same American artists in those years. Big hits, for example, were ‘How much is that doggie in the window’ (Patti Page), ‘Smile’ (Nat ‘King’ Cole), ‘Don’t let the stars get in your eyes’ (Perry Como), ‘Stranger in paradise’ (Tony Bennett) and ‘Rose Marie’ (Slim Whitman).
English artists with an aim for success were always on the lookout for songs that were successful in America. In the summer of 1955, for instance, British singer Jimmy Young recorded a ‘cover’ of ‘Unchained Melody’, the bestselling record of the American singer Al Hibbler. Trumpeter Eddie Calvert did the same with ‘Cherry Pink’ by Perez Prado and Tony Martin sang ‘Stranger in Paradise’, the number one record of Tony Bennett. Imitation of American artists and re-recording of American hit records was a continuing story.
The Anglo-American successes were often bestsellers in the Netherlands, as well. In this country, however, the music business had a wider, more international orientation. For example, French and German records sold quite well. And then the Dutch had their own repertoire. Successful artists in the period 1950-1955 were Eddy Christiani, Max van Praag, Mieke Telkamp, The Three Jacksons, Willy Alberti and ‘Het Orkest Zonder Naam’ (orchestra without a name), among others.
Quite a few people in those days were on the lookout for more exotic sounds. The music of Hawaii was popular. Especially the Kilima Hawaiians (from Rotterdam) got a lot of attention. Songs as ‘Roos van Honolulu’ and above all ‘Er hangt een paardenhoofdstel aan de muur’(a horse’s bridle is hanging on the wall) appealed to a substantial part of the Dutch population.
Young people let themselves go in jazz concerts. The performance of Lionel Hampton at the Amsterdam Concertgebouw (September 1953) is legendary. A journalist of newspaper Het Parool reported: “Hampton hammered a drum with a piece of wood. His costume was completely soaked. A waterfall of sweat was pouring down from his face. His mouth was deformed in an almost hysterical laughter, his eyes glared feverishly. A young man near the orchestra was doing a jungle dance. People in the hall were shouting and dancing”.
A new era was about to arrive.
Revolutions in music: America (1955) and England (1964)
New music, rock & roll, aimed at a young generation, had a sensational breakthrough in 1955. First in the US and afterwards in the whole of the West. ‘Rock around the clock’, the song that started off the movie ‘Blackboard Jungle’, aroused the (youth of the) world. Though the wellbred elder people resisted these developments, the young people had enough of all those boring slow melodies.
Bill Haley (1925-1981) was the first idol of a new generation, the generation of the teenagers. Within a few years Elvis Presley, ten years younger, took over his place at the top. Other early American rockers included Buddy Holly, Carl Perkins, Little Richard, the Everly Brothers, Jerry Lee Lewis, Chuck Berry, Fats Domino, Brenda Lee and Connie Francis. Almost all of the early rock & roll stars were male. The older generation, still at the helm of society, felt responsible for the abuses that were connected with rock & roll. The wild music brought about riots and destruction.
After the success of rock music in the U.S. the same sort of revolution took place in England. Many young girls and boys became fans (short for ‘fanatics’) of the American idols. They were eager to see the American movies in which the new rock artists featured. In the beginning, public broadcaster BBC refused to play the disks that were so popular with the teenagers.
Radio Luxembourg, organized in a commercial way, saw an opportunity to attract new listeners. The ‘station of the stars’ was to develop into an extremely popular place to listen to, although the quality of the sound was very poor. Decca, EMI and other record companies bought airtime at the station. They paid directly and openly for the promotion of their records. Thus they were also able to let the kids listen to new British recording artists. In the old tradition the young singers made ‘covers’ of American popmusic, like the King Brothers with ‘Wake up little Susie’ (Everly Brothers), Marty Wilde with ‘Donna’ (Ritchie Valens) and Craig Douglas with ‘Only Sixteen’ (Sam Cooke). But gradually more and more British artists sang their own repertoire.
A good example of this was Cliff Richard (born Harry Webb) who scored with original songs as ‘Move It’, ‘Living Doll’ and ‘Travelling Light’. The British teenage records were not as ‘wild’ as the American ones. They were more ‘civilized’ one might say.
In the early sixties there was another development in popular music. Particularly in England popgroups manifested themselves instead of solo-artists, like the Beatles in Liverpool, the Rolling Stones (the area of London), and the Animals (Newcastle). Their music was inspired by some white singers like Buddy Holly, but mostly by black music from America. After the American revolution in music in the middle of the 1950s, a new revolution took place in popmusic. This time in England. In 1964 America adopted the sound that was generated in Liverpool.
Something unique happened: in the spring of 1964 the Beatles occupied each of the top five places of the Billboard Hot 100 chart at the same time. During most of the Sixties it was the British who set the tone, in their own country, but also in the United States and the rest of the Western world, including the Netherlands.
