Hans Hammerschmid

Born: March 12th, 1930, Vienna (Austria)
Nationality: Austrian

Eurovision record
Hans Hammerschmid is one of the conductors in the Eurovision Song Contest who, although having participated on only one occasion, were part of the winning team nevertheless. Hammerschmid produced, arranged, and conducted ‘Merci chérie’, with which Udo Jürgens clinched the victory for Austria in 1966.

Johann ‘Hans’ Hammerschmid (occasionally working under the pseudonym Henry Stuck) studied the piano as well as percussion, composition, and conducting at the Viennese Music Academy; there, he was awarded with the Mozart Prize in 1947. Mainly thanks to this prize, Hammerschmid had the opportunity to work in the Paramount Pictures studios in Los Angeles on the music of a film with Bob Hope (1952). Although most of his subsequent career was spent in West Germany, Hammerschmid occasionally returned to the United States to write and record film music. Much later, in 1984, he was the conductor in a Carnegie Hall concert with Bob Hope and Kamahl. One year after that, he recorded the album ‘In love’ with American soprano Julia Migenes Johnson.

In the 1950s and early 1960s, Hammerschmid mainly worked as a pianist and arranger for many different jazz ensembles in Austria and West Germany. In Vienna, he played in the Johannes Fehring Big Band, where he first teamed up with a young vocalist by the name of Udo Jürgens. Moreover, Hammerschmid was a member of the Hans Koller Quintet as well as of the Südwestfunk-Tanzorchester in Baden-Baden; with the last-mentioned orchestra – at that time led by Eddy Sauter – he performed at the 1958 Jazz Festival in Frankfurt. He wrote arrangements for Helmut Zacharias and performed on stage with such international jazz soloists as trumpeter Duško Gojković, saxophonists Stan Getz, Hans Koller, and Zoot Sims, guitarist Attila Zoller, and vocalist Helen Merrill. Later, Hammerschmid was appointed musical leader and conductor of the Entertainment Orchestra of the Saarländische Rundfunk (SR), whilst he was often invited to conduct other broadcasting orchestras in West Germany.

From the early 1960s onwards, Hammerschmid regularly composed and arranged pop songs. One of the first acts with whom he worked in the recording studio, were the Bambis, an Austrian band which scored some monster hits in both Austria and West Germany in 1964 and 1965. After having produced and arranged Udo Jürgens’ Eurovision winner ‘Merci chérie’ in ’66, Hammerschmid regularly kept performing on stage with his fellow-countryman, while he also co-composed his 1969 chart success ‘He’s got the whole world’. In the 1960s and 1970s, he also recorded songs with Esther & Abi Ofarim, Klaus Sommer, Anneliese Rothenberger, and Margot Werner. Hammerschmid also stood at the cradle of disco, producing early attempts at this new genre by Donna Summer and Ian Cussick. With lyricist Miriam Frances, he created the parlando hit ‘Sechzig Jahre – und kein bisschen weise’ for actor Curd Jürgens in 1975.

During the recording of a TV show in late 1966, Hammerschmid made the acquaintance with German chansonnière and theatre personality Hildegard Knef. This led to a fruitful collaboration between 1967 and 1975, during which he produced and arranged seven studio albums for Knef. Many of her songs were composed by Hammerschmid, including ‘Von nun an ging’s bergab’, ‘Ich brauch’ Tapetenwechsel’ and ‘Siebzehn Millimeter fehlten mir zum Glück’. On top of that, he also wrote the music to the remarkably voiced singer’s best-known song, ‘Für mich soll’s rote Rosen regnen’ (1968) – a melody which is still a classic in Germany and beyond. The lyrics to most of these compositions were penned by Knef herself. In 1993, Knef and Hammerschmid teamed up once again to write ‘Marlene’, a song dedicated to Marlene Dietrich. Knef played the lead role in the musical in honour of Marlene Dietrich, ‘Sag mir, wo die Blumen sind’.

As a film composer, Hans Hammerschmid made his mark by writing the soundtracks of West German cinema successes ‘Die Funkstreife Gottes’ (1968), ‘Ein Käfer geht aufs Ganze’ (1971), and ‘Die Reise nach Wien’ (1973). Besides, he composed the music to theatre productions, radio plays, and commercials.

