Bill Ramsey (singer)

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Bill Ramsey
Ramsey performing in 1977
William McCreery Ramsey

(1931-04-17)17 April 1931
Died2 July 2021(2021-07-02) (aged 90)
Hamburg, Germany
EducationYale University
AwardsOrder of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany

William McCreery Ramsey (17 April 1931 – 2 July 2021) was an American-German jazz and pop singer, journalist and actor famous for his German-language hits.[1][2] He returned to Germany a year after he had served compulsory military service with the U.S. Air Force there. Active as a singer of jazz and pop already as a soldier, he made a career in different fields of musical entertainment. He sang and recorded German schlager, also German-language cover versions of English hits, jazz and swing. He appeared in films and television series, and ran popular series on radio and television as presenter.


William McCreery Ramsey, called Bill, was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, the son of a teacher and an advertising manager for Procter & Gamble.[3] In his youth, he sang in a college dance band. He began to study sociology and business from 1949 to 1951 at Yale University in New Haven and sang jazz, swing and blues in the evenings.[4] His greatest influences were Count Basie, Nat King Cole, Duke Ellington and Louis Jordan. Due to the Korean War, compulsory military service was again introduced in the US and Ramsey served with the U.S. Air Force in Germany.[3] During this time period, he appeared in clubs like the Jazz Cellar [de] in Frankfurt.[3] He was discovered by an employee of the American Forces Network (AFN), and hired to entertain troops.[5][6] There Ramsey advanced to executive producer[6] and though still in service, spent more time on appearances at festivals. As of 1953, he appeared with, among others, band leaders Ernst Mosch, Paul Kuhn, Kurt Edelhagen and James Last.[7] The jazz pianist and music producer Heinz Gietz [de] organized an appearance with Hessischer Rundfunk for Ramsey in 1955. There he did playback recordings for the musical film Liebe, Tanz und 1000 Schlager [de] (Love, dance and 1000 hits) with Peter Alexander and Caterina Valente.[8] Upon his discharge from the military in 1957, he continued his studies in the U.S. and returned to Frankfurt a year later.[8]

Gietz took Ramsey under contract in 1958 and in the same year his first single with Polydor was released. It was a small but respectable success and launched the style, with which ”the man with the black voice” would land hits in the future. The music was oriented on the Anglo American pop music hits of that period. Among Ramsey's hits published in the 1950s and 1960s were German-language cover versions of Hank Ballard, The Beatles, Fats Domino, Ivory Joe Hunter, Roger Miller, Elvis Presley, Jimmie Rodgers, Andy Williams, Sheb Wooley and others.[7] In addition, he performed numerous originals, which were composed almost exclusively by Gietz. The ironic lyrics of Kurt Feltz and Hans Bradtke [de] often commented on current events.[3]

Ramsey in 2005

Ramsey and Gietz signed with Columbia label EMI Group in 1962, where they would continue their success.[9] As beat music changed the market in the 1960s, Ramsey was a regular on the German charts. In the second half of the 1960s Ramsey took up predominantly English-language songs and dedicated himself again to jazz and blues. In this musically varied decade he presented operettas, musical and beat songs, as well as an LP with children's songs. Ramsey switched labels to Gietz's record company Cornet in 1966, and later in the same year to Polydor. He appeared on different labels in the 1970s.[10]

Ramsey appeared regularly as a pop and jazz singer, mostly in duets with the guitarist Juraj Galan, with whom he released several albums. The duo's LP Live in the House of Commons won the German record critics prize. From the late 1980s,[8] Ramsey presented Swingtime each Friday on Hessischer Rundfunk[6][11][12] until 2019.[5] In 2008 and 2009 he went on tour with Max Greger and Hugo Strasser as Swing legends.[8]

He was a lecturer for many years at Hamburg University for Music and Performing Arts.[13] He had a lead speaking role in the audio play for children Der kleine Tag in 1999.[14]


His popularity led to numerous appearances in film and television, where he appeared as a singer and in comedy roles. Ramsey had numerous television appearances, acted in 28 films and toured through Europe, the US, and North Africa. He presented the television shows Hits for Schlappohren (1971) and Talentschuppen [de] (Talent shed) (1974 to 1980), among others.[6]


