I have to admit, I never liked Elvis. Or maybe it was just Elvis fans I didn’t like, not really sure about that one. I mean, I understand how important he was in the musical Parthenon of stars, but his life of excess, much like Micheal Jackson’s, definitely revealed the dark side of fame and fotune.
Thank God I don’t have to worry about that, huh?
And I just noticed I used two Greek words in my intro. Interesting! What does that mean, Doc???
“You like, ummm, olives…”
Among the pantheon of stars who have performed and transformed rock and roll, none have transfixed the imagination of generations of fans the way Elvis has. Even those who make a part of their living as “tribute artists” have a tough time explaining the allure.
“We’re still trying to figure that out. I had a long talk with Joe Piscapo about that, and it’s hard to pinpoint why it still exists. It’s like a super-hero: superman will never die,” said Shawn Krush, the head-lining tribute artist. Krush performs with his band “Change of Habit,” named after one of the last Elvis movies released, and they are the main act at Fernwood’s Elvis Festival on Saturday, just one of the events featured in the weekend long event, which includes vendors selling Elvis memerobilia and music as well as an Elvis competition.
Kush was picked to anchor the event because he won two major Elvis contests in a matter of days back in 2007, securing his place in the pecking order of performers channeling “The King.”
“We were in England performing in a contest for Simon Cowle, and went from there straight to Memphis for the “Greatest Elvis” contest. We won both of them in three days with barely any sleep,” Kush said. Since that time Kush has been on the road performing 150 or more shows a year in the US, Europe and Australia, and is two weeks away from a yearly cruise which the Pittston, PA native said features “all the original band members, the Inspirations, Ann Margeret— you never know who’s going to show up.”
“I’ve been doing this since I was two or three years old, growing up, I was singing to all the Pennsylvania hill-billys. I never had any training, except for four or five guitar lessons. I eventually learned by being around pretty decent musicians. Of course my dad was a DJ for WPTS in the (Wyoming) Valley, so I was always a big country music fan. He was a stand-up comedian, a part-time boxer and coal miner, he had a lot of jobs. I guess you could call what he did vaudeville,” Krush recalls.
One of the hopeful competetors gunning for the 3500.00 prize money at Saturday’s Elvis competition, Andrew Svrcek, of Cressona PA.. echoed Krush’s back story.
“I’ve been an Elvis fan for my whole life, I’ve been doing it since I was a little kid. I’ve always loved music, I’d rather listen to music than watch TV. My mother was a singer with a band back in the 70’s, my dad played drums,” SCEWD said, explaining that he originally performed gratis for people in nursing homes.
“I’d go to those things, you’d see the people light up, and that what makes it all worthwhile. I love doing Elvis and performing in front of people, the more people the better. My dad says, ‘The more people there are, the better you get,’” Svrcek said.
Finally, three years ago he gave in to the constant suggestions of friends and family that he try an Elvis completion, and this past June won the Dover Downs contest, followed by one in Dewey Beach. Svrcek said that contest money is not the reason he “does Elvis”, but cash never hurts when costumes run two or three thousand dollars and road costs are factored in. And if he does knock down first prize, he’ll have a chance to win the same contest Krush did in Memphis, bragging rights as “The World’s Greatest Elvis”
In the end there was a hint of nostalgia in Svrcek’s comments that might explain the lasting allure of rhinestones, swiveling hips and over-the-top hair.
“If people forget about their mortgage payment, their light bills, all the troubles of the day, and if it takes them back to the days of Elvis, it’s like living the dream,” Svrcek said.