A Walk In The Black Forest really is my personal favorite 1960's oldie. The song was written and performed first as an instrumental by Horst Jankowski as Eine Schwarzwaldfahrt. It was issued as a single on Mercury 861 in Europe, and on Mercury 72425 in the United States in 1965.
Amazingly, it was not a chart hit in Horst's own country, Germany. It peaked at #12 on Billboard's Hot 100, and did slightly better on Cashbox, reaching #9. It was a #11 hit on 1050 CHUM in Toronto, Canada. It was a #5 hit on the WLS Silver Dollar Survey in Chicago. It as a #1 hit on Billboard's Adult Contemporary chart, and also topped the charts in Australia. It fell just short of the top in England, peaking at #3 there. It peaked at #10 in Ireland. With all that success around the world, it's difficult to imagine the song having trouble charting in Germany. Maybe they were all buying the album that contained the song, Traumklang Und Rhythmus Mit Horst Jankowski, which was released very late in 1964 on Mercury 610104 in Germany. The song also appeared in America on an album called The Genius Of Jankowski in 1965. The single and the album both sold over a million copies.
Horst Jankowski was born in Berlin, Germany on 30 January 1936. He grew up surrounded by political changes and World War II. As a young adult following the war, he studied classical piano at the Hochschule für Musik Berlin. The name "Hanns Eisler" was added to that school's name in 1964 to honor the passing of that composer, who was also one of that school's first professors. He played jazz piano in the 1950's and became the bandleader for singer Caterina Valente, a French-born singer who charted 60 hits in Germany, but only one in America, The Breeze And I (Andalucia) issued on Decca 29467 in 1955.
After the success of A Walk In The Black Forest, Horst released many more albums. His only other single to appear on Billboard's Hot 100 was called Simpel Gimpel, which peaked at #91 later in 1965. However, a total of seven of his songs charted on Billboard's Adult Contemporary review. Despite limited success in the United States, he never had another chart hit anywhere else in the world. He went on to compose and perform easy listening music for Sonoton in Munich, one of the largest independently owned production music libraries in the world. Horst Jankowski died of lung cancer on 29 June 1998 at the age of 62.
A Walk In The Black Forest was covered by more than a dozen other artists throughout the 1960's, including Herb Alpert, Floyd Cramer, Bill Justis, Marty Gold, Russ Conway, Roger Williams, Billy Vaughn, and many others. However, it was almost always covered as an instrumental. I say "almost" because at least one cover of the song was made with lyrics added.
Here's the vocal version of A Walk In The Black Forest (Our Walk Of Love) by Salena Jones on Columbia (UK) 7818 from 1966:
Salena Jones was born Joan Elizabeth Shaw on 29 January 1944 in Newport News, Virginia. By coincidence, she and Jorst almost shared the same birthday! She first took the stage name Joan Temple and began singing around her home town. She ventured to New York City and took a shot at a talent contest at the famous Apollo Theatre in Harlem singing September Song - and she won! She began singing regularly at the Village Vanguard. In the mid-1960's, she moved to Europe where she sang in Paris and London as Salena Jones. In 1978, she made a visit to Japan and fell in love with that country, and they fell in love with her too. She released twenty albums on JVC Records in Japan that were all top sellers in the Far East.
Last I heard, Salena Jones was still performing and currently living in London. Ironically, there was another singer named Joan Shaw who had performed at New York's Apollo Theater in the early 1950's and became a popular R&B singer throughout the 1950's. As far as I know, there's no relation between the two women. There was also a girl named Joan Temple who made a couple of Teener records on the Prep label in 1957. I can't say for sure if there's any relation there, either. But I'll keep digging because, well, that's what I like to do!
Now, please enjoy the very first 45 I bought with my own money when I was twelve years old and living in Cleveland, Ohio. Here's A Walk In The Black Forest (Eine Schwarzwaldfahrt) by Horst Jankowski And His Orchestra on Mercury 72425 from 1965:
You'll hear every version of this song that I've ever managed to find if you listen long enough to MusicMaster Oldies. You'll also hear many vocal versions of well-known instrumental hits too. I'll try to feature more of them here in the coming weeks.
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