When he was seventeen, Arnold found himself playing at a pub that sponsored a singing contest. Goaded by his friends to enter, he put down his sax and for the first time revealed another vocal talent: impersonations. He gave a fine impression of Jerry Lewis and was quickly dubbed "Gerry" Dorsey by his friends. It became his professional stage name and he never picked up the sax again.
Gerry was very popular on the UK music circuit until he contracted tuberculosis, which silenced him for six months and nearly snuffed out his rising star. Many people assumed his career was finished. Upon regaining his health, he knew he had to bury his old, somewhat tainted image to make a comeback as a strong, dynamic performer.
Meeting his old flat mate, Gordon Mills in 1965 led to a change of direction, career and name. Mills was a clever manager and promoter who knew that a performer had to call attention to himself in any way possible. His idea for Gerry was to change his name to something that people would remember. He convinced Gerry that an audience would never forget the name "Engelbert Humperdinck", the name of the Austrian composer who wrote "Hansel and Gretel".
Mills was right. Within two years Gerry had a new record deal, and as "Engel Humperdinck", was appearing at the London Palladium, standing in at the last minute for Dickie Valentine. It was the chance of a lifetime and Engelbert took it. His performance was brilliant and the song that did it was the country hit "Release Me". It created a deluge of phone calls the following morning to record shops. Thousands of fans were trying to order his recording of the song and trying to pronounce his name.
A few weeks later the disc was number one in Britain (it sold over five million copies), and he became Britain’s top male singer. For the next six years, he enjoyed phenomenal chart success both in the UK and in America, commanding vast sums of money for appearances. The hit records soon began to pile up, with "There Goes My Everything", "The Last Waltz", "Spanish Eyes", "A Man Without Love", "Am I That Easy To Forget", "Winter World Of Love", and "After The Lovin'" among them.
Several of the major forces in the world of rock n' roll, including Jimi Hendrix and The Carpenters, started out as opening acts for Humperdinck in the late '60's,70's and '80's.
With over 130 million records sold, Engelbert Humperdinck, recorded everything from the most romantic ballads to the platinum-selling theme song "Lesbian Seagull" for a Beavis and Butthead movie. His sense of humour endeared him to millions of fans around the globe and the MTV generation discovered what a magnificent musician the rest of the world has celebrated for decades.
With four Grammy nominations, a Golden Globe for "Entertainer of the Year" (1988) and a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, Engelbert joined in elite group of musical artists, such as Tony Bennett and Burt Bacharach, who have crossed over successfully to strike a new chord with a younger generation, in addition to their core audiences. He has appeared on several MTV programs in the past, including two appearances on "MTV Beach House", "Chilling with the Weaze" and "Oddville."
Engelbert's CD, "Vie Dance Album", was his first album in the dance genre. Released by the red-hot dance label Interhit Records, the album featured newly recorded dance versions of six of Engelbert's greatest hits, along with five original songs. Favourites such as "Quando, Quando, Quando" and "Release Me" are set to an infectious dance beat. The album enjoyed tremendous success, with "Release Me" hitting Top Ten in the Billboard Dance charts. Says Billboard magazine of The Dance Album: "...brilliantly cool...one of the most fun pop/dance albums of the decade."
Few people realize that it was Humperdinck, not Elvis, who made famous the sideburns and flamboyant leather jumpsuits. Engelbert often jokingly asserts that Elvis "stole" the image from him. Nevertheless, the two legends often performed one another's songs, and enjoyed a lasting friendship until Elvis' death. Humperdinck has always enjoyed a healthy rivalry with Tom Jones, and the two actually partnered for ten years and shared Gordon Mills as manager for many, many more.
Humperdinck eventually parted company with Mills to employ his own son in the same capacity, and his daughter Louise, often appeared along side Dad singing duos and solos. She is another talented member of the family having written the words to "Know That We Have Loved Before"; taken from the 1993 album "Engelbert, Yours". His other son Bradley served as his tour manager.
Engelbert went on to appear regularly in Las Vegas and toured throughout North America. In the spring of 2003, he collaborated with producer Art Greenhaw to record the Gospel album "Always Hear the Harmony: The Gospel Sessions"; joining Humperdinck on the album were The Jordanaires and the Blackwood Brothers Quartet. The critically acclaimed album was nominated for a Grammy for Best Southern, Country or Bluegrass Gospel Album of the Year. In August 2005, Humperdinck auctioned his Harley-Davidson motorcycle on eBay to raise money for the County Air Ambulance in Leicestershire, where he spent much of his youth. In September 2007, he released "The Winding Road", as a tribute to British composers. On February 25th, 2009, Leicester City Council announced that Humperdinck would be given the Honorary Freedom of Leicester, along with author Sue Townsend and professional footballer Alan Birchenall.
In 2010, Engelbert released "Tell Me Where It Hurts", an LP which failed to chart in either America or the UK. His 2012 schedule had him appearing in Chile, Lebanon and America as well as working on a new album. In a move that surprised many, the 75 year old crooner was selected to represent the UK at the 2012 Eurovision Song Contest. In March, 2014, Engelbert, who continued to tour regularly, announced that his 80th album, "Engelbert Calling", would feature duets with Elton John, Smokey Robinson, Johnny Mathis, Willie Nelson, Wynonna Judd and Kiss' Gene Simmons. As he maintained a busy schedule of live appearances across the globe throughout 2015, Engelbert announced in September that he was busy preparing a new Country album.
Engelbert was in the news again in October, 2015 after Tom Jones was quoted as saying about their former rivalry, "It's as I say, once a c**t, always a c**t." . Humperdink responded, "To be honest, I feel sorry for Tom always being in a bad mood. Life is too short to hold anger inside. I wish him luck." Engelbert went on to say that he has put the outburst behind him as he prepared for his latest tour of Australia.