Sheree Homer Interview

Author of 'You Sound Just Like… Behind the Scenes with 40 Musical Tribute Artists'

Interview by Nigel Patterson - June 2022

Sheree Homer’s is a music tragic. Her latest book, You Sound Just Like... Behind the Scenes with 40 Musical Tribute Artists, is due to be released in late August.

Around half of the performers Sheree researched and interviewed for the book are Elvis Tribute Artists (ETAs).

Sheree recently took time out to talk to EIN about the book, her other rock music publications, and the eclectic world of musical tribute artists.


Interview by Nigel Patterson, June 2022


EIN Note: The book will be released during Fall in the US/Autumn in the UK.

EIN: Sheree, before we talk about your new book, who is Sheree Homer?

Sheree H: I am very passionate about music. I love that I get to preserve some of its history through my writing. I attend concerts as often as I can and listen to various songs daily. Some of my other hobbies include photography, ballroom dancing (tango and merengue are my favorites), and watching classic movies.

EIN: You have published several music related books including Rick Nelson Rock ‘n’ Roll Pioneer, Catch That Rockabilly Fever, Dig That Beat!, and Under the Influence of Classic Country. Please tell us about these other books?  

SH: Catch That Rockabilly Fever was my first book and profiled forty-six different artists, including Elvis Presley, Wanda Jackson, Buddy Holly, Charlie Gracie, Bob Luman, Sonny Burgess, Glen Glenn, The Collins Kids, Marti Brom, Kim Lenz, and The Dave and Deke Combo. The book was a finalist for an Association for Recorded Sound Collections award in the category of Best Research in Pop/Rock Music.


I wrote Rick Nelson: Rock and Roll Pioneer because he’s my second favorite singer, and I didn’t like the other previously published books. I wanted to solely concentrate on his musical and television legacies. I personally interviewed many of his musicians, producers, and television co-stars. Rick’s aunt Connie Harper Nelson and his ex-wife Kristin were particularly helpful. Without them, the book wouldn’t have been possible. Rick Nelson: Rock and Roll Pioneer has been the most highly revered of all my books, having received critical acclaim and several five star reviews.

Dig That Beat showcased a variety of genres- pop, classic country, rhythm and blues, and rockabilly. Some of the featured artists were Conway Twitty, Dale Hawkins, The Orlons, Billy Swan, Buck Owens, Dodie Stevens, and Robin Luke.

Under the Influence of Classic Country was primarily country acts but also a few with rockabilly roots. This book had the biggest names yet- Mickey Gilley, Janie Fricke, Charley Pride, Freddie Hart, The Oak Ridge Boys, Loretta Lynn, Ray Price, Ernest Tubb, and Faron Young, to name but a few.

All of my books chronicle life on the road and in the studio, musical influences, and stories behind some of the artists’ biggest songs. They also feature a discography, bibliography, and endnotes. Incidentally, due to the extensive research and in-depth interviews, each book took two and a half years to write.


EIN: Your various books confirm your passion for rock and roll and rockabilly. How did this come about?

SH: While my mom was pregnant with me, she played Elvis, Fats Domino, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Chuck Berry, and she said that I moved around to the music. I give all the credit to her for introducing me to rock and roll. My earliest memory was dancing to Elvis’ “Shake, Rattle, and Roll/Flip, Flop, and Fly.” Then, when I was sixteen, I helped re-organize her 45 RPM record collection and got introduced to Ricky Nelson, Carl Perkins, Bobby Darin, and Brenda Lee. A few years later, I discovered rockabilly, thanks to a couple of friends and a three CD box set titled The Sun Records Collection.

EIN: Sheree, you are recognised as an expert on rock and roll and known for your vast music collection. Please tell us about your collection and what it contains.

SH: I don’t have a vast collection of vinyl. I have a few 45s and albums. My mom is the main collector of records. However, I do have a ton of CDs. My musical taste is very eclectic- 50s pop, rockabilly, rhythm and blues, classic country, rock and roll, soul, 80s, British Invasion, and some modern acts such as Shawn Mendes and Bruno Mars.

EIN: Many collectors of vinyl are getting to the age where they are thinking about what to do with their collection, particularly the routine releases that aren’t particularly valuable. Do you have any advice for them?

