Wenche Myhre enjoyed a very successful career in her native Norway before setting her sights on Germany. Using an alternative spelling of her name – Wencke Myhre – her distinctive vocals helped her become one of the biggest stars of the German Schlager scene in the 1960s.
She was born on 15 February 1947 in the Norwegian capital of Oslo. She won her first singing competition – and her first recording contract – on her 13th birthday.
Åh, det er søndag, a translation of Don Gibson’s Oh lonesome me, was issued as her debut single.
Further hits followed, including a version of Gitte’s German chart topper Ich will ‘nen Cowboy als Mann, retitled Gi meg en cowboy til mann.
In 1964, she entered the Norwegian national final to choose a song for the Eurovision song contest. She entered two songs, God gammel firkantet vals (which finished second) and La meg være ung (placed third). Ironically, the latter – arguably the best slab of Norwegian yé-yé ever to be recorded – proved the biggest hit of all five songs from the contest.
Although the young singer never got to perform her song at the contest in Copenhagen, she set her sights on an international career.
Denmark’s Gitte and Sweden’s Siw Malmkvist had both been enjoying considerable success in Germany and Wenche was determined to enjoy a slice of the action.
Using a different spelling of her name (Wencke Myhre) to help pronunciation, she was signed to the Ariola label in Germany, where she would remain until the mid-1970s.
She missed the top 40 charts with her first couple of German releases, 1964’s Ja, ich weiß, wen ich will and 1965’s Alle Mädchen träumen gern.
However, the 1965 Deutsche Schlager-Festpiele song contest in Baden-Baden offered the chance for the singer to give her profile a huge boost by appearing before millions of German television viewers.
Although she finished in second place behind American singer Peggy March, her performance was enough to launch her career – and her entry, the cautionary tale Sprich nicht drüber, shot into the German top five that summer and spent four months in the charts.
Perhaps surprisingly, her follow up, the not-entirely-dissimilar Geht ein Boy vorbei, flopped altogether. And Weißes Tuch im blauen Jackett failed to make the top 20 upon its release the following year.
Meanwhile in Norway, a second attempt to represent her country at Eurovision proved disastrous.
But no matter. A return to Germany’s Schlager-Festpiele in June 1966 saw the singer emerge triumphant. Her winning song, Beiß nicht gleich in jeden Apfel, was a classic fusion of beat and frothy Schlager that she then took into the top ten in the charts. It proved a turning point in her career – moving her in the premier league of German Schlager stars.
That isn’t to say that all her releases were of the overtly Schlager variety. Her self-titled album, issued later that year, showed that she could handle a variety of material, from the gentle Mein Herz hat ja gesagt and the classy Vergessen und vergeben to the stompy Einmal eins, a version of British singer Jackie Trent’s Love is me, love is you.
By now in Germany, she could do little wrong. Although Wer hat ihn geseh’n? didn’t chart as highly as expected and Keine Post von dir lucked out altogether, Wenche returned to the top ten in the autumn of 1967 with the typically exuberant Komm allein.
Back at home, she enjoyed success that year with Love a go go, her terrific take on a Stevie Wonder album track. (See our Motown males tribute special.)
In 1968 she was invited to represent Germany at the Eurovision song contest. Her entry, Ein Hoch der Liebe, penned by world-renowned orchestra leader Horst Jankowski, gave Wenche another chart hit in Germany and finished a respectable sixth at the contest in London. (Spain’s Massiel won the contest, narrowly beating the UK’s Cliff Richard into second place.)
Her follow up, Flower-Power-Kleid, is a firm favourite among fans, but its nonsense lyrics (which translate as “She wears a ding-dong, bama-lama, sing-song, teeny-weeny, flower-power dress”) served only to bolster the singer’s increasing sense of frustration at the lightweight material she was being given.
The relentlessly chirpy Er steht im Tor provided her with her highest chart placing when it reached number four in the summer of 1969. Further hits followed, including Abendstunde hat Gold im Munde later that year and Er hat ein knallrotes Gummiboot in 1970.
However, with her interest in her music career in Germany on the wane, she appeared in her first German film in 1970, which allowed her to showcase her range of abilities.
Back at home, she enjoyed huge success in 1973 with the single Du og jeg og vi to, while in Germany she moved into television, hosting the series Das ist meine Welt in 1974.
Her German recording sessions became less and less frequent, and in 1977 she switched labels, joining Ariola. The move marked the beginning of a period of renewed success. Eine Mark für Charly hit the German top ten that year, and Laß mein Knie, Joe, a version of Welsh singer Bonnie Tyler’s It’s a heartache, went top five in 1978.
Wenche made several more attempts at winning another place on the Eurovision stage – first in 1983 in Germany with her son and then in 1992 and 2009 in Norway – all of which proved fruitless.
She continues to perform today, and often appears live with her erstwhile competition, fellow Scandinavian 1960s stars Gitte and Siw Malmkvist.