Then & Now 9/27: What's in a Name?
On this date in 1921, the German composer Engelbert Humperdinck died at the age of 67. He’s probably best known for his opera his opera Hänsel and Gretel, which he first composed four songs to accompany a puppet show his nieces were giving at home. Then, using a libretto by his sister he composed 16 songs with piano accompaniment and connecting dialogue. By January 1891 he had begun working on a complete orchestration and the resulting opera.
So what’s up with that other Engelbert Humperdinck that sings in Vegas? Well, he was born Arnold George Dorsey in British India in 1936. His family moved to England, when he was ten. He soon showed an interest in music and began learning the saxophone. By the early 1950s, he was playing in nightclubs, when friends coaxed him into entering a pub contest. His impression of Jerry Lewis prompted friends to begin calling him "Gerry Dorsey", a name that he worked under for almost a decade. He never had much success though, that was until his manager suggested the name change to Engelbert Humperdinck. One story suggests the name was picked at random when he opened a large dictionary of composers and he opened a page with his eyes closed and his finger landed on the German composer. I guess it worked for him!