Bettina Henrich

Henrich & Hochstetter
Two unforgotten Folk-Blues pioneers from the River Rhine

Nine-day wonders occur time and again in music business, and only one year later not a single soul will remember them. And I won’t mention any of these here, because these names are best kept in graceful oblivion.
Then there are the one hit acts who managed to land just one giant hit – one and a half maybe – and then you would hear from them no more. But this one hit became immortal and is still to be found on regular radio play lists after 30 or 40 years. I’m thinking, for instance, of „In The Year 2525“ by Zager & Evans or „Where Do You Go To (My Lovely)“ by Peter Sarstedt, both released in 1969. And these sure were of a different class.
Yet, around that year there also was a guitar duo that existed only for a relatively short period of time and never ever had a hit at all. But their fans of the past still remember them vividly and in heavy nostalgia, and in the internet connoisseurs (basically from the USA) keep raving about them with the highest of praises. I’m talking about – and I’m serious – two boys from Düsseldorf, Germany: Udo Henrich and Christian Hochstetter.



Udo Henrich mit Tochter Bettina


While Udo Henrich, born in 1944 and raised in modest conditions, was still swotting at high school, he was a gawky, rather reserved type of guy who couldn’t acquire a lot of taste for teeny parties and most of the time was looking into the world with an incomparably deep and sad expression in his eyes. Only when grabbing his guitar he came alive. But even then he wouldn’t play any happy go lucky music, but in a muted kind of tone he would sing the Blues until folks around him by and by hushed up, eager to listen to him. With the general popularity of international Folk songs in Germany in the early 1960s also the discovery of the Country Blues, accompanied by acoustic guitar, slowly got going. And Udo Henrich was one of the first Germans dedicating themselves with effort to this way of playing. His idol was, as later for countless others, Mississippi John Hurt who hit Folk audiences’ nerves both in America and in Europe with his sensitive finger picking style. And his songs such as „Candy Man Blues“, „Can’t Be Satisfied“ and „Salty Dog“ soon were covered by juvenile emulators as frequently as Bob Dylan’s „Blowin’ In The Wind“. Most of these, though, confined themselves to strumming their guitars in full chords. Not so Udo Henrich. In England already John Renbourn (rather a Big Bill Broonzy fan) and Bert Jansch had emerged as white adepts of the black Country Blues, and their recordings were easier to get by than those of the originals. These were the albums to which Udo spent long hours and nights of practicing – an ambitious autodidact. Few years later, on his weekends off from national service, he would roam the Düsseldorf bars all by himself, stuck his unavoidable, burning Reval cigarette onto a string’s end at his guitar’s head and sing his melancholic songs with his somewhat hoarse timbre. „So young and already so serious ...“, a pretty nurse named Karin said to him at one of these occasions. She was to become his first wife.

Christian Hochstetter, born in 1947, was a rather jolly character willing to enjoy life’s brighter sides. His realm was a spacious cellar in the house of well to do parents, and his passion was handcrafting. Whatever he laid hands on was taken to pieces, examined and surveyed and put back together in a new and at most times improved way – no matter whether it was a motorcycle or a musical instrument. And while doing so he sometimes came up with surprising combinations. One time he used break pulls from a motorcycle to design a pedal for himself which allowed him to change the tuning of his dobro from major to minor while sliding it. That motorcycles were fun to ride on and instruments suitable for playing music were almost easy coming side effects to him. At first for his private pleasure only, Christian exercised his nimble fingers on guitars, banjos and mandolins to tricky solos from Jazz and Country & Western records. But soon he developed a virtuosity that could have made him a much demanded studio musician. He didn’t even stop at the Sitar, and his own one he redesigned in such a manner that he could play it while standing upright. Mainly though he engaged in his studies of graphic design at college.

Having finished national service Udo Henrich had taken time out and roamed France for a while with Karin, had been singing on the boulevards of Paris without a license and consequently gotten busted for a day – an almost inevitable experience for long haired street musicians at that time (1966), not only in Paris. But he could get smart, too. For the evening of that day he managed to get an invitation for dinner for himself and his girlfriend from a soloist of the Paris opera. Unfortunately this person realized too soon that Karin was not Udo’s sister as pretended but his very girl and therefore inapproachable to their host. The dinner went down the Seine. Meanwhile a husband and a college student of law, Udo was jobbing by hours and days for a market research agency, kept chain smoking tipless cigarettes and became a regular performer at the Düsseldorf Folk club „Danny’s Pan“. The musicians there reached a remarkable level for Germans at that time, but what Udo showed on his guitar was far beyond that. Years before any other German musician would distinguish himself as a finger style guitar picker, Udo had achieved international class. He never got lost in finger acrobatics, he saved notes like is always befitting the Blues so well. But each note hit its mark and carried a well dosed feeling. Plus a vocal style that wasn’t trying to imitate the Blacks but pending easily between Leonard Cohen and Jim Croce and lastingly going under your skin. Also outstanding was his English because there was not a trace of an accent – a rare sound from a German tongue.

