For the Good Times! Engelbert Humperdinck at The Great Auditorium
New Jersey Stage By Spotlight Central
It’s August 6, 2016 — just a typical summer evening in the quaint Victorian town of Ocean Grove, NJ. With the long daylight hours, people are still out enjoying the beach, customers are strolling on Main browsing in the various stores, and there’s even a line at the corner ice cream shop.
But just around the corner, as fans pour into the Great Auditorium for tonight’s live performance, it feels as though somehow, this is not going to end up being your typical Saturday evening at the Shore.
As audience members stream down the aisles of this magnificent 122-year old wooden structure, one can see an eclectic mixture of men and women as they turn to get a quick glimpse of the gleaming stage set with its array of stations for rhythm, horn, and percussion players, along with two microphones on stands in the rear, evidently set up for a pair of back-up vocalists.
One thing that is difficult to overlook, however, is the single microphone on a stand, center stage, which has obviously been oh-so-carefully placed for the icon everyone is here to see tonight — the legendary singer, Engelbert Humperdinck.
In the crowd are fans who have come from near and far to see their idol.
For instance, Dave and his wife, Ann, hail from the Shore. Dave is here to support Ann who skipped out on her 40th high school reunion tonight to see this performance. Behind them, is a couple who traveled all the way from Sri Lanka to New Jersey to be able to experience the show.
There are several folks in attendance from England, happy to cheer on one of their fellow countrymen, in addition to so many of the self-proclaimed “Humperdinckers” — the devoted fans who’ve followed Engelbert’s career for nearly 50 years now. According to several in the crowd, one item still on their “bucket list” is to receive one of the famous red handkerchiefs Humperdinck is known for distributing during the course of his live performances.
Lastly, there’s also a fellow named Jim who proudly says that, since the 1990s, he’s seen Mr. Humperdinck perform “over 60 times.” Jim even brought his wife, Holly, to the Great Auditorium from their home outside Philadelphia so they could experience the music of his favorite entertainer together in this unique performance center.
The lights dim and band members take their places as large screens on either side of the stage fill with images taken of Engelbert through the years. The montage of photographs and videos take the crowd on a sentimental journey of highlights of the “King of Romance’s” 49-year career, reminding the audience of so many of Humperdinck’s solid gold hits along with various tidbits of trivia about his incredible life in show business.
And, suddenly, as the video goes dark, the fans rise to their feet cheering and clapping to greet the legend in person as he graces the stage. Opening with Frank Sinatra’s hit, “That’s Life,” the man, the myth, the legend — Engelbert Humperdinck — sings his heart out, backed by a world-class nine-piece band.
The first thing one notices is the man! He’s a very tall guy, and in great shape, too!
And the second thing one notices is the sound! It’s a big sound, and perfectly balanced for this incredible venue which can hold 7000+ music lovers.
The band is swinging with a young sound that’s fresh and alive!
And Humperdinck’s voice sounds incredibly rich… warm… full…
After enthusiastic applause, Humperdinck greets the crowd with a warm “Hello,” and invites the audience to please say “Hello” back to him.
Of course, they happily oblige, after which Humperdinck replies, “See? Now, I feel more relaxed.”
Humperdinck’s friendly banter puts everyone in the Great Auditorium at ease, as he makes a personal connection with his audience, laughing and joking. He even does some impersonations of some of the notable show business colleagues he’s shared the stage with over the years — notably Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis — which light up the entire venue with smiles.
But it is Engelbert’s singing voice and musicianship that completely steal the hearts of everyone in the theater tonight. Whether he is demonstrating the vocal prowess of his three-and-a-half-octave range on such powerhouse hits as 1968’s “A Man Without Love” or just singing along as his crackerjack Swiss guitarist, Johann Frank, accompanies him on 1977’s “After The Lovin’” — Englebert does not disappoint.
