It's hard to believe on May 24th it will be twenty years since I performed my first paid performance. My how far we have come. My then boss, Keith Hanson hired me to perform as Elvis at his class reunion for North Side High School. It was held in the ball room at Don Hall's Guesthouse. I had no sound system or lighting at the time, so I rented a sound system from a local guy. Turns out it was the Allman Brothers former sound system. It was way more than we needed. The sound board was huge and looked like the cockpit of a jetliner. I asked my brother-in-law Bob, if he would run my sound. Hey he's an electrician, so how hard could it be right? We rented a spotlight, which again was way bigger than what we needed and put out a ton of heat. My sister Melody was a big Elvis fan and knew the songs and Elvis' moves that I would be trying to emulate, so I thought she was the person for the job. I think she sweated a few pounds off and got a suntan by the end of the night. My backup music I sang with was on cassette tape then and that brought it's own problems. Back then I only had two costumes that Melody and myself made. I thought we did pretty good considering we had never tackled any thing like that. My Mom made me some scarves to pass out. My Dad helped organize the set up and my wife Dawn helped pass out scarves. Considering how green we all were at this, it's a wonder my career whet anywhere. But we must have done alright. My first public show came on November 9, 1997 again at Don Hall's Guesthouse.
Here we are twenty years later and still performing. My Dad has been by my side ever since. Bob still runs sound when we do the occasional big shows, and Melody is still running the spotlight at those shows. We don't make my costumes anymore. After several years of success I was then able to purchase custom made Elvis costumes. Of course we have grown and expanded over the past twenty years. Adding more lighting, sound systems and a trailer to transport it all. We added live drums to the show in 2000 after seeing an Elvis tribute in Branson, Missouri, sing to tracks but with live drums. I thought it added so much, so Eric Stillabower joined the show for a few years, and then Dave Schnellbach came on board not only as a drummer he also sang harmony with me on several songs. Dave helped me out of a jam and was going to do a few gigs until I found someone else. Well he is still with me on my big concerts.
Also in 2000, at the urging of fan Peggy Mathews, we started the "Memories of The King-Fan Club", Rose Gerardot was the President and what a great job she did helping out at the Fan Club table at shows, mailing out news letters, birthday cards, and keeping track of membership dues, and the list goes on. At one time we had well over 100 members. We took two Fan Club bus trips to Tupelo, MS and Memphis, TN and toured Elvis' birthplace and Graceland home, along with many other Elvis locals at both of Elvis' home towns. We also took groups on our two "Memories of The King Cruises" as I performed on two Carnival cruise ships in the Caribbean in 2011 and 2013.
From 2001 - 2013 we were part of the Foellinger Outdoor Theatre's summer concert series. Those were a lot of work, but boy how rewarding. We had as many as 1,400 in attendance. I was able to perform shows I had always wanted including recreations of Elvis' Fort Wayne concerts as well as hi famous "Aloh From Hawaii" concert.
In 2014 I made a big leap and started my tribute to Neil Diamond. It was met with some skepticism from some of my long time fans, but I have and continue to enjoy performing Neil's songs. I also added Jamie Klein to sing with me in 2014. Jamie and I had known each other along time and have sung together on the praise team at North Highlands Church of Christ since 2010. I wanted to perform some of Neil's duets, so I asked her to join my Neil Diamond shows, and she said yes. She was such a hit and asset to the show, I started to include her in my Elvis shows too, singing backup, opening for the show and singing some duets that Elvis did. Jamie was so good, I thought there has to be a way to include her more so everyone can enjoy her beautiful voice. So in 2015 we came up with "King & Country." This is as much her show as it is mine. I can't express how much I have enjoyed this new show. I don't have to be "ON" all the time by sharing the spotlight with Jamie. These shows are more casual and less stress than my other two shows.
So hear it's 2017 and I'm still dressing up in crazy costumes and making a fool of myself and people pay me money to do it! What a gig! I still love performing all of my shows as much as I did back in 1997. There are so many people I have a debt of gratitude to. So here is the short list: Dad, Mom, Dawn, Melody, Bob, Elaine, Eric, Dave, Lisa, Jamie, Keith, Rose, Marion, Peggy, Ruby, Tom, Sandy, Mitzi, Marilyn, Wanda, Evelyn, Shirley, Donna, Jo, Sharon, Diana, Ron, Dave W., Brandon, Kendra and the list of fans and supporters is too long to name them all. So many of you have encouraged me, paid lots of money over the years to go to concerts, bus trips, cruises, got me gigs, written to venues thanking them for booking me and more. At times it may seem like a one man show, but even if you only see me up on stage it took a whole lotta people to get me there. Of course if it wasn't for the one and only Elvis Presley, non of this would have happened. God has surely blessed me over these last twenty years. My debt will always be to Him. We have a lot of shows lined up for this milestone year and hope to have more. Come join me and celebrate what we all have accomplished.
TCB & TLC,