Charlie and his Orchestra (also referred to as the "Templin band" and "Bruno and His Swinging Tigers") were a Nazi-sponsored German propaganda swing band. Jazz music styles were seen by Nazi authorities as rebellious, but ironically propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels conceived of using the style in shortwave radio broadcasts aimed at the United States and particularly the United Kingdom. British listeners heard the band every Wednesday and Saturday at around 9 pm.
The purpose of the band was to stir pro-Nazi sympathy, draw attention to World War II Allied losses, convince listeners that Great Britain was a pawn for American and Jewish interests, and carry German dictator Adolf Hitler's messages in an entertaining form. The songs stressed how badly the war was going for the target audience, and how it was only going to be a matter of time before they would be beaten.
Led by German accented frontman Karl Schwedler ("Charlie"), conducted by Lutz Templin, and paced by drummer Fritz Brocksieper, the band included Kurt Abraham on reeds and Willy Berking on trombone. The group formed in 1940, making over 90 recordings between March 1941 and February 1943. Arrangements were by Templin, Willy Berking, and Franz Mück, with lyrics written by the Propagandaministerium. Schwedler was allowed permission to travel to neutral and occupied countries to collect jazz and dance music, which helped the band and propaganda ministry to craft more recordings.
American swing and popular British songs were initially performed true to the original, until about the second or third stanza where pro-German lyrics and monologues would be introduced. For example, in the Walter Donaldson hit You're Driving Me Crazy, Schwedler croons about the confusion of new love, and in the third stanza continues: Here is Winston Churchill's latest tear-jerker: Yes, the Germans are driving me crazy / I thought I had brains / But they shot down my planes..." Later, the entire lyric would be modified, clearly based on the original. The band even recorded some "cover versions" of the originals, unaltered.
- I double dare you to venture a raid.
- I double dare you to try and invade.
- And if your loud propaganda means half of what it says,
- I double dare you to come over here.
Many of the members of Charlie and his Orchestra went on to successful careers in music after the war. Charlie himself emigrated to the United States.
- WFMU Radio: Charlie and his Orchestra - includes samples
- Listen online: Charlie and his Orchestra at boomp3.com
- Listen online or download mp3s of ten complete songs: Tennessee Bill's Old Time Radiode:Charlie and His Orchestra