DANISH JIVE – LEO MATHISEN PLAYS JAZZ HITS UNDER THE NAZI’S NOSES

By Cpl. Howard Katzander

YANK Staff Correspondent

COPENHAGEN, DENMARK—If you get a hankering for some good old gutbucket jazz or some fine Chicago-style rhythms and 52d street is too far away, you might try Copenhagen, where the bands play the most authentic jazz this correspondent has heard in Europe, not excepting England. The music business is not too good right now, what with a 9 o’clock curfew and too little to drink, but they still make out pretty well.



leo mathisen WW2

Leo “The Lion” Mathisen

Probably the best is Leo the Lion Mathisen’s Orchestra, which plays at a crowded little beer parlor called Muchen. Muchen is so crowded that there is an iron rail around the dance floor to keep the dancers from spilling over across the tables.

The Leo Mathisen band plays all the latest and best hit tunes; they used to get the music from the clandestine radio.

Mathisen and his trumpeter, Eric Parker, used to sit up listening to the British and American radio, copying the notes of the new songs. If they missed a bar, they sometimes had to wait a week or two before they heard the same song again. Parker speaks perfect English and had the job of copying the lyrics. Since English is a compulsory second language in Copenhagen’s schools he never had to bother translating the words into Danish. If he missed some words, he wrote others to fill their place.



The Germans were not very smart. Listening to the Allied radio was a crime in Denmark as well as other places, but night after night members of the Wehrmacht and Gestapo agents would sit in the Muchen sipping their beers and listening to the latest tunes from America. It never occurred to them to ask how Mathisen got the music. Often he would announce the new numbers like this:

“Here comes The Trolley Song as sung by Judy Garland, number one on this week’s hit parade.”

The Germans took over one of Copenhagen’s finest night clubs for their military personnel and named it the Deutscher Eke, which means the German Corner. When the British arrived, they took it over and painted out the name but put nothing in its place until a Danish journalist, Brite Strandgor, called it the British Corner in a feature about the place. Now that’s its name.



For More on Leo Mathisen Check Out:

Leo Mathisen 1944-48




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