|Polo Hofer (l) and Hanery Amman (r) - Friends and Composers
A composition he co-wrote with his former neighbor, Hanery Amman called "Alperose" (Rose of the Alps) was voted to be the ultimate Swiss song and is now taught to grade school children more than three decades after its original release. His music simply became the bedrock of Swiss dialect music to come.
Polo, who used his boy scout name, whose real name was Urs Alfred, constantly reinvented himself, from his first commercially successful band Rumpelstilz to Schmetterding which was replaced by Schmetterband. Then the Alpinistos were in charge and finally, he recorded solo albums and guest artist projects. But what was always common through all the years was a huge love of music from the American South: Roots, Blues, Rock, Singer/Songwriters, Country - he especially loved the melting pot of what the Texas capital, Austin used to be and loved singers like Delbert McClinton and Lucinda Williams. Songs like Little Feat's "Missing You" (Paul Barrere) became "I Vermisse Di," Bruce Springsteen's "Jersey Girl," penned by Tom Waits got adapted into "Meitschi Vom Wissebueehl."
So after his passing, friends were sending me obits, links to TV specials, and even to one of his films he starred in. Well, this morning I had "Gib Mir Blueme" in my Inbox, in a version where Polo sings it together with TV host and Schlager-Singer Nik Hartmann, while being accompanied by the Swiss TV orchestra, SF Husmusig recorded in Grindelwald in July of 2010.
The song and its theme sounded awfully familiar and sure enough, it's an old bluegrass or bluegrass-gospel composition "Give Me Flowers, While I'm Living," originally recorded by Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs in 1957. Written by their wives, Gladys Stacey (Flatt) and Louise Certain (Scruggs) together with Elvin Bigger (known as a former member of the Four Virginians in the 1920s), Flatt & Scruggs recorded it for different albums, so I'm not completely sure, which version the one below is.
Lester Flatt & Earl Scruggs
Knowing that Polo wasn't that much a bluegrass fan per se, I started wondering where he may have heard this song, there was a missing link. And sure enough, I found it, on the Amazing Rhythm Aces' fifth album "How the Hell Do You Spell Rhythum?" released in 1980.
Amazin' Rhythm Aces
Polo recorded his first version of "Gib Mir Blueme" for a live album that was released in 1993, and nine years later a studio version with Schmetterband for his album "Xangischxung" (Bernese for "Singing Is Healthy"). I assume that the resophonic guitar (dobro) part was played by my former English teacher Martin Diem on this recording.
Polo Hofer & Schmetterband
So let's forward from 2002, when Polo recorded his studio version, to the live TV show on top of the page, eight years later. Done in the TV show in Swiss Volksmusik style, even though not in its purest forms, Yodel club Wiesenberg from the state of Nidwalden, saw potential in the composition and recorded the tune acapella for their 2012 album "Bluämäpracht." The clip below shows the Jodlerklub Wiesenberg performing the song for another TV show.
And that's how a bluegrass song became a yodeling tune.