This thread is all about pop singer Engelbert Humperdinck and notable people and things associated with him. You might recall him from several mentions in my alternate/revised biography of Elvis. The emergence of Engelbert to prominence and superstardom sparks a hotly contested rivalry with the King of Rock and Roll.
Engelbert Humperdinck Quick Facts
Born: May 2, 1936 in Madras, India
Birth Name: Arnold George Dorsey
Country: United States
Origin: Los Angeles, California
Years Active: 1955-present
Principal Genre: Pop
Additional Genres: Traditional pop, vocal, easy listening, big band
Height: 6 ft., 1 1/2 in.
Short description: American singer
Engelbert Humperdinck is an American singer, known for his smooth traditional pop style, and is an icon known internationally as the “King of Romance”. Born in Madras, India, and raised in Madras and Leicester, England during his youth, Humperdinck moved to the United States as his permanent residence in 1955. Two years later, he became a naturalized US citizen, largely as a result of his sudden rise to superstardom in America.
When Engelbert made his breakthrough in 1957, he carried traditional pop (a genre associated with artists such as Frank Sinatra and Nat King Cole) out of the slump it had fallen into since rock and roll emerged and became popular, and thus it experienced a sort of renaissance, known as the Traditional Pop Revival. Not only was traditional pop a fashionable genre once again, but Engelbert’s rise to superstardom sparked a rivalry with none other than Elvis Presley, the King of Rock. All this serves as a major landmark in the history of rock and roll, as iconic figures such as Elvis and Chuck Berry push to keep rock very much alive and in competition with traditional pop (by way of the Traditional Pop Revival) and other popular genres.
Engelbert was popular throughout the United States (with huge fan clubs in major cities such as New York, Chicago, Las Vegas, and of course his hometown Los Angeles), and soon after much of Europe (including England, his former home country). Engelbert Humperdinck received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1962, and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1986, alongside Elvis Presley and several others.
A museum dedicated to the pop singer, and memorabilia associated with him, opened its doors in Los Angeles, California in July 1982. The opening of the Engelbert Humperdinck Museum was part of the celebration of the 25th anniversary of the release of the first single and album in which the former Arnold Dorsey was credited as "Engelbert Humperdinck". The 25th anniversary celebration noted not only the name change, but also the singer's rise to superstardom that followed the release of the single and album.
Engelbert Humperdinck was born Arnold George Dorsey on May 2, 1936 in Madras, India, one of the ten children born to Mervyn Dorsey, a British Army officer stationed there, and his wife Olive. In 1946, the year after World War II ended, the Dorseys left Madras and relocated to Leicester, England. During his nine years living in Leicester, Arnold Dorsey found an interest in popular music of the day and initially took up playing saxophone as an early teenager. By 1953, he quit playing his saxophone, gave it away, and began singing in local venues. While working at a typical job to support himself and his family from then until 1955, his regular hobby was as an amateur singer in Leicester. During this period, due particularly to his desire to pursue a career in music, Dorsey avoided conscription by filing under conscientious objection. As a side note, conscription was in effect in the UK at the time, and would remain so until 1960. The UK policy of conscription and Dorsey’s conscientious objection helped influence his decision to move to the United States in 1955. When performing at venues in Leicester, he primarily sang jazz and traditional pop standards.
While Joey Marcello and Dave Parry, two men of relative obscurity working in the music industry at Los Angeles’s Columbia Records division, were vacationing in England (visiting Parry’s extended family in London and Leicester) during mid-April 1955, they witnessed one of Dorsey’s gigs at a Leicester venue one night. The two men had intended on finding an amateur singer to observe, as they had had little or no luck finding talent that appealed to them from Los Angeles, London, and their surrounding areas. They wanted to create a counterrevolution to rock and roll, which was becoming increasingly popular in the United States. At that time, Marcello was working as a record producer and manager, and Parry worked alongside him in record producing. They began their search for Dorsey’s address the following day, and they obtained it the day after.
