German a cappella group Wise Guys were a most unlikely success story. Not only are a cappella groups a genuine rarity in the 21st century, but the barbershop-style quintet managed to attain remarkable commercial success in the German-language world, selling out concerts and releasing increasingly popular albums. It helped, of course, that the group sang amusing, often humorous pop songs that appropriated aspects of concurrently popular music, from rap and reggae to rock and techno -- all the while singing entirely free of musical instruments. The popularity of the Wise Guys seemed to reach an apex with Radio (2006), a concept album fashioned in the manner of a radio broadcast, including jingles and news bulletins (even a horoscope). Radio peaked at number three on the German album charts, held back from the number one spot only by the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Silbermond; it remained in the Top 100 for 15 weeks -- not bad for an a cappella release.
The Wise Guys began in Cologne, Germany, where members Daniel Dickopf, Edzard Hüneke, Marc Sahr, Clemens Tewinkel, and Christoph Tettinger were enrolled as students from 1981 to 1990 at Hildegard von Bingen Gymnasium. Upon graduation, they began pursuing a professional music career and made their recording debut with Dut-Dut-Duah! (1994), which was mostly in English and included some covers (e.g., "Eight Days a Week"). Tettinger left the group in 1995 and was replaced by Ferenc Husta, who made his debut on the next Wise Guys release, Haarige Zeiten (1996), which exhibited a shift toward original German-language material. Thereafter the guys were offered a recording contract with EMI, and they proceeded to record their first album in a professional studio with a genuine producer, Uwe Baltrusch, who would continue to work with the Wise Guys on successive albums. The result, Alles im Grünen Bereich (1997), was almost entirely written by Dickopf and sung in German, with the exception of a Billy Joel cover ("Lullabye [Goodnight, My Angel]"), and so was the next Wise Guys album, Skandal (1999), which included another Joel cover ("Root Beer Rag"), a cover of Extreme's "More Than Words," and most amusingly, one of the concurrent James Bond theme song, "Goldeneye."
The Wise Guys had started to gain commercial traction around this time. They moved to Pavement Records and released Live (2000), a concert showcase featuring the bulk of their best songs to date. It was their first to crack the German Top 100 album chart, reaching number 93. Their next, Ganz Weit Vorne (2001), did more than crack the Top 100; it ended up breaking the Top 50, partly on account of the group's first bona fide hit single, "Jetzt Ist Sommer." The Wise Guys' hit streak continued with Klartext (2003) and Wo der Pfeffer Wächst (2004), and they served their swelling fan base a number of non-album releases, including a pair of EPs (Früher, 2004; Weltmeister, 2005) and DVDs (Wise Guys, 2003; Wise Guys Spezialnacht Philipshalle Düsseldorf, 6. November 2004, 2005), in addition to steady concert appearances throughout the German-language world. All of this activity set the stage for Radio (2006), the most successful Wise Guys release to date. Fashioned in the manner of a radio broadcast, the concept album peaked at number three on the album chart and remained in the Top 100 for an impressive 15 weeks, affirming the remarkable popularity of the Wise Guys. A single, "Klinsi, Warum Hast Du das Getan?," was also issued in 2006. The Wise Guys' popularity continued with the release of 2008's Frei! which peaked at number two on the German album charts. At the end of 2008, Clemens Tewinkel decided to leave the group, being replaced by Nils Olfert. 2010 saw the release of their 11th album, Klassenfahrt, again peaking at number two on the German album charts. In 2012, the album Zwei Welten was released. Divided into two parts -- the first a cappella, the second with instrumental backing -- the album was originally released as separate discs, eventually being packaged together as Zwei Welten Komplet. ~ Jason Birchmeier