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Philippe Fankhauser: His kind of blues

What is it that makes a young man from the Bernese Alps devote his life to the blues?

Philipp Fankhauser is without doubt Switzerland's finest contemporary blues singer. This record "His kind of blues" contains selected titles from his four albums recorded during his Swiss years. It also includes numbers produced by Dennis Walker in the USA with the "L.A. Blues Band", featuring the "Memphis Horns". In 1996, Swiss Radio International produced this CD as a tribute to this exceptional Swiss musician.

Living with the blues in Switzerland from 1980-1994

The lakeside town of Thun, Philipp Fankhauser's home-town, is often referred to as the gateway to the Bernese Alps. Hardly an ideal breeding ground for the blues, one might think. "But blues", says Fankhauser, "is a way of life".

He recalls discovering this music in 1975 at the age of 11 when he heard a record by Sunnyland Slim for the first time. "From then on I was obsessed with the idea of devoting my life to this fascinating art form and lifestyle".

Starting in 1980, Philipp Fankhauser wrote for seven years for the German magazine "Blues Forum". Since his years as a young commercial employee he has been a total blues aficionado. Fired by his passion for the nlanguage, emotion and rhythm of the blues, he met many American musicians in person, got to know top performers all over Europe when touring the continent.

In 1987 time was ready. Philipp co-founded the Checkerboard Blues Band. A year later, his debut album "Blues for the Lady" came out.

Checkerboard Blues Band

In 1987 time was ready. Philipp co-founded the Checkerboard Blues Band. A year later, his debut album "Blues for the Lady" came out. It was dedicated to American female singer Margie Evans, who, since the early 80ties, gave Phillip invaluable support and self-assurance as an artist. Fankhauser, along with Evans and the group toured Switzerland, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Belgium, giving some 150 concerts in two years. Finally it was the third album "Dedicated" in 1992 which, according to Britain's "Blueprint Magazine", firmly established the group as "the best blues band on this side of the Antlantic Ocean".

1993 saw the group on its farewell tour, resulting in the 1994 release of a live album "Thun-San Francisco". Fankhauser's intention was, indeed, to make his way to that city. But it was not to be.

Going West to California - On Broadway

In 1994, Fankhauser accepted an invitation from Johnny Copeland - this time to the USA to accompany him on a one-month tour. Confronted with the rigours of life on the road, he nevertheless relished the challenege to live the real blues. He finally took the decision to settle down in the US as musician. He found an appartment near New York City and was soon organising an American version of his Checkerboard Blues Band.

Johnny Copeland has become a close and trusted friend for Philipp, teaching him about the professional and pure blues tradition. It was through Copeland that Philipp was introduced to producer Dennis Walker (Robert Cray, B.B.King, John Campbell). Walker produced his first US album, "Philipp Fankhauser, On Broadway", on which the young Swiss performer appears with the legendary "Memphis Horns". For a longtime Philipp Fankhauser is based on California's West Coast.

Coming home

In 1997 Philipp Fankhauser's mentor Johnny Copeland died. Three years later Philipp returned back to Switzerland. In 2002 he founded the "Philipp Fankhauser Blues Band". In 2004 he signed a contract with American "Memphis International Records". The following release "Talk To Me" is a big success. Now his star shines brightly from the blues sky. The "Philipp Fankhauser Blues Band" is the first European band to perform the world's biggest blues festival. Two years later his 10th album "Watching From The Safe Side" is released.

A few words on the blues in Europe

Up until 1950, the average European knew nothing about the blues and country music. from then on only jazz musicians such as Chris Barber helped the blues to get the recognition it deserved (by featuring Big Bill Broonzy). Besides it's a fact that jazz is only one derivation of the blues. It was in 1962 that the "American Folk blues Festival" was brought to Europe. So it was rather late that the music form that originated jazz, beat, rock...was presented in its purest form on the continent. Since then, a surprisingly number of Swiss musicians devoted their style to that of the blues: Hank Shizzoe, Max Lässer, Yvonne Moore, Lazy Poker Blues Band, Span, all the polo Hofer bands, late Sandra Goldner and as brightest star Philipp Fankhauser.

Production information

Philippe Fankhauser. His kind of blues (1996). MH CD 93.2. Programme produced by Patrick Linder for SRI. Music produced by Dennis Walker and Philippe Fankhauser.

Ain't Gonna Give It Up

Philippe Fankhauser