After just ten minutes it becomes apparent what a great entertainer Chuck Herrmann is and what a charismatic singer. Chuck Herrmann, born in 1940, is sitting at the counter in the Wirtshaus in der Au, behind him a waitress pushes past with a tray full of potato dumplings in the fully occupied restaurant. Chuck Herrmann, whose real name is Wolfgang, spreads his arms and sings the rockabilly hit “Be-Bop-A-Lula” by Gene Vincent. Why? Because he is about to tell you why he quit his job as a tax clerk in Holzkirchner town hall decades ago, founded a rock club, became a singer in a country band and later became a rock ‘n’ roll disc jockey.
50 years ago, on December 3, 1972, he started his music evening “Fifties Record Hop” in what was then the Pop Club, one of the first discotheques in Munich. The pop club was on the first floor above the “Crazy Alm”, today the Wirtshaus in der Au. On Sunday, December 11th, the anniversary party will be celebrated in the Vintage Club on Sonnenstraße. 50 years of rock ‘n’ roll, boogie and swing. Always with “Bo-Do-Rock” by Earl Bostic and Bill Doggett as the first song, always with “Goin’ Home” by Mickey & Sylvia as the bouncer.
His head is full of memories and anecdotes
Conversations with Chuck Herrmann – black-rimmed glasses, blue turtleneck sweater, jeans – are always a journey through time. Probably the longest-serving DJ in Munich brought three photo albums with recordings from his DJ career to the interview, packed old newspaper clippings in cling film to protect them – but the texts weren’t needed at all, his head is full of memories and anecdotes.
Based on the many experiences, it seems hopeless to only halfway describe his life and work, let’s start chronologically. In 1957, Chuck Herrmann founded the first rock club in his hometown of Holzkirchen. At that time he was doing an apprenticeship in the town hall there, although the mayor Herrmann did not like his leisure activities at all. “Officials and rock ‘n’ roll don’t go together,” the mayor is said to have said. But the club was just the beginning. Like many young people at the time, Chuck Herrmann listened to the radio station AFN for US soldiers stationed in Germany, after his first record “Blue Suede Shoes” by Elvis Presley he regularly bought more vinyl discs of that music, which was so different from the that his parents’ generation heard. He and his friends called each other “hooligans” after the movie starring Horst Buchholz. They drove to Munich in the evening, mostly to Goethestrasse, where there were five bars within 200 meters of each other, with jukeboxes and rock ‘n’ roll bands playing regularly. The band of Paul Würges, who died in 2017, is the “most important rock ‘n’ roller in Munich,” says Chuck Herrmann. And he sang “Be-Bop-A-Lula” to his bassist, the start of his career as a musician.
He was touring all over Bavaria with his bands, initially with Swinging Cowboys by Nipso Brantner, then with his own band Chuck Herrman and Honky Tonk. They played in barracks, wherever US soldiers were stationed. They were paid in US dollars, at that time the rate was 4.20 marks. Chuck Herrmann was 23 years old at the time. He went to City Hall and resigned. “Since then I’ve lived exclusively from music.” During the day he worked in a music agency and mediated bands to organizers, in the evenings he was on stage himself. He met Bill Haley in the McGraw barracks in the south of Munich and made his music system available to him for the performance. Once he played in the support act for Chuck Berry in the slaughterhouse, his idol and namesake, whom he helped out that evening with a guitar pick. The poster from the joint performance still hangs in the basement of his house in Holzkirchen. There, where his record collection is, 50,000 records. Because his work as a disc jockey came more and more to the fore at some point.
At the end of the 1960s, Chuck Herrmann traveled through Bavaria for the first time with a mobile disco – that is, with two turntables, a mixer, and a sound system that could be set up quickly anywhere. In the 1970s, when the desire to dance rock ‘n’ roll replaced the hype surrounding beat music, he DJed in Munich clubs. First in “Sahara Dancing”, which later became a pop club. Chuck Herrmann remembers: “It was always packed. And the atmosphere was heated every evening.” It wasn’t just the music. The guests were divided into four groups. On one side stood the Munich suburban Stenze, craftsmen who wanted to let off steam in the evening and, above all, wanted to dance the boogie. At another were the so-called “Teddy Boys” with their Elvis quiffs, who kept demanding “white” rock ‘n’ roll from the DJ – and later also daubed Chuck Herrmann’s car because, in their opinion, he played too often traditional rock ‘ n’ Roll had djed. Then there were the well-dressed Sinti and suddenly the Munich film scene with Werner Fassbinder, Wim Wenders, Hark Bohm and others, who were magically drawn to this social mix. Fights broke out again and again, sometimes resulting in serious injuries.
Chuck Herrmann needs 50 minutes for this journey through time. He briefly drums his hands on the counter because he once played congas in a big band. He had often been to the USA to buy records there, Latin, salsa, but also rap, for example by Grandmaster Flash, with which he then wowed the soldiers in the McGraw barracks every Wednesday. And even if the visitors to his parties have grown older over the years, Chuck Herrmann carries them away with his music. Still. “Because I’m happy when my guests dance,” he says.
Chuck Herrman is 82 years old. How much longer will he hang up? The disc jockey shrugs. “I have no idea,” he then says and thinks for a moment. “My father turned 100.”
50 years of “Fifties Record Hop”, Sunday, December 11, 7.30 p.m., Vintage-Club, Sonnenstraße 12, Rgb. 3rd floor, with DJs Chuck Herrmann, Axel Lintner, Gaggi Ostertag, Marcus Koch, Oliver Härle, Ralf Heuer, Richard Pleithner, Siegi Spiel, Willy Meiler and Rainer Zellner, free entry