Engelbert Humperdinck: “Jimi Hendrix saved my show!”

A couple of Jimi’s musicians used to play with me before they were with him. In the early sixties, when I was becoming established in the United Kingdom, I had Noel Redding and the drummer Eric Dillon [who later joined Redding in Fat Mattress] in my band. Later on, when promoters wanted to introduce a foreign act into the UK they would put them on with an established artist.

In spring 1967 I was part of a package tour with the Walker Brothers and Jimi and The Experience, though Cat Stevens and I were guesting more than being part of the billing.

“I don’t know how many concerts we did together on that tour, but it was quite a thrill to be sharing the same stage as Jimi Hendrix. Little did I know that I was walking in the path of genius. It was immediately obvious that he was special, and that tour was when he started smashing his guitars up on stage and burning them, which was revolutionary in those days. I used to watch his show all the time from the wings. I remember seeing him burn his guitar, maybe even on the first night of the tour.

Hendrix on tour with Engelbert Humperdinck (far right)

Hendrix on tour with Engelbert Humperdinck (far right) (Image credit: Rex)

“One night, I can’t remember exactly where, my guitarist didn’t show up. In fact he didn’t even call. But Jimi came over and said: ‘Don’t worry, man, I’ll play for you.’ I told him the audience would think it was bizarre if he was on stage with me. He went: ‘I’ll play behind the curtain.’ So he went behind a curtain at the side of the stage and played. It felt as though there were three guitars behind me that night. That’s how great he sounded. He was so solid and made everything sound massive. Afterwards I said to the audience: ‘I don’t think you people realise, but the great Jimi Hendrix has just been playing guitar for me.’ He saved my show.

“We hung out together a few times on that tour. He was a very gentle man, a great person to be around. I’d smoke my cigars, we’d chew the fat a little, have a few drinks and relax. I didn’t talk about music with him, because we were in different leagues and into different kinds of things. But I do remember him offering me one of his military jackets one night. I just told him: ‘It’s okay. Thank you so much though.’ I was such a fool not to have taken it. I’m sick to this day that I didn’t say yes!”