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The discoverer of Karel Gott for Polydor

The music producer Ossi Drechsler was born in Vienna (1931) in 1982 he took over the management of the Swiss branch office of PolyGram Schweiz with company site in Zürich as the independent Sales Manager. In his professional career Ossi Drechsler took mainly care of the interpreters of the Austrian pop music.

In 1965 I came from Vienna all the way to the Hamburg’s Polydor, when I became assistant of the program director of the Deutsche Gramophon-Gesellschaft, over my desk and tape player, month by month hundreds of record samples have passed – recorded on guitar, on piano or simply a capella. I was able to listen to all of these records and evaluate if somebody appeared among the competitors who could be able to follow the successful stars of the Polydor stable of the 50-ies, as Caterina Valento oder Freddy Quinn.

The German market in the half of the 60-ies was healthy and full of life, though clearly with growing influences of the USA and England. The sale of singles was growing, but it still has not reached satisfying numbers. To a certain degree an interesting, though exhausting monotony of my work – to listen to plenty of diletants and beginners – was only possible to endure from one only reason: a chance was there that as the new representative of Polydor, I will be able to attend the Festival of German pop songs in Baden-Baden. When I specifically asked my boss if there was a space for my in the delegation for the mentioned festival, he refused my request by the argument, that in any case, there were already lots of funtionaries attending…

„Though I got something better for you: you will go to Bratislava as the official representative of Hamburg’s Polydor, because you as native Viennese, you will find your way in Bratislava much better and you will be more acceptable then people from somewhere in the North of Germany. In Bratislava, all of the Czechoslovakian stars are performing, including all of the most important singers from the Eastern block, in the competitions Golden Lyre and Intervision.“ From the provisional program, which was enclosed to the invitation, I only knew two, three acts – Edith Ploch from the Soviet Union and the other one was Karel Vlach, the legendary big band boss from Czechoslovakia.

Jiří Stern and Jiří Vinařický were the first really nice people, who welcomed me really heartedly in Bratislava and provided the basic information on the Czechoslovakian pop music. The following day, rehearsals have begun, where I was presented for the greatest stars mainly for Eva Pilarová and Karel Gott, as the „big boss“ of Polydor. I still remember how Karel’s voice made impression on me, when his fresh, clear tenor has been flowing the hall during the songs Pošli to dál and Mám rozprávkový dom.

And finally, there was a voice for the audience, which – as known – will believe anything from a tenor. Colleagues from competitive German labels, but newspaper people and record companies were all stunned over my tast, because I favourised Karel Gott from the first rehearsal. „You could record some operetta melodies with him, but pop music? Forget it!“ But, in the same way as it usually comes with the artists and the art, it was the same in the case of Karel Gott, the number of persons who did not believe in his success and who wrote him off from the very start, did not move me and especially experts of show business really tried to understand my comparison with Joseph Schmidt. Thank Got, because from this reason, I did not have any troubles to sign the contract with Supraphon and Artia and get Karel himself to Polydor. And today, Karel is propably the only singer who has a lifetime contract with Polydor. This says propably everything.

The City of Vienna,  Ossi Drechsler, Melodie 1999

Beginnings at Polydor

Karel Gott found a numerous audience except for the Federal Republic of Germany mainly in Austria, Switzerland, Belgium, Luxembourgh and the Netherlands. Nevertheless he visited or performed practically in all of the European countries (except for Albania and Scandinavia), in the USA, Canada and in Japan. Except for the Czech republic and Germany, he recorded lots of records for recording companies in England, Belgium, Bulgaria, France, the Netherlands, Italy, Japan, Polen, Austria, former Federal Republic of Germany or Soviet Union, Spain, Switzerland, Sweden and the USA. Hereby we will closely describe Gott’s work for the German recording company Polydor, where he during the last three decades produced dozens of separate records.

The unique situation of Karel Gott which he gained the area of gramophone industry – since 1964 he has belonged among the best selling artists, in Jul of 1966, Karel Gott participated at the International Festival of pop songs at the Bratislava Lyre, where he was competing with the song Pošli to dál of the authors Jaromír Klempíř and Jiří Štaidl. The festival was of fundamental influence in that time, because the representatives from important recording companies, who were sitting in the audience, carefully listening to the individual artists, were able to see the best flowers of the harvest of the current production coming from the participating countries. It was the same case this year as well, where the director of the German recording company Deutsche Grammophon, Ossi Drechsel, was sitting amoung the „talent hunters“ in the audience, to gain a new artist of strong melodies and romantic songs for the German market. The voice of Karel Gott caught immediatelly his interest

The representatives of Polydor visited in 1967 Gott in West Berlin, where he was currently performing with the Apollo Theatre band, they hired a recording studio in West Berlin and recorded two records with Karel Gott for his single estimated for the German speaking listeners. The base became the already mentioned festival song Pošli to dál, in the German version as Bist du das Glück. As the name already tells, the contents of the German lyrics is far away from the Czech one – this is the case for most of the language versions of Gott’s rich song book. For the B-side of the single, a melody of Maurice Jarre Somewhere my love was chosen, which comes from the Oscar awarded american long film Dr. Živago, recorded according to the story of the Russian Nobel price holder, Boris Leonidovič Pasternak. This song has been made popular in the Czechoslovakia by Milan Chladil as Krásné je žít. Gott’s German version has been named Weisst du wohin.