Upon experiencing his music live and in person, most listeners in the house tonight probably feel more like they’ve never quite heard the real Engelbert Humperdinck before! His voice is so big and commanding that it simply cannot be fully captured in a recording, putting him in the company of such other incredible live vocalists as Phil Spector’s “He’s a Rebel” diva, Darlene Love, or the one-of-a kind Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin.
Humperdinck’s command of the stage is also noteworthy as he sings hit after hit along with unique versions of other artists’ songs, notably Boz Scaggs’ “Look What You’ve Done to Me” and Bruce Springsteen’s “I’m On Fire,” much to the delight of his adoring fans. Humperdinck line dances, two-steps, and congas with his back-up singers and shows his versatility singing a wide variety of musical styles as the crowd joyfully sings along on many of his engaging song selections.
Ever the gentleman, Humperdinck introduces and features each of his band members on a show-stopping version of Ray Charles’ “I Can’t Stop Loving You,” pausing, like a proud papa, to watch each musician solo. Taking their turns in the spotlight are: Jimmy Emerzian on sax, Ron King on trumpet, Melissa Sommers on keyboard, Adam Cohen on bass, Johann Frank on guitar, Ric Roccapriore on drums, Aisha Humphrey and Nancy Buche on background vocals, and musical director, David Arana, on grand piano. After the solos, Humperdinck comes back and blows the roof off the place, communicating with his voice and talent just how much he loves performing with his band, and, beyond that, just how much he loves that this audience appreciates them, too.
Over the course of the evening, the good times continue as Mr. Humperdink and his musicians express their joy playing a captivating set of new songs and classics too, which they fill with new life and energy. For most in attendance, it seems truly difficult to comprehend that many of the tunes they are hearing are nearly 50 years old or, for that matter, that Mr. Humperdinck, himself, is 80 years of age!
Highlights include Humperdinck’s 1979 #1 Easy Listening hit, “This Moment in Time,” his US Top 40 hit, “Bicyclettes de Belsize,” and his perennial 60s-era audience favorite, “Spanish Eyes,” perfectly accompanied on the bottom by expert electric bassist, Adam Cohen.
Other numbers which Humperdinck performs include “Save the Last Dance for Me” and a song from his recent “duet” album, Engelbert Calling — which features such singers as Willie Nelson, Smokey Robinson, and Kiss’ Gene Simmons — “There’s Something About the Way You Look Tonight,” with Engelbert singing live with a pre-recorded vocal track done by Sir Elton John.
Lifting the audience to its feet, however, is Humperdinck’s majestic performance of Paul Simon’s “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” a gem which he says is one his late friend, Elvis Presley, liked to perform in concert and one which Engelbert is now eager to include in his shows as well.
Rapidly approaching the end of a magical evening, Humperdinck sings his #1 UK million seller, “The Last Waltz,” the audience wishing that — like the song says — this concert could “last forever,” and 1968’s #1 Easy Listening hit, “Am I That Easy to Forget?,” surely prompting some in the audience to reply, “No! You’re unforgettable!”
Finally, Mr Humperdinck introduces a song which everyone in the Great Auditorium has been patiently waiting for this evening — his enormous 1967 hit which had the distinction in the United Kingdom of preventing The Beatles brilliant “Penny Lane”/”Strawberry Fields Forever” single from reaching #1 and which also became one of the biggest selling singles of all time, “Release Me.”
Exclaims Humperdinck, “I can’t believe this song is 49 years old!,” going on to add, “and, next year, we’ll have a special tour celebrating its 50th anniversary!,” to which the audience mightily applauds.
As Humperdinck sings this classic tune, the crowd joyfully joins in. And when the song modulates up into a new key, the crowd cheers as many begin to rush the stage.
Following the conclusion of the number — audience members on their feet — Engelbert looks out over the crowd, looking both truly humbled and surprised at the incredible reaction he’s getting from his enthusiastic throng of fans.
“Applause is the food of the artist,” he says. “Thank you for not starving me tonight.”
And, in appreciation for their efforts, Humperdinck reciprocates with one last song: “For The Good Times.”
