Elvis Tribute Artists Radio

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Some sample quotes from a few of the ETA’s who were interviewed:

Eddie Miles ....on people who think that Elvis was just black hair, sideburns, and a jumpsuit... “They think ‘if I can do that, I can do Elvis’ and the sad thing is that so many of them get away with that.”

Ryan Pelton....on the potential negatives of performing as Elvis.....”the women trying to live the Elvis dream, the guys just in it for the money, the romper room attitude of the contests and some of the performers, or the people who just like the power of being a control freak.”

David Lee.... on being an ETA..."If I could pick one reason why I became an ETA, it would be for the love of the music.....doing a good job in Elvis’ name.”

Doug Church....on predicting the future of “the business of being Elvis.”......"I believe that within the next decade or so, the genre will be recognized as a legitimate enterprise that is organized and run by professionals, not nutballs with no life.....which seems to be the opinion of the general public.”

Rick Marino....on entertaining...”(Elvis) spent every ounce of ability and energy he had to make sure they (fans) forgot whatever was wrong in their life for a few hours, which is what being the consummate entertainer is all about.”

Todd C. Martin....on contests...."You can be a great show performer and awful at contests or vice versa.”

Martin Anthony.... giving advice...."Follow your dreams, stay balanced by realizing you are not Elvis off the stage. Don’t get caught up in it..have Plan A and Plan B .....your job is to give the audience a re-creation that for at least a little while, will allow them to feel what Elvis was all about..like a great movie can do.”

Ray Guillemette, Jr. ....on connecting with audiences...."I wanted to make sure that when I was on stage, I paid attention to not only the music or the style, but also to the people...to me, Elvis conveyed that...”

Lance Dobinson (age l6 when quoted).... on family support......”Being an Elvis Tribute Artist is not always easy because some people can be very judgmental. I believe that with the continued love, support and encouragement from my family, there really isn’t anything else that matters. If you love what you do, then you should follow your dreams.”

Rob Garrett....on booking ETA’s or trying to get bookings as an ETA....”I receive an unbelievable amount of promotional packages from performers, and, unfortunately, most of it never makes the grade...be sure to provide, or request as the case may be, professional promotional kits. Send only quality photos and videos with references. If you work for free or if you can hire Elvis for free, you will probably get just what you paid for.”..

Jesse Aaron....on fans...."The fans, in general, are very loyal and appreciative. That makes it much easier to weed out all of the other stuff out there...because there’s plenty of that too, unfortunately.”

Tony Grova.....on Elvis.....”There have been many kings and queens and presidents too, but never again, in this lifetime or any lifetime to come, will there be another man or entertainer [such] as the one and only Elvis Aaron Presley."


A while back, a friend who has been following Lady Luck Music and ETARadio for a few years, remarked how interesting it was to note the numbers of people who are still making a living from being connected to the name “Elvis Presley.”

Pamela Thomas-Williams’ recent book certainly illustrates this point by introducing us not only to a wide variety of tribute artists/impersonators, but also to the many people and organizations working behind the scenes -- all contributing to and making money from “the business of being Elvis” (and let’s not forget the loyal fans who, conversely, continue to spend
their money!).

As the author indicates in her disclaimer at the beginning of the book, the book is meant to be an overview which gives the reader an idea of what goes on in the ETA world - -“a world full of people who continue to follow, respect, and pay tribute to Elvis Presley.” It is not meant to be an encyclopedia or “the be all and end all.” She also explains that some people aren’t included in the book as they either didn’t respond to initial inquiries, said they didn’t want to be included, or were just too plain busy to be involved.

When I first skimmed through the book, I was impressed by the subject matter that had been included. It’s such a wide topic, and there are so many ETA’s and people behind the scenes in “the business of being Elvis” that it would be a daunting task at best.

Next, I read the profiles of the people I know personally and, based on knowing these people, I felt that Pamela had, indeed, captured their personalities and had given a pretty accurate portrayal of what makes them tick.

After reading the book from cover to cover over a few days (if you try to read it all at once, everyone and everything seems to blend together), it was clear that Pam had zeroed in on most of the areas that would be discussed in any book on ETA’s -- contests, festivals, managers, agents, a wide variety of tribute artists, related websites, fans, and more. Pam tells us that she obtained her information from conducting interviews both in person and via email, by reading material available to the public, and by gleaning details from websites and from the internet in general.

One thing that's obvious is that, even 26 years after Elvis’ death, the ETA world and the business of being Elvis are vibrant, alive, constantly changing and evolving. Already, new festivals and Elvis events have started up, new controversies have blown up, and new ETA’s have made their mark. It is impossible to keep a book such as this current.

