Margareta Kjellberg was a Swedish ballad-singer who was famous for her renditions of ballads performed with her own guitar accompaniment.
Margareta Kjellberg was born in Nyadal on the Swedish High Coast in 1916. She grew up in Saltsjöbaden just outside Stockholm. Her family also lived in England for a time. Some of her childhood was spent visiting her paternal grandparents’ Storeberg estate in Västergötland. She was influenced by the music she heard there. Women who worked on the estate would sing ballads and chapbook songs using older singing and performance styles. She not only learned the words and the melodies, but also the style of singing. She also learned simple guitar accompaniments from the younger maids. Her visits to her grandparents’ estate also resulted in her learning to speak the Västgöta dialect.
Margareta Kjellberg’s first radio appearance dates from 1931, but it was as part of the Kar de Mumma 1931 review show at Blanche that she made her actual debut as a singer. She recorded her first gramophone record that same year and then began to appear regularly on the radio to sing. Her major successes include Flickorna i Småland, Under takåsarna i Paris, and a range of chapbook songs. Before the outbreak of the Second World War she also performed with the British pianist and band-leader Jack Hylton – indeed it was his big band which in the main served as a role model for Swedish dance-bands.
In 1937 Margareta Kjellberg married the naval officer Carl Lundqvist. They settled in Karlskrona for a few years before returning to Stockholm. Margareta Kjellberg performed in the ensuing years at a range of events, often singing ballads but mainly performing the top hits of the day. The stages of Sweden’s public parks tended to be her platform and she spent 36 years touring throughout the country. During the 1930s she also appeared in some films, including 33.333 from 1936 and Goda vänner och trogna grannar from 1938.
In 1938 Margareta Kjellberg was elected into Visans Vänner and, along with Karin Juel, became one of the first female members of that society. Visans Vänner had been set up two years earlier by Evert Taube, and others. It served as a place where ballad-writers, ballad-singers, musicians, and artists could meet and as a source of inspiration and exchange of experiences.
Margareta Kjellberg became famous for her renditions of ballads which she often accompanied on the guitar. She had a substantial and comprehensive repertoire, ranging from children’s songs to folk songs and popular tunes and top hits. The songs she performed in the newly-written 1942 production Examen i Djurskolan were aimed at children and took the form of children’s songs in the style of top hits. She had the assistance of her sister Marianne Kjellberg who was good at accurately rendering animal noises. Margareta Kjellberg made several records for children, including Svansen på Skansen-chimpansen. She played the role of Maggie, the story-telling mother, in the family show Sigges Cirkus from 1956–1959. This was the first-ever TV-programme for children and starred Sigge Fürst as a clown.
In the 1960s Margareta Kjellberg was invited to tour North America. She undertook two lengthy tours during which she performed in areas with Swedish heritage, focusing on older ballads. Her distinct and unsentimental renditions of chapbook songs also resounded with the younger generation who enthusiastically requested her appearances at ballad clubs and ballad festivals. As late as 2004 she was still active within ballad circles, despite her then advanced age.
Margareta Kjellberg became known to a wider audience as a story-teller when she and Ewert Ljusberg hosted the Har du hört den förut TV-show from 1983–1996. She continued to tell the type of stories which both her father and her paternal grandfather had told and which she herself had often told during her concerts.
Margareta Kjellberg died in Stockholm in 2005. She is buried at the Norra cemetery in Solna.