Saturday, September 24, 2011

Dick Willebrandt and his Radio Band: Unique 1943 Swing

DOCTOR JAZZ releases unknown swing recordings from occupied Holland.
Glass based records, made for the Deutsche Europa Sender, make Dick Willebrandts swing.
Hans Koert.

Dick Willebrandts en zijn Radio-Orkest: Unieke radio-opnamen (1943) (Nederlands) Dick Willebrandts and his Radio band: Unique 1943 Swing recordings (English)

At the latest Doctor Jazz Dag, a meeting of members of the Dutch Doctor Jazz Magazine, I bought myself the Proper recordbox Swing Tanzen Verboten; four cd's with a compilation of Swing-music and Nazi-Propaganda Swing During World War II, as the subtitle reads. Three of the four albums in the box have a compilation of swing music as it was played in the occupied areas in Europe (and in Germany) during the Second World War and one album has tunes played by the German radio band Charlie and his Orchestra, which promoted the nazi-ideology cloaked in swinging dance music. The cd Swing in Occupied Europe (1940-1944) contains Dutch bands, that played in Holland during the bezetting, the occupation, like de Ramblers and the bands from Ernst Van't Hoff and Dick Willebrandts. Dick Willebrandts en zijn Radio-Orkest can be found on four tracks, originally recorded for D.E.S.( der Deutsche Europa Sender), which were released for the first time on a 1989 Grannyphone Cd Deep In My Heart. The Doctor Jazz Stichting, editor of the Doctor Jazz Magazine, has released a follow-up album with more rare D.E.S. recordings by Dick Willebrandts en zijn radio-Orkest, entitled: Yearning.
What makes these recordings so unique?
Dick Willebrandts en zijn Radio-Orkest: Yearning (DJ 008)
The popular music during the first half of the Second World War in the occupied territories, like Holland, was strictly regulated by the German authorities. The German had regulated that no negroïde en negritische elementen in dans- en amusementsmuziek (= negro and negro-like musical elements in dance- and popular music) were allowed. Music had to be played in the European style, which means "straight", no syncopating or swing-elements at all, like used in the Afro-American music. During the first years, musicians still could play, using the opportunities, their own swing music, but during the second half of the war they had no opportunities anymore to do so, as there was no work anymore and musicians were sent to Germany to work or had to play the music promoted by the nazis.
Dick Willebrandts at a promo picture from the 1930s (1935) ( source: Doctor Jazz Magazine n. 113 (June 1986)
Some musicians had no other option then to become a member of one of the German orchestras, and had to play in venues all over Germany. Dutch or Belgian bands toured along German dance halls too, like the band of Ernst van't Hoff. Some Dutch and Belgian jazz musicians were forced to play in the infamous Charlie and his Orchestra, a radio band, that was founded to spread the nazi-ideology and its resentful ideas about the jewish people by radio, packed in swinging (US-styled) vocal tunes. When the war was over, war tribunals didn't thank these musicians for that.
The Dick Willebrandts orkest during a 1943 concert at the City Theater (Amsterdam). ( photo: Herman Openneer) ( Source: Ongewenschte Muziek - Kees Wouters)
One of the most popular big bands in Holland was the band of Dick Willebrandts. In the first half of 1943 they made some recordings for Decca with Dutch or dutchified titles, like Zomernachtfeest, Ik Ben Verliefd Op De Keukenmeid, Ik Zing Voor Jou or Oh Oh Oh Zonnetje, and they were extremely popular in those days, as its music was more swinging then other bands that could be heard at the Nederlandsche Omroep, the Dutch radio. In June 1943 Dick Willebrandt en zijn Radio-orkest got the message that they had to play, dienstverpflichtet, for the D.E.S., de Deutsche Europa Sender, at a new radio station Calais II, which replaced the Dutch Hilversum II radio station. As Dick Willebrandts en zijn radio-orkest was very popular, the nazi's hoped that the Dutch would tune in to the new radio station, instead of the BBC or other allied radio stations.
Voorwaarden aan het verleenen van een vergunning voor dans- en amusementsmuziek. (= Conditions to get a permit to play dance- and light music) (Source: Ongehoord - 1940-1945- amusement en propaganda tijdens de bezetting) (Beeld en Geluid (Sound and Light) - Hilversum) ( click on the photo to enlarge)
It was remarkable that Dick Willebrandts was allowed to play the music he wanted, English and US swing tunes, labeled with their original titels and sung in the original language by vocalists like Nelly Verschuur and Jan De Vries and arranged by Pi Scheffer, a celebrated arranger in those days - no restrictions at all - and no racist nazi-propaganda either, like the Charlie and his Orchestra did. Dick Willebrandt en zijn Radio-Orkest was swinging and was in no way inferior to the major European big bands - Holland's best band in the land, as Skip Voogd labels it in his extensive (Dutch) liner notes . The glass-based records, which were preserved by sound engineer Jan F. Van Oort, then a sound engineer for the Nederlandsche Omroep, were restored by sound engineer Harry Coster and now released, for the very first time, at this unique album, entitled Dick Willebrandt en zijn Radio-Orkest: Yearning, released by the Doctor Jazz Stichting.
Dick Willebrandts (source: Rhythme no. 110 (15th of November, 1958))
It is remarkable to listen to the music of this great Dick Willebrandts radio-orchestra and realizing that this swing music was recorded half way the Second World War in a land that suffered by the nazi-regime and wasn't allowed to enjoy this kind of stuff .......... The more then two dozen tracks learn that this band was one of the best in this part of the world, and I wondered how music would have developed, if these dark five years didn't had happened. Dick Willebrandts en zijn Radio-Orkest played for D.E.S. up to the end of 1943 and after that time life became sorely tried. After Dolle Dinsdag (= Mad Tuesday), September 1944, the day that nazi's and NSB sympathizer realized that the war could be over very soon, as the allied neared the Dutch borders, the band of Dick Willebrandt was disbanded - musicians were deported or went into hiding. After the war, Dick Willebrandt had to appear in court, and was convicted for his work for the German occupiers. Later he became a member of Dutch radio-bands like De Zaaiers and the Cosmopolitain Orkest.
The Dick Willebrandts orchestra in the Hilversum radio studio ( 1944) (source: Swing tanzen verboten)
The liner notes by Skip Voogd are very informative, but written in the Dutch language - the booklet has an English summary. This album, and the previous released album, entitled
The Ramblers in Brussel (1945-1948), can be ordered at the Doctor Jazz site or at the next Doctor Jazz Dag in Wageningen ( in the centre of The Netherlands). Enjoy this remarkable and unique album from one of the best Dutch swing orchestras of the first half of he XXth century.

