When Engelbert Humperdinck met Elvis Presley

Singing superstar Engelbert Humperdinck is embarking on a new world tour at the age of 87.

The iconic vocalist shot to fame in 1967 when his hit single, Please Release Me, made the top ten all over the world, selling more than one million copies.

Today, he’s showing no signs of slowing down by going back on the road in 2024, taking in venues across four countries on a gruelling 13-date tour.

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Humperdinck has been making guest appearances on UK television to promote his tour, which includes live shows in the UK, Australia, the US and Malaysia.

The media frenzy surrounding the legendary artist’s world tour has unearthed new details about his enduring friendship with another musical icon: Elvis Presley. Of a similar age, the two shared the smooth vocals and smouldering good looks that earned them a large female following in the 1950s and ‘60s.

While Presley was a raw rock ‘n’ roller, Humperdinck followed a more conventional road to success, embarking on a pop career that has lasted an incredible 68 years to date.

After meeting Presley in the 1960s, Humperdinck revealed they remained friends up until the icon’s untimely death in 1977, at the age of 42.

He has spoken of how they coped with the pressures of fame during their peak performing years, describing Presley as, “the person who left a great impression on me”.

Who is Engelbert Humperdinck?

Humperdinck was born Arnold George Dorsey in Chennai, India, in May 1936, to Olive and British Army officer Mervyn Dorsey.

The family moved to Leicester in 1946, when Humperdinck started taking an interest in music.

In the early 1950s, he was playing saxophone in local nightclubs, but in his late teens, he decided to become a singer instead. However, his career was interrupted by compulsory National Service with the British Army’s Royal Signals Corps.

After being discharged, Humperdinck won a talent show in 1958, which led to the single Crazy Bells on Decca Records, but it wasn’t a hit.

In 1965, he began working under new manager Gordon Mills, who suggested a name change to Engelbert Humperdinck, after the well-known German composer. This seemed to kick-start the singer’s career, as he enjoyed his first chart success in Belgium with Dommage Dommage in 1966.

The following year, Humperdinck recorded Please Release Me, a ballad written by popular song writers Robert Yount and Eddie Miller. He was catapulted to success when it topped the UK charts and reached number four in the notoriously hard-to-crack US Billboard Hot 100 chart.

It remained in the top 50 UK singles for 56 continuous weeks and was selling 85,000 copies daily at the peak of its success.

Famous meeting

Engelbert Humperdinck and Elvis Presley were two of the biggest names in show business in the late 1960s.

Presley was one year older but had enjoyed chart success since the release of his 1954 single, That’s All Right, when he was still a teenager.

Humperdinck had spoken of his admiration for Presley, describing him as, “one of my inspirations”. After playing his music on the jukebox, Humperdinck liked what he heard, but admitted, “Little did I know I would befriend this wonderful artist and man.”

More than a decade later, Presley surprised Humperdinck by turning up at one of his shows in Las Vegas, where they were both headlining in the late 1960s. They became friends from the outset – and Humperdinck later said Presley’s true personality, behind closed doors, was nothing like his confident superstar stage persona. He later described “The King” as “one of the most humble and kind people” he had ever met.

Humperdinck enjoyed many famous meetings with fellow stars of the day at the peak of his success, but Elvis was the one person who left a “great impression” on him. Although, sadly, they never sang together, they became good friends.

While working in Las Vegas, they would go and watch each other’s shows. They admired each other’s work immensely and Humperdinck recalled telling Presley he would like to record some of his songs. This was mutual and the two stars made separate studio recordings of the same songs, including Spanish Eyes and the gospel song, Put Your Hand in the Hand.

Sideburns and stage moves

It became a private joke between them that they would “steal” things from one another. In 2022, Humperdinck admitted he stole a few of Presley’s moves on stage! However, he told Billboard magazine, “He stole something from me – my sideburns!”

Humperdinck had long sideburns growing down each side of his face from around 1965 and said Presley started growing his only in the early 1970s. They joked about the distinctive hairstyle, with Humperdinck accusing his friend of “stealing” it! Presley had readily admitted this, replying, “If it looks good on you, it’s going to look good on me.”

Humperdinck’s sideburns were something few people were wearing at the time. His manager, Mills, didn’t like them and said, “Chop them off, they look stupid!” but the singer stuck with the “crazy” hairstyle and insisted he was creating an image – claiming other singers such as Kenny Rogers and Glen Campbell later copied him.

As one of the closest friends of Elvis Presley, Humperdinck also had some serious conversations with the star.

Presley said it was important to “remain humble and grounded”, despite enjoying massive fame. Humperdinck adopted the same attitude, realising the celebrity status never went to Presley’s head because he didn’t take his public image too seriously.

Today, Humperdinck still believes humility is a “great thing to have in one’s life”. He will never forget how Presley gave each performance his all, describing him as “unbelievable”. Following the tragic death of Elvis Presley in 1977, Humperdinck paid tribute, saying, “He was the greatest artist I’ve ever seen on stage.”

Presley had confided in his bodyguard that he felt Humperdinck was like a “twin brother” to him, according to a report on the Elvis Presley Fans of Nashville site.

World tour 2024

Humperdinck says he still gets the same buzz from performing as he did in his youth, describing walking out on stage as the only time he’s “really happy”. The love songs feel more poignant now, because sadly, his beloved wife of 58 years, Patricia, passed away in 2021.

During his long career, spanning almost seven decades, Humperdinck has amassed 64 gold and 35 platinum albums. He has performed for the late Queen Elizabeth II and for several US presidents.

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