I just read the news that Elvis Presley Enterprises is finally going to embrace Elvis tribute artists next summer in Memphis.  They will stage The Ultimate Elvis Tribute Artist Contest on August 17th at the end of Elvis Week 2007.  I think this is a great move, both for Graceland and for the fans.  This is outstanding news.


I regularly check out www.elvisnews.com to look for story ideas, and this announcement was posted on November 16.  It received a massive number of Comments, and most of them were negative.  People were saying the tribute artists had no talent and were tarnishing Elvis’ image.  Wrong!  These naysayers are so wrong. 


Sure, there are some fat, no-talent imitators around, but that’s not what you’ll see at the final stages of this competition.   At this level, the ETA’s are entertainers of the first order who know how to give outstanding performances.  I can’t wait to see this show.


I have qualifications to say stuff like this.  I went to the Collingwood Elvis Festival in 2003 and 2005, and took in the final competitions there.  The best seats went for $75 (Canadian), the cheapest cost $25, and the arena was packed both times.  People would not pay that kind of money unless the shows were great, and they all left the arena happy.


Well, now the Collingwood competition in July will be a preliminary round for The Ultimate Elvis Tribute Artist Contest in Memphis.  With the EPE stamp of approval, the level of competition in Elvis tribute will go up even more.  The other announced preliminary round will be Tupelo’s Elvis Presley Festival Tribute Artist Competition in June.  Don’t be surprised if other Elvis festivals come on board, too.


There are a number of ETA’s who have full time careers with their traveling shows and no longer appear in contests.  I’m hoping some of them will want to get back into competition for this one.  I worked a Darwin Lamm concert at Elvis Week 2005, and saw five of these guys battling, trying to top each other, even though it wasn’t a competition.  If I was a judge, I’d pick them all as first place.


Sure, it’s not Elvis.  It’s 30 years too late for him to make the show in Memphis next year, but lets be happy with what we’ve got:  a couple of dozen or so of the top Elvis tribute artists in the world battling it out for the title.  If a fan wants to see what the live Elvis show was like, these guys can take you there.  When the lady fans run up to the stage to get a scarf and a kiss and come back to their seats in radiant happiness, you know these guys have nailed it pretty good.


They were backed at Collingwood by a live band, a very good one called “The Expense Account Band.”  Six or seven musicians and two female back-up singers.  They brag about knowing over 400 Elvis songs.  You can bet there will be a top-level band for the Ultimate Elvis competition.  Also, it will be held at the beautiful Cannon Center.  This is where the Memphis Opera performs, so you know the acoustics are wonderful.


I hope the Ultimate Elvis Tribute Artist Contest uses the same divisions as Collingwood, because I really like The Early Years competition.  These performers put a lot of the Elvis body action into it, and that adds to the show.  Plus, they sing the music of my teenage years, so I love the songs they do.  Lot’s of folks said the Inspirational Elvis competition at Collingwood was outstanding, so we can look forward to a Gospel category in Memphis.  The Concert Vegas Years competition is very popular, but it usually gets down to a battle of ballads, including “If I Can Dream,” “American Trilogy,” and “Hurt.” Sorry, I want to see my Elvis move.  The Youth Division is cute and enjoyable, and it’s cheaper to watch.


If you are attending Elvis Week 2007, you should take in The Ultimate Elvis Tribute Artist Contest at some level.  As soon as I post this, I’m sending off an e-mail to see about getting a comp ticket to The Early Years finals.


©   2006   Philip R Arnold   All Rights Reserved   www.elvisblog.net

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