The development of popular music in the Netherlands (1955-1960)
Dutch entertainment music was quite different from that of England and America. The people definitely listened to the hits coming out of the U.S. But they were only consumers. They were more or less passive listeners. There was no Dutch Perry Como, no Dutch Patti Page. Dutch musicians played Dutch music, music in the Dutch language. Music in a foreign language was mostly in German, French or Italian rather than in English. This hardly changed when rock & roll entered this part of the world.
On Dutch radio those wild sounds of rock & roll were hardly heard. In those days, when you tuned to public broadcasting it was as if this sort of music didn’t exist at all. Dutch disks which were successfully brought to the attention of the record buying public went by the name of ‘Twee reebruine ogen’ and ‘De postkoets’ (1957, de Selvera’s). Johnny Jordaan had a spectacular success with ‘Geef mij maar Amsterdam’, ‘Bij ons in de Jordaan’ and a flow of other platters in the Dutch language. Willy Alberti, his nephew, got all the radio airplay with melodies sung in Italian, like ‘Nel blue di pinto di blu’ (1958) and ‘Una marcia in fa’ (1959). Mary Bey, the singer without a name from Leiden (Zangeres Zonder Naam), sold huge quantities of her (tear-jerking) record ‘Ach vaderlief’ (1959).
Nico Boer (Phonogram) en Johnny Jordaan
This doesn’t mean that Holland was not aware of the new American music. Although you couldn’t get familiar with these disks on the Dutch radio, still the older generation was warning the teenagers about the dangers of what was happening in the music scene. Skip Voogd was one of them. In September 1956 he published an article with the title ‘Hysteria in optima forma’. More or less it said: “A new rage is haunting songland: ‘Heartbreak Hotel’. The young man, who launched this tune suddenly became world famous. His name is Elvis Presley, 21 years old. His harsh, wailing bariton makes the American teenagers wild. We do not understand his success. The degrading sounds are terrible. More than a million copies have been sold. Mr. Presley recently bought his third Cadillac. Let him stay away from this country. We might not survive another ‘Heartbreak Hotel’”.
Articles like this triggered the teenagers, who got degrading nicknames as ‘nozems’ (boys) and ‘bakvissen’ (girls). The young Dutch, however, hungered for this new music. At this stage it was yet impossible for them to make the music themselves, but they wanted to listen to the records and do the rock & roll dances. The movie ‘Rock around the Clock’, with dancing and performances by Bill Haley, Freddie Bell and the Platters, was a sensation. The public authorities were less enthusiastic. In some cities they didn’t allow the movie to be shown.
Young people heard rock & roll on radio stations outside the country, especially the English programs of radio Luxembourg and the AFN, the American Forces Network in Germany. The sound quality was often miserable but that didn’t matter. Records by Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis and Little Richard were selling in large quantities, without being broadcast on ‘radio Hilversum’.
The employees of the Dutch music industry were aware that rock & roll records sold well, or could sell well. Maybe it was appropriate to record that music with local artists. But in the beginning there were no ‘white’ teenager artists. Therefore the record companies made some recordings with vocalists and instrumentalists, who were old-fashioned entertainers. The people in the recording studio were the same kind: producers, arrangers, engineers, session musicians. They were experienced in and had a positive emotional feeling for what they had always been doing. Most of them were (ex-) members of radio orchestras, the Ramblers and the Skymasters. They certainly were not ‘teenagers’ or young people. Rock & roll was not their cup of tea.
‘Rock around the Clock’ (Bill Haley) was ‘covered’ twice, first by the Melody Sisters (1956) and later by the Spelbrekers (1957). Pi Scheffer (1909-1988) was in charge of the recording by the Melody Sisters. Scheffer was 47 in 1956. After World War II he became a musician in the Skymasters. Ferry Barendse (1911-1991), formerly a singer in the Ramblers, called himself Ferry ‘Rock’ Barendse and made a recording of a song called ‘Rock and roll dat blijft bestaan’. But those records didn’t score. More successful was Pierre Wijnnobel (1916-2010), one-time trombonist in the Ramblers. He made bestsellers with the brothers Godert and Luc van Colmjon (‘Willem word wakker’, Butterflies, 1958) and the Fouryo’s (‘Zeg niet nee’, 1959).
Dutch-East Indies music culture in the Netherlands
After World War II tens of thousands families travelled from the Dutch-Indies to the Netherlands. It was quite a mix of the Dutch population: people with mixed blood, former soldiers of the Koninklijk Nederlandsch-Indisch Leger (KNIL), in general those who had chosen for the Dutch nationality. At the end they were forced by the government of president Soekarno to choose between an Indonesian or a Dutch passport.