On April 24, 1955, the day after returning home to Los Angeles, Marcello wrote a typewritten letter in two paragraphs to Dorsey with Parry’s help. In the first paragraph of the letter, Marcello provided a description of who he was, and explained how he and Parry knew about Dorsey and how they came across witnessing his singing act at that Leicester venue that fateful night during their stay in England. Very positive comments about his vocal performance and talent were also mentioned. In the second paragraph, Marcello wrote his suggestion in a convincing manner that Dorsey relocate to Los Angeles, explaining why Dorsey would be better off and more successful in the United States than in England. In this paragraph, he also briefly praised the rich popular music culture America had had since jazz became popular in the 1920s, noting styles of American popular music and names of famous American popular singers and musicians; as well as the prosperous cinematic climate in Los Angeles and its surrounding areas. Marcello concluded the second paragraph with an opportunity inviting Dorsey to audition at Columbia Records as soon as he could, if in the event he decided to move to Los Angeles. At the end of the letter was Marcello’s signature under the “Yours Truly” and his name in print. The letter was sent from Marcello’s home address, with his name and position as a producer at Columbia Records noted.
When Dorsey received the letter envelope-sealed in the mail, he was delighted to see from the information of the sender on the envelope that a producer at a major record label had written to him. After reading the actual letter, not only was he more excited, but was convinced that he should leave his native England in order to pursue his dream, and was anxious about coming to audition. Dorsey then wrote a letter back to Marcello, expressing in the letter his acceptance of Marcello’s advice and the opportunity the sender had offered him. He then obtained a passport and took his time after that to gather necessities and his personal possessions for the new life awaiting him before saying goodbye to his family, promising them he would be back for visits, and leaving for Los Angeles.
Dorsey arrived in Los Angeles on August 1, 1955, and settled into a local apartment soon after. From that point on, he became eager to embrace the American way, and started taking courses required to obtain American citizenship almost immediately. Among the courses Dorsey took were lessons on American English grammar and pronunciation. By June 1956, he had completely lost his English accent, had become totally accustomed to reading and writing in American English, and was fluent in American English vernacular. From August 8, 1955 to October 26, 1956, Dorsey worked as a janitor at a local division of a major fast food chain, which was enough to make ends meet toward the rent at his apartment. During this period, he also made a name for himself as a singer in venues across Los Angeles. However, the first few months in the United States were quite rough for Dorsey, and his professional career was not received very well in the beginning. In September 1955, he cut his first single at Columbia Records’ Los Angeles division, with Joey Marcello and Dave Parry producing. The single was released the following month and was a flop. Dorsey went back to Columbia Records on September 1, 1956 and applied for his audition. That day, he excelled at the audition, with Marcello, Parry, and executive Mitch Miller listening and observing. Following this, Marcello became Dorsey’s manager and regular producer. On September 15, he recorded his second single, also with Marcello and Parry producing. The single was released October 9, and while it never made any chart of hits, it sold well enough so that Dorsey quit his old janitor job at the end of the month, then moved out of his apartment and bought a decent house. He remained a singer primarily at local venues until the following year. The next two singles he made were recorded in December 1956 and March 1957, and released in January and April 1957, respectively. Both singles also failed to chart, but also sold well like the first single. From September 1956 to June 1957, Arnold Dorsey was not a well-known name outside of the Los Angeles area, though he was still very successful. But without a name change, Marcello knew that the singer would be doomed to becoming a merely regional phenomenon.
Since Marcello recognized that both he and Parry shared surnames with notable classical composers, he decided to give Dorsey a composer name. On the night of June 8, 1957, Marcello looked through the names of noteworthy composers in classical music books he owned until he came across and decided on Engelbert Humperdinck (German composer of the late Romantic era, 1854-1921); due to the first name sharing a first letter in common with that of the name Elvis, which is in turn due to the superstardom of Elvis Presley; and the fact that Engelbert was an unusual name. Dorsey was "renamed" that the following morning, and the singer dyed his hair black (to honor Marcello) and recorded a new single later that day, which was produced by Mitch Miller in addition to Marcello and Parry. The single, under his new stage name and with a photo of his new look printed on the front of the cover, was released July 2, 1957 on a national scale; and due to the name change, it easily entered the top 100 singles in the week of its release, climbing to #2 two weeks later. In late July 1957, the singer was officially made a United States citizen, due to his sudden gyration to popularity and superstardom, and his strong commitment to become an American. The single maintained the #2 spot for a few weeks until it finally reached #1 on August 12, 1957, where it remained for five consecutive weeks. By this time, Humperdinck sold his old house and used his earnings to buy a more decent house, a mansion built in 1955, the year he moved to America. The July 1957 single, which launched Engelbert Humperdinck to a level of superstardom comparable to that of Elvis Presley, led to an ongoing string of hits for the singer. He scored at least one hit making the top 10 every year, until the pattern stopped temporarily in 1964, with the onset of the British Invasion, although entries into the top 40 continued without skipping any year at all until after 1980.