Audience members, hands held high, sway together and sing along as Engelbert sits at the edge of the stage and vocalizes, not only with his gorgeous deep baritone filling up the Great Auditorium, but with his spirit filling up his devoted fans’ hearts.
As the audience continues to stand and clap, Engelbert smiles as he exits the stage and, with a twinkle in his eye, simply says, “I’ve had a good time.”
Although the musical portion of the evening has now concluded, Engelbert surprises everyone and makes his way back onto the stage to throw several of his famous red handkerchiefs to the multitude of fans gathered at the front of the theater.
One excited devotee hands him a pile of “Jersey Shore” T-shirts, which he gratefully accepts, and in exchange, he personally hands her a red handkerchief.
Ever the showman, he then dons a red terry robe, returning as the champ he truly is, air-boxing and throwing one last handkerchief into the crowd before waving “goodnight,” his hands and fingers flashing double “peace signs” — or, maybe, perhaps, “victory” signs?
Exiting into the sweet summer night, audience members can be overheard commenting to one another, revealing things like, “I can’t believe I remembered the words to every song,” “The lyrics take on a new meaning for me now that I’m older and more experienced at life,” and “I just love hearing these great melodies.”
Others make statements like, “Englebert sounds amazing; what a powerhouse! Did you see how far away he held that mike?,” and “I haven’t heard or sung these songs in years, but it was great!”
And what about Jim, our 60-show Engelbert Humperdinck veteran, who along with his wife, Holly, came to spend an evening listening to his favorite octogenarian performer?
“He’s never sounded better,” asserts Jim, while Holly agrees, exclaiming, “Just an incredible show!”
Also chiming in together, “This venue is great…” “… and the sound is great in here, too,” Jim nicely sums things up for many in the house this evening when he declares, “This show makes me want to come back and see the same concert tomorrow.”
And why, might he want do that, you ask?
Of course, as Jim — or A anyone else in the audience at this extraordinary August 6, 2016, Engelbert Humperdinck concert — could tell you:
“For the Good Times!”
For information on Engelbert Humperdinck’s upcoming world tour dates please go to engelbert.com. For more on upcoming concerts at Ocean Grove’s Great Auditorium — including Michael Bolton on Aug. 13; The Orchestra, featuring former members of ELO, on Aug. 20; and the Doo Wop Extravaganza starring The Duprees, Shirley Alston Reeves, The Belmonts, and The Toys on Sept. 3 — please go to oceangrove.org.
At 80, Engelbert Humperdinck's keeping it fresh
Ilana Keller, @ilanakeller 6:14 p.m. EDT July 29, 2016, Ashbury Park Press
Englebert Humperdinck has been driving audiences wild around the globe for a half-century.
But don't think that means he's settled into a groove.
At 80, the legendary performer still is pushing the envelope, evolving his own music, touring the world and keeping things fresh.
"If you don’t learn and you don’t change, you get stagnated and become stale," he said in a phone interview from California. "I think my style has become more modern. I think I’m singing better than I’ve ever done. My voice hasn’t lost its power — three-and-a-half octave range, I haven’t lost it. I don’t eat the microphone."
"I’m so thrilled now because social media is playing a big part in show business," he said. "Audiences put little bits and pieces on social media, people get to know you before you get there. It’s strange, but it’s brought a new dimension to our lives."
Humperdinck catapulted onto the music scene in the 1960s with his smash hit single “Release Me,” which set a Guinness world record with 56 consecutive weeks on the charts. The tune climbed to the top spot in 11 countries — becoming the song that "stopped the Beatles from having their 13th No. 1," he pointed out. He since has sold more than 140 million records, including 64 gold albums and 35 platinum ones and collected four Grammy nominations, a Golden Globe and stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, Las Vegas Walk of Fame and Leicester Walk of Fame. He has performed for millions of fans spanning the globe.
In between recent trips to Egypt, Manila and Singapore and an upcoming New Zealand swing, Humperdinck has two New Jersey shows on tap.
