Thus far all of my fellow travelers have hailed from North America. Not so Arnold George Dorsey, who was born of English parents in Madras, India in 1936 and spent his first decade there before his parents moved back to England.
In 1965, after a decade of struggling to establish himself in the music industry, Dorsey teamed up with an old friend, Gordon Mills, who was successfully managing the career of Tom Jones. Gordon suggested a name change, obtained a recording contract with the British Decca label (which released product in the USA under the London and Parrot labels) and helped in other aspects of Englebert’s career.
After a few minor European hits such as “Domage, Domage” Mills and Humperdinck unleashed “Release Me” on an unsuspecting world. The song, a cover of a 1954 Ray Price country hit, featured a sweeping orchestral and choral arrangement topped off by Englebert’s soaring vocals.
Who Was He ?
Engelbert was the biggest global star in the world of classic pop (or pop standards) for the period through 1970. “Release Me went to #4 n the US pop charts, #2 in Canada, #3 in Australia and #1 in England, Ireland and the Netherlands. It’s follow up “There Goes My Everything” went top 20 in the US and top ten in various countries. The single after that, “The Last Waltz”, went to #25 in the US but went to #1 in England, Ireland, Australia and The Netherlands. The single after that one, “Am I That Easy To Forget” returned Englebert to the US pop top twenty.
After that the hits started decreasing in size although he would continue to chart around the world until the end of he 1980s. He charted on the British pop chart as recently as 2012.
What Was His Connection to County Music?
Three of Englebert’s four biggest hits were covers of Americn country hits (“There Goes My Everything” had been a huge record for Jack Greene and “Am I That Easy To Forget” a hit for Jim Reeves and for writer Carl Belew). In addition to covering country hits for his singles, country songs showed up as album tracks on his albums.
Even though Englebert’s records were not charting as country during the 1960s and early 1970s, his songs were receiving some airplay on country radio stations, especially those stations that billed themselves as “countrypolitan” stations. In 1977 Engelbert’s last top ten US pop hit, “After The Lovin'” charted at #40 on Billboard’s Country charts (it reached #31 on Cashbox). Three more singles would chart country for Engelbert, including 1979’s “Til You And Your Lover Are Lovers Again” which cracked the top forty.
Englebert Humperdinck and Dean Martin were my mom’s favorite singers and although Mom wasn’t really a fan of country music, it is significant that both of her favorites were fans of the genre, favorites who helped expose country music, even if only in a limited manner.
When I was very young there were virtually no country radio stations in the Northeastern US; artists like Englebert Humperdinck, Ronnie Milsap, Kenny Rogers, Glen Campbell and Anne Murray who got a lot of airplay on Top 40 radio were my first exposure to country music. Humperdinck’s versions of “Release Me” and “There Goes My Everything” were likely the first ones I ever heard.
Saying that Dorsey “had a name change” to Engelbert Humperdinck is true enough, but it’s worth noting that the name that he adopted was that of a German composer, who wrote the opera “Hansel and Gretel,” and who died in 1921.
I have no idea why he picked that name or what the original Humperdick’s heirs thought about the new Engelbert.
The heirs weren’t wild about the idea – for appearances in Germany, he is simply billed as “Englebert” . I think Gordon Mills picked the name
I imagine the name was quite normal where the original Engelbert traveled, but it sounds comical to Anglo/American ears–or like he’s goofing–like something that a Ray Stevens/Al Yankovic-type singer might adopt. It’s funny that it worked for a love song singer.
The stage name that he was given is that of the prominent late 19th century German composer best remembered for the much-loved children’s opera “Hansel And Gretel”, which is often performed at Christmas in many corners of the world, including here in the US.