The long-running feud between Tom Jones and Engelbert Humperdinck

With his distinctive baritone vocals, magnetic stage presence and infectious charisma, Tom Jones has been a bonafide legend for over half a century. From humble beginnings in the Welsh mining town Pontypridd, Jones transcended generation divides to captivate audiences on a global scale. After a formative term fronting the Welsh beat group Tommy Scott and the Senators, he gained national attention with a pivotal signing to Decca Records.

Jones’ signing to the prestigious Decca Records was coordinated by the British promoter Gordon Mills in 1963. With early hits like the James Bond theme ‘Thunderball’ and ‘It’s Not Unusual’, Jones began to make serious traction by the mid-1960s and incited a shade of envy in the face of the British singer Arnold George Dorsey, who performed under the stage name Gerry Dorsey from the late 1950s.

By 1965, Gordon had signed Dorsey to Decca. Within a few weeks, Dorsey had changed his stage name once more to Engelbert Humperdinck, after the German classical composer. Speaking to the Express in 2021, Jones’ biographer Colin Macfarlane discussed the Welsh crooner’s hand in this name change.

“Gordon didn’t only have Tom but also Engelbert Humperdinck,” Macfarlane said. “Engelbert Humperdinck, at that time, was a guy called Arnold Massey. He had known Gordon for years and said, ‘Gordon, can you make me like Tom?’”

“Gordon said, ‘Well, no, I can’t. You’ve been around too much. I can’t make you like Tom.’ But Gordon got drunk one night and looked at the records by his player, and there was an album by a guy called Engelbert Humperdinck [German composer].”

“And he thought, ‘Fuck it, that’s what we’ll do, we’ll call Arnold Massey Engelbert Humperdinck,’” he continued. “And he phoned everybody ’round saying, ‘I’ve found this great new singer Engelbert Humperdinck, and Arnold Massey could not even pronounce his own name for at least three weeks…”

“When he first appeared, everyone said, ‘Who’s this guy Engelbert Humperdinck?’” Macfarlane added.

As labelmates, Jones and Humperdinck weren’t as close as they could have been. As it transpires, a chart rivalry soon turned to bitterness between the pair and saw them drift apart over time.

The exact details of the pair’s feud have never been entirely clear, but in 2015, Jones’ former partner Charlotte Laws alleged, while speaking to the Mirror, that Humperdinck flirted with her in 1979. She explained that she told Jones about the other singer’s advances, and he just “sat there in stony silence”.

“I am sure there was good old-fashioned jealousy there,” she added. “They competed against each other for everything.”

Several years later, Humperdinck addressed the feud, stating that he wished to bury the hatchet with Jones. “One good thing to come out of this pandemic is that it’s brought the world together,” he said. “There’s more kindness everywhere. In that context, a silly grudge seems so petty somehow. And I want to say that I’m sure Tom feels that, too. I’d love it if we could finally mend that broken bridge. I certainly respect his ­talent.”

“I think he’s one of the greatest singers the world has known. I do admire him very much. It seems such a shame. It doesn’t have to be like this,” he continued. “I was devastated when I heard she’d [Jones’ wife Linda] passed [in 2016].”

“I sent my condolences to Tom. Sadly, he didn’t respond,” Humperdinck lamented.

In his ear-shatteringly candid acknowledgement of the feud, Jones replied, “No. It’s as I say — once a c*nt, always a c*nt,” when Metro asked whether he’d ever reconcile with Humperdinck.

Watch Tom Jones and Engelbert Humperdinck perform together in 1969 below.

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