|An Elvis impersonator sings “G.I. Blues” to adoring fans.|
Decades after Elvis Presley’s twin brother Jesse died at birth, and years before scientists began work on human cloning, an odd strain of human known as the “Elvis impersonator” karate-chopped its way into the belly of 20th century world culture. Long live the King.
Twenty Elvis impersonators invaded Birmingham June 15 and 16 for the second Annual Elvis in Dixieland contest. Memphis-native William Styles, who vomited on Presley as an infant (his parents were pals of Elvis), was crowned champ after his mighty fine version of Elvis’ rendition of “Walk a Mile in My Shoes.” Styles, who bears an alarming resemblance to Kurt Russell’s Hollywood portrayal of Elvis, won $1,000 and the opportunity to compete in the world-wide “Images of the King” contest in Memphis in August during the 25th anniversary vigil of Elvis’ death.
David Lee, billed as “Birmingham’s Favorite Elvis Entertainer,” served as master of ceremonies. The reigning Canadian Grand Champion Elvis impersonator, Lee placed third during last year’s Memphis celebration. He introduced an assortment of contenders that aped every Elvis move imaginable — karate kicks, fists punching the air, and hips quivering uncontrollably. Grown women squealed like teenagers as they rushed the stage for kisses and scarves from performers in between endless versions of “Suspicious Minds” and the proverbial Elvis catch-phrase: “Thank you, thank you very much.”
Impersonator Michael Ratcliffe, a member of Virginia’s “Touched By Elvis” fan club, struggled to stay on pitch, but that didn’t stop him from belting out an emotional, off-key version of “My Way.” Danny Dale, an overweight Las Vegas Elvis from Louisville, Kentucky, mingled in the hallway with other contestants after his performance, sweat glistening off his chest as he explained his motivation for imitating the King. “It’s like doing aerobics. I try to mimic [his] moves. I started like most of the impersonators did, doing karaoke. Eventually, I rented a suit and started doing parties.” Beside him stood his 18-year-old son, “Little D,” who waited his turn to present a 1950s Elvis act.
“This is for my country and my Savior,” said a Presley imitator in a sparkling rhinestone-studded blue jumpsuit as he introduced “Dixie.” A gospel Elvis said he got his start impersonating the King at “rodeos, churches, and nursing homes.” Bragging that his Church of God rearing was every bit as religious as Presley’s youth, he opened his set by announcing, “I’d like to put in a plug for the two kings — King Jesus and King Elvis.”