Sonny Fulks
Sonny Fulks
Managing Editor

Sonny Fulks is a graduate of Ohio State University where he pitched four varsity seasons for the Buckeyes from 1971 through 1974. He furthered his baseball experience as a minor league umpire for seven seasons, working for the Florida State League (A), the Southern League (AA), and the American Association (AAA). He has written for numerous websites, and for the past fourteen years has served as columnist and photo editor for The Gettysburg Magazine, published by the University of Nebraska Press, in Lincoln Nebraska. His interests include history, support for amateur baseball, the outdoors, and he has a music degree from Ohio State University.

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Some of our readers enjoy the back stories to popular songs and tunes from yesteryear.  One in particular wrote to ask…”I’d like to know more about the “Match Game” song? We’re happy to share the story.

One of the reasons for sharing information about old songs and musicians on these pages is the response you get from readership is almost always positive.  Those who actually write to us to respond say…it’s fun.

So wrote Carla recently, to ask about a familiar song of the 60s and 70s, one that everyone whistled and hummed, but misidentified.

“I loved the ‘Match Game’ growing up, and I loved that song.  They haven’t played it for years.  I’d like to know more about it?”

I’m glad you asked.

The Match Game was a daily game show on NBC with a long run, hosted by popular personality Gene Rayburn from its inception in 1962 until Rayburn left the cast in 1969.  The show was funny, had a great set of panel personalities, including the recently deceased Betty White, and came on each day with one of the most recognizable theme songs of that generation.

The song was actually titled, “A Swingin’ Safari”, not the “Match Game Song” (which people mistook), a composition from German composer Bert Kaempfert originally penned in that same year that The Match Game made its debut, 1962. When it was originally released as an instrumental single, it failed miserably with popular appeal. But when it was selected as the theme to the popular game show, it shot up in popularity.

It featured a lot of unique characteristics of the ‘Kaempfert’ sound, so popular at the time.  It had a happy sound, a distinctive flute lead, Kaempfert’s heavy use of amplified electric bass, and the chorus trumpet solo of famous German trumpet player, Manfred Moch.

Ironically, Kaempfert had a huge string of instrumental hits following Swingin’ Safari, now almost 60 years ago, but never lived long enough to enjoy their popularity, or the royalties. He died of a stroke at age 56 in June of 1980 while on safari in the Florida Everglades.  An outspoken supporter, and financial benefactor of the Everglades for many years, reports are that his ashes were spread there as a lasting tribute.

Kaempfert’s popular touring orchestra disbanded at the time of his death, but periodically over the years reorganized and performed on the road, playing the popular songs from the height of his popularity – Spanish Eyes, Wonderland By Night, L-O-V-E, That Happy Feeling, and the old Wayne Newton hit, Danke Schoen.

Bert’s tunes are easily recognizable, and so popular still that it’s actually hard to find CDs or albums on the secondary market. Many consider his music…collectible!

Here’s a great copy of the Match Game song.  Enjoy!

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