Pete’s all shook up as the King
– 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