W O U T S T E E N H U I S
by Kevin Wooten
Wout Steenhuis hailed from The Hague, Holland and was a member of The Dutch Resistance Movement during the last war. His activities with the movement caught up with him and he was imprisoned in the Amersfoort Concentration Camp.
Whilst there he made his escape enroute to execution. In May 1945 during fighting with Germans he was shot in the right arm. After a few operations the arm was once again suitable for playing the guitar, which he did as a member of the Dutch Swing College Orchestra.
He came to England in 1948 followed shortly after by his fiance whom he married later that year. Encouraged by his wife he sent some of his recordings to the B.B.C. and very soon he made his debut broadcast in 'Guitar Club'.
After that Wout appeared on several radio programmes - Breakfast Special, Open House, Charlie Chester and Easy Beat to name just a few.
One of the unique features of Wout's playing was that of his multi-tracking system whereby he played all the fretted instruments heard on record and on stage. All the backing instruments were recorded seperately at his home studio and then put together. In addition to using this system on record Wout also featured it with great success on TV, radio and on stage.
His repertoire ranged from Hawaiian to pop, from jazz to vocal.
In 1963 he signed a recording contract with Denis Preston of Landsdowne Recording Studios and all his recordings then appeared on Columbia, Studio 2 and EMI labels. In 1962-63 he appeared on Southern TV in the series 'Three of a Kind' and 'Their Kind of Music' along with that popular duo Dorita Y Pepe.
The sound by which most people associate Wout with is that of his home made 'Jelmer' Hawaiian guitar which can be heard on the majority of his recordings.
On earlier albums Wout was backed by The Kontikis - a name given to his own backing of multi-tracked instruments. On later albums however, due to the expansion of orchestration, it became a lengthy and laborious job to play all the instruments himself so the Kontikis were made up of session musicians such as Herbie Flowers / Tony Campo (bass), Alan Parker / Dick Abel (guitar) and Clem Cattini / Barry Morgan (drums).
Wout of course still played the main melody parts himself (i.e. Hawaiian guitar, solo guitar and ukelele).
On stage Wout used his multi-track backing to the fullest whilst playing lead 'live'. For his stage act he used the 'Jelmer' Hawaiian guitar, Burns Black Bison, HH Amplification, Sennheiser microphones and a Revox A77 tape recorder.
Wout has several Hawaiian albums to his credit, along with a couple recorded in the jazz idiom namely 'Wout' and 'Bird in the Park' released in 1969 and 1970 respectively. In addition to being a guitar virtuoso he was also a prolific composer and under the pen name of Jelmer is credited for such titles as Hawaiian Chimes, Blue Dolphin, Malihini March, Bora Bora, Lazy Guitar and Aroha Hawaii. The latter he sings in Maori.
Wout and his music have travelled the world whilst appearing as resident guitarist on board the Queen Elizabeth II, visiting places like Bermuda, New York, Boston, Los Angeles, Sri Lanka, Hong Kong, Japan, Indonesia, Fiji and Hawaii.
Apart from being a solo artist, Wout has backed singers Johnny Christian and Keely Ford and also the vocal group The Wedgwoods.
January 1978 saw the release of 'What's New' EMI EMC3220 and featured a variety of guitar sounds and arrangements and Wout was backed by a small group.
Tracks such as Mr. Tambourine Man, Green Green Grass of Home, House of the Rising Sun and Harper Valley PTA first heard a decade earlier were all given a new lease of life in the talented hands of Wout.
In October 1981 Warwick Records released 'Hawaiian Paradise' WW5106 a compilation of Wout's previous recordings with new arrangements plus a few new titles. Included free with this album was 'Hawaiian Christmas' HXS 100 which featured a selection of festive tunes. This two-for-the-price-of-one album reached No.28 in the album charts during December.
After a long absence from the recording scene came the brilliant 'Hawaiian Country' Valentine VAL8052 released in February 1983. This album contained a selection of C & W tunes played on the Hawaiian guitar and backed by a group of musicians in the shape of Dick Abel (lead/12 string guitar), Colin Green (rhythm guitar), Dave Richmond (bass), Cliff Hall (keyboards), Barry Morgan (drums), Frank Ricotti (tuned percussion/L.A. Percussion), Keith Nelson (banjo), Harry Pitch and Judd Lander (harmonica) plus vocal backing from Norma Winstone, Jean Gilbert and Tracy Miller.
Wout of course played Hawaiian, lead and rhythm guitar.
Wout Steenhuis passed away on Tuesday 9th July 1985 but left behind a legacy of music to enjoy and savour.
Wout Steenhuis Discography
Instro fan Steve Craig was on the same bill as Wout in the 1960s, read his anecdotes here
Check out the super Scottish Soldier currently on the Jukebox