From the 1960s onwards, Hammerschmid wrote the scores to countless TV productions, mostly for West German public broadcaster ZDF. He put to music countless episodes of popular TV detectives, such as ‘Das Kriminalmuseum’, ‘Tatort’, ‘Derrick, and ‘Der Alte’. His most recognized composition as a film composer is ‘Hallo Dr. B!’, the signature melody of an immensely popular ORF/ZDF drama series, ‘Die Schwarzwaldklinik’, which ran for four consecutive TV seasons (1985-1989, 70 episodes) and to which Hammerschmid wrote all music. Moreover, he composed the music to several or all episodes of many ZDF drama series, amongst which ‘Hotel Paradies’ (1990), ‘Insel der Träume’ (1991), ‘Das Traumschiff’ (1992-2000), and ‘Flucht ins Paradies’ (1995). In 2001, he was responsible for the soundtrack to TV film ‘Der Held an meiner Seite’, another ZDF production.

In 2008, Hammerschmid was honoured at the annual meeting of GEMA (Gesellschaft für musikalische Aufführungs- und mechanische Vervielfaltungsrechte) for his fifty years of membership of this performance right organization.

Fifty years of GEMA membership: Hammerschmid (to the left) honoured by GEMA president Harald Heker

Hans Hammerschmid in the Eurovision Song Contest
Hammerschmid was a conductor in the Eurovision Song Contest on only one occasion: in 1966, he led the Luxembourg orchestra for Udo Jürgens, who represented Austria with ‘Merci chérie’. Hammerschmid had written the arrangement to this song himself. Famously, Jürgens, for whom it was the third Eurovision attempt, won the contest with it. In 1964 and 1965, the Austrian chansonnier had been accompanied by his former band leader Johannes Fehring (entry: ‘Warum, nur Warum?’) and Italian host conductor Gianni Ferrio (entry: ‘Sag ihr, ich lass’ sie grüssen’) respectively. What was the reason Hammerschmid was called upon now to conduct ‘Merci chérie’ instead of Fehring?

Johannes Fehring (left) with Udo Jürgens

Hammerschmid comments: “That is a difficult question. In fact, I am really surprised to hear Johannes Fehring conducted Udo Jürgens in a previous Eurovision Song Contest, because he hardly ever wrote arrangements and did not work in the recording studio very often. However, at that time, he was very popular with ORF, the Austrian public broadcaster, and perhaps that is the reason why he was asked for the job in 1964. Whatever may be true of that, it was Udo’s publisher Hans Rudolf Beierlein who asked me to produce and arrange ‘Merci chérie’. I wrote the orchestration after having talked it over with Udo and his lyricist Tommy Hörbiger; working with them was very pleasant. I had known Udo for many years already; for some time, I had been the pianist in Johannes Fehring’s big band, where Jürgens was the lead singer. We hit it off very well, playing rhythm and blues together during the breaks of performances with Fehring. Accompanied by me on the Hammond organ he sang songs such as ‘Ol’ man river’ – really swinging, I can assure you that!”

Hans Hammerschmid accompanied Udo Jürgens to the Eurovision Song Contest in Luxembourg to conduct the orchestra for him: “Going to Luxembourg was a totally relaxed experience; the orchestra there was good and we had an excellent rehearsal – so we were well prepared and felt no stress at all. In the hotel, I shared an apartment with Udo, which turned out to be quite practical: there was a never-ending stream of young fans of Udo who hoped to get his autograph. Remember, he already was an established artist in the German-speaking countries! Of course, I simply sent them away, which allowed Udo to enjoy some rest. On the night, there were many entries from other countries which were quite loud. Obviously, our song was exactly the opposite – really quiet – and that proved to be in our advantage. Winning the contest was a very important moment in the careers of both Udo Jürgens and myself. In Luxembourg, we celebrated until dawn. Many conductors from other countries asked me for a lead sheet of ‘Merci chérie’, because they really liked the melody.”

Udo Jürgens on stage in Luxembourg

‘Merci chérie’ became an international hit and is still one of the great classics of the Eurovision Song Contest. Hammerschmid: “Many versions were released in different countries; Udo even recorded a single of it in Japanese with the German version on the flipside. After the contest, I worked with Udo on many more occasions, both in the recording studio and on stage. When we did a concert, we often performed without having done a rehearsal! We have always maintained our friendship – until today.”

The Japanese release of ‘Merci chérie’

Other artists on Hans Hammerschmid
So far, it has not been possible to gather memories of other artists about Hans Hammerschmid.

Links & sources
  • Many thanks to Hans Hammerschmid for providing us with the necessary information about his career and his Eurovision Song Contest involvement. Pictures courtesy of Hans Hammerschmid.
  • An online career overview of Hammerschmid can be found on the GEMA website (www.gema.de).


Songs conducted
1966: Merci chérie