A talented Clarinettist / Swing Legend | Ernst “Erni” Höllerhagen, 1912-56

Teddy Stauffer and his Original Teddies, Berlin, 1936

 Teddy Stauffer and his Original Teddies – I’m Gonna Lock My Heart, 1938 / Ernst Höllerhagen (cl)

Ernst Höllerhagen (1912-56) Jazz clarinetist / saxophonist. He also played the violin and accordion. The greatest German jazz musician of the Swing era, invaluable member of the Teddy Stauffer Orchestra.

Ernst Höllerhagen. He was considered extremely talented. It has been said that he bid farewell to a Gestapo officer who wanted to forbid jazz music with „Heil Benny Goodman“.

Hazy Osterwald: That wasn’t exactly true. Höllerhagen was truly one of the best musicians of that time. The Nazis frowned on jazz and declared it decadent. Höllerhagen was in Teddy Stauffer’s orchestra the ”Original Teddies“ and came with him from Germany to Switzerland. He stayed here in contrast to many musicians from the orchestra who went home during the war. He had a girlfriend in England that he always visited. And now to your anecdote: the musicians who played in Germany at the time liked to make fun of the Nazis. I only know that they always raised their hand and shouted “3 Liters” instead of “Heil Hitler” (laughs). He never told me the anecdote with “Heil Benny Goodman“ but he was imprisoned for several days because of a similar joke. He was a musician in my orchestra for a long time and we were good friends.
He had a facial paralysis and sometimes couldn’t play the clarinet. During these periods he played the violin a lot. Only a few people knew of this other passion of Höllerhagen’s. I admired him as a musician and we travelled all over Europe together.

Ernst Höllerhagen, 1929

Once while on tour in Copenhagen, Benny Goodman and his band suddenly came into the club where we were playing. Your interview-partner Dick Hyman was also there with us and I met this amazing pianist there for the first time. Höllerhagen was with us on stage and played brilliantly as usual. Benny Goodman turned his back on his own people and table and listened attentively to our concert, which he clearly enjoyed. He came up to us and told Höllerhagen, that he had never heard such a talented clarinettist in Europe and congratulated him. That was a tremendous compliment, not only for Höllerhagen, but also for me and the whole orchestra.

The paralysis symptoms eventually got better, but they came back and, in 1956, Höllerhagen took his own life in a hotel room in Interlaken, Switzerland. The suicide was directly related to his illness. It was rumoured that he killed himself over a girl, but I don’t believe that. I don’t know who that girl should have been.

Ernst Höllerhagen Quartett,  The Elite Special Recordings, 1942-46 

Ernst Höllerhagen – cl / Buddy Bertinat – p / Gene Favre – b / Polly Guggisberg – dr

Ernst Höllerhagen Quartett – Exactly Like You

Ernst Höllerhagen Quartett – Contact Benny

Ernst Höllerhagen Quartett – Take the “A” Train

Ernst Höllerhagen Quintet – ‘S Wonderful

1 thought on “A talented Clarinettist / Swing Legend | Ernst “Erni” Höllerhagen, 1912-56

  1. Hildegard Knef [1925 – 2002]

    She was born in Ulm. She began studying acting at the age of 14, in 1940. She appeared in several films before the fall of the Third Reich, but most were released only afterward. During the Battle of Berlin, Knef dressed as a soldier in order to stay with her lover Ewald von Demandowsky, and joined him in the defence of Schmargendorf. The Soviets captured her and sent her to a prison camp.



    Die Mörder sind unter uns / Murderers Among Us / 1945 / d. Wolfgang Staudte
    [Hildegard Knef plays a photographer and Nazi concentration camp survivor.]


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