Summer of romance as Hump tops the bill
The summer of 68 was a summer of romance for ladies of all ages, who swooned at the mere thought of the star of the Blackpool ABC Theatre's summer show.
And when Engelbert Humperdinck began to sing, hearts fluttered.The tall Anglo-Indian star with the sentimental songs and the super suits won more adulation than Cliff Richard had in the opening season of the ABC, five years earlier.In Engelbert’s 14-week season of twice-nightly shows many ladies booked several times.But in the business it was 1967 that had been The Year of Engelbert, the ABC programme notes stated.“Within 12 months he rose from virtual obscurity to international stardom but as 1968 is already proving, that was just the First Year of Engelbert Humperdinck.”“Engelbert changed the course of pop music with melodies that mean something to most people.“He has become the darling of millions of women and today his fan club is the biggest in the country.”The fans can look back on his three number one hits in 1967 – Release Me, There Goes My Everything and The Last Waltz – with accompanying Gold Discs for million sellers, and his six visits to Blackpool that year.On Saturday, April 15, at the Dickson Road Odeon, how bizarre it was to see the smooth balladier on the same tour bill as Jimi Hendrix, from the opposite end of the pop music rainbow.The show was originally scheduled for the Blackpool ABC but was switched to the Odeon, which had several hundred more seats.Engelbert made five more appearances in Blackpool in 1967. He headed Sunday concert bills at the Opera House on May 28 and July 9 and Sunday bills at the ABC on August 27, September 17 and October 2.The star’s first two hits were American country songs but his third number one was co-written by a Lancashire songwriter.And in July, 1967, Barry Mason, from Coppull, phoned me at The Gazette to ask if I had received Engelbert’s latest single and what did I think of it.“Yes, The Last Waltz, certain number one,” said I.Barry was delighted. “Great. Did you know they’re making it the B side?” he said.I can’t claim to have got the song promoted to the A side because so many other record reviewers shared my opinion that Decca switched all publicity and TV promotion to The Last Waltz.The song proved so popular that it became the title track of Engelbert’s second album.I first saw Engelbert in 1964 in the cabaret lounge at the Lobster Pot in Market Street, Blackpool.He was certainly a class act, working as Gerry Dorsey (real name Arnold George Dorsey) until Gordon Mills discovered him and endowed him with the name of an 19th century Austrian composer.Humperdinck? What a joke, people thought!But no longer did an artist have to have a short name like Josef Locke to fit on theatre posters.Joe was at the Queen’s Theatre for the 1968 summer season. He must have seethed with envy at the Press coverage of the younger man with the strange name.And after his sensational Blackpool season, Engelbert was off to Las Vegas to charm the American ladies.