How I Took the Hump from Great Yarmouth to Vegas; as Engelbert Humperdinck's Chosen for Eurovision at 75, His Ex-Manager Reveals

Daily Mail (London), March 6, 2012 | Go to article overview

How I Took the Hump from Great Yarmouth to Vegas; as Engelbert Humperdinck's Chosen for Eurovision at 75, His Ex-Manager Reveals


Byline: by Tony Cartwright

WE LOOK back and laugh about it now, but I will never forget the day that I made my old friend Engelbert Humperdinck cry.

It was the mid-Sixties and, together with my partner Gordon Mills, I'd just started managing a new young singing sensation from Wales known as Tommy Woodward: or at least that's what he was called until I saw a film called Tom Jones being advertised outside a cinema in West London.

We decided that would be a better name for our protege and, sure enough, Tom Jones soon had a number one hit with It's Not Unusual, a success which made Gordon and me think we knew a thing or two when it came to re-christening our acts.

Soon afterwards, we took on Gerry Dorsey, an Indian-born singer from Leicestershire, and decided that he, too, could benefit from a new name.

One night, Gordon was reading his children Hansel And Gretel when he remembered that this Grimm Brothers' classic had been turned into an opera by the German composer Engelbert Humperdinck.

We both thought this was a great name -- nobody was ever likely to forget a singer with a name like that.

But Gerry and his wife had a baby on the way and hardly any money coming in, and he didn't think we were taking him seriously.

'I can't carry on like this,' he said with a tear in his eye. 'Who on earth is going to be able to say that name?'

The answer, of course, was the multitude of music lovers who have since helped Engelbert sell 150 million records worldwide and earn him 63 gold and platinum discs, four Grammy nominations, a Golden Globe and a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

It's a testament to his enduring legacy that a man who turns 76 next month has been asked to represent Britain in this year's Eurovision Song Contest.

He may be the oldest entrant in the competition's history, but those on the panel which chose him know what they are doing, because Engelbert still has legions of fans around the world and -- crucially for the competition -- across Europe.

He's the number one act in Russia, and just about every household in Germany, Sweden and the Netherlands has a copy of one of his records.

But, when I first met him in the 1960s, no one, least of all me, could have predicted his future fame and fortune.

In those days, I used to hang out around Denmark Street in London, popping in and out of the record studios and drinking with The Beatles, the Rolling Stones and David Bowie. We spent hours in the Giaconda, a notorious cafe frequented by music industry executives and wannabes.

Gerry Dorsey hung out there, too, hoping to be discovered.

Over coffees, I got to know Gerry, who was one of ten children born to Army officer Mervyn Dorsey and his wife Olive, a violin teacher. Gerry had just turned 30 and confided in me his worries about his singing career.

'I'm so much older than The Beatles and the rest of them,' he used to say. 'I don't think I'm going to get anywhere.'

BACK then, I was a guitarist in a band called The Loving Kind. Engelbert told me that he and his girlfriend, Patricia, were getting married and asked if we'd perform at the wedding.

It was a low-key affair at a church hall in Notting Hill, with only about 30 guests. Since Engelbert couldn't afford to pay us much, he told us we could eat all we wanted. We weren't very popular when we devoured most of the wedding cake.

But things looked up when Engelbert jumped on stage and started to sing. He was a natural, a star.

There was never any question over his voice -- that was incredible -- but Gordon and I had to do some work on his image when we first took him onto the books of our fledgling management company.

He was so hard-up that he had holes in the soles of his shoes, so I'd go to Woolworth's and buy really thick brown paper to put inside them. Then I'd boot-polish it black so you could hardly tell. …

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