Elvis Week 2017 comes to an end Saturday, August 19th
Ten finalists compete for Ultimate Tribute Artist 2017 title
Elvis Presley, the King of Rock and Roll whose recorded voice has been heard by more people than any other in history, has been dead about 1.3 billion seconds, or 2087 weeks, or 351,000 hours, or 14,614 days.
Yet, after all that time, his life story is more familiar to Americans than most U.S. presidents. With a career spanning about 23 years, Elvis went from surviving a Tupelo, Mississippi tornado as a 15 month old sharecropper’s son to the most super of all superstars in music entertainment history.
Elvis did it his way with 151 U.S. Billboard Hot 100 hits, and spent 1,149 weeks on the U.K. singles chart. The Recording Industry Association of America officially lists Elvis with 106 gold, 63 platinum, 27 multi-platinum and one diamond certified songs.
Before Elvis died on August 16, 1977, his last words spoken were to his girlfriend, Ginger Alden. When she asked him not to stay up too late, he replied, “I won’t.”
Saturday marks the last day of Elvis Week 2017 in Memphis, the 40th anniversary of Elvis’ death. A sold out Ultimate Elvis Tribute Artist Contest begins at 7 p.m. at Graceland Soundstage A at Elvis Presley’s Memphis. The top ten Elvis tribute artists from the Semifinal Round are competing for the 2017 Elvis Tribute Artist title. The group will be narrowed down from ten to fiver before the Ultimate Tribute Artist of 2017 is named.
The top three winners of the Final Round of the competition will receive a great cash prize along with a selection of other valuable prizes.
Ultimate Elvis Contest First Place Winner
- Title of Ultimate Elvis Tribute Artist of 2017
- Recognition by Elvis Presley Enterprises
- Cash prize of $20,000
- Contract to perform with Legends in Concert
- 2017 Ultimate Elvis Tribute Artist Contest Belt
Ultimate Elvis Contest Second Place Winner
- Cash prize of $3,000
- Selection of other valuable prizes (TBA)
Ultimate Elvis Contest Third Place Winner
- Cash prize of $2,000
- Selection of other valuable prizes (TBA)
In addition, all Elvis tribute artists finishing in 4th through 10th place will receive a $500 cash prize. The contenders are listed at the end of this article.
Here are five things that only the most knowledgeable fans know about Elvis Presley:
Elvis was distantly related to two presidents, Abraham Lincoln and Jimmy Carter. Genealogists discovered that the great-great-grandfather of our 16th President, Abe Lincoln, was Isaiah Harrison, an ancestor to Elvis. The 39th President, Jimmy Carter is a 6th cousin, once removed from Elvis.
Current Fan Base
Elvis Presley Enterprises (EPE), who oversees the Memphis home and the business side of the Elvis estate, calculates that at least 53 percent of his fan base is below age 35. This is incredible, given the significant stretch of time since his premature death in 1977. There are over 141 million people that make up the U.S. population who did not exist while Elvis was alive.
“All Shook Up,” a musical comedy, “Elvis Live,” featuring the world’s best Elvis tribute artists (sanctioned by Graceland), and the Tony Award winning “Million Dollar Quartet,” continue to play on the road, in Las Vegas and other venues to bring the King to Americans across the nation an fans around the world.
Introducing Elvis to each generation remains a high priority for the Presley enterprise. Keeping him front and center to younger fans is evidenced by the “A Little Less Conversation” dance remix of 2002 and incorporating Elvis songs in movies such as Disney’s “Lilo & Stitch,” “Bruce Almighty,” “Cast Away,” “Forrest Gump,” and “Ocean’s Eleven.”
Most fans think the legendary TCB (Takin’ Care of Business) medallions Elvis wore and gave out to his friends came from desire to design a logo for his associates (aka Memphis Mafia) and special friends who helped take care of his business. Several people close to the entertainer, including his cousin Billy Smith, back-up singer Kathy Westmoreland, and Army buddy Charlie Hodge (who lived in the basement of Graceland and handed Elvis scarfs during the 1970s concerts) revealed the true story of how the TCB symbol was created.
During a flight, Elvis was doodling and sketching on a paper notepad. Since childhood, he favored comic books featuring Captain Marvel, the superhero who had a large gold lightning bolt across his chest—much like Superman’s “S,” and Batman’s “Bat symbol.”
