Peggy Brown became an overnight chart sensation in Germany in 1961 with Denn sie fahren hinaus auf das Meer. She went on to score further hits, but the advent of the beat boom pushed the singer out into the cold. The Motown-styled Bitte sag’s nicht weiter came as something of a postscript to her career in 1965 and is now considered her coolest recording.
She was born Margit Lorenz in 1930 in Bohemia, Czechoslovakia (now the Czech Republic).
After the end of the second world war, she found herself in Germany’s Russian-controlled zone. This period saw her finish her musical studies in Erfurt, where she developed a love for jazz and swing.
By 1949, she had moved into what had become West Germany, settling in Nienburg an der Weser after landing a booking in the town. Backed by a big band, the singer performed throughout the region, including in Hanover, and also in Minden.
Along the way, she found both public and private appreciation – enjoying favourable reviews and a marriage proposal. She accepted both eagerly.
She and her new husband moved south, to Munich, in 1950. There, Margit Schumann, as she was known, landed a spot singing with the Will Bösel-Band at local clubs and at American forces bases.
Together with the band, she performed for the local radio station and on a tour of Austria.
When the band split a few years later, the singer took her experience to Tempo, a record label that specialised in cut-price versions of the hits of the day. Although this work provided an income, it proved unfulfilling and by the end of the decade, Margit was shopping around for other work.
The offer of a contract from Teldec looked promising enough to tempt the singer. There, she was renamed Peggy Brown – very much in the international style that was popular at the time – and was assigned to the label’s Telefunken arm.
However, the singer’s recording career got off to a poor start. Both her first two 45s, Lieber Jonny, komm doch wieder (a version of Anita Bryant’s Paper roses) and Ein Mann wie du, failed to sell.
Peggy’s third single redeemed the singer. Written, apparently, with Austrian singing sensation Lolita in mind, Denn sie fahren hinaus auf das Meer gave Peggy a massive hit. The single spent 21 weeks in the German top 40, reaching number seven in the spring of 1961. (Maureen Rene took an English-language version of the song to number five in the US charts, as Alone on the shore.)
Peggy’s success meant Telefunken lost no time in getting her back into the studio to cut follow up records. Du bist meine Welt became the first of these. However, the song was decidedly similar to its predecessor, which may explain why record buyers shunned it resoundingly.
The chirpier Jeden Sonntag eine Rose von dir fared better, making the German top 30 in the summer of 1961.
However, subsequent releases proved somewhat hit or miss. A duet with Teddy Parker, Gondola d’amore, released under the name of Peggy Brown & Jacky, found few takers. Yet Keiner weiß, ob sie sich wiedersehen returned the singer to the charts late that autumn, reaching number 24. (Peggy has since commented that she had never felt the song was right for her.)
A poll by readers of teen magazine Bravo! acknowledged Peggy’s success, but a lowly 15th ranking among the female singers of the year kept her feet firmly on the ground.
Telefunken were determined to improve her standing.
To boost her public profile, label bosses entered Peggy into the 1962 Schlager-Festspielen in Baden-Baden. However, her entry, the pleasant and very international-sounding Das Lexikon d’amour, failed to prove a match for Conny Froboess’ resounding winner, Zwei kleine Italiener, and finished sixth.
Further singles Laß mich nie wieder weinen and Jedes Glück auf der Welt followed but didn’t sell.
Even the cracking Komm doch wieder – backed with Mein Reklame-Boy, a convincing version of Helen Shapiro’s When I’m with you – issued in July 1962, couldn’t return Peggy Brown to the charts.
The 45 Das kann nur Liebe sein saw out the year, not that record buyers cared much.
As the beat boom swept across Europe, Peggy’s brand of cheery Schlager seemed little more than a reminder of a bygone age. Thus, her 1963 singles, Ein Tango in der Hafenbar, Eine Träne fiel ins Meer and Schiff ohne Hafen (a cover of Sue Thompson’s I need a harbour), sold poorly. Even repeating the water theme of her biggest hit didn’t help.
By the time her contract with Telefunken had run out, both the singer and the label had lost interest.
During her time at Telefunken, Peggy had recorded several tunes by successful songwriters Werner Scharfenberger and Fini Busch. In 1965, the pair penned a song they felt would be a good vehicle for the singer. With Scharfenberger’s support, Peggy signed to Polydor for a one-off single, the pounding, Motown-styled Bitte sag’s nicht weiter. The song has gone on to enjoy a lasting popularity among German girl pop fans, but failed dismally upon release.
Unwilling to hang up her microphone, Peggy founded the Peggy-Brown-Chor (also known as Die Peggy Brown Singers). The group cut several records, including 1968’s Sweet halali and Tausend Gedanken. They also supplied backing vocals for any number of stars in the late 1960s and 1970s, including Manuela and Siw Malmkvist.
By the mid-1970s, Peggy had divorced and re-married and retired from show business. Over the years, she has declined invitations to appear on Germany’s Schlager-Oldies circuit, preferring fans to remember her the way she was.