Making music was part of their life and culture. Besides that, the Portuguese had introduced the guitar several centuries before. That particular instrument played a major role in traditional krontjong music. Hawaiian music was popular as well in the Polynesian world, where the new Dutch came from. Their musical taste and knowledge was also in line with the American music culture. As Lutgard Mutsaers remarked in Rockin’ Ramona, the Dutch-Indies people who repatriated brought with them ‘the American repertoire, which they had heard in Indonesia on the radio through Australian transmitters and American radio stations operating from the Philippines. It was a mixture of country & western, a style completely unknown in the Netherlands, and the popular music of the time. And before the Dutch they were aware of rock & roll’.
The Dutch-Indies people were not integrated immediately after arriving in the the Netherlands. Even worse, in the Fifties there was regular streetfighting between Dutch and Dutch-Indies youth. Dutch-Indies people therefore had the inclination to stick together. Everywhere in the country they organized Dutch-Indies people evening festivities. Most of them were small scale activities. The Hague, where many Dutch-Indies men ans women had settled down, was an exception. “Dutch-Indies The Hague for the first time opened up with ambitious cultural evenings in the Zoo. They developed into a stage for all Indobands, solo-performers and duos. Several singers and bands made themselves quite a name there”.
Rudi Wairata and George de Fretes
In a certain way, the Dutch-Indies community offered the new modern music as a present to the Dutch music industry. Rudi Wairata (1929-1981), born on the island of Ternate, was one of the pioneers. As the leader of the Mena Moeria Minstrels he was able to acquire a recording contract with Dureco in 1953. The record company was interested in his way of rendering music from the exotic Hawaii islands. Especially for krontjong repertoire and Maluku tunes the group, with singer Joyce Aubrey, performed under the name Amboina Serenaders. The first recordings were released on 78-rpm disks. Later there was a Mena Moeria Minstrels EP (extended play) with ‘Hawaiian melodies’.
The Amboina Serenaders produced real bestsellers in 1955 (‘Goro Goro Me’) and above all in 1956 (‘Klappermelk met suiker’, a song written by Pierre Wijnnobel). Wairata, 27 years old, even recorded a rock & roll song in those days, ‘Honolulu-rock-a-roll’. In 1958 he gave a daily show at the World Expo in Brussels, started the Hawaiian Minstrels, joined the Dutch Kilima Hawaiians and worked more and more in Germany.
George de Fretes (1921-1981), born in Bandoeng, was a pioneer as well. De Fretes even recorded some music in Indonesia (1951). In 1958, Jan de Winter, a producer of record company Phonogram, invited him to come to the studio in Hilversum and record krontjong tunes and songs such as ‘Sarina’. De Fretes also cooperated with Joyce Aubrey. Later on he traveled abroad regularly, in Germany and the American West Coast. He died in Los Angeles in 1981.
Dutch popmusic at the end of the Fifties
Sometime after the breakthough of Bill Haley and Elvis Presley in the Netherlands young Dutch amateur artists contacted the record companies. Talent scouts found them at regional so-called teenager festivals. On such evenings boys and girls got the opportunity to echo the records of their American idols.
Ria Valk was one of them. In 1958 she was discovered by agent Kees Manders in Amsterdam. “Working for Manders, Ria also sang rock & roll songs. One evening a few American soldiers were present at her show. They asked her if she had ever heard of Elvis Presley. And if she was familiar with his rendition of ‘Tutti Frutti’? Ria: ‘Yes, I know that song. Want me to sing it?’ The Americans liked what she sang. But they interrupted her performance. ‘It’s not only the singing. Don’t forget to yell and shake the way Elvis does’. Ria enthusiastically picked up the suggestions of the soldiers. Now everybody was joining, laughing and clapping hands. It was her first rock concert. Manders, her manager, advised her to look out for more of those songs and continue with such a show. By coincidence Ria Valk was part of the rock & roll scene”.
The Dutch branch of RCA, the record company of Elvis Presley, organized a competition for the ‘official’ selection of the Dutch Elvis in 1959. Valk was the only girl participating. “The people in the hall raised their voices when Ria took the stage for the first time. Everybody agreed that a girl could not have anything to do with an Elvis-competition. Ria, however, just sang her ‘Tutti Frutti’. Everybody liked that. She was classified second. Winner was Pim Maas. It delivered her a contract as well, because AVRO-producer Roel Balten was present”.
Phonogram offered Valk a recording contract. Jack Bulterman (1909-1977), arranger of the Ramblers, took care of her. Phonogram selected a Swedish song for the singer of Eindhoven. In Dutch it was called ‘Hou je echt nog van mij Rockin’ Billy’. The disk shot up to the second place in the charts.
Peter Koelewijn (midden) met Anneke Gronloh (rechts)
Bovema in Heemstede was also looking for teenager talent. Peter Koelewijn, a native of Eindhoven, like Ria Valk, was still at school when he started making music, he explained to the magazine Tuney Tunes in 1962. While on a holiday at the beach he had learned how succesful you could be with the girls by singing songs with a guitar. That’s something I can learn, too, he decided. He felt inspired by Bill Haley, Freddie Bell, Little Richard and, of course, Elvis Presley. ‘Long Tall Sally’ and ‘Rock around the Clock’ were some of the songs he always performed. His father didn’t agree with what he was doing. You should write your own songs, Peter was told. Koelewijn started his own band, the Rockets, so that he would be able to perform whatever he liked. Dutch-Indies girl Anneke Grönloh, at a lower class in the same school, was another singer in the Rockets.