I liked the cover and the look of the book. The cover initially fooled me -- I thought two of the ETA’s pictured on the front looked a bit like David Lee and Ryan Pelton, and I thought the third one bore a resemblance to Shawn Klush. Upon reading the book, I learned that all “three” ETA’s were, in fact, the chameleon-like Martin Fontaine. I also liked the layout of the book, the size of the print, and the many quotations that Pam has interspersed throughout the book. And I enjoyed looking at the variety of photographs of various ETA’s profiled in the book and matching faces to names.

The book is divided into chapters which cover different aspects of the “Business of Being Elvis” and I would venture to say that after reading the entire book, most people would have a much better grasp of “the ETA industry” than they had beforehand. It is definitely informative. The content of each chapter is outlined below.

Producing the Elvis Entertainer (working with Elvis’ original musicians, bands, costume and scarf makers, suppliers of track music)

The Contests (contests, festivals, showcases, casinos, pros and cons, controversies)

Road to Stardom (agents, managers, Legends producers; impersonator organizations, Las Vegas)

Photo Gallery (nice photos of many of the ETA’s profiled in the book)

The Elvis Story (an in-depth look at actor Martin Fontaine)

The People Behind the Scenes ( booking agencies and professional organizations for celebrity impersonators, databases of ETA’s, interesting ETA-related websites)

The Fans (interesting fans and fan websites from around the world)

Elvis Tribute Artists - The Interviews (interviews and profiles of a wide variety of ETA’s)

The Business of Being Elvis (a summary)

ETA Websites (a handy resource)

One suggestion for improvement would be that the proofreading and editing of the book could have been more thorough as I noticed a number of misspellings and grammatical mistakes, a mistake in the title of one of Elvis’ songs, and a reference to a website created in l977 (not possible!).

But that aside, I also found the book to be well done, very interesting and fun to read. It is a great reference book for looking up ETA’s you hear about, and it definitely gives the reader an overview of what is involved in the business of being Elvis!

Most ETA books that I’ve read before haven’t mentioned much about the people behind the scenes and I felt this was a positive addition to the book. It is fitting to recognize movers and shakers such as Dan Lentino, Joanna Johnson, Nance Fox, Johnny Thompson, John Stuart, John Kondis and their affiliated productions, organizations, and interests -- along with Bea Fogelman (The Entertainment Network) and Fil Jessee (International Guild of Impersonators and Tribute Artists, Inc.).

I also enjoyed reading about the wide cross-section of ETA’s -- from seasoned veterans to young newcomers, and everyone in between. It was interesting to see that the ETA’s each have their own personalities and they come from all walks of life, different backgrounds and countries. They have widely differing views on contests, and legends shows, and they have shared some of their positive and negative experiences in the ETA/Elvis world. Some are doing it for the love of Elvis and his music and others have different reasons!

One entertainer I was interested in reading about and learning more about was Canadian, Martin Fontaine, star of
The Elvis Story, who is not an ETA but a trained actor portraying Elvis. I also appreciated the forthright comments from a number of ETA’s who were interviewed. Many ETA’s had impressive stories, and they all come across as decent, intelligent people, helping to dispel the negative image that the stereotypical “Elvis impersonator” has created in many peoples’ minds.

And let’s not forget the fans! As Pam writes, “The Elvis Presley and ETA fan clubs exist in numbers that defy easy calculations...according to various Internet resources, over 10,000 fan clubs exist worldwide.” “Superfan” Meikel Jungner, from Sweden, is profiled in this section along with quite a few other interesting fans and fansites from around the world.

I met Pam in Collingwood and we talked about what it’s like to interview tribute artists and performers -- it’s definitely not as easy as it may look and I can only imagine the time and work involved in this project!

In summary, I would definitely recommend buying this book. You’ll enjoy reading it! You’ll also learn a great deal more about the tribute artists profiled in the book and about the intricacies involved in the business of “being Elvis.”

All pics courtesy of Pamelaltd.com

Carol
Hunter

Well, it seems that at every Elvis event I’ve been to since last July, people have been reading or referring to the recently published book, Elvis Lives - The Business of Being Elvis. So, this month, I’ve written a review of Pamela Thomas-Williams’ new book which has caught the attention of tribute artists, fans, and many others involved in the industry. Read on!

A Book Review

Elvis Lives
The Business of Being Elvis

Author: Pamela Thomas-Williams

ISBN: 0-9703882-2-5 (paperback, 216 pp.)

Publisher: Pamela, Ltd.