is a unique figure who has managed to survive forty years of modernization untainted.
He enjoyed an enormous popularity at the end of the fifties and the beginning
of the seventies. In 1957, he was the second Belgian contestant to the Eurovision
Song Festival with the whistle-song "Straatdeuntje" (according to
the legend, he went there without even knowing what song to play, he rehearsed
it once before performing live). A number of his songs were translated versions
of famous American country tunes, and one of those earned him his biggest hit:
in 1959, he finished third in the yearly hitparade with Café zonder bier (a cover
of "Pub without beer" by Slim Dusty). This song can be counted among
the evergreens of Flemish music.
A year later he would even top this hitparade with "Een hutje op de heide"
(a cabin on the moor).
Other noteworthy songs of his include "Ik heb eerbied voor je grijze haren"
(I respect those grey hairs of yours), "De lichtjes van de Schelde"
(the lights of the Scheldt), "k zie zoe gère m'n duivenkot" (i love
my pigeonry so much), "Als het vriest in Madagascar" (when it freezes
in Madagascar), "De jodelende fluiter" (the yodling whistler), "De
lachende vagebond" (the laughing vagabond) and "Bij het kampvuur op
de prairie" (at the campfire on the prairie).
At the end of the sixties, Bobbejaan Schoepen got weary of traveling (he was
popular from Holland to Indonesia, had recorded together with Joséphine Baker,
Gilbert Bécaud, Jacques Brel, Ed Sullivan, Tex Williams
and the like, and had performed in front of the English Queen) and decided he
was famous enough to have a theme park named after him : Bobbejaanland in Kasterlee.
The park has attractions in the wild west-atmosphere and, to this day, is supervised
and run by Bobbejaan and his sons. He still gives three to four performances of
his whistling, guitaring, yodling and singing abilities each day in the park.
movie poster dutch version of "At the drop of a head"
Yet, all fun apart, Bobbejaan was also among the few who introduced American
Rock and Country music to the Flemish masses. Credit to who's credit due. In 1999,
there was some recognition given to him for this by the alternative rockband Dead
Man Ray, who wrote a new soundtrack for the film "De Ordonnans / At the
Drop of A Hat", a movie which starred Bobbejaan in 1962 (the original soundtrack
was by the at that time immensely popular popband Les Cousins (The
In 2000, Bobbejaan was honoured with a place in the "eregallerij van het
Vlaamse lied", a prize handed out by Radio 2, which he shared with the likes
of Will Tura, Toots Thielemans, Rocco
Granata and La Esterella.
Buy CD's of this band at
- Het Beste van Bobbejaan Schoepen vol.1 (Telstar, 1995)
- Het Beste van Bobbejaan Schoepen vol.2 (Telstar, 1995)
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