A friend of Koelewijn’s contacted Bovema. “They sent us an invitation for a demo recording. The tape got a positive reaction and the actual recording would take place a week later. But which songs? Recently I had composed ‘Kom van dat dak af’and during the train ride I sang the tune for the rest of the band. ‘We should do that’, he heard. And that’s the way it happened”. Some months later Koelewijn, 19 years old, was at number one in the Dutch charts.
Such a huge hitsong did raise some money for the performer/composer, he explained. “In my 19 years I never had anything to do with much money. Suddenly I got my first check from the publishing company: twenty thousand guilders! That was a lot of money in those days. I had to go to the post office myself. The man behind the desk was surprised when he saw a brat like me come and get 20,000 guilders”. The young artist gathered the money and, as he later wrote down, stacked it in his short trousers because he wanted to play a football game before going home”.
Lydia op de cover van de Tuney Tunes, januari 1960
Bovema had scored earlier with Johnny Jordaan and Eddy Christiani. The company in Heemstede had a fine nose for talent. In 1959 Bovema took Lydia Tuinenburg under contract. The singer was born in 1940 in Cilacap (Java). The family had settled in Apeldoorn. Lydia started singing with the Melody Strings. With this combination they won at a local teenager talent search. “Charles, her brother, contacted Bovema. They were invited for an audition. Producer Frans van Schaik [1907-1990] liked the demo tapes very much. In an old church in Heemstede, turned into a studio, ‘Send me the pillow that you dream on’ and ‘Heartbeat’ were recorded”, according to Lutgard Mutsaers.
The teenagers liked Lydia’s rendition of ‘Send me the pillow’, a country & western tune. Some months after the release of the single it shot up the Dutch hitparade and found a place in the top ten. It stayed there for a period of nine months. For the first time, a pop song, sung by a Dutch-Indies artist, was a hit record in the Netherlands. Lydia was one of the first teenager idols in this country. It looked like there was a golden future for her. Soon she performed at the Belgian Knokke festival as a member of the Dutch team. “Lydia, in a petticoat behind the microphone started to function as a role model for young girls. This was rather different from the well-known singers of the past. During the opening of a new record shop in Hilversum in 1960, ‘King Peter’, she was the big attraction”.
Bovema recorded several new songs with Lydia and the Melody Strings. But without being married she got pregnant. “That was a shameful situation in those days. My father was shocked. She decided to leave the country after giving birth to the child. Before the end of the year she arrived in California. That was the end of her career as a singer”. Charles Tuinenburg, her brother, gave this explanation in a radio interview many years afterwards. The success of the teenager idol had suddenly come to an end. Two decades after she had left, Lydia herself admitted in an interview that ‘she had not even been able to collect the two golden records her record company had wanted to present to her. I had already left the country by that time’. A golden record in 1960 meant sales of at least a hundred thousand copies of a 45-rpm.
Tielman Brothers in Breda
For the present Lydia was in fact the only successful pop artist of Dutch Indies descent. Many articles and chapters of books have been written about the spectacular performance of the Tielman Brothers, who had Breda as their home base. That was very close to the Belgian border. So no wonder that the rock & roll group was quite active in that country. Besides, Andy Tielman (23), leader of the band and the solo guitar player, was married at the time with the daughter of a wealthy inhabitant of Brussels. Their first single, ‘Rock Little Baby’ (1958), was recorded and released by Fernap, a Belgian record company. It was not even on sale in the Netherlands. The Tielman Brothers created excitement with their sensational show in Brussels.
Andy Tielman: “Frankenfeld and Kuhlenkampf [German television] came to see us at the World Expo. Kuhlenkampf brought us to Germany; rightaway we got exposure in his tv-show”. The Tielman Brothers decided to settle on the other side of the border and lived their several years. Starting in 1959, however, they made disks for the Dutch record company Bovema. In 1960, when they were seen on Dutch television with their spectacular performance for the very first time, they made an unforgettable impression upon the Dutch teenagers. But this didn’t deliver them a place on the bestsellers chart. Andy Tielman again: “Most of the older artists and people like Willem Duys thought it disgusting. We were the first band that produced such a ‘noise’. Mies Bouwman was utterly negative. I said to my brothers: I don’t want Holland any more. Because Holland doesn’t want us. Really, I planned to leave the country and never come back again”.
The Tielman Brothers were the most successful Dutch-Indies group in the late Fifties. But they were not the only rock band from that part of the world. The Dutch-Indies evenings provided more than enough opportunity for the development of careers in rock & roll. Bands which were more or less successful included the Hot Jumpers, Oety & his Rockers, Black Dynamites, Electric Johnny & the Skyrockets, Javalins and the Hurricane Rollers.
