A German pop singer and tunesmith who enjoyed his greatest success in the '90s, Wolfgang Petry is widely considered to be one of the greatest modern exponents of the style known as schlager, sweet and accessible pop songs with an emphasis on romantic lyrics. Petry was born on September 22, 1951 in Cologne-Raderthal, Germany. When he was just 16, Petry became the head of his household after the death of his father, and had to look after his five-year-old brother. Petry studied engineering and worked in a machine shop, but while he had one eye on practical matters, he was also interested in music, and during downtime from his studies, he formed a band called Screamers (not to be confused with the Los Angeles synth-punk combo), and they toured when his schedule permitted. In 1975, producers Tony Hendrik and Karin Hartmann saw Petry performing at a small club and were impressed enough to sign him to a record deal. Petry's first album, Ein Freund - Ein Mann, appeared in 1976, and it spawned a hit single, "Sommer in der Stadt." It was the first of a string of 11 hit singles Petry would release between 1976 and 1983, most drawn from his first four studio albums.
While he continued to record and tour, the second half of the '80s was a fallow period for Petry, with no charting singles. However, Petry reconnected with his audience while attracting new fans with the 1992 album Verlieben, Verloren, Vergessen, Verzeih'n, with which he turned up his mix of schlager-style pop and vintage rock & roll. Verlieben, Verloren, Vergessen, Verzeih'n cracked the German album charts, and scored a Top 30 hit single with the title track. The 1996 greatest-hits album Alles gave Petry his first number one album, and it also earned him a platinum disc with sales eventually topping two million copies. After the success of Alles boosted Petry's reputation, his next studio album, 1997's Nie Genug, hit number two on the German album charts and also went platinum, while 1998's Einfach Geil! and 2000's Konkret both went all the way to number one. By this time, Petry had become a massively popular live act in Europe, and he assembled a touring band featuring members of the group the Public — guitarists Bernd Kühl and Rolf Pröpper, bassist Axel Kowollik, keyboardist Rainer Jäger, and drummer Richard Schuster. Petry also became a ten-time winner of the Golden Tuning Fork, an award presented by the German music industry for both artistry and commercial success. In 2006, Petry was celebrating 30 years as a recording artist and career sales of over ten million units when he made the surprise announcement that he was retiring. However, like many entertainers, Petry could stay away from his audience for only so long, and in 2015 he released a comeback album, Brandneu, which wasted little time rising to number one on the German album charts. Wolfgang's son Achim Petry is also a successful musician, performing in a style reminiscent of his father. ~ Mark Deming