Engelbert Humperdinck hails the return of the crooners says Eurovision Song Contest veteran
Ronnie Carroll, who first performed at the Eurovision song contest 50 years ago, has hailed the return of the crooner – in the form of Engelbert Humperdinck – as a masterstroke to woo international audiences.
Mr Carroll, who shot to fame after his boyish good looks and velvety voice were beamed into 100million homes across the continent, said the event that made him a household name has turned into a “freak show”.
But the 77-year-old, who lives off Prince of Wales Road in Chalk Farm, has backed his old contemporary to reverse Britain’s recent woeful track record as, after all, “he (Humperdinck) can sing”.
Mr Carroll, the only artist to have represented Britain two years in a row, said: “Now you have the most ridiculous acts in the world going on, whereas in my day it was people who could sing.
“Now it’s horses, monkeys and performing dogs.
“It’s the right time to bring Gerry Dorsey (another of Humperdinck’s stage names) back in. It’s a great move for him, a fantastic move and it will give us a big boost in the voting across Europe.”
The Northern Irish singer, who took his first steps in show business as a “blacked-up” Nat King Cole impersonator, was simply in the right place at the right time to win his first foray in the European competition, he says.
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The crooner had sped back to London from Brighton where he had been performing, sneaking into the White Elephant pub in Curtain Street before closing.
A BBC producer, nursing a drink at the bar, turned round in his seat and shouted “That’s who we want” at the puzzled singer who went on to sing at the 1962 and 1963 Eurovision contests, singing Ring-A-Ding Girl and Say Wonderful Things – which both charted in the top 10.
He finished fourth in both competitions.
“At the time no other serious singers would touch it with a barge pole,” said Mr Carroll.
“They thought it would bring them down a peg or two, but I saw it as an amazing opportunity to sing to the whole of Europe and a new audience.
“We released the songs in the countries that voted for me like Holland and Germany, but later on everyone did it – even Cliff (Sir Cliff Richard).”
Mr Carroll carried on signing, sharing the billing with the likes of Sir Cliff and Billy Fury as the safe old-fashioned alternative should the young guns fail to win over the audience.
But in the 1970s he sold up and moved to the West Indies to run a nightclub with his wife and children.
A revolution forced him to sell up, flee the country and hole up in Sussex to get back on his feet before moving to Hampstead.
After a brief dalliance with politics, running against Glenda Jackson MP in the 1997 election, Mr Carroll retired from public life and looks back on his Eurovision appearances as the best of times.
“I loved every minute of it,” he said. “When I heard that 100million people would be watching I thought ‘what an opportunity.’
“Everyone else was kicking themselves afterwards.”