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Myrtle Beach area dusts off blue suede shoes to honor the king

John Lennon once proclaimed: “Before Elvis, there was nothing.”

Myrtle Beach fan Dwight Farmer takes that line of thinking one step further when he says that after Elvis, there have been nothing but imitations.

“He was the original,” Farmer said.

Thursday marks the 35th anniversary of the passing of the man history credits with the invention of rock and roll. Each generation has its musical icon who lives on in legend even after they die.

And while there are legions of fans who still mourn the loss of legends like Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, Kurt Cobain and Lennon himself, it’s probably safe to say none of them evoke such passion and emotion -- not to mention costumes -- as “the King.”

Some reports tag the number of Elvis impersonators around the world at 85,000. A few can be found right here along the Grand Strand, and they’re busy keeping Elvis’ spirit alive throughout this week.

Tuesday night, the “Elvi” were out in full force at The Boathouse, off Fantasy Harbor Boulevard in Myrtle Beach.

Farmer was just one of five crooning kings who took to the stage in their Graceland-approved attire and belted out such Elvis classics as “Suspicious Minds.”

All were part of King Shazam, which sponsors the local Elvis fan club.

Charlotte, N.C., natives Jeff and Anne Collins started the group almost two years ago after moving to Myrtle Beach and finding there was no official Elvis fan club.

“It’s just the most fun,” Anne Collins said.

Jeff Collins was sporting a replica of one of the King’s iconic sequined jumpsuits, which Elvis started wearing shortly after his 1968 comeback special.

This signature outfit is a blend of astronaut and karate jumpsuits, said Jeff Collins, whose appreciation and love of Elvis’ music began when he was in high school in Charlotte. Growing up conservative, Jeff Collins said he wasn’t exposed to Presley in his household.

And what’s Elvis’ lasting appeal? According to Jeff Collins, it’s variety.

“He knew what would work in the industry,” Jeff Collins said.

Judging by two of the younger Elvis tribute artists who got the crowd cheering at The Boathouse, the King’s appeal will continue with each consecutive generation.

Alex Mitchell counts himself as an Elvis fan since birth.

The 18-year-old Carolina Forest High School student was so impressed by a tribute artist he once saw at Legends in Concert that he went out and bought a white sport coat and has been singing Elvis’ songs ever since.

Tuesday, Mitchell was decked out in black leather pants and black leather jacket to represent circa 1968-era Elvis. Hip swiveling ensued when he took the stage.

“He was rock and roll,” Mitchell said. “He changed the way we listened to music. He’s just cool.”

Twenty-three-year-old Michael Sokolik Jr., started doing an Elvis impersonation at age 7. His first professional gig as the King was at 17 at Socastee Station.

Adorned with a red blazer and strumming an acoustic guitar, Sokolik had an almost uncanny resemblance to the young Elvis of the 1950s.

Now, all these decades later, the music and career of Elvis Presley continues to thrive, 35 years after he departed this world.

“Everybody knows him. You can’t dislike him. He was the future, and is now the present,” Sokolik said.

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