Ramsey lived for 20 years in Zürich,[8] later in Wiesbaden, and from 1991 onward with his fourth wife Petra in Hamburg.[5][13] He became a German citizen on 17 October 1984.[5] His wife, a physician, also worked as his manager.[4]

Ramsey died at his home in Hamburg at the age of 90 on 2 July 2021.[15][16]

Discography (selection)[edit]

Ramsey released 50 singles as well as 30 LPs and CDs,[13] including:[10]


German single "Wumba-Tumba Schokoladeneisverkäufer"
Year Title Chartposition (DE) Label/Catalogue no.
1958 Yes, Fanny, ich tu das Polydor NH 23 738
1958 Wumba-Tumba Schokoladeneisverkäufer 4 Polydor NH 23 883
1959 Er war vom konstantinopelitanischen Gesangsverein
Polydor NH 24 002
1959 Souvenirs [de] 1 Polydor NH 24 037
1959 Caldonia Columbia C 21 261
1959 Hier könn' Matrosen vor Anker geh'n Polydor NH 24 090
1960 Go Man Go (englisch) Polydor NH 66 812
1960 Telefon aus Paris 39 Polydor NH 24 211
1960 Jeden Tag 'ne andre Party Polydor NH 24 330
1961 Pigalle (Die große Mausefalle) [de] 6 Polydor NH 24 428
1961 Telefon fra Paris (in Danish) Polydor NH 22 974
1961 Immer zieht es mich zu ihr (with Peter Alexander) 10 Polydor NH 24 437
1961 Zuckerpuppe (aus der Bauchtanz-Truppe) [de] 5 Polydor NH 24 553
1961 Das Leben ist doll 45 Polydor NH 24 616
1962 Nichts gegen die Weiber (with Bibi Johns) 25 Polydor NH 24 663
1962 Old Jonny war ein Wunderkind 47 Polydor NH 24 774
1962 Brauner Señor Mexicano (with Peter Alexander) Polydor NH 24 915
1962 Ohne Krimi geht die Mimi nie ins Bett [de] 3 Columbia C 22 197
1962 Mimi Needs A Thriller When She Goes To Bed Columbia F 4948
1963 Maskenball bei Scotland Yard 8 Columbia C 22 333
1963 Sagst du alles deiner Frau? (with Chris Howland) Columbia C 22 397
1963 Parlez-vous Francais? 51 Columbia C 22 456
1963 Molly Columbia C 22 512
1963 Es gibt doch immer wieder Ärger (with Peter Weck) Electrola E 22 515
1964 Bossa Nova Baby Columbia C 22 635
1964 Ein bequemer Arbeitnehmer bin ich nicht Columbia C 22 689
1964 Ein Student aus Heidelberg 21 Columbia C 22 701
1964 Zicke Zacke Hoi Columbia C 22 842
1965 Chug-a-lug Columbia C 22 884
1965 Bin nur ein Tramp Columbia C 22 888
1965 Crazy Cowboy Grand Hotel Columbia C 23 012
1966 Fat Man (& The Jay Five) Cornet 3012
1966 Hollywood-Schaukellied Polydor 52 699
1966 Yellow Submarine Polydor 52 725
1967 Limonade wär' besser gewesen Polydor 52 770
1967 Body Building Bill aus Boston Polydor 52 874
1968 Otto ist auf Frauen scharf Polydor 53 043
1968 Piccadilly Circus Polydor 53 066
c. 1968 Blue-Eyed Lady (& The Jay Five with Bruno Spoerri) Heco S 45 007
1969 Gesellschaftsspiele (als William Ramsey III.) Polydor 53 130
1969 Sing ein kleines Lied vom Frieden (als William Ramsey III.) Polydor 53 155
1970 Haschisch Halef Omar Cornet 3165
1993 Probier's mal mit Gemütlichkeit (Dschungelbuch Groove) ZYX Music 706012




