The King Is Back!

GOT an Elvis itch you just can't scratch? Well slap on your sideburns and zip up that jumpsuit cause the King of Rock 'n Roll is back!


From Elvis' original band to a leather-clad, SHE-Elvis (see image below) and a documentary on the myths and legends of the King - it's all waiting in the wings ahead of next year's 30th anniversary of the death of the King of rock 'n roll.

"It was a great shock. We had no idea it was that serious", says legendary guitarist James Burton on one of the most infamous deaths in twentieth century pop culture - that of Elvis Aaron Presley aged 42 years at his Graceland mansion on August 16, 1977.

Found lying on the floor in his en suite bathroom by his fiance, actress Ginger Alden (they were to be married on Christmas Day), Presley was taken to the Baptist Hospital where doctors pronounced him dead at 3.30pm.

He had suffered a massive heart attack although it would be disclosed later he had some 10 highly addictive substances in his bloodstream, indicating an overdose.

"He had a bad back and a twisted colon and we knew he took prescription medication for that" says Burton; his slow, southern drawl wafting down the phone line from his hometown of Shrepe Port, Louisiana.

 "He would gain a lot of weight but lose it on these fasts, crash diets. I saw him lose 50 pounds (22 kilos) in a week. I guess it just took a toll on him".

As for the emotional demons that plagued Presley, Burton, who was Elvis' lead guitarist from 1969-1977 is in no doubt.

"I know for a fact how much he loved his mother, Gladys. He never got over losing her (she died of a heart attack in 1958 aged 46). He also never got over losing his wife Pricilla (they divorced in 1973) and wanting to spend more time with his daughter, Lisa-Marie".

Theories aside, 29 years on, Burton is back with his mega-famous, karate kicking front man - in spirit at least - for the Elvis Presley New Concert Tour.

Backed by a 16-piece orchestra, Burton plays Presley's hits of old along with other original members from the King's TCB (Taking Care of Business) band including Glen D. Hardin (piano), Jerry Scheff (bass guitar) and Ronnie Tutt (drums).

Other rock 'n roll relics include Joe Guercio (musical director/conductor), Myrna Smith (vocals) of the Sweet Inspirations and Ed Enoch (vocals) of JD Sumner & The Stamps.

Elvis by the way, towers above them all. As if descending from the heavens, the Lord of Graceland is projected onto a gargantuan video screen. His voice, the only sound bellowing from above; multi-track recording allowing producers to isolate the King's vocals from the original 1970-1973 footage.

"The eighth wonder of the world with its vortex of high emotion" declares the London Daily Telegraph with its concert critique. While the LA Times observes: "When Elvis finally left the building, he took plenty of satisfied customers with him".

Says Burton who dares even the most hardened critic not to enjoy the show: "Elvis is cuttin' up and having a ball. You can feel his presence on stage. It's almost like him being there. It's incredible".

While the Elvis-resurrected roadshow has been doing the rounds since 1998, on Friday, October 6 it will be Perth's first chance to experience the "rock 'n roll event of a lifetime". To tantalise Presley devotees further there's even an exhibit of original Elvis costumes and other concert-related items from the Graceland archives.

Of course the irony of today's post-Presley international tour is that during his lifetime, the King desperately wanted to travel the world performing. A puppet-on-a-string to his master manipulator manager, Colonel Tom Parker, Presley was talked out of fulfilling his potentially lucrative dream. His only concerts outside America were in Canada in 1957.

The riddle was eventually solved after Presley's death when Parker's secret past was revealed. An illegal and uneducated Dutch immigrant (he worked in a circus and pet cemetery at one stage), Andreas van Kuijk, born in Breda, Netherlands in 1909 never held a passport and therefore could not travel outside the US.

"Elvis talked to me constantly in the last year before he died about going to Europe and Australia and taking the show there instead of everyone coming to him" says Burton. "He was so looking forward to doing that but unfortunately it never happened".

So what would the King make of the 2006 multi-media spectacular? Given his penchant for technology (he had 16 television sets scattered throughout Graceland) you'd think it would most certainly strike a cord.

"Elvis would absolutely love it! He would approve of everything" says showman Burton, now 66 and still as guitar savvy as ever.

Whether or not the King would approve of his Australian, female namesake will never be known.

Elle-vis aka "Margarida" promises audiences an "uncanny likeness to the King of rock 'n roll, but with curves" for her debut Perth performance at the Burswood Theatre on October 14.

"Boldly going where no other woman has gone before", states her website; she has "amped and re-vamped" Presley classics to give an "electrifying tribute to the King".

A closer inspection reveals the red leather clad diva is in fact born and bred in Adelaide, lives with her gay lover and has five "children" - three cats, a dog and a cockatiel (a big budgie). Her love of Elvis began at eight years of age when she used to watch old Elvis movies at the weekend with her Portuguese parents.

Soon enough, out came "the little guitar" as wells as jumpsuits made from sequined fabrics as the pint-sized performer impressed friends and family with renditions of King-sized classics.

After a seven-year stint with the Gilles Plains theatre in Adelaide, Margarida got her big break - singing Elvis' American Trilogy on the Bert Newton show. The inspirational performance earned her a standing ovation and a six-month contract.

In 2002, she could no longer deny her urge to focus solely on the King's music and set about re-arranging his work to bring it into the "21st century" (think "disco" Elvis and you get the picture).

"It had just been driving me crazy all my life. I thought, I HAVE to do this Elvis thing and I didn't know why. I just love his music so much" she explains.

