Veteran tribute artist, Irv Cass, special guest at Elvis Explosion competition and convention

(News, Source: La Crosse Tribune, by Autumn Grooms)

Yes, the plural of 'Elvis' is 'Elvi'.

Elvis impersonators were one group Irv Cass knew people made fun of. But he also knew good tribute artists make a good living and get to see the world.

(opposite - Irv and Australia's Sanja Meegin)

The positives outweighed the negatives and for the past 14 years, he has done Elvis full-time, working nearly every weekend and traveling around the world. "I said, 'The hell with it. If they don't like it, tough.' I have heavy shoulders," Cass said at the La Crosse Center as a steady stream of men with perfect jet black hair walked past.

"Very seldom do I have problems. There are jokes in good humor and good taste, and just a handful get (mean). They're just jealous," he said with a slight lip curl.

Cass is among more than 30 Elvis impersonators from around the world who have invaded La Crosse for the Elvis Explosion, a convention, competition and benefit. For the competition, a panel of judges will judge who is the best Elvis illusionist, and the winner will be waived into the world championship of Elvis impersonators, Images of Elvis, in Memphis, Tenn.

Cass and Rick Saucedo are not competing at Elvis Explosion.

They're special guests, and Cass will headline today's show. The La Crosse Elvis Explosion is one of the larger competitions and is by invitation only, said Ronny Craig, master of ceremonies and organizer.

"I auditioned more than 100 Elvi and trimmed them down to the best Elvi and the most entertaining. Some have the voice, some have the look. I go for the total package - look, voice, mannerisms and over all appearance on stage," he said. Of the entertainers and competitors at the Explosion, Craig said about half are full-time impersonators and the other half moonlight as Elvis.

Cass got his start, like many do, entering an Elvis contest, like the Elvis Explosion, for fun. "It has been a fun fluke," he said. Craig said karaoke has played a roll in getting people into Elvis impersonation.

"All it takes is for one person to say you sound like Elvis and before your know it you're coloring your hair black, growing sideburns and buying jumpsuits," he said. When interested in making a living, Cass said effort needs to be put into the look, mannerisms, voice and moves.

"You have to have the total package." Cass keeps himself separate from his show and if seen early Saturday, he would be wearing a baseball cap, covering up his Elvis persona.

"No matter how good you are, you're not Elvis. There is only one," Cass said.

"What I want is for people to come out to the show and afterwards say that was a great show, or that brought back memories, or we'll be back. That is all I want to hear," he said.

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