The Ricky King Story

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    Karl-Heinz Villis

    Ricky King: This excellent, sometimes underrated German guitarist, writer, arranger and guitar-teacher stepped onto the scene in the mid-70's at a time when instrumental guitar music was out of public interest except for a handful of hardliner-fans. Completely and unexpectedly, he became successful, established himself and today, in the new millenium, he is still active and playing. Here is

    The Ricky King Story

    Ricky King Ricky King was born 12th March 1946 as Hans Lingenfelder in Rastatt (near Baden-Baden. When he was 12 - it was the time of Rock and Roll - his parents presented him with his first acoustic guitar, a cheap no-name model. Due to high distance between the steel strings and neck, it was a bit difficult and paining to play, so it was not much fun for him. A short time later he got a better one, also acoustic, and he taught himself his first chords and joined in with records of then-popular artists such Peter Kraus (a German rock and roll singer who ist still active and successful nowadays in the German-speaking area), Elvis and Bill Haley.


    He took first lessons from a guitar-teacher from Offenburg and, due to his interests in electronics he was taught to be a radio-technician. At the same time, he joined his first band and his guitar skills got better and better. A brandnew guitar-sound rushed all over the world in those days The Shadows. Hans was, like many other guitar-playing kids, deeply impressed and fascinated by this new type of sound. In 1962 on he joined a band called The Fellows. and he changed from acoustic to an electric guitar which cost him around DM 275,-- (about 100 GBP). It was a solid body Hofner model with three pick-ups and a vibrato system, not unlike the stratocaster. In 1964 he left The Fellows. and went to a band called The Twenties although Hans himself was just only 18.


    Besides his job as radio-technician, he studied classic Spanish guitar at the Karlsruhe Music- High-School where he met Gerd Koethe who studied saxophone. He changed again to The Moonlights, who were popular in the Karlsruhe-area playing American GI-clubs and dances, guesting in radio- and talents-shows. He recorded and released his first self-written song co- written with Gerd, titled Night-Work with The Moonlights which was released as 7" on Metronomes.


    Five years later The Moonlights split up, and Hans was getting more and more interested in playing classical Spanish guitar inspired by Segovia and Julian Bream. He practised night and day and invested the then very high sum of DM 3.600,-- (about 1500 GBP) in an original Spanish Ramirez-guitar. Due to his musical studies at the Karlsruhe Music-High-School he qualified as a Spanish guitar teacher.
    Today, his Ramirez-guitar is part of his guitar-collection which also includes:
    • a George-Benson-Jazz-guitar,

    • a Fender Telecaster,

    • two Martin D35 acoustic guitars (6 & 12 strings)

    • two solid body electric guitars especially built for him by Hofner,

    • a Suzuki 12-string (which he used as rhythm guitar for 'Verde' from the intro on),

    • a classic Santiago Marin,

    • a Jose Lopez Bellido Flamenco guitar,

    • plus Banjo, Bouzouki, Mandoline and Balalaika,

    • a Gibson solid body electric guitar, not unlike the SG-models,

    • a special G & L electric by Leo Fender (silver-fleck; like a stratocaster with a silver look and extremely low noise, Humbucker-like pick-ups,
    • and, not to forget, two white Fender Stratocasters (a 1962 model, serial-no. 91301; and a 1968 model, serial-no. 223748).


    In 1973, Hans joined a rock-band called Joy Unlimited, which, under the name Hit Kids also recorded more commerical stuff and then Hans started to do more and more session work. He can be heard on lots of records of many German-speaking artists such as Paola, Roberto Blanco, Costa Cordalis among many.He worked for Albert Hammond who recorded a successful LP in Berlin at that time.


    Together with his friends, producer Roland Heck (who released records as organ-player Denny Blue) and Gerd Koethe (who released records as sax-player Cisco Silver) Hans decided to record an album of guitar instrumentals at a time - 1975, when almost nobody was interested in this style of music. Glam-Rock and Disco were in, the Shadows were still more or less inactive and Spotnicks toured Europe alright but playing a progressive and heavier style than their older things. Oh yes, and Holland had Henk Bruysten who, as Hank The Knife & the Jets Guitar King und played rough Jet Harris-style-six-string-bass stomping songs like Guitar King and Stan the Gumnan


    At the same time, Hans got offered a song written by two Italian brothers, Guido and Maurizio de Angelis both who, under the name Oliver Onions are popular artists and who wrote soundtracks for many Italian movies starring Terence Hill and Bud Spencer. They had recorded and released a song called Verde a year before in Italy but it totally flopped. Hans recorded the number for his first album and his first single. He signed a contract with BASF-Records and it took more than six months until Verde jumped into the charts and became his first hit. The label wanted a fitting ‚international' name for Hans and after due consideration came up with Cliff King, and his first album became Cliff King Plays Fantastic Guitar Hits. The album had a good start in the shops but hit two problems: German copyright control found out that the name Cliff King had been registered by someone else earlier so Cliff King became Ricky King. The second hitch was when Ricky King became successful, somebody at CBS found out that Hans Lingenfelder was signed to them already as a member of Hit Kids which prohibited them signing with other labels. They solved the problem by having a rear view photo on the BASF-album and Ricky King moving to CBS for his follow-up.