Paul Acket (1922-1992, born in Semarang), agent and publisher of the teenager magazine Muziek Expres, started to organize teenager shows at the Zoo in The Hague. He provided many Dutch-Indies bands the chance to perform in front of a large young audience.
The Dutch record companies recorded a lot of the Dutch-Indies artists. In most cases, however, the result of the activities of the music industry did not produce any score in the music charts. But, so it seems to me, those cheaply produced disks sold enough copies within the staunch Dutch-Indies community that made it worthwhile continuing both the recording and marketing process.
Most of the Dutch-Indies rock & roll groups were amateurs. The Netherlands could not provide them with enough income as musicians. The situation in Germany was different. German cities had night clubs with live music that were open every evening until two o’clock. There was a demand for musicians and orchestras. Several Dutch-Indies bands traveled to the east. The clubs offered good wages, sometimes more than one thousand guilders a month. But then they were working seven hours a day starting at seven o’clock at night.
Jack de Nijs (Jack Jersey, 1941-1997), born near Bandoeng, stated in 1989: “With the Rhythm Kings I worked two months in Germany. It was the most terrible time of my life. Why? I had to sleep in a old bedroom. You played there from seven from to two. At eleven o’clock in the morning you had to wake up, have breakfast while not fully awoken, rehearse at noon. And after that you didn’t have anything to do. You took a beer, and another one. You were bored stiff. At seven o’clock ‘One night with you’ [a Presley hit at the time]. And not ‘one night’, but two months the same thing. Terrible!”
The Beatles had the same experience in Hamburg in the early Sixties.
The breakthrough of Dutch pop music, 1960-1964
Nederlandse top-20, maart 1960, Muziek Parade
Since 1960 in the Dutch hitparades one came across many other Dutch recordings than the ones in the old fashioned style. Many young artists in the new style were on the market for the music industry. The record companies were also more active at the teenagershows where new talent performed, hoping to be discovered. The companies even organized auditions as well. Nico Boer, in charge of the Dutch repertoire at Phonogram, owned by Philips, regularly installed recording equipment at the Carlton Hotel in Eindhoven. New artists were invited to come and present their repertoire. Pieter Boer, his son, remembers Anneke Grönloh and the Blue Diamonds singing some songs at such an occasion. Boer took the audition tapes to his office in Hilversum. Phonogram then contacted the artists and offered them a contract when Boer and his producers were interested to make commercial records.
Jan de Winter, formerly with AVRO-radio and recently working for Phonogram, had seen a performance of the Blue Diamonds at a Dutch-Indies evening. Ruud (1941) and Riem de Wolff (1943) were born not far from Jakarta. The De Wolffs arrived in the Netherlands in 1949. The two brothers enjoyed singing the songs of the American Everly Brothers. Phonogram was aware of the appeal of these tunes. Already the company had experienced a chart entry with the Butterflies, when they sang their rendition of ‘Wake up little Susie’ in the Dutch language. The first Blue Diamonds disk was an imitation of the Everly Brothers American hit ‘Till I kissed you’.
At this time the Dutch music magazines experimented with a new hitparade. When there were Dutch ‘covers’ of a foreign hit record, both the original and the covers were awarded a classification, whether the Dutch versions sold well or not. This was a favourable position for the Dutch record companies, the main advertisers in those magazines. Muziek Expres, Muziek Parade and other glossy monthlies showed pictures of these Dutch artists, imitating the American hit records. Also at this time, Dutch radio started to play more and more records for teenagers. The young Dutch pop singers learned how to promote themselves in the small world of journalists and makers of teenage radio shows. Even before the record shops might have any interest to have their disks in stock they were sometimes able to get an enormous attention in the media.
Ingezonden brieven in Muziek Parade, april 1960
The young teenagers were presented with the idea that not the original American record but the Dutch imitation was the hit version. In the early Sixties this formula worked quite well. The Blue Diamonds were a good example. Jackie Bulterman, their producer at Phonogram, recorded another cover, this time of ‘Oh Carol’, a big hit for Neil Sedaka. The recording was done in the old fashioned way. Ruud and Riem de Wolff were not allowed to play guitar on their own record. The two other boys in their band were not even admitted to the studio. All the recording work was done by elder ‘experienced’ musicians. In this way the teenage disks were recorded one after another.
In vain young readers reacted in Muziek Parade. “We are outraged to read in your magazine that ‘our’ Blue Diamonds are as good or even better than the Everly Brothers. This is pure chauvinism! The Blue Diamonds are only imitators of the Everly Brothers. They cannot be better”.
