An Interview with Engelbert Humperdinck

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As winter casts its chill over South Africa, the warmth of legendary British crooner Engelbert Humperdinck’s voice is set to heat Pretoria on Friday, 12 July 2024.  The iconic performer is bringing his ‘The Last Waltz’ Farewell Tour to South Africa this July, promising fans an unforgettable experience.

In a delightful interview with Amelia Hayes, Engelbert, as he prefers to be called, shares his journey, his memories and what fans can expect from his final tour.

The birth of Engelbert Humperdinck

Before he became Engelbert Humperdinck, the singer was known as Gerry Dorsey. His career began in small clubs, where if you didn’t have a hit song, you would have to do more than just sing to captivate your audience. “I couldn’t play an instrument so I did impressions, including a very good one of Jerry Lewis, which led my friends to suggest the stage name Gerry,” he recalls.

However, after battling a long bout of tuberculosis, he found it difficult to re-launch his career. His agent at the time, Gordon Mills, suggested a name change that would alter the course of his life forever.  “Gordon took a song I had written, ‘Stay,’ to Decca Records, initially under Gerry Dorsey, but it didn’t make an impression. So he changed the name on the record and took it back to another executive at Decca and I was signed on the spot under Engelbert Humperdinck!” he reminisces.

“No one calls me by my original name – even my family went along with the change to maintain the persona.” He fondly recalls people making fun of the name too.  Dean Martin, who became a good friend, would call him ‘Humpy Bumpy Lumpy Dumpy’.   

With 300 fan clubs around the world, his most ardent fans also came up with some creative variations of this name, referring to themselves as ‘Humperdinckers’ and ‘Dinglehoppers’, but despite the jokes, the unusual name was to turn into a romantic image, which thrilled him.

Legendary hits

Engelbert’s career skyrocketed with the launching of ‘Release Me’ in 1967, a song that kept The Beatles off the top spot in the UK singles’ charts.  ” The song came out at about the same time the Beatles released ‘Penny Lane and ‘Strawberry Field’ but the record sat on the shelf for three months without much success. Then, I got a last-minute spot on ‘Sunday Night at the London Palladium.’  The next day, record sales soared and the album went on to sell over a million copies,” he says, taking us back to this era.  “I did actually meet Ringo and Paul later—who were most gracious despite me keeping them from their 13th number one hit,” he remembers, with a twinkle in his eye.

In 2022, Engelbert Humperdinck’s 1968 smash hit “A Man Without Love” won over legions of new fans thanks to its appearance in a Marvel Cinematic Universe series called Moon Knight. “It was thrilling to see a song from 50 years ago make a comeback with younger audiences and hit number one again!” he exclaims.

Collaborations and duets

Engelbert has performed with many greats over the years. When asked about his dream collaboration, he found it difficult to pick just one. “I love collaborating with other artists – it keeps you inspired!  I have had the privilege of working with some incredible people like Dionne Warwick, Willie Nelson, Jean Simmons from KISS, Johnny Mathis, Charles Aznavour, the lovely Olivia Newton-John, Lulu, Winona Judd, Kenny Rogers and many, many more.”   

“Right now,” he adds, “Lady Gaga would be a dream duet.  I admire her talent and musicianship immensely.  She did wonderful things with Tony Bennett and she’s definitely one person I would like to collaborate with, if it were possible.  My door is open, let’s put it that way.”

The magic of Las Vegas

In the 1970s, Engelbert was a mainstay in Las Vegas, the entertainment capital of the world, as he describes it, and an amazing place to work.  “Seeing my name in neon lights for the first time was breathtaking,” he says. “ My suite at the Riviera Hotel faced the Marquee where other greats of that era had stood proud; Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr. and now it was my turn.  As I saw those letters go up one at a time it hit me that I had arrived.”

