Says Hermann, "Well, I have to say, life has been treating me pretty good lately, and I am pretty happy with that. I was just inducted to the Lone Star State CMA's International Hall of Fame, the ICMAG gave me the 'Single of the Year 2000 Award' for my songs 'Rose of the Mountains' and 'She Dances Alone,' I have a lot of gigs to play in Germany and in many other European places this year, and I got my family, my wife Anke and my son Mark-Shane... and everything works fine. Also, my new album I'd Like To Live It Again will be out on the market real soon, and I think the title of the CD project already sums it up pretty good."
That covers the present pretty well, but what about the past? Hermann recalls his start: "I started my band in 1973, played guitar and sang mostly cover songs by Buck Owens, Johnny Cash or Merle Haggard, which was very much unusual for German audiences and musicians, but somehow I always seemed to find new people that liked this style of music and were with me."
"As we kinda played hillbilly music," Hermann continues, they chose to name the band "Emsland Hillbillies -- that's the region we live in here in Northwest Germany, right next to the Holland border. I think my first bite of country music I heard was a Jim Reeves song on AFN Radio/American Forces Radio, back in the early '60s, that was when the tone of a steel guitar electrified me, and this never let go of me. And the magic thing about this is, the guy that played steel for Jim Reeves back then was the one and only Jimmy Day, and how could I know that years and years later Jimmy Day would be responsible for my first solo CD project at Willie Nelson's Pedernales Studio in Spicewood, Texas, and he played his magic steel for me on almost all of my recordings 'til the day he died, which was tragic. Jimmy also introduced me to Buddy Emmons, and we cut a lot of my songs with the two world-best steel players, back to back. By the way, Jimmy Day was brought into my life by Clay Blaker from New Braunfels, Texas, who I exchanged European and Texas Tours with many times. Clay is a big influence to me and my music, the way I do it nowadays."
Hermann has played with some big names over the years. He remembers, "Oooohhhh, through all those years I shared the stage with, or played with, or played steel guitar for... with Johnny Bush, "Pretty Miss" Norma Jean, Willie Nelson, The Bellamy Brothers, Dave Dudley, David Alan Coe... yes, Bill Monroe -- we even did a live session with him: drums, accordion, steel guitar, electric guitar, man, and I still got a tape of that -- Billy Walker, Commander Cody, George Strait and many, many more. I think my kinda music, from CD or live, is appreciated by both the listening crowd and the dancing or partying crowds as I play a pretty wide spectrum, 'specially with my band on road gigs... yes I usually have three more front singers and a front girl singer that I take."
Of course, there have been many awards, too. Says Hermann, "I received all kinds of awards through the years, and I am really proud of each of them, but no major record company really had serious thoughts about signing me. I guess my music is too country -- Bill Anderson just wrote a song about the question, 'what is too country?' and he hit the nail. I like the fiddle and steel music and good lyrics, that's what a lot of fans do, and hell, I sold almost 3,000 copies of my Last Country Song CD on my own -- you see, Desert Kid Records is my little company and I am the president, the promoter, the artist, the steel guitar player and the coffeeboy in one person. But yes, if any company is wanting to buy a new project from me, or lease it, that would be good."
And Hermann's music is heard all over the world. He notes, "Oh, I get calls, faxes and e-mails with playlists, which include my songs from everywhere in the world. Someone recently sent me a cassette of a radio program from Tokyo, Japan which featured an hour of my songs. I really am thankful for that, and that makes this boy from Aschendorf, Germany feel good. I get lotsa airplay in Australia, New Zealand, Africa, England, Scandinavia, and the USA, too, and of course Europe including my homeland. In November, I climbed up to number 10 at the Worldwide Mainstream -- Most Played Artists Charts and I peaked at number 7 on the EMS European Media Service Charts in Europe... and 'das ist gut.' I sure thank all those great radio DJs and those fans for that."
Hermann recalls earlier in his career, "Right after I started my music career, in 1977, some producer from Hamburg, Achim Reichel, singer of the world famous Rattles Beat Band, wanted me to record my kind of music with German lyrics, and I did that. So we cut 2 LPs like that, and they sold very good, but... that's not really what I wanted; I wanted to stay authentic and stick with English lyrics, so we had to part, and I went my way, but a few years ago, when I celebrated my 25 year stage anniversary, I cut another, new German lyric country album, Zeitlos, which a lot of people -- most of my early fans -- liked very much. It contained a new recorded version of the Ray Wylie Hubbard-inspired song "Liebe Mama," recorded in Nashville with Buddy Emmons, Buddy Spicher, and all them good old boys. Oh yes, I also did a German version of Guy Clark's 'Desperados Waiting For The Train,' which still is one of the high points of our live shows."
Hermann handles most aspects of his own career. He notes, "As I said, I am a one man company, and I do everything I can to market and promote. I spend a whole lot of time with all that -- ask my wife and boy! Also, I help my friends Clay Blaker & The Texas Honky Tonk Band, Michael Ballew, Johnny Bush, Norma Jean with bookings here in Germany, and also try to promote their new CD product, and... by the way, Clay Blaker has a brand new, great CD called Welcome To The Waistland -- watch out for that."
So, what's keeping him busy lately? Says Hermann, "At this time, I really am busy with the marketing of the new CD I'd Like To Live It Again, which contains a great variety of country music styles, I think, from standard songs like 'Foggy Mountain Top' with Norma Jean, co-starring, or 'Y'All Come,' which I had Michael Ballew from Austin sing with me, to Linda Ronstadt-style songs like 'Faithfull' or 'In My Reply,' I have my sister Marion Möhring sing with me on those. I have Ernest Tubb-style songs, and many of own. And I am sure that music fans will enjoy the album. Oh yes, David Frizzell, Lefty's brother, joins me on one of my tunes, also. I produced the CD with Tommy Hill and Juergen Koop at the legendary old Starday Studio in Nashville, with Pig Robbins, Buddy Emmons, Pete Wade and Buddy Spicher, and I enjoyed every second doing that, and if you ask me what my plans for the future are, I simply have to say, I wanna do that again... soon."
Hermann has had many special moments in his career. He picks out two: "One, while promoting my album The Waltz Of The Wind a year ago, I had the chance to play the title song on Germany's most important music TV show, Karl Moik's Musikantendstadl, which is not exactly a country music show, but it was aired all over Europe and via satellite -- it was possible for people to see it worldwide; I had a whole lot of response and CD sales from that. The second big event of my life was when Jimmy Day introduced me and my music to Willie Nelson, and he agreed to sing a duet with me on two of the songs I recorded for my Last Country Song album -- that really meant something to me."
To close, Hermann wanted to note, "Let me say, I just wish that me and loved ones stay healthy for a long, long time and that I will be able to play my 'brand new' '79 sunburst (rebuilt) Emmons Steel Guitar for... ever and ever.
E.L. Hillbillies Music, Drosselweg 15, D-26871 Aschendorf/EMS, Germany;
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