Songs with Earlier Histories Than the Hit Version

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The Happy Wanderer

First hit version (as “Der Frohliche Wanderer”) by The Obernkirchen Children’s Choir (UK #2 1954).
Other hit version by Frank Weir & His Saxophone, Chorus and Orchestra (US #4/UK #12 1954), Henri René & His Musette Orchestra (US #8 1954).

From the wiki: “‘The Happy Wanderer’ (‘Der fröhliche Wanderer’ or ‘Mein Vater war ein Wandersmann’) was first written as poetry by Florenz Friedrich Sigismund (1788-1857). The present tune was composed by Friedrich-Wilhelm Möller shortly after World War II. It is often mistaken for a German folk song, but it is actually an original composition.

“Friedrich-Wilhem’s sister, Edith Möller, conducted a small amateur children’s and youth choir in Schaumburg County, Northern Germany, internationally named Obernkirchen Children’s Choir, and adapted Sigismund’s words for her choir. The amateur choir, many of whose original members were war orphans, turned into an unlikely international phenomenon in the following years.

“In 1953 a BBC radio broadcast of the choir’s winning performance at the Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod turned the song into an instant hit. On January 22, 1954, the song entered the UK singles chart and stayed on the chart—only a Top 12 at the time — for 26 non-consecutive weeks, peaking at #2 (for five consecutive weeks).

“With the BBC’s strong international influence ‘The Happy Wanderer’ turned up everywhere, e.g., as the winning song of the 1955 calypso road-march season of the Trinidad Carnival. (People protested after this event, complaining that only calypso music should be chosen for the road-march over foreign music).

“Frank Weir was a British orchestra leader and jazz musician. He earlier reached #1 on the UK Singles chart in 1954 with Vera Lynn and the song ‘My Son, My Son’, but it was his version of ‘The Happy Wanderer’ wwhich became one of the most popular international recordings of 1954 — in both the UK and the US. It featured Weir’s soprano saxophone solos between verses.

“Henri René also charted a version of ‘The Happy Wanderer’ on the US charts in 1954. René was an American musician who had an international career in the recording industry as a producer, composer, conductor and arranger. He was responsible for the original ‘Beer Barrel Polka’ disk, which played an important role in the development of the jukebox.

“The original German lyrics of ‘Der Frohliche Wanderer’ have been translated into several languages, and it has since become a choir classic. The first adaptation into another language was done by a Belgian woman, Andrée Mazy, who came up with versions in Dutch-Flemish and French. When Antonia Ridge was writing the English lyrics, she became acquainted with the French version of the song, with ‘valderi-valdera’, pronounced with a true soft /v/ instead of the voiceless /f/, and borrowed it over into the English version mainly for euphonic reasons (less military sounding).”

Frank Weir & His Saxophone, Chorus and Orchestra, “The Happy Wanderer” (1954):

Henri René & Musette Orchestra, “The Happy Wanderer” (1954):

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