The Phonogram method worked. In the Muziek Parade hitparade of March 1960, the number one record was ‘Oh Carol’, both by Neil Sedaka and the Blue Diamonds. Number two in the Dutch charts was ‘Till I kissed you’, both by the Everly Brothers and the Blue Diamonds. That’s how they got famous with the teenagers. Soon they appeared on the front pages of the daily newspapers: “The Driebergen teenage stars, the Blue Diamonds were the reason for a tremendous traffic jam in the Leidsestraat of Amsterdam. That afternoon they were to sell their records and put their signature on the sleeve in a record shop. Hundreds of boys and girls showed up at the shop. Traffic was impossible. Police, on foot, by motor-cycle and by car, had to interfere. The main shopwindow broke. A twelve-year old girl was hurt and had to be brought to a nearby hospital”.
A journalist had an interview with the singing brothers. “They are two normal, nice boys. A few years ago they started making Hawaiian music with some friends. They never had any lessons. But with the help of Radio Luxembourg, American records and a certain feeling for today’s teenager repertoire they have gained the right experience. It was a pleasant surprise to discover that the boys were not affected by their fame at the top of the hitparade. They are teenage idols only at the weekend. On weekdays they both are schoolboys, who have to make their homework in order to pass their examinations”. There was no mentioning of the fact that the Blue Diamonds were born in the Dutch Indies and didn’t have a white skin.
The Blue Diamonds had the time on their side. In America there was a trend to re-record old songs in a modern way. Songs as ‘Muss I denn’ (‘Wooden heart’), ‘O sole mio’ (‘It’s now or never’), ‘Blue Moon’ and ‘Mack the Knife’ found themselves again at the top of the international hitlists. That was good news for the old chaps at Phonogram. Jackie Bulterman came up with the idea of reviving ‘Ramona’ (1928) and recorded it with the brothers De Wolff. The result turned out to be more than satisfying. The press was positive. “It is a nice melodic ditty with a strong beat and, at the right moments, it is quiet enough. That makes it a product of civilization”, a critical journalist noted. The same reporter was happy to announce a few weeks later that ‘Ramona’ had sales figures of 65,000 in a very short time. By the end of the year more than 250,000 copies had been bought by Dutch teenagers, or their parents. Never before had a 45-rpm disk been so successful in the country.
‘Ramona’ was not only a bestseller in the Netherlands, but also in foreign countries. “Blue Diamonds beat Elvis Presley in German charts”, some Dutch newspapers wrote. This Dutch record found its position at number 72 in the US chart. For the first time a Dutch pop record got some recognition in America, where pop music had been born. In 1966 Joseph Murrells published a book which summed up all the records that had sold more than a million copies. “‘Ramona’ was the first million seller for this duo – the brothers Rudi (age 21) and Riem (age 19) de Wolff – who went to Holland from Indonesia in 1949. They started with a Hawaiian band. Both brothers play guitar and are rhythm and blues vocalists. Inspired by the Everly Brothers, the de Wolffs made their first disc in 1959 which was an immediate success. The disc of ‘Ramona’ was the first ever to sell over 250,000 in Holland, and over one million in Germany when released on the Decca label, and it was also a hit in the USA”, according to the book. It was the only Dutch entry. The success of the two brothers came to an end when they had to do their duty in the Dutch army.
Billboard Top-100, 19 december 1960
The twins Hein and Wim Vader, born in Bandoeng in 1942, arrived in the Netherlands in 1950. The brothers were of Dutch and Chinese descent. The ‘Padre Twins’ sang their repertoire also with two guitars. At the time that ‘Ramona’ was number one they were in a recording studio for the very first time. Skip Voogd interviewed them and noted: “‘Daddy look… The Blue Diamonds’. Wim and Hein Vader will not easily forget these words. They heard them at a train station. A cute ‘bakvis’ drew her father’s attention not to the Blue Diamonds, but to other twins-in-music: The Padre Twins, the name of Hein and Wim Vader when on stage. The Padre Twins do not resemble the Blue Diamonds at all. Their faces are different and also their repertoire. Besides that: Wim and Hein don’t perform as often as Rudy and Riem de Wolff. They are students; their singing is only a hobby. ‘We sing in order to have fun. If we don’t like it any more we will quit right away’, Hein uses to say. This is a good lesson to all those teenagers, active in ‘music’. The Padre Twins are modest. I feel sure they have a chance to have one of their records on the hitparade”.
The media were very positive about the Vader brothers. Only in one article it was mentioned that they were born in the Dutch East Indies and that their father had been a KNIL-officer. A reporter of Tong Tong, the Dutch Indies magazine remarked: “I see two Dutch Indies boys on the television screen. They sing ‘Listen to the Ocean’ and accompany themselves on guitar. The close harmony is striking. They sing very well. You forget that they are amateurs. Bukan main musical”.
