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Bill Ramsey

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Though born in the United States, vocalist/pianist Bill Ramsey became one of the most popular jazz and pop vocalists in Germany during the '50s and '60s. Born in Cincinnati, OH, on April 17, 1931, Ramsey first became interested in music via his amateur pianist father, who introduced him to such artists as Meade "Lux" Lewis and Albert Ammons. Consequently, inspired by those artists, as well as his hometown's eclectic music scene -- centered around the R&B, soul, and jazz coming out of Cincinnati-based King Records -- the young Ramsey taught himself how to play boogie-woogie piano by ear and began absorbing the sounds of such legendary blues and jazz artists as Big Bill Broonzy, Louis Jordan, Fats Waller, and Joe Williams. Although he entered Yale University to study sociology, after the Korean War broke out he joined the Air Force and was stationed in Frankfurt, Germany. Ramsey's musical abilities soon came in handy as he acquired the position of "chief producer" for the American Forces Network in Frankfurt. Fortuitously, his program director at the station was Johnny Vrotsos, who himself was famed producer Norm Granz's connection in Germany. Subsequently, jobs recording any and every jazz artist that traveled through Frankfurt fell to Ramsey. Eventually, Vrotsos caught on that his assistant was more than a good producer and began helping Ramsey book gigs singing and playing piano often at jazz festivals around Germany. These performances were wildly successful and Ramsey was even voted the number one jazz singer in Germany in a poll in a German jazz magazine. After leaving the Air Force, Ramsey spent much of the mid-'50s studying music off and on at Frankfurt University, performing jazz throughout Europe and even appearing in some films. Such was his growing popularity in Germany that around 1957 he was approached by German producer Heinz Giezt to record some more pop and novelty-oriented material. The move paid off and a list of hit recordings followed, including a German version of "Purple People Eater," which became somewhat of a trademark song for Ramsey. Since the '60s, Ramsey has remained a popular performer and radio personality in Germany. ~ Matt Collar

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17 April 1931 in Cincinnati, OH

Years Active:

'70s, '80s, '90s, '00s