Dutch postcard by Uitg. Takken, Utrecht, no. AX 4372. Photo: CNR.
Dutch postcard by Hercules, Haarlem, no. 370. Photo: Hafbo. Publicity still for the film Marina (Paul Martin, 1960), distributed in The Netherlands by Hafbo film.
German postcard by Rüdel-Verlag, Hamburg-Bergedorf, no. 3126. Photo: CCC / Gloria / Maack. Publicity still for Marina (Paul Martin, 1960).
Kjeld Wennick (1944) was born in Gränna, Sweden, and his brother Jan (1946) in Copenhagen, Denmark.
At a young age Kjeld learned to play the banjo and from 1954 on he performed together with his father Svend. Jan often accompanied them and also learned to play the banjo.
In 1956 the duo Jan & Kjeld was formed. The boys won several song contests in Denmark, and soon they performed on radio and TV.
Their first record was a cover of Down by the Riverside.
In 1958 they made their film debut in the Danish family film Far til fire og ulveungerne/Father of Four Wolf Pups (Alice O'Fredericks, Robert Saaskin, 1958). The film was part of a popular film series about a single parent family featuring Karl Stegger as the father.
When they performed, Jan always stood at the left side. He was left-handed and so their banjos wouldn’t bump.
Dutch postcard by Hercules, Haarlem, no. 399.
Dutch postcard by Uitg. Takken, Utrecht, no. AX 4542. Photo: Hafbo.
Dutch postcard, no. 5853.
Dutch postcard by Gebr. Spanjersberg N.V., Rotterdam, no. 160 562.
In 1959, ‘The Kids from Copenhagen’ signed with Germany’s Ariola label and their first records were the covers Tom Dooley and Tiger Rag in 1959.
In the Dixieland classic Tiger Bay, Kjeld did a sensational scat in Louis Armstrong-style. The song became their first hit in Germany.
Their breakthrough hit was Banjo Boy (1959), which they sang in the film Kein Mann Zum Heiraten/No Man To Marry (Hans Deppe, 1959) with Marianne Hold.
Words and music for the song were written by Charly Niessen, who also composed songs for Peggy March and Hildegard Knef.
In Denmark (#1), Germany (#1), Holland (#4) and a lot of other countries Banjo Boy found the top 10. In Germany they sold 4,5 million copies of the record.
In 1960, American lyricist Buddy Kaye wrote English words for the song, and Banjo Boy reached #58 in the USA and #36 in Great Britain.
German postcard by ISV, no. K 14.
German postcard by Krüger, no. 902/182. Photo: Ariola.
In Germany Jan & Kjeld became so popular that they played their songs in Schlagerfilms like Wir wollen niemals auseinandergehen/We Will Never Part (Harald Reinl, 1960), Gauner-Serenade/Rogue Serenade (Thomas Engel, 1960) and Marina (Paul Martin, 1960) with Giorgia Moll.
Till 1963 'Die Banjo Boys' had twelve more hits in Germany with German language covers such as the Ricky Nelson cover Hello Mary Lou, which was #2 in Germany in 1961.
In 1966 the singing career of the Danish teenagers was over but over the years they kept appearing in Golden Oldies shows.
Ten years later Jan & Kjeld tried a come-back with two disco songs in Danish: Så lyk'lige som vi (So Lucky We Are) (1976) and Det går op, det går ned (It Goes Up, It Goes Down) (1977). Then Jan retired from show business.
In 1983, Kjeld started his own music label, Mega Records, and enjoyed a world success with the the million-selling Swedish pop group Ace of Base. In 2001 he sold his label to Edel Records.
In 2003 he was a jury member of the Danish version of the TV talent show Idols and in 2005 he groomed celebrities to sing a song in the Danish game show Showtime.
Since 2006 Kjeld Wennick owns a café near the harbour of Copenhagen.
Jan & Kjeld sing Mach doch nicht immer soviel Wind in Kein Mann Zum Heiraten/No Man To Marry (Hans Deppe, 1959). Source: fritz51203 (YouTube).
Jan & Kjeld perform the Louis Armstrong classic Tiger Bay (1959). Source: Frans Jaspers (YouTube).
Jan & Kjeld sing Banjo Boy in Wir wollen niemals auseinandergehen/We Will Never Part (Harald Reinl, 1960). Source: Alleengoedwerk (YouTube).
Sources: De Duitse Schlager (Dutch), Wikipedia (German) and IMDb.