Today, he continues to incorporate elements from those Vegas shows into his performances, delighting audiences with classic hits – the music they want to hear –  like ‘The Last Waltz’, ‘Release Me’, ‘A Man Without Love’ and a song he penned over 30 years ago for his wife, the words to which are still so poignant, that he always includes them, keeping the promise he made to her.

Memorable encounters

Among the countless celebrities and legendary figures with which Engelbert has met and garnered friendships, one interaction stands out: a compliment to Jimi Hendrix on his signature jacket. “Jimi offered it to me, right then and there – but I didn’t take it – a mistake in hindsight!” he laughs.

“Many of my good friends, like Elvis, Sammy and Dean Martin, are in heaven now, but I’ll always cherish being a part of their lives and hold those memories and experiences dear.”

Staying grounded on tour

Engelbert’s extensive touring has led to some unique rituals. “I am a believer, and  always set up a small altar in my dressing room with various saints, idols, and holy water. It’s a ritual that has kept me going and keeps me grounded, and one I will continue until God calls me.”

Reflecting on achievements

With over 150 million records sold worldwide, Engelbert finds it hard to pinpoint his most significant achievement. “I have had a lot of wonderful things happen in my life – too many to count or pick just one.  Back then, you had to sell a million albums to go Gold and over a million to go Platinum so I am especially proud of the many awards and achievements I have amassed and that hold pride of place in my home.   It makes all the hard work tangible,” he reflects.

Advice for aspiring artists

“My advice to aspiring artists is to get involved in all aspects of show business. Write your own material so you can show your range as an artist, and earn residuals rather than just royalties from covering other people’s songs.  And always be ready to seize opportunities,” suggests Engelbert Humperdinck.

Looking forward to South African fans

In the midst of his ‘The Last Waltz’ Farewell Tour, Engelbert remains enthusiastic about performing. “I’ve just come off sell-out shows in Australia. It’s wonderful to know people still love my music. I’ve been in the business for 58 years and I’m not tired of it;  I love doing it! So, is this my ‘Last Waltz’…? We shall have to wait and see,” he says with a hint of a smile.

He expresses his excitement at being in South Africa again: “I’ve always loved visiting South Africa, though I’ve only been here in the warmer months – this time I’ll get to experience a different side of your beautiful country and hopefully get to explore a bit more if time permits.”

Engelbert Humperdinck will be performing on Friday, 12 July at the SunBet Arena, Time Square Casino in Pretoria, and at the Grand Arena, GrandWest in Cape Town, on Sunday, 14 July and tickets are available through Webtickets.  Fans are in for an unforgettable experience if the rave reviews from his sold-out shows in Australia are anything to go by.

Safe travels, Mr Humperdinck, and don’t forget your sweater!

How to book tickets to the Pretoria show

The Pretoria leg of his ‘Last Waltz’ tour takes place at the SunBet Arena at Times Square Casino, a state-of-the-art indoor venue seating 8500 people. The venue has hosted numerous famous live music acts to great acclaim, so audiences can look forward to top-notch sound, food, and amenities. A Cape Town concert will take place on Sunday, 14 July 2024 at GrandWest’s Grand Arena.

Cost: R495pp – R1495pp. Book through Webtickets

When: Friday, 12 July from 8pm
Where: SunBet Arena at Times Square Casino, 209 Aramist Ave, Waterkloof Glen, Pretoria

Website: engelbert.com/tour
Facebook: @TheLastWaltzFarewellTourByEngelbertHumperdinck
Instagram: @thisisengelberthumperdinck

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Discussion3 Comments

  1. Micheline Cholette

    It. Is a very well done interview! Talking about the past, the now and your dreams for the future!
    Congratulations Engel💕👏

    • Christine Falasco

      Your the best Engelbert. Keep on with your great voice we all love to hear you.happy travels to you . And may God bless you along the way.💕💕💕

  2. Helena van Heerden.

    I am a Believer, so I believe that I will have the opportunity to meet this exceptional artist, in Cape Town. I have been an ardent fan since 1964.
    I wish you Enge, success and Blessings. Much love. Safe journey.

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