James Last - Early Life

Early Life

Last's father was an official at the public works department of the city of Bremen and he grew up in the suburb of Sebaldsbrück. He learned to play the piano from the age of 12, then switched to double bass as a teenager. His home city was heavily bombed in World War II and he ran messages to air defence command posts during raids. At 14 he was entered in the Bückeburg Military Music School of the German Wehrmacht.

After the fall of the Nazis, he joined Hans-Gunther Österreich's Radio Bremen Dance Orchestra in 1946. In 1948, he became the leader of the Last-Becker Ensemble, which performed for seven years. During that time, he was voted as the best bassist in the country by a German jazz poll for three consecutive years, from 1950–1952. After the Last-Becker Ensemble disbanded, he became the in-house arranger for Polydor Records, as well as for a number of European radio stations. For the next decade, he helped arrange hits for artists like Helmut Zacharias, Freddy Quinn, Lolita, Alfred Hause and Caterina Valente.

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