Starting in 1964, his main songwriting team, consisting of Marcello as songwriter and Parry as lyricist, began to lose its steam as the main formula for Humperdinck’s success. This was due to their style being “behind the times”. When Welsh singer Tom Jones came out with his first hit “It’s Not Unusual” in 1965, Marcello and Parry took notice of this and started blending the Tom Jones mold into their songwriting style (considered outdated) used for Humperdinck and some others Marcello produced for. Simultaneously, Humperdinck incorporated Jones’ singing style and blended it with one similar to that of Tony Bennett, and adopted this as his new vocal style. (Before 1965, his vocal style was similar to that of Johnny Mathis and Paul Anka.)
Humperdinck’s vocal style beginning in 1965 was imitated by British pop singer Richard Strauss (my invention, born Richard Henry Harris in London on March 23, 1939) starting at his debut in 1966. Despite the style change for Humperdinck, he was still not scoring big like he used to (Humperdinck’s songs from this 1964-1966 period did not achieve mainstream appreciation until much later in his career.) Meanwhile, Strauss had fairly major success in the United States, and was very popular in England and continental Europe. Finally, late in 1966, Humperdinck started looking toward new directions, taking interest in songs recorded by Tom Jones and Richard Strauss. He grew sideburns imitating those of Strauss and began focusing more on recording songs of American songwriters other than Marcello and Parry, as well as recording ones written by songwriters from England and continental Europe (he has been doing such things throughout his career, but it was especially strong during the 1966 to 1969 period). During the summer of 1966, Humperdinck arranged visits and contracts with songwriters throughout Western Europe, including Bert Kaempfert in Germany, before his return to Los Angeles shortly afterward. Shortly after his return, he helped campaign for future US President Ronald Reagan in his run for Governor of California. After Reagan won the California governorship by a landslide, Humperdinck got down to business and recorded a series of singles and albums that would return him to international popularity and success.
He recorded the first of these series in mid-November 1966, with all three men who produced his first #1 hit reuniting to produce the initial single of the series. The new single, "Release Me", a cover of a popular country music song first recorded in 1946, was released in the US in December 1966. The B-side of “Release Me” was “Ten Guitars”, a song written overseas for Humperdinck by Gordon Mills (1935-1986). Mills was based in London and was born in Humperdinck’s birthplace to British parents. While Humperdinck was in a slump, Mills had been working successfully as the manager of and a songwriter to Tom Jones and Richard Strauss, both of whom he had given their name changes and brought to fame. “Release Me” soared relatively quickly to #1, and brought him to his latter heyday. It replaced The Monkees' "I'm a Believer" in January 1967 and remained on top of the charts for six weeks. As a result, Marcello and Parry were reduced primarily to writing songs almost exclusively for Humperdinck’s new albums for a while, although Marcello produced (or helped produce) every song by Engelbert Humperdinck from his beginning until September 1975. For every hit single written by English or European songwriters, the flip side was written by Americans, and vice versa. (One example is “The Last Waltz”, written by the English team of Barry Mason and Les Reed. The B-side was “Beautiful Dreamer”, written by the 19th century American songwriter Stephen Foster.) This pattern ended with the Mason/Reed song “Winter World of Love”, which was recorded in October 1969 and released the following month, becoming Humperdinck’s 14th US #1 hit in December.
Soon after this, Marcello and Parry made a comeback, experiencing a revival with “Los Angeles (My Kind of City)” (another invention/idea of mine), recorded by Humperdinck in March 1970 and released in April (although Marcello and Parry wrote lyrics in English for the song “The Way It Used to Be” (a song already existing in this version of history with different lyricists)). As Marcello and Parry were experiencing their revival, Humperdinck helped campaign for Governor Reagan once again. Reagan went on to win reelection by an even bigger landslide than he had upon his initial election. The singer remained in the latter part of his heyday until 1977, although Marcello retired from his major musical practices in September 1975, with Humperdinck leaving the label for Epic Records. Engelbert’s biggest hit on the Epic label was “After the Lovin’” in 1976. On October 7, 1977, as the end of his heyday was near, Arnold George Dorsey changed his legal name to Engelbert Humperdinck.
