"Elvis Presley is the greatest cultural force in the 20th century."

(Leonard Bernstein)


"If you're an Elvis fan, no explanation is necessary; If you're not an Elvis fan, no explanation is possible."

(George Klein)


"For a dead man, Elvis Presley is awfully noisy."

(Professor Gilbert B. Rodman)


"History has him as this good old country boy, Elvis is about as country as Bono!"

(Jerry Schilling)






Concert in honour of Elvis's 70th

It's being billed as the biggest 70th birthday party for the King north of Memphis -- and Roy LeBlanc is ready to pay royal tribute.

On Jan. 8, LeBlanc, his band, and the International Symphony Orchestra will join forces to salute Elvis Presley on what would have been the late superstar's 70th birthday. The concert is set for Sarnia's Imperial Theatre.

"We were planning a 'do' -- a large one," LeBlanc says. He thought about going to Memphis, where Elvis's "birthday" celebrations are an annual event and such birthday anniversaries as the 60th or 70th are even bigger than usual.

LeBlanc decided to stay on his London-region home turf. That didn't keep the St. Thomas performer, who has won major titles on the Elvis tribute circuit, from making it a big party. Teaming with the orchestra brings to reality a dream of LeBlanc's and London keyboard player Dean Harrison, who leads the band. "(Dean and I) have always thought of getting together the full orchestra," he says.

Now, it's going to happen. The concert format calls for LeBlanc and the band to play the first set, including rocking hits from the 1950s and Presley's movies. Orchestral touches will help bring the set to a close with highlights taken from Presley's triumphant return to live performing in 1968, when a live TV show confirmed the King's raw power after he had spent years making mostly forgettable movies.

The second set celebrates the Las Vegas extravaganzas of the last years of Presley's career. "We've got some topnotch musicians to back us up," LeBlanc says. Harrison is writing the arrangements. "(He has) been working feverishly," LeBlanc smiles. Harrison says the arrangements should have a life beyond the 70th birthday event.

Others in the band -- also "topnotch," LeBlanc says -- are guitarist/vocalist Doug Varty, bassist Brad Rose and drummer Brian Salt. The conductor is Mitch Tyler of London. A member of the Canadian Auto Workers who works at the Ford St. Thomas Assembly Plant, LeBlanc often plays at charity events during the 50 Elvis gigs he plays each year.

As one of the many singers paying tribute to Presley, he won two titles at Collingwood. The second title, in 2001, brought fairs and casinos calling. "That sort of validated what we were doing," LeBlanc says. He then claimed a "world championship" at Vegas in 2003 and has also played gigs in Europe, Memphis, Atlantic City and the Maritimes.

"We've got some promo stuff and that out to the cruise lines," he says. It's a market LeBlanc's Elvis tribute has yet to reach. LeBlanc says there is still much to learn about the music of the King of Rock & Roll -- to use the Presley estate's copyrighted phrase.

"What I do find is there is more material than I ever (knew existed) . . . Elvis had 749 songs or something like that," he says. The concert is being promoted by LeBlanc and two Sarnia-Lambton secondary school music teachers who are also involved in booking entertainers.


What: A 70th birthday party for The King, featuring Elvis tribute artist Roy LeBlanc, his band and the International Symphony Orchestra

When: Jan. 8, 8 p.m. Where: Sarnia's Imperial Theatre, 168 N. Christina St. Tickets: $29.95. Call (519) 344-7469 or 1-877-344-7469.

(News, Source: The London Free Press)











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