    The first album included two self-written songs Jumbo Walk and Go-Kart, and a well balanced mix of well-known old guitar-hits like Geisterreiter (Ghostrider), Walk don't run, Johnny Guitar, Apache, Wheels, Amorada, Maria Elena (performed on Spanish acoustic guitar), Hava Nagila, Sleepwalk and, of course Verde. The conception worked out well - old famous guitar-tunes which everybody remembered, newly arranged and carefully recorded. A lot of acoustic, unplugged (!!!) guitars provided a strong, full background, filled up with a few soft synth- and keyboard lines and, on top, a clean shadowy' Stratocaster playing the melodies. Another possible reason for his success is probably the fact that this album featured many of the great guitar-hits at once, presented here in an updated actual sound-picture - presenting nostalgia and the present at once. Secondly, most of the original versions were out of the shops in those days, mostly only existing as scratchy records in fans' collections.


    Ricky King as agreed, changed to EPIC (CBS) and BASF stopped record-production a short time later. The trio of Hans, Gerd and Roland started recording the next album and single. For the single, they took a wonderful Spanish tune called Romance which everybody, ever playing Spanish guitar, has had to play at sometime. They came up with a new arrangement once again with a full rich acoustic guitar backing and a few wah-wah-effects. Titled Le Reve, it became Ricky King's second hit and it was also successfully covered by German-singers as a vocal. The album was done in about the same way as before - a voyage through the world of well-known guitar songs of the early sixties covering the Shadows (Quartermasters Store, Midnight, Guitar Tango), the Spotnicks (Amapola), Ventures (House of the rising sun, Wipe out), Tielman Brothers (Java Guitar), something Spanish (Aranjuez), own compositions (Storm rider, The Joker) , the old western-movie-theme High Noon and Le Reve. Many TV- and live appearances followed establishing a new name beside the giants of guitar.



    This album - Ricky King - Golden Guitar Hits., became extremely successful too and so it was no wonder that his follow-up was done in the same format.

    This third album came out in 1977 titled Mare(the 7" was also Mare) and contained tracks: Mare - Atlantis - Silver Beach - Il Vento - Pipeline - Little Princess - Wild Wind - Dance on - Pony Express - Wonderful land - Happy Guitar - Dont cry for me Argentina.

    His contined success resulted in a number of awards such as Goldene Europa 1977 and a number-one hit in the instrumental-category of a music-paper called Musik-Markt (Music-Market) kicking long-time-place-holder James Last down to second place.


    In 1978, he released his next album with a changed conception. instead covering guitar-hits he did instrumental versions of international vocal hits and evergreens.

    Ricky King: Die 20 Schönsten Welt-Hits im Gitarren-Sound (Best 20 World Hits In Guitar-Sound) Ti Amo - Rivers of Babylon - EI Condor Pasa - (Medley:) Yesterday/Sounds of Silence - Das Lied vom Tod (Once upon a time in the west) - Bonanza - Popcorn - Spanish Harlem - Argentina - Song sung blue - Spanish eyes - Schiwago Melodie (Lara’s theme) - Samba Pa Tie - Jambalaya - Alexis Sorbas - Ave Maria - (Medley:) Vaya con dios/Moon River - Le Reve.

    he album, supported by massive TV and radio promotion hit the charts again and by reaching a wider TV audience than before, resultet in platinum ales. Ironically, a similar step was taken by the Shadows two years later, who covered famous and mostly vocal hits in their own inimittable style and, supported by TV-advertising , racked up big sales but lots of fans called it elevator music.



    Lots of German instro-fans Thought the of Ricky King but I think Ricky's musical development was completely different. He had always been interested in various projects and styles, such as classical guitar studies, playing in jazz-,and beat/rock-groups; working as session-man etc. He has never been a long-time member of any band.

    The string of successful productions went on: with Zauber der Gitarre (The Magic of Guitar) In 1979 which was once again a balanced mix of instrumental versions of international hits and evergreens. Also in 1979 he released, as many artists have done before and will do again, an album of Xmas-songs (Die Schönsten Weihnachtslieder im Gitarrensound (Best Xmas Songs Played on Guitar).


    In 1980 he went back to roots with another album featuring further well-known guitar-hits such as FBI, Flingle Bunt, Peace Pipe etc. (titled: Electric Guitar Hits). A year later, he surprised everyone with an album Golden Guitar Synphonies featuring instrumental Stratocaster-guitar-versions of classical tunes such as Mozart's Eine kleine Nachtmusik, Liebestraum, Barcarole, Mondscheinsonate etc., and more backed by an orchestra.