On stage the brothers mostly sang American folksongs. But their record company Artone had the same aim as Phonogram with the Blue Diamonds before. They recorded covers of American hits with the twins. In the autumn of 1962, according to Wim Vader, they ended up with a hit record. Bobby Vinton had a number one with ‘Roses are red’. But the original record was not yet for sale in the Netherlands. The Padre Twins were invited to sing their rendition of the song at the ‘Grand Gala du Disque’. Several million people watched the show. Wim Vader was already enlisted as a cadet at the Royal Military Academy (KMA), but he got special permission to appear in the program. Wim Vader: “Our version of ‘Roses are red’ went up as high as number four on the Dutch charts. We also made a German version. The disk had a fantastic start in Germany. But then star singer Caterina Valente also made a recording with the same German lyrics. She easily beat us”. Just as with Blue Diamonds, military service turned out to be the end of the showbusiness career of the Padre Twins.
Lydia had disappeared by 1961. But the record industry marketed a number of young teenager-singers in the early Sixties: Rob de Nijs, Johnny Lion, Trea Dobbs, Annelies de Graaf, Shirley Zwerus.
Anneke Grönloh was by far most successful. She was born in 1942 in Tondano, Celebes. The first years of her life, she and her mother were able to survive together in a Japanese warcamp. They traveled to the Netherlands in 1950. Ten years later mother Grönloh still had some trouble with the Dutch language. When Anneke started her successful musical career, her mother took the lead and operated as manager of the singer. “I care about my children. Nobody can blame me for that”, she explained in an interview. Mother Grönloh had no experience in business or of organizing things. She and her daughter signed three option contracts at the same time when record companies showed an interest at a talent contest. They decided to deal with Phonogram, but what to do with the two competitors? For a period of six months Anneke ‘had jaundice’. To make it look like she was really suffering from this disease Anneke’s face was daily treated with Indonesian spices, to turn her skin yellowish.
The young singer: “Gentlemen of those record companies could suddenly arrive at our doorstep”.
Her mother: “Ik moest daarvoor toch zo liegen [I really had to lie]. But what else could we do?”
Anneke did some shows as part of Peter Koelewijn & His Rockets. She made all sorts of disks. A Dutch cover of the Johnny Otis hit ‘Ma he’s making eyes at me’ and Dutch Indies songs as ‘Nina Bobo’ and ‘Asmara’. She got her break when Johnny Hoes made a Dutch translation of the German hit ‘Heisser Sand’. With ‘Brandend Zand’ Anneke had her first chart entry and right away it went up to the number one spot. “The little girl from Indonesia was suddenly struck with the phenomenon of popularity”. With sales of over one hundred thousand copies ‘Brandend Zand’ was a golden record as well. Hits of the same calibre came one after another: ‘Paradiso’, ‘Soerabaja’ and ‘Cimeroni’ in 1962 and 1963. The Blue Diamonds and the Padre Twins had to fulfill their military service. Anneke, however, was able to continue her career as a teenage idol.
The success affected the lives of mother and daughter deeply. From one moment to another Anneke was a real star. Money was pouring in. She was asked to sing her songs all over the country. But mother Grönloh didn’t know how to cope with these unexpected developments. Anneke herself was uncertain and timid. She was not able to read music. “All those contracts are a worrisome affair for mother and daughter” the press reported. “Nobody in the family had any talent to organize things. She accepted all contracts, but was not able to do what was required of her. For example, she and her mother had committed themselves for three performances on one evening. That was impossible. Anneke showed up in one place. She asked the people there not to tell anybody that she had sung at this particular place. Thousands of people were waiting in vain for her elsewhere. Her nervous mother at home had to give an explanation by phone. ‘Ik zei dan maar weer, dat Anneke toch zo ziek was’ [Anneke was ‘ill’]. Gradually nobody believed any more that Anneke was ill. Lawyers were threatening. And then came the taxman. At recording sessions Anneke did not arrive, or too late”.
The singer was a big spender. For herself and for her mother. Fast and expensive cars, clothing, jewellery, especially gold. If there was some money left, it was put away, in a cupboard, under a mattress. The press openly reported it.
While working in the music business in those days, I heard the same stories over and over again, particularly about Anneke and her mother being surprised when they suddenly understood that there was some tax to pay.
Anneke Grönloh had become the show-piece of her record company. Phonogram felt obliged to offer a helping hand in 1963. They sent Fred Hartog in order to do what was necessary. Hartog took charge of her schedule. If necessary he called several times a day to make sure that she showed up at a recording session. Hartog arranged that she started taking singing-lessons. He arranged the contracts with the agents, her income tax, turnover tax, road tax, the tyres of her car, the oil of her car, the appointments with her doctor. Hartog took care of her opening a bank account. And so on. Nevertheless, after four consecutive number one records the end of her success as a recording artist was not far away. Since 1965 Anneke has not been able to make a single hit. But she is still a popular singer. Her shows are attractive.
Anneke en haar moeder
In the years 1960-1964 none of the so-called indorock groups had a breakthrough. They performed for their own fans, on teenager shows, opened for foreign acts or worked in German nightclubs. They didn’t produce hit records. They didn’t feature in the popularity polls organized by the Dutch music magazines.
