02 May 2013

Tommy Kent

Tommy Kent (1942) was a German rock and roll singer and film actor of the late 1950’s and early 1960’s. He later became an architect and a painter.

Tommy Kent
German postcard by ISV, no. H 55.

Tommy Kent
German publicity card by Polydor.

Tommy Kent
German postcard by Filmbilder-Vertrieb Ernst Freihoff, Essen, no. 674. Retail price: 10 Pfg. Photo: Arthur Grimm / Alfa / Gloria. Publicity still for O sole mio - Ich komme wieder.../O sole mio (1960, Paul Martin).

Susie Darlin'
Tommy Kent was born as Guntram Kühbeck in München (Munich), Germany in 1942. Guntram was the son of a doctor, who had an interest in music. In the mid-1950’s he discovered the American Rock ‘n roll hits of Elvis Presley, Gene Vincent and Pat Boone, which he heard on AFN Radio (American Forces Network) and tried to sing himself. To pay for his architecture study he performed as a singer in clubs. From 1958 on he had music lessons from opera singer Baron von Versibe. In 1958 he was discovered by the songwriters Walter Brandin and Hans R. Beier. They helped him to contact the successful record label Polydor in Hamburg, where he could make a test recording. Later that year producer Bert Kaempfert recorded his first single, a cover version of Robin Luke’s hit Susie Darlin'. Together with Kaempfert, Kühbeck came up with his alias, Tommy Kent. His first single became in a short time a hit and in June 1959 it reached the #4 position of the German box office charts. Soon followed a contract with Polydor, more singles like Baby Doll and Ich brauche du dazu (I Need You For That) and appearances on TV shows. Susie Darlin’ sold over one million copies. During his career, Tommy Kent would sell more than four million records.

Tommy Kent
German postcard by WS-Druck, Wanne-Eickel, no. 471. Photo: Polydor.

Tommy Kent
German postcard, no. 11.

Tommy Kent
German postcard by Ufa, Berlin-Tempelhof, no. 4672. Photo: Erwin Schneider / Ufa.

German-language Rock and Roll
After Peter Kraus and Ted Herold, Tommy Kent advanced into one of the most successful German-language rock and roll artists. His repertory consisted mainly of cover versions of American hits. He appeared in schlagerfilms like Der Schleier fiel/The Veil Fell (1960, Paul May) with Vera Tschechowa, and O sole mio (1960, Paul Martin) with Senta Berger. In the early 1960’s Kent’s record sales became less than those of his first singles. The cooperation with Kaempfert stopped when Kaempfert didn’t release Tommy’s version of Corinna, Corinna. He instead released a version by singer Peter Beil, which then became a big hit. From 1962 till 1964 Kent had a contract with Ariola, and later with Metronome. There he had his last hit with the self composed beat-schlager Sag endlich ja (Finally Say Yes). In 1966 Metronome ended their contract with Kent but his schlager career was not yet finished. For a small label he sang under several pseudonyms (including Elliott Beach and Rainer Marc) imitations of international hits. He also performed in clubs at the Reeperbahn in Hamburg. In the early 1970’s he tried a comeback as Tommy Kent, but his single Elisa flopped.

Tommy Kent
German postcard by Filmbilder-Vertrieb Ernst Freihoff, Essen, no. 566. Photo: Erwin Schneider.

Tommy Kent
German postcard by Kolibri-Verlag, Minden/Westf., no. 1249. Photo: Erwin Schneider / Kolibri.

Tommy Kent
German postcard by WS-Druck, Wanne-Eickel, no. F 158.

Architect and Painter
Tommy Kent changed back into Guntram Kühbeck and started a career as an architect around 1979. He was successful with his designs for the Spanish consulate in München and an elderly home in Los Angeles. As Tommy Kent-Kühbeck he also became known as a painter with exhibitions in New York and other cities. He had his own gallery in Pfronten im Allgäu. In 1981 in the middle of the rock and roll revival he returned as a singer and recorded his final single, Donner, Blitz und Rock 'n Roll (Thunder, Lightning and Rock and Roll. He also returned to the cinema in the children’s film Kleiner Mann was tun?/What to Do, Little Man? (1982, Uschi Madeisky, Klaus Werner) with Heidi Brühl. Today Tommy Kent-Kühbeck paints in his studios in München and on the Spanish island Menorca. As an artist he was awarded the Narrhaller Orden 2008.

Tommy Kent sings Susie Darlin`. Source: blizzard jens (YouTube).

Tommy Kent sings Alle Nächte (1960). Source: Candytje10 (YouTube).

Tommy Kent's 1980 version of Corinna, Corinma. Source: Candytje10 (YouTube).

Sources: Tommykent.de (German), Wikipedia (German) and IMDb.

1 comment:

Beth Niquette said...

He looks like such a fun person. I think I would have liked to have known him. Thank you for your sensitive portrayal of this wonderful person.

Happy PFF!