Pete’s all shook up as the King

The Gold Coast Bulletin - Play Magazine - - SHOWS -

– Pic­ture: DAVID CLARK

THE first time Pete Mem­phis hired an Elvis suit from a Southport cos­tume shop, he never imag­ined it would be­come his new uni­form.

At the time, the lo­cal en­ter­tainer was a Bully Holly trib­ute artist but when the cos­tume shop told him to keep the Elvis threads, Mem­phis de­cided to mix a few new tracks into his set.

‘‘Lots of peo­ple were de­mand­ing Elvis songs, so I started do­ing half Buddy Holly, half Elvis shows,’’ he says.

‘‘I wanted to be able to move like him, so I started watch­ing Elvis con­cert videos. I learnt how he holds his hands and what he does with his eyes, how he holds a mi­cro­phone. It look a long time. I wore out the tape.’’

Six years later, Run­away Bay-based Mem­phis – who even has a daugh­ter named Lisa Marie – rocks jet-black locks with chops ev­ery day and has a swag of ad­di­tional Elvis cos­tumes in his wardrobe.

This week­end, Mem­phis dons his finest Pres­ley getup and steps into char­ac­ter for the Elvis Trib­ute Artist com­pe­ti­tion as part of Elvis – Viva Surfers Par­adise.

A to­tal of 16 trib­ute artists from around Aus­tralia will slide into blue suede shoes, jump­suits and black leather as they com­pete for the crown. This week­end’s win­ner will then travel to the Mem­phis Elvis Week to com­pete against im­per­son­ators from around the world.

‘‘We have 15 min­utes to show what we’ve got on Satur­day and Sun­day,’’ says Mem­phis.

‘‘We are sup­posed to pick an era – I’m do­ing late ’70s Elvis and my cos­tume is a replica of the Aloha con­cert he did – it’s got the big ea­gle on the back. I would be hon­oured if I won this week­end.’’

While Mem­phis is a long time Elvis fan – ‘‘I can re­mem­ber my dad play­ing Elvis on the ra­dio as a kid’’ – the more he learns about the star, the more fas­ci­nated he be­comes.

‘‘He re­ally should have been crowned the King of Amer­ica,’’ he says.

‘‘From his per­for­mance to his char­ity and com­mu­nity work. The kind of per­son we was, he was bor­der­ing on saint­hood.’’

Mem­phis says he feels most proud to be an Elvis trib­ute artist when he’s singing Can’t Help Fall­ing In Love.

‘‘When I am singing that song for a lady at a birth­day party or some­thing, and I get very close to her and she starts to cry. It’s a very spe­cial mo­ment,’’ Mem­phis says.

‘‘I hold their hands and look straight into their eyes. They break down. It’s lovely. I feel as though I am giv­ing them the Elvis treat­ment.

‘‘I try to be as close to him as I can. It’s a very in­tense mo­ment – to the point that some­times I have to close my eyes or I will tear up my­self.’’

While Elvis died in 1977, Mem­phis says The King is still as much alive to­day as he ever was.

‘‘I saw a doco on TV that pro­jected from the day Elvis died to the year 2050, if trib­ute artists kept grow­ing at the rate they are, one in ev­ery three men will be an Elvis im­per­son­ator,’’ he says.

‘‘Every­where I go dressed like Elvis, peo­ple want to talk to me.

‘‘If I could go back in time and meet him, I would prob­a­bly thank him for all the work and joy that he’s given to peo­ple.’’

Elvis trib­ute artist Pete Mem­phis

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