Engelbert Humperdinck Reflects on His Career With Billboard Magazine
International music legend Engelbert Humperdinck recently spoke with Billboard Magazine about his impressive 50 year career. The King of Romance discusses his incredible career, his hit ‘Release Me,’ and much more. Read some of the exclusive interview below, but be sure to visit Billboard.com for more.
How does it feel to be celebrating 50 years?
It’s unbelievable. I can’t believe where the time has gone. It’s been exceedingly wonderful. I was over in the U.K. doing promotion and the young ladies in charge made me do some television shows, which helped put me back in the charts. I’m celebrating my 50th year and the Beatles are marking the 50th anniversary of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.
Speaking of the Beatles, when “Release Me” spent six weeks at No. 1 in the U.K., it prevented the Fab Four from hitting the top spot with one of their greatest singles, “Penny Lane” / “Strawberry Fields Forever.”
They were such a monster group, I never thought I stood a chance against them. “Penny Lane” would have been their 12th No. 1. Before it was a hit, “Release Me” spent three months sitting on the shelf. Then I appeared on a TV variety series, Sunday Night at the London Palladium. That exposure made “Release Me” a massive hit. The very next day we had orders for 80,000. The most I sold in one day was 127,000. Fate gave me that TV show.
Did you ever discuss your triumph over “Penny Lane” with any of the Beatles?
When I met Paul [McCartney] and Ringo [Starr], they were too much the gentlemen to even bring it up.
How did you find “Release Me”? Did Gordon Mills bring it to you?
Yes, Gordon found an instrumental version by (British saxophonist) Frank Weir. I heard the melody and thought it could be a hit. I asked if we could find the lyrics. When we heard the words, it was a double whammy for me because they sounded terrific. Then we brought in a great arranger, Charles Blackwell.
Were you familiar with any of the earlier recordings? The song was written in 1949 by Eddie Miller and Robert Yount. Jimmy Heap, Ray Price and Kitty Wells recorded country versions in 1954 and Little Esther Phillips had an R&B hit with the song in 1962.
I never heard any of them before I recorded the song. After, I heard Ray Price’s version. He used to tell his audiences, “This used to be my song.” He always mentioned my name in his shows.
In April 1967, “Release Me” debuted on the Billboard Hot 100, eventually peaking at No. 4. How did you feel about your American success?
It was unreal. After I made it in England, Gordon said we have to go to America. I appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show and the exposure was unbelievable.
Finally, when you were starting out, did you ever think you would one day be celebrating 50 years of your career?
I never thought that. I was just happy to have success at that time. It was always a question in my head about how long it was going to last. If you don’t put out material that’s going to last, you’re not going to last. Over the years, I sold over 150 million records. My music has been my passport to the world, and it’s been amazing for me.
For more visit Billboard.com
Engelbert Humperdinck’s duets album Engelbert Calling is available for purchase at music retailers nationwide and online from our webstore, iTunes, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Google Play, Bandcamp, and Spotify. Humperdinck’s limited edition vinyl, Duets EP, is available for purchase our web-store.
Find all upcoming Engelbert Humperdinck tour dates at: https://www.engelbert.com/tour