It must have been in 1969 when Udo Henrich and Christian Hochstetter first ran across each other at „Danny’s Pan“. In the beginning Christian just sat in informally. He accompanied Udo’s deeply serious renditions with light footed, Country-Swing inspired sounds on his guitar, brightened up the songs by crisp solos and thus added a cheerful and playful accent to things that made the act much more sparkling and exciting without distracting from the essentials. The mixture was just it. Henrich, for his young years seeming almost too tranquil, and the more vivacious Hochstetter met on an equally high level as guitarists and complemented each other ideally on stage.

Quite a few doors now opened to the guitar duo Henrich & Hochstetter. Unfortunately it can’t be detected precisely any more, which ones of the important gigs that are still remembered somehow, were done by Udo Henrich as a solo performer because the duo had not been formed yet, and which ones Udo played unaccompanied even though the duo was in existence already.
By himself for instance he did most of his festival gigs: the Song-Festival in Sennestadt (1969), the Folk-Festival in Syke (1969 or ’70, initiated by the Münster Folk-Club, only for this one Hochstetter joined him), futhermore the 5th and 6th Interfolk-Festivals in Osnabrück (spring and fall 1970, a festival of outstanding significance at that time). Udo’s picture even decorated full size the cover of the booklet „Interfolk“, Nb. 4 / 1970, and he could be heard solo with one song on the sampler album „Interfolk-Festival-LP“, Autogram ALLP-171.
Also a small tour together with Derroll Adams (March 1970) Henrich did without his companion. Likewise at least three radio appearances at WDR (Cologne).

About several TV appearances it can ’t even be said for sure whether Udo did them solo or in the duo. These were: the „Talentschuppen“ at SWF (Stuttgart), the „Drehscheibe“ at ZDF (broadcasted nationwide), the „Nordschau“ at NDR (Bremen) and „Musik bis zum frühen Morgen“ at ARD (also nationwide; all radio and TV gigs listed so far probably happened in 1970, the one at ARD is safely documented for November 11th 1970).
During two live gigs for the British Forces Broadcasting Service BFBS in the River Rhine area of Germany (Cologne 1970) the companions had themselves celebrated together again by a puzzled audience who found it hard to believe that this duo was coming from near by Düsseldorf. Also for the „Folk-Kaleidoskop“ of WDR (Cologne, 1971) Henrich & Hochstetter performed together.

Henrich und Hochstetter


At the Düsseldorf „Danny’s Pan“ fortunately, which had become their steady residence, you could meet them en bloc most of the times and enjoy them at their best. And with joined forces they also did their three recordings.
Connected to the Interfolk-Festival was the Autogram label, and so it came about that Henrich & Hochstetter went into the studio in September 1970.
The product was simply named „Udo Henrich“, Autogram AEP-169, on odd piece of a 7” disk, to be played at 45 rpm, but with seven titles on and in stereo. Three traditionals and four songs penned by Henrich are to be heard, two of them dedicated to his little daughter Bettina whom he used to call tenderly „Zappa“. On the cover’s backside then both musicians are properly mentioned. After all Christian had been part of it on four tracks with guitar and 5-string Banjo.

Four more songs the duo recorded in 1971 for Autogram. They were likewise released on one disk, a 7” stereo again, but this one to be played at 33 1/3 rpm. The title: „Henrich & Hochstetter, Fretful Talking“, Autogram ALP-176.
And on this one it’s probably the title track (a Henrich composition and a pretty nice word game, too) which is earning them laurels from connoisseurs to this very day. The guitar work is really dyn-o-mite.


