On Jan. 13, 1967, a song called “(Please) Release Me” arrived, and Arnold George Dorsey became a star. He already had adopted the name of a classical composer, Engelbert Humperdinck, a move that caused more than a few laughs at the time but that allowed him to stick in people’s minds for a long time. With a multitude of other hits – “After the Lovin,” “Spanish Eyes,” “The Last Waltz,” among them – his career focused on the music of romance.
Humperdinck is now on a 50th-anniversary tour, playing at Cache Creek on Friday and Saturday (8 p.m.; $59-$89; cachecreek.com), and the number 50 is on his mind.
“I need a hit,” the 80-year-old said by phone from his office. “I need new blood. I’ve realized that I don’t feel my age. I am not going to recognize the passing of the rest of my life. I will be 50 from now on. I will sing 50.
“I am in great physical shape,” he continued. “I was in the studio the other day visiting with this young piano player, and he talked about his exercising with a punch bag. I told him I do that, too, and he couldn’t believe it, so I showed him a picture of me punching the bag. I have a 100-pound bag hanging on my patio. I run on the treadmill also and have a black belt. I studied martial arts under Mike Stone. I can be a bit of a show-off.”
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Humperdinck had just come from a recording session in which he laid down tracks for two brand new songs. The arranger is Johnny Harris, with whom he worked 45 years ago on songs like “From Here to Eternity” and “Quando, Quando, Quando,” “one of the best arrangers the world has ever know,” Humperdinck said.
He is one of the few in the business to love touring. “I like the long trips especially. Last year I went to Egypt, South Africa, Bangkok, Singapore, a lot of places. I was on Egypt Air, the same flight one day later as the one that crashed. They really came out to see me when I arrived at the airport, so happy I did that.”
Humperdinck travels with an eight-piece band but remembers the days when the casinos provided full orchestras. It was great, he says, singing with an orchestra, “but they present problems, the need for a full rehearsal, for instance. Now with the smaller group and some tape boost it’s a sound check and then the show and, boom, it’s over.”
Engelbert’s last album was 2015’s “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” but he clearly misses the bigger releases.
“I want a new contemporary album, something I can make a smash with. You can’t do that with a Christmas album, but you can with a pop album.”