Saturday, August 21, 2010

Another Country, Another Fan: Jan Richter, from Hamburg, Germany

One of the people who welcomed my little blog, and who encouraged and welcomed my inept (and ultimately failed) attempts to figure out myspace is Jan, from Germany.  I now know that his last name is Richter.  Until now, he's simply been "Jan," someone who always found and posted interesting videos of Chuck Berry, who contributed regulary to, and who sent me and hundreds of his friends weekend greetings on myspace.  Chuck Berry's influence on music and culture is huge; but this blog is also about Chuck Berry's influence on fans all over the world like Doug, Carmelo, Peter and Jan.  (And me!)

Tell us more about yourself: where do you live? What do you do for a living?

I live nearby the Beatles birth place Hamburg in Germany . (Exactly two days ago we had the 50th anniversary of their first arrival in Hamburg ) I'm married and we have two daughters. My work has nothing to do with Rock n Roll. I m biologist, but my current employment takes place in an office for landscape and town planning including the practical preservation of woods and grassland and more.

You've followed Chuck Berry across space and time and at least one continent. Tell us about following some of his tours in Europe .

Backstage: Photo by Peter Kaleta
Oh yes, I tried and travelled a lot when I grew older and in the last 5 years alone I ve been to 22 shows. But I don t have ambitions to count the shows. I just want to see the man ! And I had the chance to meet the band and had the best time of my life backstage and even on stage several times in different countries across Europe . Often Peter Kaleta, Jean Million (Red Chuck) and Johan Hasselberg joined me there. These meetings have been beyond words and comparison and a lifelong memory. Chuck's band members were so upfront and cordial with me – I didn t even think that this would ever happen.

When did you first see him live? Can you describe some of your earliest memories of concerts?

It was in the Musikhalle in Hamburg in the mid seventies. I was a young teenager and I was absolutely excited and enamored. I had never seen such a concert before and after the show I tried to write up every crazy movement he made on stage to remember it. These shows were fantastic, some of them exceptional. I ve seen a concert with Chuck playing for two and a half hours – the complete audience was dancing up on and in front of the stage. This never happened again.

My first listening to a Chuck Berry tune was during an oldie radio show every Sunday. Fortunately we had special radio programs for different musical genre in these days and I became captivated of Rock 'n' Roll Music at the beginning of the 70ies. Berrys music was very special to me from the beginning. I recorded the broadcasts on my first little mono cassette recorder. Later we had the Toronto Festival and the London Wembley show on TV and this was absolutely magic for me. I was glued to the TV screen, because there was no way to record it in these days.

What are your favorite Chuck Berry memories?

Well, I m not a musician and didn't jam with him like our friend Carmelo and sometimes I've wished to be a blonde girl instead of a brown-eyed long-haired man, ha ha. And I didn't have the chance to run into him like a Wentzville tourist-- I'm only a fan like thousand others. So my favourite memories are the moments when Chuck Berry noticed me in the crowd and smiled at me or when I came close while getting one of many autographs over the years. Nothing special for your readers, but very special for me. There have been so many occasions and glimpses – it's difficult to tell and rather a trip down my personal memory lane. Only one anecdote: In my mind's eye I see Chuck and Jimmy arriving in a small Danish town in 2005, Chuck driving himself, dragging their guitars and luggage themselves across the street like decades ago….

Have you ever met him? Spoken to him?

I ve been very close, but never spoke with him. There are so many questions on my mind, but probably my heart would sink into my boots when it comes to talk with him. I would barely utter a word. Schizophrenic in some way, because otherwise I feel like a close old family member towards him. This is naïve of course. I know there are very few people that know the man. It is fascinating and tantalizing at the same time to perceive that his character will be left a secret for me forever.

I have no problem to be called a Berry maniac – there is no day without thinking of him and humming a Rock 'n' Roll melody. And it doesn't impress me if my behaviour strikes someone as teenaged. I m not a fanatic - I don t have the ambitious aim to complete a worldwide collection of records and memorabilia. For me it's all about the music. In the last few years I started collecting more and more digital photos and video clips because of the lack of new recordings. But my approach is totally different to our friend Morten Reff or Dietmar Rudolph and I'm not as accurate as Peter Kaleta. Maybe Johan Hasselberg is my brother in spirit. In summer 2007 we both followed Mr. Berry all across Sweden .

What do you think it is about the man and his music that got you hooked?

This is hard to say, still a mystery to me and that is why it never palls to be engaged in Berry stuff. Apart from his matchless way to strike his guitar it must be his entertaining talent – underestimated in all the biographies by the way. It s the way he interacts with the audience like no other. I love his impishly and waggish way, his spontaneity and even his unpredictability. His art of improvisation is unbelievable. He s always surprising and amazingly funny. His infectious cheerful nature has saved my life several times in the last 35 years. And of course it s his incredible energy and breathtaking power he yields to me unlabored.

I've seen references to your brother on Myspace. Do you have a brother who's a musician? Tell us about that.

Jan's Famous Brother Henjo
Yes, my brother Henjo is very famous in his music style (not my taste of music of course). His Metal band “Gamma Ray” is touring worldwide, selling 100.000s of CD copies and filling concert venues up to 70.000 people ! I m very proud of him.

What about you? Do you play any instruments? What sort of music?

No, I ve missed that in my youth and I m hopping mad about that. I only torture my guitar at home.

Have you made it to St. Louis yet? Do you intend to go?

No, I didn t have the chance yet, but the trip is planned for a long time yet and I hope to make it in 2011.

Did you get to Italy this August to see Chuck and his band?

I tried hard to go, but wasn t able to take any days off.

Anything Else?

I hope that the endlessly repeated old baseless rumors, preconceptions and unproved accusations about the man come to an end soon. These lies hurt me too.

I d like to end with some of our mans lyrics:

Hello, I'm just a fan who had to call you on the phone
Someone you won't remember of the many that you own
I'm just a name within your past you met while all alone
Someone who shared a love with you and stayed behind unknown


Anonymous said...

Wow :-) What a fantastic story about Jan! Thank Tou Peter & Jan.


Anonymous said...

It's nice to discover and know more about each of the Berry fans we are in touch. Jan is a kind and interesting person.

Johan Hasselberg said...

Really great stuff :) :) :) Fantastic to read this interview with my excellent friend Jan. I am very happy for all the great moments he got over the years. Thanx a lot!!!


Peter said...

Johan-- you're next! Peter

Anonymous said...

Excellent story Jan!! I hope Chuck comes to a town near you soon, and I hope you make it to Blueberry Hill too!! Thanks Tulane for bringing Jan's story to us.....
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