At 78, Engelbert Humperdinck is still making the ladies scream.
Granted, it's not quite the way it was when ballads like "Release Me" and "After the Lovin'" became hits in the 1960s and '70s. But Humperdinck, who has sold 150 million albums in his nearly 50-year career, said he still sees women swooning at each of his concerts.
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"It may have tamed a little bit, but they still scream and yell and shout," Humperdinck said in a recent telephone interview. "I enjoy it. It's wonderful that after 47 years in the industry, one can still have the same acclaim."
Humperdinck spoke with the Daily Herald about his upcoming concert on Sunday, June 1, at the Arcada Theatre in St. Charles, and about his 80th album "Engelbert Calling" (in U.S. stores on June 20). The album features Humperdinck performing duets with a number of musical veterans, including Gene Simmons of the rock band Kiss, Elton John, Willie Nelson and Johnny Mathis -- just to name a few.
Q. Tell us about your upcoming show at the Arcada Theatre. What can the audience expect to hear?
A. It will be filled with songs I have recorded. Many of them are my hits. It's what people want to hear. But I'll have a lot of new material. I try to keep it nice and fresh.
Q. How many concerts do you perform a year?
A. I do about 110. I am spending more time at home now, enjoying my time off. I play golf and ride my motorcycle -- my Harley -- around the hills of California. Of course I am always in preparation for work -- thinking of things I can do. Preparation is harder than work.
Q. Is it true that Elton John, one of the singers who joins you on your new duet CD, had a hand in the CD's title.
A. Yes. I was listening to a live performance of Elton's, and he was saying, "I wrote this song many years ago, when I was living in my flat, hoping that Engelbert Humperdinck would call me for one of my songs." And so I called him (for the new duet CD). And Elton was so gracious. And that is why we called the album "Engelbert Calling." Then I was calling all of the other legends for the album, and I was very pleased they all said yes in the same fashion.
Q. This duet album was a big hit when it was released in the U.K. in March.
A. Yes. I am so excited about this project. The feedback has been unbelievable. It took two years to complete -- to put all of these people together in the studio has been one labor of love. I am so excited about the legends who have volunteered to be on this album. And wait until you see the cover. You will not believe it. Gene Simmons and I look so much alike!
Q. You were great friends with Elvis Presley. I read something about you saying that Elvis "stole" something from you?
A. Well, I had my sideburns in 1965 before I became a success in 1967. My manager told me to take them off, but I said, "I am trying to create an image." Elvis put his sideburns on in 1971. I told him, "You stole my sideburns." And he said, "If it looks good on you, it will look good on me." I was thrilled that a man of his stature would follow my lead.
I learned a lot from Elvis. He never took his image seriously. So many performers today put their image before themselves. It can ruin them. Like Elvis, I never took my image seriously. I played with my image. I made fun of my name and the panties that were thrown at me onstage ("None of them fit me," I would say). And I think I kept a good head on my shoulders.
Q. Will you still be onstage, performing when you are 100?
A. I don't ever want to think my time is up as a performer. I have been afforded the opportunity to sell 150 million albums, to travel to places I never thought I would go. I'm going to keep on performing. I hope it never ends.