Despite Marcello’s retirement from producing, managing, and songwriting, he has remained the singer’s musical mentor and a close friend of his. Marcello also is responsible for suggesting that, excluding the sideburns Humperdinck had during the late 1960s and early 1970s, the singer should remain clean-shaven like Elvis, who had also sported sideburns for several years. Humperdinck accepted Marcello’s suggestion, as well as his musical advice throughout the years. He has remained popular after 1977, and is still performing to this day. In 1980, as his overall heyday was coming to a close, Engelbert Humperdinck backed Ronald Reagan for President of the United States. Reagan went on to defeat incumbent President Jimmy Carter by a lopsided margin in both the popular and electoral vote, winning 49 out of 50 states. (Reagan won both his home state of California and the general presidential election of 1980 by much over 60%. Reagan’s landslide election to the US Presidency broke all previous popular and electoral vote figures, though it would stand only until 1984, when Reagan was reelected President, carrying all 50 states. In the popular vote, Reagan beat his previous percentage by a considerable margin.)
Throughout his career, Humperdinck has been the chief rival of the hugely famous singer-songwriter Elvis Presley. He has also been compared to Presley since they are close in height and are both classified as having a baritone vocal range, among some other things. Throughout his overall heyday, which lasted from 1957 to 1980, he was nearly as famous as Presley due to his smooth, relaxing style and vocals which contrasted with the upbeat rock and roll styles existent in many of Presley's songs. Altogether, Humperdinck's consecutive string of top 40 hits lasted from 1957 to 1980. Although both Elvis and Engelbert still maintain huge fan bases stretching around the world, Engelbert's fame and singing career waned slightly between 1980 and 2001. However, Engelbert, like Elvis, has experienced resurgence in popularity since the events of September 11, 2001. A 25th anniversary anthology featuring songs from 1957 to 1980 by Engelbert Humperdinck was released on LPs and cassette tapes starting August 31, 1982; it was released on CDs starting August 25, 1987. Engelbert Humperdinck lives in Los Angeles, but also has a residence in Las Vegas.
Engelbert Humperdinck married his first wife, Elizabeth Margaret “Liz” Adams (my invention, born in Los Angeles on October 30, 1937), in Los Angeles on January 19, 1958. Their daughter Jennifer Rose “Jen” Dorsey Baxter (my invention, born November 6, 1958) has been a tomboy since age 2; she is a Broadway and film actress. Their son Michael Joseph Dorsey (my invention, born November 13, 1959) is a singer like his father. Engelbert’s marriage with Liz was short-lived and ended in divorce June 2, 1960. He married his second wife, Victoria Anne “Vicki” Gilbert (my invention, born in Los Angeles on April 17, 1938), in Los Angeles on January 7, 1961. They remain happily together in marriage and had three sons and one daughter together. They are Cynthia Olive Dorsey Pratt (my invention, born November 21, 1961), Jason Mervyn Dorsey (born November 30, 1962), Scott David Dorsey (born June 16, 1964), and Bradley Mitchell “Brad” Dorsey (born March 16, 1968). All six of Engelbert’s children were born in Los Angeles. Cynthia Dorsey Pratt (who has been married to James Franklin “Jimmy” Pratt (my invention, born January 3, 1960 in Los Angeles) since November 28, 1982) is an actress best known for voicing various characters in children’s animated television series, particularly in Disney’s Baby Talk (1993-1996) (invention/idea of mine), which was produced due to the great success of Nickelodeon’s Rugrats (1991-2004). Additionally, Cynthia Dorsey Pratt is a longtime childhood acquaintance and friend of E. G. Daily (also born in Los Angeles in 1961), who provided the voice for Tommy Pickles in Rugrats, before lending her voice to Buttercup in both versions of The Powerpuff Girls.
- Engelbert’s American citizenship was also fueled in part by popular demand following press releases stating that he had such a commitment to become an American citizen, and that he had plans of renouncing his old British citizenship once he became a US citizen. During the second weekend of August 1957, after obtaining an American passport, and over two years after he departed from England, Engelbert did just that. He visited there in part to forfeit his British citizenship, due to being eager to break national ties with the UK; he also visited his parents in that same visit for a week. Engelbert’s parents were still living in his former hometown of Leicester. Before Engelbert became internationally famous, he made one week-long visit per year to his family in England; he made such a visit in the summer of 1956, as well as the one in August 1957. Despite giving up his British citizenship as well as nationalistic and patriotic ties to the UK, Engelbert has never lost his admiration for England and its culture, as well as admiring other countries and cultures throughout the world.