Henrich und Hochstetter Fretful Talking


Nobody recalls any more what precisely led to the deal with Philips then. Anyway, another studio session was held in 1971, and a regular LP was recorded in Cologne under producer Jimi Boyks: „Henrich & Hochstetter“, Philips 6305149. Four accompanists were called upon to pimp the duo’s straight live sound a little for the record – and (with all skepticism) some results are extremely pleasant. While a few of the (later added) contributions would make hot subjects for discussion (something to be done with the producer) especially Hans Essers on harmonica enriched the takes tremendously. A jointly achieved masterpiece is „Take This Train“. Recorded very nicely already for „Fretful Talking“ they took it to the limits here and reached an intensity of feeling fit to compare with anything. Likewise fantastically done is Henrich’s song „I Don’t Know (What Is My Destination)“. Typical in its mood and almost programmatic, too, for its writer. Yet another highlight is offered at the end of the album, Hochstetter’s composition „Jimi’s Breakdown“ (dedicated not to Jimi Hendrix, but to the producer). Again Henrich & Hochstetter are celebrating sheer brilliance on their guitars – without any additional assistance. 1

After this it should have gone further up solidly because the peak of the boom for Folk music in Germany was yet to come. And we could have seen Udo Henrich, even as a solo performer, climb to similar heights as his contemporary Hans Theessink. After all Theessink, an expert on the Blues for his part and as a Dutchman similarly an exception as Henrich as a German, established himself well and lasting internationally. And when I started my own activities on the „Danny’s Pan“ stage in 1972 and reverently marveled at Henrich & Hochstetter they didn’t seem to get tired at all. On the contrary, they even teamed up for a trio with Jochen Beer, a real fine double bass player.

Henrich Hochstetter Beer Live


But things began to stagnate anyway. Udo Henrich had his final exams approaching at college, and both of them weren’t placing their bets (anymore) on solid existences in music. Booms keep coming and going and also the experience with Philips had brought about some considerable disillusionment. They remained the créme of the scene, but their preferences now lay in their outside music careers. And when the „Danny’s Pan“ closed in 1974, bankrupt by mismanagement long before Folk music started loosing audience again, the trio Henrich, Hochstetter & Beer disbanded.

Udo’s life at that point even broke up in several respects simultaneously. He left his wife and little daughter and settled in Frankfurt for a while. He chucked in law immediately after he passed his exams and became a successful and well to do man in market research. Among his customers were Jack Daniels and other well known brands. And at least for a while he enjoyed life unrestrictedly. There are a few wild stories about this. Still waters run deep. And maybe it was during that period that he got used to excellent wines to a higher extent than was good for him. Later he got married a second time. He turned down a very concrete chance to settle in Chicago. Hamburg seemed attractive to him, but after all he remained in Düsseldorf. And he never again performed in public. While a new generation of (German) audience outside seemed to believe that Werner Lämmerhirt had invented the finger picking on guitar, Udo fitted out a tiny studio at his home and there he played music only for his own pleasure. Sometimes he fell for the seductions all that digital rubbish of the 1980s and ’90s brought about, as you can tell by his private recordings of that time. After all, the lack of interaction with other musicians and with the audience can’t be compensated by computer simulations. Essentially he remained faithful to his Blues type feeling but he never regained the intensity of his young years.

Christian Hochstetter had finished his studies as a graduate and first worked as a graphic designer for a big agency, then from 1981 he continued as a free lancer drawing and text writing for a variety of middle-class industry companies. In whatever he could spare of his time he carried on with his passions in the usual manner – and at the usual place. He still enjoys himself the best in the cellar rooms of the house were he was driving screws as a teenager. And like before nothing good for “frickeling”, as he calls it 2, is safe from him. For example: For friends he lifted the secret behind a special type of construction of the wooden strips inside certain string instruments. Also he is into all kinds of technical toys, but he’s using them his own way. Never would he come up trying to replace a musician by a piece of sound equipment. He is just curious, experiments and combines and optimizes around with an incredible lot of small devices and is happy as can be, when he worked out something new and useful.
After his time with Udo Henrich Christian joined forces with Horst Bischoff in 1982 in the Country formation „Chorus“. They took part in nationwide contests and reached the finals twice. But Horst Bischoff turned to a different genre in 1984 (see my department „Buddies In Music“), and „Chorus“ broke up.

