Selection journal has known as it a “fizzy, delirious, impishly energised, compulsively watchable two-hour-and-39-minute fever dream”.
f that evaluation will not be sufficient to entice you to see director Baz Luhrmann’s upcoming biopic Elvis — starring Austin Butler as Presley and Tom Hanks as his controversial supervisor Colonel Tom Parker — maybe the devotion of Eire’s Elvis tribute artists (ETAs) would possibly.
From Ballyfermot in Dublin to Caherconlish in Limerick by way of Enniscorthy, Co Wexford, Elvis impersonators predict a bump in bookings as audiences reacquaint themselves with the pelvis-thrusting, lip-curling, soulful king of rock ’n’ roll.
They spoke to the Irish Impartial about the whole lot from the exorbitant value — and weight — of their jumpsuits to juggling day jobs, assembly Elvis’s household and performing in costume at funerals.
Ciaran Houlihan (42), is from Lusk, Co Dublin. He started taking part in guitar at 12, but it surely wasn’t till his late teenagers that he found Presley.
“My dad really by no means appreciated Elvis as a result of Elvis by no means wrote his personal songs — he did cowl variations of songs by individuals like Jim Reeves and Marty Robbins, who have been my dad’s favourites. So he was all the time giving out about him. That received me intrigued and pondering, ‘Who is that this Elvis man?’. Once I began listening to him, I believed he was sensible.”
Houlihan started gigging as an ETA in 2007 and received the All-Eire Elvis competitors the next yr.
“I went on to enter the European competitors and have become the European champion in 2012. Since then, I didn’t enter any extra competitions as a result of fortunately sufficient, it generated a whole lot of work. Now the competitions e book me and I carry out a showcase at them whereas the competitors is occurring.”
The win allowed Houlihan to surrender his day job as a credit score controller “doing plenty of boring spreadsheets”.
This summer time, he has already carried out in Holland and Germany in fits designed by Elvis’s tailor Gene Doucette of B&Ok Enterprises Costume Co. The intense followers love the gospel music; the on a regular basis followers love Suspicious Minds.
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“A buddy of mine does ironmans and I received him to attempt to do Elvis’s routine to Suspicious Minds and he was completely wrecked after it,” says Houlihan. “It’s only a totally different kind of health, I feel. Whenever you’re doing all of the strikes, you continue to need to work the diaphragm to have the ability to sing. In the event you have been huffing and puffing on the stage, it wouldn’t go down too nicely.”
He describes himself as “an Elvis nerd” and is already impressed with the eye to element in Luhrmann’s film.
“I’m mad into the fits and a whole lot of the fits that Austin Butler is carrying are spot on. In 1974, Elvis injured his hand and he had it bandaged up when he wore his dragon go well with. I’ve seen a photograph from the set the place Austin Butler is carrying a dragon go well with with a bandage on his hand.”
Houlihan is now the identical age Elvis was when he died.
“I nonetheless assume I’m younger and I’m positive Elvis thought he was younger too,” says Houlihan. “My buddies slag me that I’ll need to retire now, however I’m not giving up any time quickly. There are a great deal of guys on the circuit who’re a lot older than me.”
ETA Kevin Doyle (50) owns Doyle’s Greengrocers in Ballyfermot, Dublin. He’s anticipating Elvis to shine a light-weight on “the darker facet” of the singer’s story.
“Individuals will not be conscious of how arduous he was labored by Tom Parker or the Colonel, as he was nicknamed,” says Doyle. “He had him taking part in three reveals a day, seven days per week in Las Vegas. Clearly an espresso received’t get you thru that.”
Doyle began out taking part in in an everyday covers band. The recognition of the ‘Midnight on the Olympia’ gigs within the early noughties — and their penchant for tribute bands — tipped him “into the Elvis lane”. He and his band “went to high school about Elvis”, perfecting their rhythm part, brass traces, vocal harmonies and look.
“We have been fortunate to have an excellent relationship with an Elvis fan membership known as The Elvis Social Membership run by John Kavanagh. We did plenty of nice occasions with John.”
Elvis’s piano participant Glen Hardin joined them on stage one evening within the Level Depot, now the 3Arena. Doyle and his band additionally carried out in Dublin with The Jordanaires, the well-known vocal quartet who labored with Elvis from 1956 to 1972, however who declined his invitation to maneuver to Las Vegas from Nashville for his residency there.
“In order that they didn’t play with Elvis, however they performed with a greengrocer from Ballyfermot,” says Doyle.
He by no means forgets his prospects, regardless of how busy the gigging will get.
“There have been occasions after we’ve had a gig in Ballina or Clonmel and I’ve needed to go straight from there into the market at 5am,” he says. “I simply transfer the drums and the guitars to at least one facet to get the spuds and the cabbage in. It’s very Roddy Doyle, Commitments-esque.”
