Celebrities share the stories behind their favourite photographs. This week it’s pop legend Engelbert Humperdinck, 84.
Engelbert Humperdinck, 84, (pictured) shared the stories behind a selection of his favourite photos
1936: As a child I was a mischievous little devil, but my parents kept great control and I grew up to be a respectable young man. I was born Arnold George Dorsey in Madras, India, where my Dad, Mervyn, was stationed with the British Army – this photograph was taken there. I can still remember some of the local Tamil language. We moved to the UK when I was ten and settled in Leicester, where I spent my teens
1959: I’m so skinny in this photo. I was trying to make it in showbiz and struggling to pay the food bills. I contracted tuberculosis, which knocked my career back two years. I’d got into singing by accident, aged 17, after an impromptu performance at a working men’s club in Leicester. I received a standing ovation and people wanted to know who my agent was
1967: This is me, far right, with (l-r) Jimi Hendrix, Cat Stevens (as he was then known) and Gary Leeds of The Walker Brothers, backstage at Finsbury Park Astoria. It was Jimi’s first European tour and he wasn’t well known here. He was very kind and easy going – setting fire to his guitar was just part of his act. When my guitarist didn’t show up one evening, he said, ‘Don’t worry, man. I’ll play for you.’ And he did, behind a curtain. That was one of the biggest thrills of my life
1968: My wife Patricia and I met in a dance hall in Leicester in 1956. I wasn’t that confident because I had protruding teeth – I used to sleep face down to help flatten them – so I said to my friend, ‘Would you ask if she’ll dance with me?’ She said, ‘Tell him to ask me himself.’ I did, and we’ve been together ever since. This is us with two of our four children. She was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s 12 years ago, but thanks to pioneering acupuncture treatment, she’s making progress and can talk again. We’re a very close family
1969: Cheb, my Dalmatian, was forever wandering off from our home in St George’s Hill in Surrey and getting into trouble. Here I am collecting him yet again from the local police station. John Lennon was my neighbour and Cheb would steal bread from his doorstep. John used to say, ‘Tell that Humperdinck to keep his bloody dog away from me’
1969: Tom Jones and I broke into showbiz at about the same time; we were both managed by Gordon Mills. Gordon gave me the name Engelbert Humperdinck, after the 19th century German opera composer. I haven’t seen Tom since 1976 when I grew tired of playing second fiddle to him and severed ties with Gordon. I don’t think Tom has ever forgiven me. When Tom’s wife Linda died in 2016, I sent condolences, but never heard back. But I’d still shake his hand if we met
1974: Elvis once said I reminded him of the twin brother he’d lost at birth, and you can see why. We look very similar in this photo, although I was the first to grow sideburns. We first met in 1967 when he came to one of my shows in Las Vegas, and became friends. He didn’t take himself too seriously and was always making fun of himself. I saw him six months before he died when he was in poor health. I wish I’d been able to talk to him frankly. I don’t think the people around him gave him good advice
2002: Here I am at my former home, the Pink Palace on Sunset Boulevard in LA, so-called because it was painted pink by one of its previous owners, actress Jayne Mansfield. I lived there for 28 years, Jayne for just eight, but it was always her home. I later painted the house white, but it lost its character so I painted it pink again. Sonny and Cher lived next door and Esther Williams lived opposite. I had dinner with Jayne Mansfield two weeks before she was killed and she invited me to stay with her
As told to Angela Wintle. Engelbert will be performing in a rescheduled concert at the London Palladium on 30 May next year. For live updates visit engelbert.com/tour.