Finalists from the 2011 Ultimate Elvis Tribute Artist Contest take the stage in Memphis, Tenn.
"Elvis is everywhere," went the lyrics of an old song.
Those words might seem literal come Friday when rock 'n' roll icon Elvis Presley’s hometown of Memphis, Tenn., holds its Ultimate Elvis Tribute Artist Contest. The contest, now in its fifth year, brings together more Elvis impersonators than you’d find during a long weekend in Las Vegas. And they should be strutting their stuff to a bigger audience than ever since this year marks the 35th anniversary of the death of the King.
How many are there? Well, 18 in all. And that’s just the semifinalists. In the preliminary rounds, dozens upon dozens rocked places as far away as Ontario, Canada, Queensland, Australia, and Kobe, Japan. Looks like there are more than a few people the world over who like to grease their hair back, hop into white jumpsuits, and revive such songs as "Jailhouse Rock," "Are You Lonesome Tonight?" and "Burning Love."
To get an idea just how many Elvis impersonators are around today, check out the massive collection of links on the Gigmasters Web page. And those are just links to would-be Elvises in the United States.
Enjoy a quick recap of The 2011 Ultimate Elvis Tribute Artist Contest that took place in Memphis, Tenn., during Elvis Week. For more information on The Ultimate Elvis Tribute Artist Contest visit www.elvis.com/events/ultimate_eta_contest.
The massive collection of fake Elvises might all look and dress alike. Heck, they even might sing the same songs. But the 18 semifinalists are actually a pretty diverse bunch. Elias Jamhour, for instance, is from Sydney, Australia, and got into the semis by winning the Wintersun Festival’s Ultimate Elvis Tribute Artist contest. He’s been doing his Elvis impression for seven years. Jesse Aron, meanwhile, is from Janesville, Wis., where he won the Rockin’ E Jamboree. He’s been keeping the King’s legend alive since 1998.
The semifinals are part of a much bigger celebration called Elvis Week, which began last Friday, Aug. 10 and runs through Saturday, Aug. 18. It’s a week filled with events fit for a, er, king -- specifically, the King, who made rock ’n’ roll a household word through hits such as "Heartbreak Hotel," not to mention umpteen movies. The events are designed for lovers of the big E and include a Graceland trivia tour, a luau dance party, book signings, panel discussions with record industry types, and lots of live music.
The concert most likely to cause a stir is Thursday’s Elvis 35th Anniversary Concert, taking place at the FedEx Forum. Besides starring “the real Elvis Presley” via video, it will feature his ex-wife Priscilla and daughter Lisa Marie. Elvis aficionados’ legs will be shaking when they hear who else will be playing. Musicians include DJ Fontana, who drummed on Elvis’ earliest hits, and the great James Burton, the guitar legend who influenced six-string strummers ranging from Jimmy Page to John Fogerty.
And if you happen to miss the Ultimate Elvis Tribute Artist Contest semifinals, you can always catch the faux Elvises at a meet 'n' greet or while hanging out at one of the concerts. So Elvis really will be everywhere, if only in spirit. Somewhere, Uncle Jesse from “Full House” is smiling.
Tony Sclafani is an arts and culture writer whose first book is due out in 2013. His work can be seen at www.tonysclafani.com.