He reckons Elvis has had a big impact on Irish individuals — and our music — proper from the beginning. “In the event you look again on the showband period — the quiffs and the ducktails — they have been positively influenced by Elvis.”
Tim Ryan (59), from Caherconlish, Co Limerick, is a block layer. Aged eight, he discovered his first Elvis tune, a ballad known as Simply For Previous Time’s Sake.
“I received hooked on my father’s Elvis data from a really early age.” He remembers attending a live performance by an ETA known as Frank Chisum from Fermanagh within the early Nineteen Eighties.
“The tributes kicked off right away after Elvis died,” he says. “They reckon there are round 200,000 Elvis impersonators all over the world now.”
Ryan started his personal act in 2000.
“I’ve pure black hair and I simply brush it again. I get my costumes from a fellow in Thailand. He makes them for lots of ETAs. They begin at about €1,000 per go well with and go as much as €3,000 for the Aloha costume.”
This can be a reproduction of the bejewelled white jumpsuit Elvis wore for his 1973 ‘Aloha from Hawaii’ live performance.
Within the absence of a band, ETAs additionally have to buy skilled backing tracks to sing alongside to.
“There’s an organization in America that does them and for about 12 songs, you’d pay about $200. My costs for a gig begin at €250, but it surely relies on the placement. Once I go to Belfast, it’s £400.
“Earlier than Covid, I might have had about 4 gigs a month at weekends. Elvis was all the time fashionable in Eire. He can hint his ancestry again to Hackettstown, Co Carlow.”
Ryan performs in any respect types of occasions. “Even funerals, would you imagine. I’ve been requested to put on the costume at funerals too. I might do the gospel stuff like Wonderful Grace, How Nice Thou Artwork and If We By no means Meet Once more.”
He received a contest on the Porthcawl Elvis Pageant in Wales, however that has not been the spotlight of his profession.
“I sang in entrance of Elvis’s tour supervisor Joe Espesito 15 years in the past within the Crimson Cow Resort in Dublin,” says Ryan. “I received a standing ovation from him and I used to be thrilled with that.”
Dan Kirwan (47) is a full-time Elvis tribute artist from Enniscorthy, Co Wexford. “The one skilled Elvis tribute artist in a wheelchair”, he began out as a DJ. His ETA profession “happened accidentally” when his Elvis renditions proved fashionable at karaoke nights.
“In 2005 at an Elvis Pageant in Memphis, I met with Elvis’s household to place to them the concept of doing a tribute and so they mentioned, ‘Go for it’. Elvis wasn’t in a wheelchair, so I didn’t need to be making a mockery, insulting his reminiscence or upsetting his household. However they have been sensible,” says Kirwan.
He was born with spina bifida and commenced his act in 2006. 4 years later, he positioned within the high 10 of an Elvis competitors in Memphis and was gifted backing tracks recorded by the unique band. He nonetheless “makes an excellent residing” and lately headlined In a position Fest, Eire’s largest inclusive competition.
“I do festivals, weddings, birthdays, pubs, inns — all the same old,” he says. “It’s good to be booked by true Elvis followers for an event. In the event you’re simply in a pub, you’re unsure what sort of response you’re going to get. Some persons are Elvis followers and a few individuals aren’t.”
Kirwan additionally will get his jumpsuits from B&Ok Enterprises Costume Co.
“Those designed with embroidery are the cheaper finish of the market, however they’re all getting costlier now with import taxes. Whenever you placed on the jumpsuit, all of your worries disappear. Entertaining individuals comes first,” he says.
Rob Kingsley (52) is a full-time ETA from Edinburgh, whose mom is from Bangor, Co Down. His third Irish tour is within the autumn. The previous soldier nonetheless finds it “surreal” to be impersonating Elvis.
“I went out in Cyprus one evening, had a couple of too many Guinnesses and received up and sang karaoke — as all of us do,” says Kingsley. “The man there requested me to come back again in 5 weeks and be Elvis.”
He received the European Elvis Championships in 2008 and has now been “all over the world twice”, performing in Australia, Singapore, Thailand and all throughout Europe.
“Touring as Elvis is far simpler than the excursions I used to be doing within the military,” he says.
Although Kingsley is “half-Scottish, half-Irish”, he was shocked on the uncommon Elvis tune Irish audiences appear to favour. “Normally, it’s Suspicious Minds, however in Eire, it’s Candy Caroline.” His heaviest costume weighs 28lbs. “You’re speaking about two stone,” he says. “It’s known as the stone flame go well with.”
Kingsley is grateful for LED stage lights, that are much less harsh than the par can lights of the previous. “Whenever you have a look at previous footage of bands within the Seventies, they’re all sweating a lot.”
He’s trying ahead to seeing the biopic, Elvis. “I’m hoping that individuals who see the film will resolve to come back out and see an Elvis present too. On the finish of the day, all of the Elvis tribute artists are serving to to maintain his music alive.”