“Elvis liked to sketch his ideas for his concert jumpsuits and was always drawing lightning bolts,” Hodge told this NEWS LEGIT’S Jack Dennis in May 1976. “In this particular sketch he drew a cloud with a lightning bolt coming out of it.”
“We like that Bachman-Turner Overdrive song ‘Taking Care of Business,’ and this is his way of saying and telling us we are going to take care of his business in a flash—real fast,” Hodge grinned. “It’s his way to abbreviate what he wanted done and we are proud to have them.”
Westmoreland and Smith each provided a little known account of what prompted Elvis to use the lightning bolt. During a Memphis thunderstorm, lightning struck a marble statue at Graceland’s Meditation Gardens (which would eventually become the burial site for the Presley family). Elvis was amazed that the lighting actually left a mark that look like a thunderous bolt.
“Elvis said it was a sign from God,” Smith said. Westmoreland agreed and remembers Elvis told her the same thing. She included the story in her auto-biography.
Elvis Hair Secrets
Elvis was originally blond. Though this fact is known by most devoted followers, not many know all of the secrets about his hair. Captain Marvel represented the hero Elvis wanted to be. The lightning bolt, the capes he wore at some of his 1970’s concerts, the boots and even his hair were influenced to some degree by the superhero. Another major inspiration, as Elvis transitioned from childhood to adolescence, was his movie idol Tony Curtis. Curtis had jet-black shiny hair.
In Elvis’ first movie, “Love Me Tender,” and in his screen test singing “Blue Suede Shoes,” fans can see that by 1956, their obsession’s hair had turned to a darker chestnut color. During his second movie, Paramount’s “Loving You,” the makeup department used “mink brown” dye to have his hair appear near black on the screen. By the time he made “Jailhouse Rock” in 1957, Elvis was using Miss Clairol 51 D, “Black Velvet,” hair dye. During his military days in 1958-1959, Elvis sometimes let the chestnut hair grow its natural color.
In the 1960’s he kept it black and even encouraged his future wife Priscilla to dye her hair jet-black too. In a pinch, Elvis admitted to using black shoe polish on himself once. Reports from 1975 indicated Elvis was treated for, and suffered from “migraine aura problems” which caused him to experience great sensitivity to light. As least one physician attributed some of it to the dying of his eyelashes earlier in his career.
Gary Pepper, confined to a wheel-chair all of his life, was a dear Memphis friend of Elvis and president of the “Elvis Tankers,” a fan club that was at the train station the day young Presley arrived back home after his honorable discharge from the Army. Elvis presented Pepper a clump of his hair from his initial Army haircut. In October 2009, this hair was displayed at the Leslie Hindman auction house in Chicago, Illinois. The value of this hair was valued between $8,000-$12,000. It sold for $15,000, plus $3,300 in auction fees.
The record for Elvis hair was in 2002, when his personal barber (who had hoarded his famous client’s hair clippings over the years) sold his collection for a total of $115,000 at a MastroNet, Inc. (Oak Brook, Illinois) auction. In comparison, John Lennon’s hair went for $4,800, Ludwig Beethoven sold for $7,300, and John F. Kennedy locks earned $3,000.
A Famous Graceland Intruder
Long before he became famous, Bruce Springsteen was caught climbing over the Graceland fence by Harold Lloyd, Elvis’ first cousin and a security officer working nights at the mansion. Elvis was not home. Springsteen was promptly escorted off the property.
Here are the finalists for the Ultimate Tribute Artist 2017:
To Represent the Tweed Tribute to Elvis Festival at the Semifinal Round in Memphis
Born and raised in Germany, Oliver’s love for Elvis developed early – he was only 8 years old when he discovered Elvis’ music. Oliver is thankful he can share Elvis’ music, life and memory with his own son. Paying a heartfelt and respectful tribute to the world’s greatest entertainer is the best experience of Oliver’s life, and it is a lifelong dream to be included in the Ultimate Elvis Tribute Artist Contest. Oliver’s favorite song is “Any Day Now.”
To Represent Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Sioux City at the Semifinal Round in Memphis
Tyler grew up listening to Elvis music with his grandmother at an early age. He felt a huge connection to the music of Elvis Presley and it lead him to become an entertainer. Tyler says it’s an extreme honor to be a part of the Ultimate Elvis Tribute Artist contest and he is proud to pay homage to the greatest entertainer of all time. Tyler’s favorite song is “After Loving You.”