Humperdinck promises a lineup chock-full of his biggest hits, including "After the Lovin' " and "There Goes My Everything," as well as material from his most recent albums and maybe a cover or two.
"I like to see what people think of my version of someone else’s song — challenge myself in that respect," he said.
With the 50th anniversary of "Release Me" approaching, 2017 promises to be a huge year. Humperdinck has a full calendar of celebrations planned, including extensive global touring.
"It’s wonderful to be able to go to all of these different countries and know that they know your music, all due to one record that started it all," he said.
Engelbert Humperdinck He's Still Got It
By Stephen Lavoie, July 24, 2016
Growing up in a middle income suburb, my siblings and I had everything growing kids would need. Like so many households in America, the front living room of your house was off limits for children, that’s where our parents kept the good stuff. Only allowed to enter for special events or if we had some special guests, there was no TV or video game consoles in this room. It was where the best looking furniture resided, forgo the plastic covering, thank goodness, along with some fancy looking glass sculptures, a curio cabinet with an extensive collection of owls of all shapes and sizes, a golden plush carpet, a bookcase adorned with images of butterflies, (we were allowed to enter to access the Enclyopedia set of course), family pictures and delicate heirlooms placed lovingly on the side tables. But what caught my eye, or ear, was this new technology recently added to the room. A quadraphonic sound system which utilised 8-track tapes, the equivalent of todays surround sound but back in the 70’s it was revolutionary for a in-home stereo. And when we had the chance to listen to it, it was something special although quite finiky as far as functionality, the record player was much more reliable. I listened to much of my parents music collection, and there were a batch of artist that I enjoyed also, Harry Neilson, Seal and Crofts, Edgar Winter, the Beatles. And this is where I first heard Engelbert, perhaps not my favourite out of my parents collection, but he was right up there. There weren’t many artist in that era with such a gracious sound, Tom Jones comes to mind or the modern day equivalent may be something of a Michael Bublé.
So went into this one, excited to photograph a living legend, still performing with a vocal prowess that very few performers will ever possess at any age. Unbelievable really, for a man at 80 years old, he knocked it out of the park with his trademark style, a solid mix of video presentations, and a highly skilled backing band.
The setlist was just hit after hit and he had the fans eating out of his hand, it’s always a pleasure to witness such a consummate performer, he made it look easy, with is the sure sign of a pro. A special treat for the almost sold out crowd at Araneta Coliseum, and about midway through a lucky fan was even invited up onstage for a selfie with the band, a silk scarf and a kiss form the man himself.
Towards the end of the concert, when he came close to the edge of the stage, one fan made her way over to shake his hand, soon after that, the flood gates opened and many folks were rushing down front. As security did their jobs and started to get people back in their sets, Engelbert got the attention of the lead security and gestured, let them stay where they are. He even signed an album, posed for selfies, threw silk scarves into the crowd, and shook hands with everyone he could reach, gracious indeed.
An impressive concert indeed, felt fortunate to photograph this one!
Next time, I’m bringing an 8-track tape to ask him to sign.
Here’s a few more images from the show…
Engelbert Humperdinck arrives for Big Dome concert
By: Pocholo Concepcion, Philippine Daily Inquirer, July 8th, 2016
POP singer Engelbert Humperdinck arrived this evening at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport for his scheduled concert on Sunday, July 10, at Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Humperdinck, whose real name is Arnold George Dorsey, has performed in Manila for a number of times in the last few years. He has sold more than 150 million records worldwide, and is regarded as one of the finest balladeers in the music scene.
He started as a saxophone player who played in clubs in the 1950s until he tried singing when friends persuaded him to join a pub contest.
He struggled to make a name for himself until the mid-’60s when he was offered to record three songs including “Spanish Eyes.”
In 1967, his version of “Release Me” went No. 1 in Britain and spent 56 weeks in the Top 50 chart.
In the ’70s he became a regular performer in Las Vegas; by 1976 he had another hit single, “After the Lovin,’” whose album of the same name likewise achieved commercial success.
Humperdinck has kept his career alive at present by touring regularly and recording more albums.
