He ran away from home at age 18 to become a sailor, and travelled the world. Eventually he came back to Munich where he joined the Simplicissimus cabaret. His works were banned by the Nazis in 1933, and he died a year later of tuberculosis.
His most well-known creation was the sailor Kuttel-Daddeldu. An album of his songs by Agnes Bernelle in 1985 introduced his works to many outside of Germany.