- Originally, E. G. Daily voiced Buttercup in the two Powerpuff Girls What-A-Cartoon shorts, which were originally seen on Cartoon Network. She then went on to reprise this role in the two Powerpuff Girls series, the first (1998-2002) being a moderate hit for Cartoon Network, the second (2011-????) being a show with such enormous popularity that it has become the most-watched show on American television. To avoid confusion with the current timeline or version of history, the original Powerpuff Girls will be much less popular next time around, which will open the doors for the 2011 remake to become such a huge hit. The person largely responsible for the remake is none other than myself. I’ll remake the show since I mostly hated the original as it went downhill from the time the titular girls brutally assaulted an innocent clown who had no evil intent despite having an evil alter ego, which was out of his control. Cartoons such as The Powerpuff Girls will be covered in another revised history series.
- Joey Marcello (born 1918) is an American record producer, music manager, and songwriter turned pizzeria owner of my invention. Full name Joseph Alexander Marcello, and born March 30, 1918 in the Bronx, the youngest of 15 children of Italian immigrants, he grew up musically in a strictly classical background. He didn’t develop a keen interest in popular music until the early 1950s, when he became oriented with jazz and traditional pop, and at that time those genres were falling out of favor to the emerging genres of R&B, doo-wop, and rock and roll. Engelbert was the first successful recording artist he worked with. Besides his work with Engelbert, Marcello worked with numerous other successful popular music artists alongside his songwriting partner Dave Parry, such as Jacob Williams (another invention, full name Jacob George Williams, born July 23, 1923 in Bessemer, Alabama, died December 18, 2021 in Los Angeles) and Kirby Blake (another invention, full name Kirby Walter Blake, born September 13, 1937 in Los Angeles). Joey Marcello largely retired from the music industry in 1975 and opened a pizzeria/Italian restaurant with his son Peter in Los Angeles soon after. It was the following year at this restaurant where his invention, Los Angeles-style thick-crust pizza, was introduced as “Pizza Marcello”. The culinary invention became officially renamed LA-style thick-crust pizza a few years later, establishing the city of Los Angeles as a Mecca for pizza alongside New York City and Chicago. I’ll elaborate on Joey Marcello later on in this article series.
- Dave Parry (1913-2022) is an American singer, lyricist, and record producer of my invention. Full name David Francis Harold Parry, and born March 20, 1913 in Los Angeles, the youngest of 10 children of English immigrants, he began his professional career as a singer in 1931 and remained with his singing career with average success until quitting in 1954, when he began working with Joey Marcello. In his songwriting partnership with Marcello, Parry generally wrote the lyrics while Marcello composed the music. Dave Parry died May 18, 2022 at the ripe old age of 109. I will also elaborate on Dave Parry later on.
- In the current timeline or version of history, Engelbert is often compared to and associated with Tom Jones (born 1940), who rose to fame in 1965 as part of the British Invasion, with Engelbert not rising to fame until the late 1960s (and putting Engelbert in his early 30s)! Thus Engelbert and Tom Jones were considered rivals. In my version of history, however, things are much different, in that Engelbert (born 1936) rivals Elvis (born 1935) instead. Also, since Engelbert was born in 1936, that makes him 21 in 1957, and that matches the age of Elvis when he scored his first chart topper with "Heartbreak Hotel" in 1956. The emergence of Engelbert to fame taking place at the earlier date of 1957 strongly contributes to Elvis largely helping to keep the rock genre alive and evolving as ever without being watered down through the 1959 plane crash that killed 3 rock stars (including Buddy Holly) and the British Invasion of 1964-1966. Also, Chuck Berry (born 1926), with hits such as 1958's "Johnny B. Goode", establishes him as a founder of modern rock and one of rock's first guitar heroes; and crossing paths with Engelbert and Elvis and their clean behaviors and actions influences Berry to stay out of trouble and continue to help shape rock music for years to come. I'm proud to say all this is an obvious reflection of the Danny and the Juniors song "Rock and Roll is Here to Stay"!
- Going back to Engelbert, I'd assume he was still quite a handsome guy in the rough span of the years 1957 to 1966; and being musically shaped and trained by Joey Marcello, Dave Parry, Mitch Miller, and others in their circles of friends puts those years to good use in both rising to superstardom and rivaling the King of Rock! You'd think this would leave Tom Jones without a rival, which is not the case due to my invention of Richard Strauss (born 1939). Richard fills in the void left by Engelbert, and it is Richard who rivals Tom. More on is the way for Richard Strauss in this series, so in the meantime, stay tuned...