Henrich Hochstetter Koala


In 1992 there was a private attempt to reunite Henrich & Hochstetter, who hadn’t seen each other for more than ten years. Udo’s second wife Beate brought it about, and in the beginning it seemed to work. The two even dared to pick up an old show piece again which unfortunately had never been photographed during their young years. This is also the reason I saved it until this point: the koala thing. Christian, standing or kneeling behind Udo’s back, reached forward underneath Udo’s arms and – without any sight at his own hands, the finger board or the strings – smuggled a solo onto the very guitar Udo’s was playing. And even though they weren’t as slim as they used to be they still managed the trick of playing four handedly on one guitar. I never heard of nobody else doing this. One detail though on the photograph shocked me: Udo is playing an Ovation which he had brought from the Sates and loved dearly as Beate reported. When the Ovation became a fashion phenomenon for a while in the early 1970s, Udo had announced at the „Danny’s Pan“ in his dry sense of humor: „No space trash like this will ever make it onto my knees. Maybe it’s good for frying pans but definitely not for guitars.”
The Ovation didn’t help the reunion. As wonderfully as the two of them complemented each other in music, their temperaments just proved too different. And indeed it’s a bit of a miracle that two characters as independent as theirs could ever form a successful duo together. Anyway, the second attempt remained episode, more than some rehearsals and a few sets in front of their personal friends didn’t come out of it.

In 1997 Udo Henrich fell sick of cancer. It was a matter of the lungs and also his brains. He had his lungs operated, chemotherapy and radiation therapy following. For almost a year him and his wife kept the sickness a strict secret as well to their business as to their private surroundings hoping to gain victory over cancer. Udo never was the offensive type of a fighter, but he was also not used to loosing or giving in faintheartedly. For another year he kept fighting back - yet finally in vain. Fully in charge of his own mind until the end and without all these pipes and tubes from medical apparatus he died in dignity on January 6th 1999.

His daughter Bettina has long been a fully fledged musician in her own right. Mainly at home behind the drum set, she also composes and writes her own songs and for a while has turned to singing, too, and really giving effort to it. In her wonderfully natural voice some of the same kind of atmosphere is vibrating that was living in Udo ’s voice – a genuine gift. The Japanese have a beautiful way to describe what I hear in there. They call it “the spirit of loneliness” – with an emphasis on “spirit”.
This is sure something Udo Henrich possessed, too, and in Christian Hochstetter he had – at least for some time – an ideal partner in music.

Meanwhile Christian faced the ongoing computerization foremost in his main profession. Desk Top Publishing or DTP is the name of the game, and with his liking for finicky things Christian found pleasure in this field, too.
But also on the finger board he stayed as nimble as ever, and at every opportunity the string freak sat in with his guitar or banjo to work off his mastery. I say it again: Especially today Hochstetter would make a brilliant studio musician where ever good hand made music could be highlighted with some exquisite gems added from acoustic or electric instruments. But during his late years he was to be found at occasional, almost secret sessions only,  not too far from the River Rhine.

In the year of 2007 Christian received the diagnosis cancer of the intestines from his doctor, but with a good prognosis for getting healed. For three years he took the surgeries and therapies with imperturbable optimism and continued to put any free hour into „frickeling“ and playing music as far as his condition would allow. Yet, during the night of January 2nd 2010 he passed at the age of 62.

On websites like rockinworld.com or popsike.com the Folk Blues pioneers from D üsseldorf still today are acknowledged with compliments like these: „Excellent Folk Blues guitar duo“ / „Killer Folk Blues guitar duo“ / „Country Blues guitar mastery of the 1st order“ / „Very highly recommended, like Wizz Jones“ / „Best German LP ever recorded in this genre!!!“ / „One of the rarest German major label acts. What a record!!!“ / „Also fantastic male vocals in such a perfect English, that you would never ever expect that it’s a German band at all“. What else could be added? 3

A release of the private takes from Udo ’s late years is not to be expected, I think, even though they would make for two CDs. But the Philips LP by Henrich & Hochstetter can be found second hand occasionally. And, believe it or not, a few leftover copies of the 7” disks are still available, too – while stocks last ...



1 Two more discographical hints concerning the LP: On the cover’s back side the drummer is named Pete „Shuggie“ Smith. Behind this pseudonym (but with a correct picture) Peter Thoms is “hiding”, who later became known for his work with Helge Schneider and others. Why Hans Essers seems to be hiding behind the chair, is easy to explain: This good looking young fellow simply failed to be around for the photo shooting. But don’t ask me where the hell he was hanging out.

2 Christian’s own made up word for excessive handcrafting

3 All these quotes were found in English, none of them was translated from German even though Henrich & Hochstetter only performed inside Germany, never abroad.

© copyright Text July 2005 by Mojo Mendiola, thanks a lot to Bettina Henrich, Karin Henrich, Beate Roland and Christian Hochstetter for their kind assistance

© copyright Photographs:

 

Impressum