Hans Koert
Twitter: #keepswinging
The music as played by orchestras during the five years of German occupation in Holland is not my most favorite, mostly because the sound quality is often so-so and swing is far away as the officials had announced in their conditions that negroide- en negritische elementen (= negro and negro-like elements) were not allowed in dance- of light music. - The music recorded by The Ramblers or Johnny and Jones are labeled as In Een Landerige Stemming, Wat Een Weer, Wat Een Weer or Hindernisrennen, drolling titles, with perfectly hidden swing elements. The Dick Willebrandts orchestra was extreme popular during the war. In the summer of 1943 the band was forced to become part of a new series of radio programs by the Deutsche Europa Sender, a Dutch radio station regulated buy the Nazis, hoping that the Dutch fans would tune in for their favorite orchestra. Dick Willebrandts was allowed to play, inside the walls of the studio, his swing music, US standards, no restrictions at all for the repertoire or the way howe to play it. These D.E.S. tunes, recorded on glass-based records, are now released as Dick Willebrandts en zijn Radio-Orkest: Yearning (DJ 008). Keep Swinging was suprised to learn that its tracks have great swinging arrangements, recorded in occupied Holland, allowed by a regime that fordid jazz and swing music in public. If you love to keep informed about other surpises in jazz published in the Keep Swinging blogs in future, please follow it at Twitter (#keepswinging) or ask for its free newsletter in Dutch or English. ( mail to

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Anonymous Anonymous said...


this is my first movie about Swing.

Greetings - Laura Martin FH Potsdam


9:33 AM  

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