Weekly Local Biography

 Eckard Schutte

Mein host at the Grillstation German restaurant is Eckard (Gypsy) Schutte, a man who has rubbed shoulders with the Rock and Roll greats, and even had a celebratory champagne with Tina Turner, but now is happy to be resident in Chiang Mai where he has been for the past 16 years.

Christened ‘Eckard’ he is known throughout Europe and many other places in the world as ‘Gypsy’. I began the interview by letting my natural curiosity come out. “How did you get the name, Gypsy?” He replied, “I used to take care of VIP rock bands all over the world. I was travelling, travelling, travelling.” For 10 years he lived out of a suitcase, touring with the bands, living the nomadic lifestyle of a gypsy, and the name stuck. And is still used today.

Gypsy was born in Siegen in Germany to a bank clerk and his chef wife. By the time he was 10 years old, his mother had bought the restaurant, and being a family business, he worked there after school helping his mother in the kitchen, which he did for the next seven years.

However, by the time he was ready to leave school his mother was too old to run the restaurant (Gypsy is the youngest in the family and described himself as “one of those accidents”) and so he went to study interior design for two years.

Following this, the German Army was keen to have him for his compulsory national service and he signed up for two years. At that period he was not to know that national service would change his life forever. He had become reasonably proficient in English and ended up working as liaison for the American forces stationed there, finally becoming what was known as a ‘guest’ soldier with the Americans. By the time his two years were up he was very proficient in English and understood the American way of thinking. It was this that was to shape his life’s direction.

After coming back into civvy street, he worked for an interior design group, but then landed a job as a merchandiser for the Warner Music company. This was when his imaginative talents in promotion came to the fore. The Eagles launched a new record and Gypsy borrowed a life-size stuffed eagle from the Munich Hunting Museum, to use in the promotion. This won him acclaim, an award, and a telephone call from the management of the Eagles. Gypsy had to begin packing that suitcase and he was on his way.

He was promoted within Warner to become involved with liaison between the music artists and the radio and TV media. He also began to forge a link with the BMW car company, realizing that it was a win-win situation to have international stars being seen ferried round in new BeeEmms. It also gave him a nice new car to drive as well!

However, his talents began to burgeon even outside the music industry, and he began to work for himself, organizing sporting events such as tennis tournaments and soccer matches as well as the expanding rock shows.

But the shows got bigger and bigger and the demands became greater and greater. His expertise was such that world names such as Bruce Springsteen would ring from America and ask for Gypsy to handle his tours. One group would not have gone home before the next had arrived in Germany and he would repack the suitcase and head off again. “I could see the differences between the rock bands from the US, the UK or Australia. I was good with people.” Those bands also read as the ‘Who’s Who’ of the 70’s and 80’s. U2, ZZ Top, Fleetwood Mac, AC-DC, Queen, Huey Lewis, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, and Phil Collins. As part of his job, Gypsy was also the one to introduce the bands on stage to the audiences, in some cases up to 180,000 people. He was also the one who had to announce that a band was late, or perhaps not coming. There’s always a downside!

However, an ‘upside’ was the fact that many of the touring bands also liked Gypsy’s favourite sport - Formula 1. The BMW association made sure that he could take his entertainers to the F1 race meetings, and for the two seasons before he left Europe he was one of the few people who could park in the ultra-restricted Paddock car park at the Grands Prix.

It was during those 10 mad-cap years on the road when he met Tina Turner. “She got engaged in my BMW after her boyfriend asked me if I could get them some champagne. I got them a bottle and three glasses and had a drink with them.”

With so many acts, it was difficult to get Gypsy pinned down as to those that left the greatest impressions, but he did mention Pink Floyd. “I did the German ‘Wall’ tour. They were always something special.” He also singled out Sting, saying that he was the most intelligent man he had ever met.

In 1981, on one of the infrequent holidays that he could squeeze in between rock concerts, he came to Thailand and met a young Thai lady working in a travel agency in Bangkok. Smitten, he took her back to Germany where they were married, but the suitcase life began to pall when there was a reason to want to live at home. It was time for the gypsy to put down some roots.

The most logical was to come to Thailand where his (now ex-)wife’s family were living - Chiang Mai. The knowledge gained from years of making Wiener Schnitzels in Mum’s restaurant had not been forgotten, and so his return to the restaurant business also seemed logical.

Sixteen years later, he is still in the restaurant business with his Grillstation. He still listens to 70’s and 80’s rock and roll and watches F1 on TV. Now remarried, the Gypsy’s caravan has finally stopped!