Engelbert Humperdinck performs July 10 at Smart Araneta Coliseum; tel. 911-5555; visit ticketnet.com.ph
A special message for the victorious Leicester City Football Club!
Famous fans wish Engelbert a happy 80th
By Tom_Mack | Posted: May 01, 2016, Leicester Mercury
Engelbert Humperdinck celebrates his 80th birthday on Monday and he has received best wishes of his famous fans.
A Facebook film put together by his record label features the likes of Gloria Gaynor and Neil Sedaka singing and saying 'happy birthday' to the star, who lives in Great Glen.
In the video Grease star Olivia Newton John said: "Happy birthday to the best-looking 80 year old I've ever seen in my life.
"Have a wonderful night."
While several messages include promises to sing duets in the future, country legend Kenny Rogers was not up for it.
He joked: "I'm so happy for you. I will not sing another duet with you because you out-sung me on my song and that's not fair."
American broadcaster Larry King said: "I have ties older than you, Englebert, you're a kid.
"Have a very happy birthday. Don't sign a 20-year mortgage."
The video also features a message from Leicester's own Sam Bailey.
She tells Engelbert: "You're only as young as you feel so just go and feel somebody who's about 25 and you'll be alright."
Speaking about his birthday, the singer said he was enjoying the perfect work-life balance.
He said: "I love touring and meeting people around the world, but I also relish my quiet time at home with my wife, Patricia. I really have the best of both worlds."
Despite being well past retirement age, Engelbert, who was born Arnold George Dorsey in India in 1936, is preparing to head off on a tour of the US, Egypt and Southeast Asia.
He is also planning big things for next year, which will see the 50th anniversary of his biggest hit, Release Me.
Enge, as friends call him, attributes his stamina and longevity in the business to good family genes, a passion for the road and his music, as well as his marriage.
Engelbert and Patricia celebrated their 52nd wedding anniversary last week. The "King of Romance" had to leave his hotel in Canada at 4am in order to fly home for the celebration.
Engelbert's Interview with Larry King
Engelbert’s interview with Larry King on “Larry King Now” will air on his birthday, May 2nd at 2 PM EST on Oratv.com
You can also watch it on hulu or on the RT channel. Links:
On the West Coast -
RT Channel: pending
Dish Network: channel 280
Verizon Fios: channel 455
DirecTV: channel 2148
Verify your local listings for other time zones
and be sure to share with Engelbert your thoughts on the interview!
Happy 80th Birthday Engelbert Humperdinck!
A very happy 80th birthday greeting to Engelbert Humperdinck starring Olivia Newton-John, Micky Dolenz, Neil Sedaka, Kenny Rogers, BJ Thomas, Gilbert O'Sullivan, Jack Jones, Petula Clark, Larry King, Tony Orlando, Gloria Gaynor, Alan Thicke, Pat Boone, Sam Bailey, Ron Sexsmith, Nigel Lythgoe, Tommy Roe, Robin Leach, Doug Sanders, Mauricio Herrera, Marilyn Michaels, and all of us here at OK!Good Records.
Bethel Park woman's fandom leads to special meeting with Humperdinck
BY CHRIS TOGNERI , TribLive, April 16, 2016
The man once known as Gerry Dorsey is dressed in black.
The only splashes of color come from the sparkling silver of diamond rings on his left hand — the one he uses to hold the microphone — and his signature red handkerchief, tucked neatly in his lapel pocket.
He takes the stage and sings:
“Love me with all of your heart, or not at all.”
Four rows and 20 feet away, a smiling lady does. She doesn't remember exactly when she fell in love with Engelbert Humperdinck, only that he has been the soundtrack of most of her adult life.
“He puts on, always, a great show,” says Dorothy Clemens, 87, of Bethel Park. “And it's not always the same show. He changes it up.”
On the stage before her, Wednesday night at Carnegie Library Music Hall of Homestead in Munhall, Humperdinck, 79, is blowing kisses to the crowd. The audience, mostly middle-aged to elderly women, cheers wildly.
