There’s an old saying in show business that was tailor-made for Englebert Humperdinck: a singer needs songs, but an entertainer just needs a stage.
Best known for number-one hits “Release Me,” “The Last Waltz,” “After the Lovin’” and “A Man Without Love,” Humperdinck is a four-time Grammy nominee, a Golden Globe recipient, and has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. That’s in addition to his 63 gold and 24 platinum records.
He’ll bring his chest of hits and evergreen cool Feb. 12 to Phoenix’s Celebrity Theatre.
The 77-year-old crooner, who is about to release “Englebert Calling,” an album of duets with several music luminaries, spoke to GetOut from his Beverly Hills mansion (the former home of actress Jayne Mansfield).
Q: What is the secret of a great musical entertainer?
EH: When you sing a song, you must really mean it. I consider myself a thespian of song, and I do two things — I sing through my eyes as well as with my voice. My body language then just falls into place. To be an entertainer means you have to have a wealth of talent and a following to match it.I have been very fortunate from the beginning of my career to develop a relationship with the public and worked hard to maintain that relationship. I have never ignored the fact that my fans have supported me and have always paid attention to them. I sign every autograph and shake every hand and have done so for years.
Q: Elvis Presley once confided to his bodyguard that he felt he found a twin brother he had lost at birth when he met you. Did you know he felt that way about you?
EH: Is that what Elvis said? God, I’ve gone all cold. Honest to goodness I’m not kidding — I’ve got bumps all over my skin. I never knew he felt that way about me. I idolized Elvis and thought he was the greatest talent ever and the most real performer I’ve ever come across. When you watched him work on stage, you saw that reality come through He never took his image seriously and often made fun of himself. That was the great thing about him. He had a great deal of humility, and I learned all sorts of messages just watching him.
I remember once teasing him and said, ‘You know Elvis, you stole my sideburns.’ He replied in that beautiful Southern accent of his, ‘Well, if it looks good on you, it’ll look good on me!’
I loved talking to Elvis because he was a very real person. The first time I ever met him, usually you shake hands, but he came up to me and embraced me. I thought that was a fantastic thing to do. He just put his arms around me and gave me a hug. I’m conservative and shy by nature, but when Elvis did that, I felt so good.
Then the first thing he said was, ‘You know, I’ve got all of your albums?’ I said, ‘You’ve got my albums?’
I had been following Elvis from the start of his career. I can remember when he was stationed in Germany (1958-1960). I was stationed there at the same time, and I’d play his records on the jukebox in the mess hall. Then all those years later we got together and became friends. He was an amazing man, and I miss him.
Q: You are the No. 1 act in Russia right now. I don’t even have a question other than to ask if you can offer an explanation?
EH: It’s curious to me as well because as you know, they don’t speak English. When I do my shows over there, the fans sing along to every song line for line. They must have learned it phonetically. I’m also very friendly with a very popular Russian singer named Philip Kirov, so it could be my association with him. Whenever I go there, Philip takes me around to show me his country.
Q: Your new album, ‘Englebert Calling,’ comes out in March and is your first in four years. How did the concept for this duets album evolve?
EH: The title for the album came from an old Elton John anecdote when he was a starving artist. Elton would sit down in his flat with his songwriting partner, Bernie Taupin, and would wait for the phone to ring, hoping that ‘a guy like Englebert Humperdinck’ was calling because he needed a song. So, finally, I called Elton and he said yes, and that got the whole ball rolling. After Elton says yes, who’s going to say no?
We’ve got people on the album like Willie Nelson, Kenny Rogers, Smokey Robinson, Sir Cliff Richard, Johnny Mathis, Neil Sedaka, Dionne Warwick and Gene Simmons. All legends. It was a great experience and I’ll never forget it.
Q: I’m guessing you had the most fun with Gene Simmons?
EH: I had a lot of fun with Gene. He’s such a wonderful person to be in the studio with and immediately puts you at ease. We even measured tongue sizes. He won, but just barely.
If you go
What: Englebert Humperdinck in concert
When: 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 12
Where: Celebrity Theatre, 440 N. 32nd St., Phoenix
Information: (602) 267-1600, ext. 1, or CelebrityTheatre.com
• Read more at PressPassBlog.com, the source for Phoenix metro concert news.