1964 and afterwards
British beatgroups turned the music scene of the Western world upside down in 1963 and 1964. Soon the first Dutch groups followed in the footsteps of the Beatles and Rolling Stones. Most of them came from The Hague. Radio Veronica had its (rather weak) transmitter there just a few miles off the coast. Paul Acket, agent, organizer and publisher, and Jacques Senf, a new young organizer, had their office in The Hague. Record companies Polydor and CNR operated from The Hague. The Motions, Golden Earrings, Sandy Coast and Q’65, some of the early successful bands, had their base in The Hague. Johnny Kendall & the Heralds, Hunters, Outsiders (Amsterdam) and the Tee-Set (Delft) had top 40 entries as well.
The members of those bands explained later that they had listened to the Dutch-Indies music. Henk Smitskamp (Motions, Sandy Coast, Shocking Blue) had grown up in the The Hague Laakkwartier. He explained: “There were many Dutch-Indies families in the Laakkwartier. Hawaii and krontjong-music was in the air. The people had drapery, wayang puppets and old Dutch-Indies pictures on their walls. When I later toured in Java as a member of Shocking Blue I felt at home immediately. The Hurricane rollers were a fantastic group. When I performed with my first group, the Giants, my mother produced colorful clothing in the same style as the Dutch-Indies rockgroups”. His music teacher was Theo Ehrlicher of the Kilima Hawaiians, his first love was a Dutch-Indies girl. Drummer Cesar Zuiderwijk (Livin’ Blues, Golden Earring) remarked: “I was really fond of the Indo-rock in The Hague. Those kids were real pioneers. They all played in bands”. Guitarist Jan Akkerman (Hunters, Brainbox, Focus) ‘made no secret of the fact that Indo bands had inspired him to start playing’.
Some boys with a Dutch-Indies background joined Dutch popgroups. Polle Eduard (Tee-Set, Drama) for instance: “I was born on the island of Borneo in 1947. My father was of Dutch-Indies descent. He played guitar and had a band with some friends. My mother used to sing with them sometimes. She presented me with my first guitar”. Guitarist Rudy de Queljoe is another example. He had a leading role in Dragonfly. Singer John Caljouw: “It all started in a camp of Ambonese people near Middelburg. Rudy and Tonny de Queljoe lived there and we became friends. They had nothing in that camp, except music. Rudy’s father was a sailor. He brought records from America, B.B. King, the Ventures. On a simple guitar Rudy was already a fantastic player”.
Dutch-Indies bands in German nightclubs were pushed aside by the new generation of English beatgroups. The Tielman Brothers performed in Scheveningen. Andy Tielman had a car accident. For quite some time he was not able to use his instrument. “That was the moment I started using my voice. For I could not play the guitar any more, certainly not in the way I played before the accident”. At last, the group experienced a breakthrough in the Netherlands. In 1965 and 1967 the Tielman Brothers had hit records with ‘Maria’ and above all ‘Little Bird’.
Sandra Reemer, 1964
Dutch-Indies artists in the entertainment business were more successful. Sandra Reemer, born in Bandoeng in 1950, for example. Phonogram decided to link the former wonder child to Dries Holten (Tjimahi, 1942) in 1968. With their rendition of the American hit ‘Storybook Children’ they hit the top ten rightaway. Since that time they made one hit after another for many years. Bovema-EMI coupled Mirella Jacobs (1955, Schoonhoven, of Dutch-Indies descent) to Frank Mortier. The Dutch/Dutch-Indies duo had several hit records, of which ‘De verzonken stad’ nearly hit the golden status in the early 1980s. Very special was the career of Jack de Nijs. After many years of struggling as an artist he experienced his first success, not as a singer but as producer. He changed his name to Jack Jersey, composed and sang songs in the style of Elvis Presley and sold hundreds of thousands of albums . Later Dutch-Indies successful artists included Daniel Sahuleka and the group Massada, who had a number one record in 1980 with ‘Sajang e’.
The glory days of the Dutch-Indies artists, however, were in the years 1959-1964. ‘Ramona’ probably is still the biggest bestselling Dutch single in the Netherlands. The Blue Diamonds, together with Anneke Grönloh and earlier Lydia, were the most popular teenage artists before the Beatles arrived on the record scene. It was easy to see and well-known that these young artists had been born under a tropical sun. That gave their music sort of an exotic flavour in that cold, wet and low country.
10 november 2011
Andy Tielman (geb. 1936, Makassar) overlijdt
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Boer, Pieter, interview Harry Knipschild, 25 March 2010
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Eduard, Polle, interview Harry Knipschild, 27 June 2007
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Hitparade, Muziek Parade, March 1960
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Vader, Wim, interview Harry Knipschild, 9 February 2010.
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Smitskamp, Henk, interview Harry Knipschild, 15 December 2009.
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