    1981 also saw his first hit-compilation (Seine Grossen Erfolge - His Greatest Hits), followed by his next actual album, once again an instrumental mix of German and international hits called: Lieder Gehen um die Welt (Songs Travel Around the World).


    Fresh new waves hit the music scene in the early eighties and Ricky King’s next album, titled Happy Guitar Dancing, featured some instrumental versions of this new stuff such as Maid of Orleans (OMD). Dieter Bohlen who later became famous worldwide as one half of Modern Talking, wrote Hale, hey Louise for Ricky , a nice catchy song with some female choruses in the background. Bohlen also penned Fly with me to Malibu. With these new fresh sounds accompanying his established guitar-style Ricky King was up-to-date again and never sounded old-fashioned. His next album came in 1983 and was a collection of songs dedicated to and coming from the Caribbean area - Südsee Träume (South Sea Music), featuring Sun of Jamaica, Aloha Oe, Jamaica Farewell ... something like a dream of the endless summer.


    He still appeared 'live' on big events and on TV. In 1983 he fulfilled one of his long lasting dreams and recorded an album with the material that first electrified him - rock and roll. This album, Ricky Kings Rock and Roll Party, featured his versions of oldies like Shake Rattle and Roll, This old house, Only You, Johnny B. Good, Donna and more.

    Ricky King changed labels to Polygram in the mid eighties and started with two CDs, Verde and Guitar Holiday - modern arrangements, featuring more keyboard backing than before and new songs as well as rerecordings of his earlier hits.



    His next production, this time in 1988, wasLa Rose Noir (Black Rose), featuring 13 self-written Lingenfeler/Koeth/-Heck originals and one traditional song in La Bamba. This climbed half way up the charts. His change into the 90's was flanked by his next CD Super Guitar Dancing, featuring originals mostly and a well-done version of the then summer hit Lambada.

    The second half of the 80's saw another musical change. In Germany, there was a sharp seperation between popular music and German folk-music (polka and brass) and for a long time, it was impossible for artists of one side to be accepted by the other and there were harsh critics in both camps. But, the borderline opened up a little with pop'-singers using parts of the folk-scene-elements and folk-artists - especially the new younger ones- used poppy elements which although a little revolutionary was successful. Koch-Records, a new Austrian based record company, started up with a massive output of those German/Austrian singers and bands, later signing pop-artists and licensing back-catalogues including Ricky King first album. Koch also released the Spotnicks albums Highway Boogie; In Time; 16 Golden World Hits; and Hand in Hand (Unlimitted-album nius 1 track) in German speaking areas.


    Ricky King also recognized the change and came up with a new trendy album combining these styles with Von Herz zu Herz (From Heart to Heart), featuring many new originals such as Viva Maria, Glöckerl-Tanz (Little bell dance), Fiesta, Liebesmelodie(Love's song) and more. Also included was a song called Glocken der Heimat (Bells of home) which became a big hit on the German TV-hitparade. Ricky King was on top again and signed a new contract this time with Koch-Records.

    The next albums were Romantica and Romantic Guitar Hits both featuring slower romantic songs, some of them popular evergreens, the rest self-penned originals including two duets with a popular German clarinet-player called Henry Arland. Ricky later guested on Arland's next album.



    In 1996, cameTraumland (DREAMLAND), once again a production more classical in tone, this time fully played on his Spanish 'Ramirez'-guitar, accompained by an orchestra, featuring Aranjuez, Adelita, Aria, Greensleeves (Blaetter im Wind), Bouree; and others. Included also, this time in its more original Spanish treatment, Le Reve, here titled Traumland - the classical Spanish side of Ricky King.

    Zeit Für Gefühle (Time For Feelings), released in 1997, once again included romantic stuff, featuring three haunting duets with pan-flute-player Ulrich Herkenhoff: ' Nadine, Time to say goodbye and Don't cry for me Argentina all with orchestral backing.

    Completely different was his next production Kult-Schlagerparty (Cult-Hits-Celebration). This time he had recorded instrumental versions of actual and older German-singalong-songs, packed into 90's arrangements, including a reworking of Hale hey Louise and the old Sir Douglas Quintet hit Mendocino which originally was a massive hit in Germany.


    In early 2000 he recorded a number of songs for the Readers Digest label as well as further songs for his next production, for which he changed labels to German Austrophon-Records The CD (on German Austrophon) appeared in March as Happy Guitar featuring poppy reworkings of Happy Guitar; Verde; Le Reve as well as original songs and further covers.

    This Ricky King-Story was first been published in New Gandy Dancer - The magazine for rock instrumental music - No. 58 in 2000. It is an update of a NGD (issue 21) article from ca. 1983.


    Karl-Heinz Villis
    Adelhartweg 2
    44359 Dortmund
    Tel./Fax: 0231-351831



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