If you’ve been an Elvis fan for a long time like me, you’ve noticed EPE’s change in attitude toward Elvis Tribute Artists. For the first two decades after his death, Graceland distanced itself from the hordes of men who performed as Elvis impersonators. Actually, they went farther than that. Ever protective of his ‘image,’ EPE filed a lawsuit against the Legends In Concert in 1983 to prevent the show’s “Elvis” from looking like, dressing like, or moving like the real Elvis.
We can assume it became impossible to sue all the hundreds (thousands?) of tribute artists, causing Graceland to accept a begrudging coexistence with them. Early in the 2000s, Todd Morgan, EPE’s director of media and creative development said, “We represent the real thing. The impersonator thing for the public and the press… has often been a negative. When you think impersonator, you think of parody. We could never find a comfort level in embracing it.”
Then in 2006, Morgan said something much different. “Over the past year we have had a lot of discussion about the Elvis tribute artist phenomenon and what to do about it.” (Cynics would say “what to do about it” is code for “how to make money off it”) “We realized it was never going to go away. It has gotten bigger, the entertainment has gotten better. So, we thought maybe if we get involved in some way, maybe we can bring attention to the most talented tribute artists.”
And their answer was… The Ultimate Elvis Artist Tribute Contest.
If you’ve been to any of the past six Elvis Weeks, you know this is now a huge, big-ticket event. Every competitor has previously won top prize at an Elvis tribute contest around the US and several foreign countries. These guys are great entertainers and professional showmen. There is certainly none of the parody or damage to the Elvis ‘image’ that EPE once worried about.
I have been to several competitions, and I love the good Elvis Tribute Artists. From Shawn Klush in 2007 to Ben Portsmouth in 2012, these guys are great.
EPE has a new tie-in with the Ultimate Elvis winners. Now, they are presenting shows around the country with past winners headlining. The Elvis Lives tour seems to be a great success.
The ultimate purpose of this article was not to give unpaid endorsements for EPE’s Ultimate Elvis contest or its Elvis Lives tour. I really wanted to show just how far the evolution of Elvis tribute has come. To do that, we have to go back and see what some of those guys that gave it a bad name looked like. For years, I have kept a file titled “Elvis Impersonator Losers.” After showing a few here, I’m going to delete the whole file. Better gone and forgotten.
Fat Elvises are a recurring theme. With all the iron bars here, it looks like this guy is in jail. I think Elvis Week could use one, so we can keep these guys from walking the streets of Memphis and getting shown in the media around the country.
Todd Morgan certainly had a point about parody.
Okay, we’ve got a group of Elvi’s with moustaches hovering around a copy of the Heisman Trophy. Nothing strange about that.
Oh, no. Not another fat Elvis.
Is that really an old female Elvis? Some of the young ones are pretty hot, but this one… probably not so much.
I saw this guy (or one of his peers) at the Collingwood Elvis Festival a decade ago. I don’t think he actually performed, just added to the ambiance of the event.
Sad, just sad. Another candidate for the bad impersonator jail at Elvis Week.
Maybe this guy isn’t really an Elvis Impersonator Loser. It would actually be pretty cool if an old dude could put on a good Elvis show.
Give me a break. Where do you even get a wig like that?
Do we really have to look at another fat Elvis? Hey, we’re not finished yet.
Well, at least they’ve got nice jumpsuits and sunglasses.
Just to end on a high note, here’s Ultimate Elvis Tribute Artist Contest winner Shawn Klush, showing what a good ETA looks like.
I’ve seen Shawn twice. If you never saw Elvis in concert, Shawn’s show is as close as you’ll ever get.
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