This is the second time in a week Dorothy has seen him perform. The first was April 9, her birthday, in Atlantic City. She doesn't know how many of his concerts she has seen — at least 30, she says. She and her daughter, Carol Bykowski, travel at least once a year to see him.
It's not easy. She has to schedule her dialysis around the shows. But it's worth it, Dorothy says.
“He has a great voice,” Dorothy says. “Oh, he's always good.”
Tonight, Humperdinck is definitely on his game.
Accustomed to larger venues, he welcomes his audience to “my living room.” He jokes about Pittsburgh's seasons: “Winter, spring, winter, and under construction.”
The crowd eats up every word, as does Dorothy. She beams at the legend onstage. And she eyes that elusive red handkerchief still tucked into his lapel pocket.
It's a coveted object. At the end of every show, Humperdinck tosses red handkerchiefs into the crowd. Not many — but enough to let them know they have a chance.
“As many times as I've gone to his shows,” Dorothy says, “I'm dying to get one.” She motions to her daughter: “In Ohio, she almost got one. Then, this tall man grabbed it. What was he even doing there? … These women are like cattle. They rush to the stage! You take your life into your hands.”
If she ever gets one, Dorothy says: “I'll hold it in my hands when I'm lying in my coffin.”
Humperdinck removes his coat. He unbuttons the top of his shirt. He holds the red handkerchief to his forehead, then seductively tucks it into his waistband.
Again — the crowd goes wild.
To the outsider, the scene might appear absurd:
An aging crooner with a ridiculous stage name is prancing before screaming elderly women, many of whom hold up cellphones and repeatedly violate the posted concert rules of “no photos, video or flashes.”
What the outsider doesn't see are the memories, long dormant, suddenly rekindled. These aren't old ladies swooning to the antics of an over-the-top performer. They are girls listening with their mothers to vinyl records, scratched from overuse, in a long-ago living room — teens fantasizing over their first crush.
And the man called Engelbert Humperdinck summons those memories. He is not a relic. In this old theater in a faded rustbelt town, he is their fountain of youth.
“On Sundays, when I was little girl, she'd always put his music on,” Carol says of her mom. “She has a CD of his, and she plays it constantly. For Mom, it's about remembering the past, remembering when she was younger.”
Dorothy is not so young these days. Twenty years ago, she was diagnosed with kidney cancer; later, diabetes, which ruined her one good kidney. She has been on dialysis for 10 years, and doctors recently found blood clots in her heart and lungs that cannot be treated. Her cardiologist recently told Dorothy that she will likely have a stroke and die.
The news upset Dorothy. Not that she would someday die — “I've lived 87 years, and if I live to 90, I figure that's a good, long life,” she says. It's the knowing how that bothers her. Had the doctor said nothing, she told Carol, she wouldn't have to worry about it.
It is 9:30 p.m. when the show ends.
Suddenly, women rush the stage. They all know what's next.
Humperdinck tosses the red handkerchiefs into a sea of outstretched arms. One soars through the air, and two women leap. The woman who catches it is knocked to the floor by the woman who does not. The loser apologizes, then returns her attention to the man on the stage.
But the red handkerchiefs are gone. Once again, Dorothy misses out.
Half an hour later, the theater is nearly empty. Dorothy and Carol sit near a side exit, waiting for traffic outside to ease.
Dorothy is getting tired. She pulls her daughter's coat over her shoulders.
Then, 15 feet away, a door leading backstage swings open.
And the man once known as Gerry Dorsey steps through it.
Dorothy's jaw drops. She is a little girl again.
“Hello, sweetheart,” he says.
She tries to stand. He insists she sit. He pulls up a chair and settles in, because this isn't an impersonal, 30-second meet-and-greet. Engelbert Humperdinck wants to talk to Dorothy Clemens, the woman who has followed him to Florida, Nevada, Ohio, West Virginia and New Jersey.
She tells him that she saw him in Atlantic City four days before.