SH: I think it’s great if you can pass them down to your ancestors like your children or nieces/nephews. If that’s not possible, then perhaps just enjoy them while you’re still alive on your favorite record player or jukebox. As far as selling, I would suggest eBay or an individual collector.

EIN: What gave you the idea for You Sound Just Like... Behind the Scenes with 40 Musical Tribute Artists?

SH: I have enjoyed seeing many of the various tribute artists in concert and wanted to tell their stories. I thought it would be interesting to hear about how they got started in the business, how long it takes to prepare for a show, and if they had ever met any of the icons they portray. The tribute artist industry has continued to grow in recent years and has become very popular. I think it’s wonderful that they are keeping the music alive, especially for those of us who never had the opportunity to see the original artists.


Amberley Beatty as Patsy Cline, plus John Mueller as Buddy Holly

EIN: How did you research each of the tribute artists in the book?

SH: I was already familiar with many since I had seen them in concert, but with all the artists I read what I could online then personally interviewed each one. I sent them a series of questions via email, around twenty questions.

EIN: Almost half of the artists in You Sound Just Like….are Elvis Tribute Artists (ETAs). Is this because of their abundance?

SH: I sent inquiries to hundreds of different tribute acts, but the featured forty are the ones who said yes to an interview. However, the majority of them were ETAs, and that’s because there are so many in the industry.

EIN: Following on from the previous question, Elvis tribute artists far outnumber the number for any other artist or group. While the total number of ETA's has declined in recent years there still appear to be many more Elvis tribute acts than those for any other artist or group. Did you form a view on why the phenomenon of ETAs continues to be so dominant?

SH: In my opinion, Elvis is the greatest performer who ever lived. He could sing anything- gospel, country, rock, pop, or blues. Plus, he was a very generous soul. People remember his kindness. He loved his fans, but he also loved everyone. He never met a stranger. I think that’s due to his humble upbringing. Growing up, Elvis was very poor, and he didn’t want to see anyone else go without. Elvis not only changed music, but he changed popular culture from the way you dressed to the way you perceived life. Suddenly, the American Dream was achievable because he did it. There will never be another Elvis Presley. He had it all. I think that the reason there are thousands of ETAs is because Elvis is so well loved and respected. They want to pay homage to the only entertainer who has influenced decades of singers and musicians.

EIN: Were there any things about tribute artists that surprised you when you were researching the book?

SH: I was surprised at how much preparation it takes to portray an original act. Jay Dupuis tries to impersonate Elvis to a tee. He researches specific concert set lists and exacts jumpsuits in his efforts to recreate Elvis’ performances. It amazed me his attention to detail. That showed me true dedication to his craft. I also found it fascinating to hear the stories of how some were friends with the legends, such as Jacob Tolliver and Jerry Lee Lewis and Al Jackson and Fats Domino. I took pleasure in hearing that the originals applauded their efforts.


EIN: In You Sound Just Like…. you include the Ultimate Elvis Tribute Artist Contest. What was your impression of this event and is it unique in the tribute artist world?

SH: I have not personally witnessed the Ultimate, but I know it’s the best contest in the world, and it is highly coveted by all ETAs. If you win that competition, you are seen as the greatest, and of course, with that your salary and number of gigs increase. I appreciate that once an ETA wins the Ultimate, they cannot compete in it again. I think that is very good since it gives others a chance. That is not the case with the majority of the preliminaries. Many times the same artist wins over and over again.

I also think that the Ultimate and all the preliminaries need to have two categories- one for the ‘50s Elvis and then another for the jumpsuit era. By the 1970s, Elvis’ vocal range and performance level had expanded. For example, how can a judge rightfully compare “Hurt” with the 1950s version of “Don’t Be Cruel?” Rarely do the 1950s ETAs win the competitions, in particular the Ultimate, so I think it would give everyone a fairer shot.

EIN: Apart from Elvis you have sections on tribute acts as diverse as Roy Orbison, Little Richard, Patsy Cline, Buddy Holly, Diana Ross, Stevie Nicks, and Cher. With the exception of the last three, the other tribute artists in your book are from the rock and roll era or got their start in the rock and roll era. Did you form a view on why there are more tribute acts relating to that period?

