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What's in a name? Englebert Humperdink tells Gavin Allen he owes his mad moniker to an inspired piece of thinking from the Rhondda Valley.

Byline: Gavin Allen

THERE are obvious answers to the question of where Engelbert Humperdinck got his name.

There is the flippant one, that he stole it from an Oompa Loompa, and there is the factual one, that he borrowed it from the German opera composer. But there is also a third answer, that it actually came from Tonypandy. In the early '60s Humperdinck was going nowhere as a nightclub singer, performing under the name of Gerry Dorsey, a pseud-onym he had affected to sex-up his given name of Arnold Dorsey. But in 1965 he teamed up with Gordon Mills, an aspiring music manger from the Rhondda who was in charge of a thrusting young buck called Tom Jones, and he rad-ically revamped Dorsey's image. Mills reasoned that whether they liked it or not, people would remember the name Engelbert Humperdinck and when twinned with the right song - in this case Release Me - he could take Gerry Dorsey from nightclubs to the No1 slot. Release Me's incredible 56-week stay in the Top 50, which prevented The Beatles' Penny Lane/Strawberry Fields Forever from reaching the top spot, earned him an indelible entry in the Guinness Book of Records. In his subsequent career he has sold more than 150 million albums worldwide, in-cluding 64 gold and 24 platinum, and he is among the biggest-selling artists of all time. But as Humperdinck pre-pares to return to Wales for a concert next week, his thoughts have turned to the role of his late manager Mills, who passed away in 1986 at the age of 51. "As well as knowing that there are always great audiences in Wales, I always remember that Gordon came from Tonypandy," says Humperdinck.

"He was a major influence on my career. I had tried everything I could possibly have tried to get on in the business before that, and if it wasn't for him changing my name and finding the right record at the right time I wouldn't be talking to you now. "He was instrumental in my career and it's such a shame God took him so early." Mills' ingenuity made the Humperdinck name stick, perhaps more than Arnold Dorsey thought it would, and he admits it has had its drawbacks. "It was a name people found hard to pronounce and I've had it all, Engledork Pumpernickle and everything else you can imagine," he growls. "I wanted people to take me seriously as an artist whether my name was Rick Tim-buktu or whatever else, but it seemed to work.

I've been stuck with it for 43 years now so I'm used to it." For the record, his friends and family called him Enge (pronounced Enga) while his parents, when they were alive, called him Engel, "which means 'angel' in German," he recalls affectionately. But it wasn't just the name that changed to transform Enge into a star whose name is written on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. "Sometimes you have to change a lot of things to make it and I totally changed my image," he says. "I changed my hairstyle and got these big sideburns - I got that idea from The Beatles because they all had the same hairstyle and it was very recognisable - and I started dying my hair." Recently, his old sparring partner Tom Jones attracted mass media attention when he finally elected to drop the hair dye and go naturally grey-haired in public.

What does Humperdinck make of the change? "I think he looks good," observes Humperdinck, who splits his time between homes in Leicester and California with his wife Patricia. "I had grey hair when I was 20, which is why I started dying it, but it's great to see Tom doing so well now. "We were friends for a long time and still are but we haven't seen each other in probably 20 years.

We haven't even so much as bumped into each other on a flight, which is strange because we both travel back and forth so much."

So will Enge be following suit and scaling down his image now he is 73, or do the lure of the entertainer's props still endure? "As long as people want me and my music," he concludes, "then I won't be going anywhere. "This is a great way to live and I want to keep doing it exactly as I am."

An Evening With Engelbert Humperdinck is at St David's Hall in Cardiff on Thursday, September 3. Tickets cost pounds 30-pounds 35 from 029 2087 8444

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Gordon Mills, the music manager who gave Engleburt his name The man himself Arnold Dorsey, also known as Engelbert Humperdinck
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Publication:South Wales Echo (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Aug 28, 2009
Words:773
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