Engelbert Humperdinck has been singing his hit ballad "Release Me" for more than four decades, but he still gets chills when he performs it. It was an immediate hit when it came out in 1967.
"It was selling 85,000 (units) a day, 100,000 a day," said the British crooner, who performs Tuesday at Modesto's Gallo Center for the Arts. "It sold 2½ million in six weeks in the UK alone. It was number one around the world. It established me around the world."
Humperdinck, 76, said he first heard the song as an instrumental recorded on soprano saxophone by Frank Weir.
"When I heard the melody, I knew it was a hit song," he said. A writer in Nashville added some lyrics and the song exploded.
Humperdinck finds it funny that the song is so popular at weddings even though the lyrics are hardly romantic the first line is "Please, release me, let me go, for I don't love you anymore." He joked that the song is probably popular at divorces, too.
He followed it up with a string of hits over the next couple of decades, including "Quando Quando," "The Last Waltz," "After the Lovin'" and "A Man Without Love." At his height of fame, Jimi Hendrix and The Carpenters opened for him.
Humperdinck will perform a mix of old and newer material at the Gallo Center show, which will include his band, backup singers and lighting effects. It's one of many tour stops for him. He sings all over the globe, performing 90 concerts a year.
"I love traveling, I love going to different countries," said Humperdinck, who is based out of Los Angeles. "I love new audiences and the effect it has on me, during and after the show."
Born Arnold George Dorsey in Madras, India, to a British engineer father and a mother of German heritage, he moved with his family as a child to Leicester, England. He changed his name to that of a 19th-century opera composer at the suggestion of his manager, Gordon Mills (who also managed Tom Jones).
Humperdinck still keeps up with current music and pop culture as best he can. "It's important to watch these talent shows like the 'Idol' shows because the people who organize this put out the best arrangements, the best songs," he said. "Even a professional who has been in the business as long as I have can learn from the young ones. You're never too good to take advice from someone else."
His favorite current entertainers include Lady Gaga ("She's adorable and she's a great performer") and Beyoncé.
Humperdinck is now working on recording a duet album that pairs him with other pop singers. His duet partners include Elton John, Seal, Smokey Robinson, Willie Nelson and "a few very, very great females that I have to keep under my hat because it's a secretive project."
He expects the CD to come out in six weeks to two months. "It's been a joy so far working with these wonderful people," Humperdinck said. "I think the results are going to be quite rewarding."
He said the secret to his long career is that he has always had fun.
"I really love what I do," he said. "I don't keep it stale. I'm always freshening up the show and making it different."Engelbert Humperdinck brings his smooth hits to Modesto with a show on the Gallo Center for the Arts stage
WHAT: Engelbert Humperdinck
WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Tuesday
WHERE: Rogers Theater, Gallo Center for the Arts, 1000 I St., Modesto
CALL: (209) 338-2100