SH: I believe that the rock and roll era represents a simpler, happier time. Family life and a high moral ideal were essential for those living in the 1950s. Plus, the singers and musicians actually wrote and played their songs. There was no auto tune, and overdubbing was rarer because the tracks were recorded live.

EIN: One of the interesting inclusions in your book is Pete Hutton who imitates Ral Donner. Donner of course, was known as an Elvis sound-a-like/imitator and released several Elvis tribute albums, a cover of Elvis’ The Girl of My Best Friend, and the tribute song, The Day the Beat Stopped. So, you have a tribute artist celebrating a tribute artist. Did the irony of this strike you?

SH: Actually, it never occurred to me. Pete also pays tribute to Ricky Nelson and Elvis. He has found a lot of success overseas. In his native United Kingdom, he has recreated the Oh Boy television program and transformed it into a traveling stage show.

EIN: The first known Elvis Tribute Artists were Norman Johnson from Nacogdoches, Texas, who impersonated “The King” when he was 14 and Elvis was 18, and Carl 'Cheesie' Nelson from Texarkana, Arkansas, who in 1954 built up a local following on WLAC radio with his renditions of That's All Right, Mama and Blue Moon of Kentucky. In doing your research, did you investigate the history of tribute artists, when they first appeared, and their evolution since? Did the advent of ETAs lead the way?

SH: I mentioned Chessie briefly in my introduction and talked about how there were Elvis impersonators while Elvis was still alive and how he liked many of them. I didn’t delve very deeply into the history, but Elvis tribute artists were definitely the first.

EIN: In the world of ETAs the performance quality varies significantly between amateurish part-time acts to impressive, professional performers. Is this the same for non-Elvis tribute acts?

SH: Yes, some make a living entirely from their tribute act while others do it strictly as a hobby. It is usually said that the more you practice the better you become. Therefore, there are varying levels of devotion to honing an act.

EIN: There are numerous "still active" artists who have tribute shows, for example, Queen, Kiss, Elton John, Neil Diamond, Rod Stewart, and the Eagles. These are older, established artists. Are there also tribute acts for younger, more recently established music stars?

SH: Yes, there are many, such as Lady Gaga, Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, Bruno Mars, and Justin Bieber. I didn’t know any of these existed until after I wrote the book, but that also wasn’t my focus. I’m not a big fan of modern music, so I tried to stick with acts that I would enjoy seeing.

EIN: There are also tribute acts that cover more than one artist/group, for example Purple Zeppelin (Deep Purple and Led Zeppelin), Dread Zeppelin (Led Zeppelin and Elvis), and, at least in the 1990s-early noughties, there were ETAs splitting their shows into part Elvis-part Freddy Mercury (Queen). How common are hybrid tribute acts?

SH: I featured many tribute artists who portray more than one act: Dwight Icenhower (Elvis/Elton John), Jesse Aron (Elvis/Roy Orbison), Amberley Beatty (Madonna/Loretta Lynn/Connie Francis/Shania Twain/Patsy Cline), Leo Days (Elvis/Michael Jackson), John Mueller (Buddy Holly/Carl Perkins), and Ricky Aron (Shakin’ Stevens/Elvis). It’s probably more enticing to promoters if a singer can imitate more than one icon. Also, for the artist, it opens up more opportunities to gain in exposure and experience.


ETAs - Dean Z and Shawn Klush

EIN: After researching so many diverse tribute acts, who are your favorites, and why?

SH: There are several ETAs that top my list- Cody Slaughter, Shawn Klush, Dean Z, Bill Cherry, Victor Trevino Jr., Emilio Santoro, and Moses Snow. As far as non-ETAs, I like Jared Freiburg, Jacob Tolliver, Al Jackson, Rick Lindy, and John Mueller. I appreciate their hard work and dedication. They go out of their way to please fans with their performances.

EIN: Sheree, is there anything else you would like to say to EIN readers?

SH: All of my books are available for sale on Amazon. I hope you will decide to purchase one or more.

EIN: Sheree, thank you very much for taking the time to talk with EIN. We wish you all the best with your new, and future books.

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You Sound Just Like…. Behind the Scenes with 40 Musical Tribute Artists:

Interview by Nigel Patterson.
-Copyright EIN June 2022
EIN Website content © Copyright the Elvis Information Network.



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