Elvis – actually 16 Elvises – will be in the building Saturday night, all trying to win Legends in Concert’s fifth annual Myrtle Beach preliminary round for the Ultimate Elvis Tribute Artist Preliminary Contest.
The show starts at 7 p.m. at Legends in Concert, with Diane DeVaughn Stokes as host, and Janice Duffy of Hard Rock Café and radio personalities Banana Jack Murphy and Lou Krieger as judges. The winner will claim $1,000 and move on to compete in the Ultimate Elvis Tribute Artist Contest finals in Memphis, Tenn., in August during Elvis Week. The local runners-up will win $300 and $200, respectively.
Jason Aiesi, general manager for Legends in Concert in Myrtle Beach, and longtime Elvis tribute artist Grahame Patrick, who continues performing in Legends’ daily shows through July 15, reflected on the monumental presence the late King of Rock ‘n’ Roll still commands. Patrick also will make a special appearance for the extravaganza on Saturday night, so that’ll make 17 Elvis tribute artists on site.
Question | What makes or keeps Elvis alive more than ever?
Aiesi | One thing that helps keeps Elvis alive is the Ultimate Elvis Tribute Artist Contest. There are other contests, but this is the official contest, through Elvis Presley Enterprises, five years running now. And there are Elvis cruises. There is this magic about Elvis Presley. Never mind all the No. 1s. This aura, this mystique and this magic about Elvis seems to transcend generations. ... There’s always going to be somebody who comes along, such as Louis Armstrong or Frank Sinatra, who still stands the test of time. ... Just to have that sort of place in history is something special.
Patrick | There was something in him. It wasn’t just a performance level. It was something inside of him, a spirit that was truly unique, something that was truly one of a kind that kind of lights people up. People can sense that.
Q. | After four years of this contest, what trends have been noticeable about the Elvises and their acts, including entrants here in Myrtle Beach? Do contestants gravitate more toward the ‘70s, or flash back more to the 1950s black, leather look?
Aiesi | We have a good mix, but a majority go for the jumpsuit ‘70s look. ... We get with our production manager each year, and we make sure we’re giving the audience a blend of guys performing as Elvis. They’re going to get the rarities in songs, in addition to all the top hits. We make sure it’s a blend, and so it’s not four ballads in a row.
Patrick | People have different preferences, but for me, it’s an all-around thing. I couldn’t have one without the other, you know? What I like to see is a whole, well-rounded appreciation representing the same person.
Q. | “A Little Less Conversation” made quite the hit for Elvis posthumously last decade, such as on a wedding episode of “Everybody Loves Raymond,” when Robert and Amy Barone (Brad Garrett and Monica Horan) did their first dance. Is there anything left that’s new to do with Elvis?
Aiesi | ”A little less conversation and a lot more action” – That’s the kind of the theme line we’re doing for this contest.
Patrick | As Elvis fans who discover more about Elvis, they’ll go back into his catalog, and see tons of hits and all the songs that weren’t hits. People will discover others in years to come and remix them, and give a whole new spin to it again.
Q. | When performing and perfecting a tribute to Elvis, what numbers make people’s hearts quake the most?
Aiesi | I have seen so many Elvis tribute artists through the years. ... The number that evokes the most, from a crowd’s emotions, is “American Trilogy.” “Hurt” always brings seems to bring the crowds to their feet, and when he does Frank Sinatra’s “My Way.” Those are the three that come to mind that evoke the most feelings from audiences.
Patrick | The audience will have a different personality each night, with different reactions, even a subtle one. ... I try to look for an opposite effect. I’m looking for a big number ... but I like to go for different things, such as “The Impossible Dream.” ... The great songs: I love doing them ... but you hear them so much ... It’s nice to look for something that’s slightly different.
Q. | What might Elvis mean to humanity 100 years from now, when all of us have long passed, but maybe tribute artists will remain torch bearers for keeping his legacy so lively?
Aiesi | When you look at the period from 1900 to 2040-50, I think when you mention a name that’s synonymous with rock ‘n’ roll music, I don’t how Elvis can’t top that list. If they’re teaching a history class on rock ‘n’ roll, I don’t see how he can’t be at the forefront of what was just an unbelievable movement and time period in music. ... When one looks at the ‘50s, ‘60s and ‘70s ... Elvis owned 30 years or longer of those years as a No. 1 artist.
Patrick | I think his legacy will be greater, but yet, be less and less as time goes by, but you can never get rid of that legacy. The little kids who wonder where Elvis’ music came from: They’re the ones who will find it and keep it alive. And look at Graceland; Elvis Presley Enterprises is doing a great job preserving that. ... It’s like the former space shuttles going up in space, and the booster rockets going by the wayside, but you’ll see this one shining star left, and that will pinpoint it more, and when they get to Elvis, people will wonder where did he get his this gift from. ... People forget he was a movie star, too.
Q. | With Legends in Concert having just opened a show in Waikiki, Hawaii, and assisting in that premiere, is there a different kind of embrace of Elvis there, halfway around the world, or have you found the fanfare just as strong anywhere you go?
Patrick | Elvis is pretty much received that way pretty much around the world. Audiences will react differently ... and it might be a difference in generations. German and Japanese audiences are reserved during a show, but after a show, they’ll mob you.
Q. | Any no-miss aspects in order for the contest on Saturday?
Aiesi | With Grahame’s numbers, we’ll have the full production around him, with the dancers and lighting with everything. We have quite a diverse field of 16 contestants. Marcel Forestieri, who opened our new venue, playing Jay Leno when we moved last year to Myrtle Beach from Surfside Beach, has now made a change. ... He’s dropped a lot of weight and is very physical, so people will get to see Jay Leno as Elvis. ... He started as a Elvis tribute artists in the ‘60s, and he wanted to re-explore that. It’s quite an interesting change. He placed second at our venue in Atlantic City, N.J.