Linking up with Australian promoter Andy Ciccone, producer of the successful "Elvis to the Max" concerts starring American Elvis impersonator Max Pellicano, Elle-vis was soon on her way to international stardom.

"There is a fine line in my opinion I won't step over" says Margarida who refuses to be categorized as an Elvis "impersonator" and has swapped the performer's outlandish jumpsuits for own more sublime, two-piece suits. "Elvis to me is a legend and all I'm trying to do is keep that legend alive from a woman's perspective. It's a serious approach. I'm not making fun of him" she says in earnest.

The Adelaide artiste acknowledges however that her show will upset some die-hard Presley fans; skepticism she says which is "natural". She asks them though to consider the reasoning behind the show -"to integrate a younger market with the old Elvis market. We want young people to see what his music was like and what he was like" she says.

Of course, as the clock ticks down to the 30th anniversary of Presley's death on August 16 next year, the Elvis bandwagon is steadily gathering pace.

In the US, actor, writer and filmmaker Adam Muskiewicz is planning to release his new documentary "The Truth About Elvis". The film explores what he calls "the greatest myth in American pop culture today" - that Elvis Presley hoaxed his own death and is in hiding.

Two years in the making, the film includes interviews with authors, experts, reporters, doctors, conspiracy theorists and those who were close to the King. Many of their stories says Muskiewicz have never been told before.

In a bid to solve the Elvis-lives mystery once and for all, Muskiewicz and his crew are offering a King's ransom of $US3-millions to anyone who can prove that Elvis never really "left the building" - allegations that began surfacing within hours of his death.

From living in a South American leper colony to being the target of extraterrestrial intervention; you can pretty much take your pick of bizarre theories.

Enduring questions include: Why was Elvis' coffin so heavy? Was the body inside a doomed double or even wax dummy? Why was Elvis' weight listed as 170-pounds (77-kilos) when close friends put his weight at between 200-250-pounds (90-113kgs) and why is his middle name misspelled on his death certificate?

Opposite: Elle-vis

Add to the intrigue the fact that the FBI kept a 633-page file on Presley for more than 20 years mainly because he fancied himself as a crime-fighter (he wanted to become an FBI stoolie and dob on unpatriotic Hollywood types) and was the subject of extortion attempts (he owned 37 guns at the time of his death) and you have more conspiratorial fodder to play with.

And let's not forget the wordplay that "Elvis" and "Lives" are anagrams of one another!

For Muskiewicz, it's all subject material not to be taken lightly. "This is the first feature film to examine the myth seriously and objectively" says the self-confessed Elvis fan on his website It welcomes Elvis spotters everywhere to log on and help solve what's been dubbed "the greatest cover-up since Watergate".

For Elvis' close friend and right hand music man, James Burton claims the entertainer is still alive are simply "crazy".

He vividly recalls the pilgrimage back to Graceland after being told of Presley's death while en route to start a new tour with Elvis in Portland, Maine. Confronted by some 200,000 fans who had gathered in Memphis, Burton was invited to see his friend for the last time.

"There was Anne Margaret, James Brown and a whole bunch of celebrities there to visit and come in and view the body. Still today, even a lot of my friends have asked me about that (Elvis being alive). And I said, no, he is absolutely not with us. He is in heaven with God and Jesus and they probably have the best band you ever heard up there" says Burton with a laugh.

For Elle-vis, about to embark on her world tour to countries including the US, standing graveside at Graceland and reflecting on the King's mind boggling career will be a lifetime experience.

"I would like to just stand there in front of his gravesite and contemplate why we lost such a great entertainer. Just to know I am standing before the greatest entertainer in the world will be an awesome feeling" she says.

The Elvis Spotters Quiz
Got your eye on the $US3-million reward from the filmmakers of The Truth About Elvis? Then take this quiz from the book, The Elvis Spotter's Guide (MaxiBooks 1992) to brush up on your knowledge on the life and times of the King.

1.How many movies did Elvis make during his career
2.In which movie did Elvis first dye his hair from his natural light-brown to a darker shade
3.How old was Elvis when he bought Graceland
4.How much did Elvis pay for Graceland
5.What was the name of Elvis' private jet
6.To loosen his vocal chords before going on stage, Elvis always has a large mug of tea laced with what
7.What is Elvis' favorite sport
8.Whose portraits did Elvis have on either side of his bed at Graceland
9.What color are Elvis' eyes
10.Elvis married Priscilla in Las Vegas on May 1 of which year
11.How old was Elvis at the time
12.During the ceremony Pricilla promised to "love, honor and ___________
13.What was Priscilla's pet name for Elvis
14.What was Elvis' pet name for Priscilla
15.What weapon does Elvis carry in his boot when he goes on stage
16.What is Elvis' favorite board game which he spent the evening of his 40th birthday playing
17. How many pairs of pants does Elvis buy with every suit
18.Lisa Marie Presley was born on February 1 of which year
19.Lisa Marie's middle name was in honor of the wife of which close associate of Elvis
20.What unusual outfit did Colonel Parker wear to Elvis' funeral

1. 31 plus two documentaries
2. Loving You
3. 22
4. $100,000
5. Lisa Marie
6. Honey
7. Karate
8. His mother and Jesus
9. Blue/Hazel
10. 1967
11.  32
12.  "comfort"
13.  Fire eyes
14.  Cilla
15.  Derringer
16.  Monopoly
17.  Two
18.  1968
19.  Colonel Tom Parker
20.  Hawaiian shirt and a baseball cap

For tickets to Elvis Presley in Concert (the New Concert Tour) and Elle-vis World Tour contact Ticketek on 132 849 (News, Source: Melanie Ambrose, Perth Now)




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