“I'm flattered,” Humperdinck says. “Happy belated birthday, my darling.”
He holds her hand and they talk like old friends reunited. He speaks of his 8-year-old granddaughter and her beautiful singing voice. She introduces him to her faithful daughter.
They talk about old age. “What's the problem?” Humperdinck says. “You can't avoid it. And you're lucky to get there. A lot of people don't.”
He describes to her the thrill of performing, as strong as ever, how he is “reborn” the moment he grabs the mic.
She doesn't need to tell him how she feels when he sings.
He kisses her. Then, he leaves.
Now, it's late. Time to go home.
Mother and daughter walk slowly to their car. As they drive down Eighth Avenue toward the Homestead Grays Bridge, Dorothy turns to Carol.
“I can't believe I actually met Engelbert,” she says. “I can't wait to tell the nurses at dialysis tomorrow.”
Engelbert Humperdinck still loves life on the road
BY DARRYL STERDAN, POSTMEDIA NETWORK
FIRST POSTED: WEDNESDAY, APRIL 13, 2016 08:00 AM CDT, Winnipeg Sun
Engelbert Humperdinck has heard them all.
“I’ve been called Pumpernickel, The Hump, The Dinck,” recalls the 79-year-old crooner with a laugh. “People have definitely made fun of the name. But I don’t mind. I’ve had a lot of fun being Engelbert Humperdinck.”
And even greater success. Since struggling British singer Arnold Dorsey improbably adopted the name of a 19th-century German composer back in 1966, he’s sold more than 150 million albums and topped charts with singles like Release Me (and Let Me Love Again), The Last Waltz and After the Lovin’. And he shows no signs of slowing down as he enters his 80s: Humperdinck has a brand-new country covers album called Runaway Country for sale on his website, a documentary movie in the works and a busy touring schedule that brings him to Toronto on April 15. But the L.A. resident still made time to chat about being a Gene Simmons lookalike, meeting a young Bruno Mars and forgetting the words to Release Me.
Congratulations on your upcoming 80th birthday.
Oh my God. Not yet, not yet. It’s not happened yet. But thanks — you know, it’s better than the alternative.
If somebody told you 50 years ago you’d be doing this at 80, how would you have reacted?
I don’t know. But I never thought I would be going strong at this particular age. But I’m very happy to be doing it, honestly. I love my job. I love what I’m doing. I’m travelling around the world. I still do 90 concerts a year.
Your voice has held up, unlike a lot of your contemporaries. What’s the secret?
Honestly, it’s just luck of the draw that it’s happened this way. Normally the vibrato slows up and the voice drops, but mine hasn’t. Mine has stayed. As a matter of fact, I think I’m singing better than ever. I still get up there. I still have a three-octave range.
You did the duets album Engelbert Calling in 2014 with some unexpected partners. Like Gene Simmons from KISS. How did that happen?
The reason we did that was because my daughter always said, ‘Dad, you have an amazing resemblance to Gene Simmons. You look alike.’ We even took a picture and cut it in half right down the middle of the nose, and there is a tremendous resemblance. So I thought it would be fun to do a song with him. And he was absolutely fantastic.
Are there other contemporary artists you’d like to work with? Do you keep up on today’s music?
I do listen to stuff that is happening in today’s market. I have done an Ed Sheeran song in my show. I would love to rub shoulders with someone like Bruno Mars. Here’s a funny story: When he was about four or five years old, he was the entertainment at a fan club party I had in Hawaii. He was dressed up in an Elvis suit and entertained everyone. I had pictures taken with him. So it would be nice to meet up with him again.
What should we expect from your live show?
Of course, I do my standards, the things that made it possible for me to be where I am. But I also do songs from Engelbert Calling. I do songs from Runaway Country. And then I do some songs that don’t belong to me — things that people would not expect me to sing. So I show the audience that I can sing other people’s material and give it my own stamp.
Do you ever get up there and completely forget the words to Release Me?
Sometimes. So I just make it up as I go along. Everybody seems to enjoy it.