  • Caldonia and more ... (Bear Family Records), including recordings from 1957, 1966 and 1980
  • Souvenirs (1992; Bear Family Records), including recordings from 1958 to 1961
  • Ohne Krimi geht die Mimi nie ins Bett (1994; Bear Family Records), including recordings from 1962 to 1965
  • Ballads And Blues / Songs From Home (Bear Family Records), including recordings from 1965
  • The Other Side – A Dedication to Nat King Cole (Bear Family Records), including recordings from 1975 to 1977
  • On the Spot (Bear Family Records), including recordings from 1977
  • When I See You (with Toots Thielemans), Bell Records), including recordings from 1979 to 1980
  • Underneath the Apple Tree (with Juraj Galan, Tyrostar), including recordings from 1983 to 1984
  • Rückfall (1990; Papagayo)
  • Getting' Back To Swing (with the SDR Big Band, conducted by Dieter Reith, 1994; Bear Family Records)
  • Hamburg, keine ist wie du (1999; Bear Family Records)
  • Ballads, Streets & Blues (with Peter Weniger and the Achim-Kück-Trio, 2001; Mons Records)
  • Big Band Boogie (with the Thilo Wolf Big Band, 2002; Mons Records)
  • Send In The Clowns (with Jean-Louis Rassinfosse, 005; Swingland Records)
  • Here's To Life – Here's To Joe (with the hr-Bigband, conducted by Jörg Achim Keller, 2006; HR-Musik)


Ramsey appeared in 28 feature films,[13] including:[17]



  1. ^ Junker, Detlef; Philipp Gassert (2004). The United States and Germany in the Era of the Cold War, 1945–1990: 1945–1968. Cambridge University Press. p. 447. ISBN 978-0-521-79112-0.
  2. ^ Applegate, Celia; Pamela Maxine Potter (2002). Music and German national identity. University of Chicago Press. p. 239. ISBN 978-0-226-02130-0.
  3. ^ a b c d "Zum Tod des Sängers Bill Ramsey – Ein cooler Faxenmacher mit eigener Stimme". Deutschlandfunk Kultur (in German). 5 July 2021. Retrieved 6 July 2021.
  4. ^ a b "Schlager und Jazz : Sänger Bill Ramsey im Alter von 90 Jahren gestorben". Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (in German). dpa. 5 July 2021. Retrieved 6 July 2021.
  5. ^ a b c d "Sänger Bill Ramsey mit 90 Jahren gestorben" (in German). Tagesschau. 5 July 2021. Retrieved 6 July 2021.
  6. ^ a b c d "hr2-Moderator und Entertainer: Bill Ramsey ist tot". (in German). 6 July 2021. Retrieved 6 July 2021.
  7. ^ a b Kreye, Andrian (5 July 2021). "Nachruf auf Bill Ramsey". Sü (in German). Retrieved 6 July 2021.
  8. ^ a b c d e "Bill Ramsey ist tot: Schlagersänger und Jazzmusiker mit 90 Jahren gestorben". Der Spiegel (in German). 5 July 2021. Retrieved 6 July 2021.
  9. ^ "Bill Ramsey verstorben". Blickpunkt (in German). Retrieved 6 July 2021.
  10. ^ a b Hung, Steffen. "Discographie Bill Ramsey". (in German). Retrieved 6 July 2021.
  11. ^ Köring, Ulrich (24 February 2019). "Bill Ramsey hört nach 30 Jahren mit hr2 Swingtime auf". RADIOSZENE (in German). Retrieved 6 July 2021.
  12. ^ "Bill Ramsey wird 90: Nie den Schwung aus Frankfurt verloren". Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (in German). 17 April 2021. Retrieved 6 July 2021.
  13. ^ a b c d e "Bill Ramsey mit dem Verdienstkreuz am Bande ausgezeichnet". (in German). 21 February 2020. Retrieved 6 July 2021.
  14. ^ Dörner, Michelle (22 June 2017). "Die Geschichte vom friedlichsten Tag aller Zeiten". (in German). Retrieved 17 April 2019.
  15. ^ Riedmeier, Glenn. "Musiker und Moderator Bill Ramsey gestorben". (in German). Retrieved 5 July 2021.
  16. ^ "Sänger Bill Ramsey mit 90 Jahren gestorben". (in German). 6 July 2021. Retrieved 6 July 2021.
  17. ^ "Filmografie Bill Ramsey". (in German). 17 June 2021. Retrieved 6 July 2021.

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