Who was/is The Giants ? - CDs, Vinyl LPs, DVD and more
The Giants were founded in 1962 by Peter Hesslein, Kurt 'Zappo' Lüngen, Eggert Johannsen and the Greek George Mavros, who all lived in Altona, in the home of the Hansischer Jugendbund (HJB) Herrenweide.
Hesslein: "That was behind 'Leder-Erdmann' in the direction of the harbor. That's also where the Rattles and other bands from Eimsbüttel and St. Pauli practiced."
Eggert Johannsen: "We were about fourteen or fifteen years old when we started. Zappo and I went to the same class. George went to a kind of foreigner school together with Vicky Leandros. Peter, Zappo and I played guitar, George, son of a professional musician, only sang. He already had second voices for Everly Brothers songs on it at that time. We formed the band first and then divided up who played what. We said to George 'you just sing anyway, you go on drums'. Zappo played bass because Peter was a good melody guitarist and I couldn't play bass while singing."
Hesslein: "At first we played songs by the Shadows and the Everly Brothers, rock 'n' roll and German Schlager. For example, 'Da sprach der alte Häuptling der Indian'."
Johannsen: "George had a little silver bowl for a hi-hat and a gymnastics drum. That was his first drum set. There was a little amplifier system for commenting on ballet performances, and we sang over it."
Lüngen: "I had an A in singing. I got into music through Elvis. My father could play guitar, too. But more traditionally, Richard Germer-style. He was very conservative, very strict. So I left home when I was 15. Christel Gasterstedt from HJB helped me a lot at that time. I got an allotment house made of stone in a leafy colony. For DM 30,-- a month. That's where I lived then."
Hesslein: "When I was fourteen, I wanted to become a musician. I played the guitar from morning till night. When they locked it away, I freaked out and ran away from home. But I only got as far as Christel Gasterstedt."
Johannsen: "We first played at the Indra, then at the OK Club on the Grosse Freiheit, in the back on the left, over the Indonesians' stereo."
Hesslein: "When the Star-Club was still 'n cinema, I watched the youth performances there on Sunday mornings for 50 pfennigs. Later, when the cinema closed and the Star Club opened, and when the lights came on in the evening, the whole thing had a magical attraction. You could already hear the music outside and had this tingling feeling that you absolutely wanted to get in. The doorman knew my mother, of course, who had a snack bar a few meters away, and always let me in for free. In time, the waiters knew that I was an amateur musician. I didn't have to eat anything there."
In December 1963, the Giants entered the Star Club competition for the first time.
Says Hesslein, "In terms of ability, we were among the top. We had practiced our program well for the competition. But then the curtain went up. We started with 'Shimmy Shimmy' and were incredibly nervous. The piece was in A, but Eggert on rhythm guitar was playing in E."
Johannsen: "By 1963, we had 17 Star Club performances. We always started at four in the afternoon. The last date was from 9:00 to 10:00. Then we had to leave, like all the other young people. In 1964 we were supposed to go to England. It was even in the newspaper. But we didn't get a work permit because we were too young."
Despite their youthful age, the Giants were among the top German bands. They did not lack self-confidence.
Lüngen: "Outstanding influences were really only Tony Sheridan and The Remo Four. Everything else they did themselves. Polyphonic singing like the Londoners or something. We also played a lot of instrumental themes from classical music, which is what Ritchie Blackmore did."
On January 3, 1965, the Giants placed second in the Star Club competition, which solidified their reputation tremendously. Also in 1965, pianist Mike Soldat from the Gents played with the Giants for a while, who called themselves The Demoniacs for a while, which was probably related to avoiding a name similarity with the English Giants, of which there was a live LP on Polydor. On January 1, 1966 Eggert Johannsen had to join the Bundeswehr. The others had finished their training and became professionals.
Hesslein: "I had learned in the Alsterhaus and always only trouble, because the hair already went two centimeters over the shirt collar. They always said, 'You can play the guitar, but you can't sweep. I was so depressed that I got stomach ulcers. But I finished my apprenticeship as a decorator."
The Giants' first professional engagement was at Camera in Fürth. A tough and exciting time followed.
Lüngen: "With most monthly jobs, you didn't have a day off. Every day 7x45 minutes, on weekends 9x45 minutes. That didn't work at all without pills. In one club, the landlady attacked me with a kitchen knife. She had it in for me, but couldn't land on me. And on the last day, the others were loading upstairs, I was downstairs in the kitchen with the old man settling accounts. Then I went upstairs where we were staying, and there she jumped on me and yanked me by the hair. I went back down to the kitchen where the old man was sitting. She grabbed the knife and the old man watched, he didn't do anything. I ran 'out' and we took off."
In 1966, the Giants' first record, Sherry Baby / Put Yourself In My Place, was released on Ariola 18 868 AT. There was also another personnel change: Gibson 'Gibbo' Kemp, the Liverpool star drummer who had previously played with Rory Storm And The Hurricanes, King Size Taylor And The Dominoes, The Eyes and Paddy, Klaus And Gibson, joined the group. George Mavros became the frontman and Gibbo gave the band its explosive drive. In 1967 the single Even The Bad Times Are Good / My Magic Room (Polydor 52 963) was released. In October of the same year, there was the big bang.
Lüngen: "Gibson got married. The Rattles got Rainer Degner and Peet Becker from the German Bonds, the Bonds in turn got George Mavros and Peter Hesslein. Nils Schmidt resumed his job as a shipbroker, and I stood there alone. I looked around, but found nothing suitable. I worked as a disc jockey for quite a while. For example, at Past Ten when it opened. Then I played with Ritchie Blackmore. But when our group Mandrake Root really took off, Ritchie went to England. I was supposed to go with him, but because my wife was pregnant, I stayed here. Everything was just too uncertain for me. Then I got the offer from the Rattles."
In February 1968, Zappo Lüngen joined the Rattles, to which he belonged until 1977. No other musician has been with the Hamburg group as long as Zappo. After that, he first played with the Comix. Today he performs together with Peter Hesslein and Niels Taby (Ex-Navachos / Ex-Faces / Ex-Rangers / Ex-Screamers / Ex-German Bonds, etc.) as Trio Bonds '81.
George Mavros joined the Rattles for a few weeks after his time with the German Bonds. The attempt of a record company to build him up as a German Tom Jones under the name George Monro failed. After that he joined the Comix.
Eggert Johannsen played with The Few during his military service. In 1967 he went to the (original) X-Rays, then to Los Esperantos. In the early seventies he belonged to Herbert Hildebrandt's Pegasus. After occasional appearances with the group Wall Street 49, Eggert Johannsen has been a member of the Rattles since 1994, performing with them as part of the Star Club musical 'Pico', among others.
Peter Hesslein belonged to the group Lucifer's Friend for the entire time of their existence from 1970. But he also played for temporarily with the Rattles and for a long time in the orchestra James Last, to which he still belongs together with ex-Four Renders drummer Herbert Bornholdt and ex-Tonics bassist Benny Benndorf. His guitar playing can be heard on a variety of recordings in a wide range of styles.
Gibson Kemp drummed for Les Humphries after brief detours into the film and TV business. After that he worked for various record companies. Today he is self-employed in London.
Nils Schmidt, the George Mavros successor on German Bonds, is a ship broker.
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