To Represent Nashville Elvis Festival at the Semifinal Round in Memphis
Mark Anthony of Adelaide, Australia, started performing as Elvis for a family member who had leukemia. From that performance, he built a series of productions designed by an Elvis fan for Elvis fans. Mark frequently travels the globe with his three shows, which celebrate Elvis and his career. Mark said it is a huge honor to be a part of the Ultimate Elvis Tribute Artist Contest, and that being a part of the contest feels like being part of a family. His favorite Elvis song is “If I Can Dream.”
To Represent the Branson Elvis Festival at the Semifinal Round in Memphis
Ben Thompson is from London, England, and he has been an Elvis fan since he was a child. He became an Elvis tribute artist at the age of 15 and has performed in many venues around the world. He is an international multi-award winning Elvis tribute artist and he takes pride in his tribute. This will be his fifth Ultimate Elvis Tribute Artist Contest, and he feels it is a great privilege to be a part of the contest. His favorite Elvis song is “If I Can Dream.”
To Represent the Myrtle Beach Elvis Festival at the Semifinal Round in Memphis
While only 19 years old, Taylor Rodriguez has been performing Elvis’ music for over 10 years. Taylor’s aunt Diane introduced him to Elvis as a young child. At just 9 years old, spurred on by his aunt, Taylor took a serious interest in learning about Elvis and studying the king’s stage performances. With his aunt’s sudden passing in 2011, Taylor dedicated himself to paying tribute to Elvis and his aunt in the only way he knew how. When not performing as Elvis, Taylor is a freshman at Lynchburg College studying performing arts. In addition to Elvis, Taylor enjoys performing in plays and musicals. His favorite Elvis song is “How Great Thou Art.”
To Represent the Niagara Falls Elvis Festival at the Semifinal Round in Memphis
Bruno Nesci of Woodbridge, Ontario, Canada, was inspired to become an Elvis tribute artist after watching an ETA perform at his parents’ restaurant as a child. From that moment on, he has been hooked on Elvis’ music and movies and his audience’s reactions to his performances. He is passing on his love for Elvis to his step-children, and competing in the Ultimate Elvis Tribute Artist Contest means the world to him. His favorite Elvis song is “You Gave Me a Mountain.”
To Represent Texas’ Tribute to Elvis Festival at Semifinal Round in Memphis
Al Joslin is from Houston, Texas. Al has been performing for over 12 years and was inspired to become an Elvis tribute Artist after becoming an Elvis fan. Al has been impacted by Elvis and his music in such a powerful way, and it is his goal to give a respectful and sincere tribute to Elvis’ enduring legacy. His favorite Elvis song is “Let It Be Me.”
To Represent the Lake George Elvis Festival at Semifinal Round in Memphis
Ted Torres Martin is an actor, singer, songwriter and musician from Orlando, Florida, who feels honored to represent the Lake George Elvis Festival in the Semifinal Round. Ted has toured the world performing his tribute to Elvis. His goal is to bring already-established Elvis fans and new Elvis fans alike the memories of Elvis on stage. Ted said he is an Elvis fan and can’t pick just one favorite Elvis song.
To Represent the Collingwood Elvis Festival at Semifinal Round in Memphis
Gordon Hendricks of Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire, England, was a barber who became known as the “Singing Barber of Stoke,” before becoming an Elvis Tribute Artist. He became a fan of Elvis as a child, and he loves paying tribute to the king. He says it’s a dream come true for him to be in Memphis for the contest. His favorite Elvis song is “American Trilogy.”
To Represent the Hard Rock Last Chance Contest at Semifinal Round in Memphis
Ryan Pelton is an international, award-winning Elvis tribute artist, actor and singer/songwriter. He was dared to enter a local Elvis contest by his mother, and though he’d never sang publicly before, Ryan won. In the following 15 years, Ryan has performed all over the world and loves being a live music entertainer. Ryan recently starred in the movie “The Identical,” also starring Ray Liotta and Ashely Judd. He says it’s a blessing to be a part of the Ultimate Elvis Tribute Artist Contest. His favorite Elvis song is “Pieces of My Life.”