The day after the recording, some pictures were taken in Berlin and in three weeks, the records was available in the stores, with coloured sleeve. The commerce success of the single came immediatelly after the release – the sale of the record reached over the niveau of 250 000 sold copies! Showing the american film in the cinemas influenced the huge response as well. The single released in re-edition then and took over the sleeve of the first LP record. Recordings for the debute album have started already in 1967 in Hamburg recording studios Norddeutsche Rundfunk. The studios are situated in a closed complex of administrative and recording studio buildings – which are separated into TV, radio and gramophone. In the radio frequences, the first recordings have been done, which Polydor still has not released on any medium (and from several reasons, we will propably not be able to await this either).

Melodie, 1999

History of the company

In 1898 the German gramophone company was grounded and in 1924 Polydor becomes it’s second German gramophone label and at the same time, an independent company of the German gramophone company. Contrary to this company, they release (still using several logo types) mainly entertaining music and cabaret pieces. In the 40-ies, Polydor released records under the label Siemens-Polydor. During the second world war, releases were done under the label of Polydor only, including their typical red label. In 1954 Polydor, which became the most successful German recording gramophone company in the meantime, begins to use the unchangeble orange logo type. In 1964 Polydor begins to use the red logo type, which has been in use since then until nowadays. As the beat wave rolled over Germany in the mid-60-ies, the meaning of the German sung pop music decreased notably and Polydor experienced problems to align with the time of the new musical taste.

The new generation of German singers, among the most important of them were Roy Black, Karel Gott, Renate Kern, Chris Roberts or Wencke Myhre, helped Polydor to re-gain the top spot. At the end of the decade, the repertoire of the company has increased by including even foreign, English singing artists such as Bee Gees or The Who. At the end of the 70-ies, further national and international stars such as: Barry Ryan, Daliah Lavi, James Brown, Plácido Domingo, Konstantin Wecker, Ougenweide, Georg Danzer, Barclay James Harvest and ABBA were added to Polydor, which in the meantime has been joined to PolyGram in 1972. During the 80-ies and 90-ies, hits from the following domestic and worldwide stars followed. In 1998 Seagram buys PolyGram and joins it to its company Universal Music Group. Under this label, several recording company labels have been joined, such as Koch, formerly an independent Austrian company. In 2000, Universal becomes one of the biggest recording companies worldwide.

Karel Gott Biography

1939 On June 14th born in Pilsen, son of an electrical technician.

Plzeň, about 75 miles south-west of Prague, sounty-seat of North-East Bohemia, market centre, Technical college, Medical faculty, Theaters, Muses; incorporated as city in 1272 and in the winter of 1633-34 Wallenstein’s last headquarters.

1948 Move to Prague with family.

Karel still wishes to become a painter in later years, 100% in arts and 50% in music confirm his decision, but long before his graduation he can be seen at jam-sessions with his friends, followed by music-making at his evening gig without pay in dance-halls and it makes him happy. This can be physically taxing when you have to study during the day and work in a electrical factury as training for a planned curriculum at the Technical college. In spite of this everything turned out, to the best, otherwise.

1957 His voice gets noticed at an amateur contest.

Not by the jury, but by the audience and by one of the most renown bandleaders of the country, Karel Krautgartner, who gave him his contacts to radio and television. Everyone advised this unusually talented singer to go on eith his singing studies.

1960 Serious vocal studies with Professor Karenin, desciple of the world-renown russian singer Shaljapin.

“There’s music in the blood of the Bohemians” goes the saying and there’s constant music in Prague even when the time stands still. If all the great and well-known talents of the past who appeared here, composed or conducted here, would appear at the same time, you couldn’t accomodate them in the largest concert-hall of the world. Gluck, Mozart, Beethoven, v. Weber, Liszt and Tchaikowsky are but a few of the illustrious guests, but we shouldn’t forget, at least, Smetana and Dvořák, who were the most renown of the resident greats. Countless volumes of literature are filled with the recounting of each Musical Spring in Prague, attesting the genius of the Golden city.

The Prague school of music was founded in 1810 and was the first in Central Europe. For three years Karel Gott visited the music library in order to make the tenorparts of the most popular operas his own. His evenings belonged to the ‘lighter’ side of the muses. He sang jazz and songs from the hit parade. One day, when his teacher thought that a decision on his part would be necessary, Karel turned down the possibility of playing parts like Tamino, Lyonel, Rudolf, Schuiskij or Wenzel and decided to play his own role, doing his own thing.

1963 Engagement at the “Semafor Theatre” in Prague and Karel wins first price as darling of the public and with that, the ,,World Of Youth”-magazine’s initial price, the “Golden Nightingale”.

The decision between Bach or Beat, Haydn or Hits has been partically verified by the public, the same public that grows and grows in numbers as well as quality day to day since even his first recording sold a record number of copies; his contract for the famous revue theatre does the rest.

1965 Change to the newly opened “Apollo Theatre” and his first composition “Isabella” is released.

Karel is still living with his parents in a three-room flat in Prague’s Okrouhlická Street. He stays there for another five years, enjoying his live in his bachelor quarters, among old oil paintings, swinging cushioned furniture, Baroque trunk and antiques, and he passionately invested his first wages into a few chosen antique pieces. There isn’t much time left to indulge in his second hobby of painting. Now it’s hard work to go further ahead in showbusiness and to stay on top.

1966 At the first international Czech Pop Song Festival, Karel wins the “Golden Lyre”, three of his recordings fill the three first places in the poll of the “World Of Youth”-Magazine.

This poll is the same as a national hit parade would be. “C’est la vie”, “Pošli to dál” and his own composition “Bum bum bum” knocks all other participiants out of the competition for favor at the public. He’s made it. In later years we can read: “A schooled tenor came in the middle of the hottest beat-wave, with a beautiful voice, conquering the hearts of young ladies and elderly woman alike. “It just had to happen and his success was not restricted to his homeland.

1967 Participates in Cannes at “Midem”, appears in Montreal with the cast of the “Apollo Theatre”, “Weisst du wohin” is recorded by Polydor as his first german-speaking record.

Up, up and away — the true description of what follows immediately. Odes of the Western critics know of no frontiers when Karel was introduced to the international pop market in Cannes. Headlines read, “Sinatra of the East”, “This is not a singer, this is a natural phenomenon” etc., and rightly so, since his unbelievably strong and beautiful tenor voice is void of competition on the music-scene of the world. He reaches his high “C” with the same playful lightness which characterizes his jazz, beat and swing singing. Many recordings were made of “Lara’s theme” from “Doctor Zhivago”, but Karel’s first German recording was the natural hit. His name was heard at the far of America’s show centre.

1968 Half-year engagement at the “New Frontier” in Las Vegas, with two shows daily, represents suastria at the “Grand Prix De I’Eurovision” with the Udo Jurgens compo-sition “Tausend Fenster” (“Thousand Windows”), undoubtable breakthrough in Germany when his first long playing record “The Golden Voice From Prague” is released.

He says that international success didn’t change him basically. He is still shy and reserved as before, not in the least agressive or demanding. He is still splitting hairs of his own performance, looking for the least little fault and promosing to be better the next time. His ambition to be perfect keeps him swinging, though he claims not to be without temperance, though his desire to satisfy everyone, including himself, never leaves him alone.

1969 Supraphon-price for being the best selling singing artist, third at the journalists poll of the best german, or produced in Germany, artist, in the spring the first and in the autumn the second tour of german cities, release of his second long playing record and a special Christmas production.

The first rehearsal already clearly shows Karels vast stage experience. His introductions are short and precise to his orchestra as well as to his light-men and sound engineers. The tours are a complete sellout, his success is assured, though the stagefright is the same as in the old Semafor days, his soulsearching as well, “what happens if I forget a lyric, or a note escapes me” he questions himself, there will be no playback to help him, since on the stage you stand alone. To see him ‘live’ is more than just a concert. It’s an experience. It’s not just a perfectly studied show, it’s a musical presentation of the highest caliber. Everyone can feel his pleasure in singing, his many years of opera training is unmistakable, his voice knows no limitations, his selections are a well-dosed mixture of semi-classical, beat, sweet and foremost “soft”. 90% of the audience is a mixture of girls and ladies.

1970 In the west german annual LP-list he is in second place with his “The Golden Voice From Prague” and knocks out of the running artists like Udo Jurgens, Roy Black and Tom Jones; for a quarter million records sold of the “Golden Voice” he is presented on the 12th february with the long-deserved “Golden Record”.

In the fall he does his third grand tournee through 20 towns from Hamburg to Munich. When he resords the German version of “You’re such a good looking woman”, at the same time he records an LP covered by the same title (“Star meines Lebens”) where he shows a completely different side. A bit mor aggressive, a bit faster and a bit hotter. This is a disc of drive and action.

1971 “Schicksalsmelodie”, the musical theme of “Love Story”, sets Karel out continuing his success started with his “Zhivago”-success and in the autumn an LP exclusively consisting of classical themes of czech composers like Smetana and Fibich is released.

Like very few of his collegues, he can sing whatever he wishes. His fascinating voice makes a’gem’out of any melody. In the words of his producer Otto Demler: “This star, idolized by his audience, retained, through it all, his rare uniqueness. Though he is more at with the discipline of his work, than he would be with his image and mannerism, he knows what he owes his listeners. You have to admit that Karel Gott is a player supreme in the very hardest role of his life, playing the part of a star.”