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Elvis turns 80: Vancouver impersonator celebrates the King

01/08/2015 09:10 EST | Updated 03/10/2015 05:59 EDT
Get those rhinestone-studded suits ready and comb through those sideburns because today would have been Elvis Presley’s 80th birthday.

As music fans around the world celebrate the King of Rock and Roll’s legacy with festivals, concerts and a four-day event in Memphis, Tenn., Surrey-based Elvis impersonator Eli Williams will be marking the occasion by performing at Vancouver’s Barclay Manor—something he’s done every Jan. 8th for the last five years.

Williams' admiration for Elvis began when he was in high school. Though he’s always known about the King through his grandmother, it was the movie "Men In Black" that drew him in.

After watching a scene where actor Tommy Lee Jones slid an eight-track of Elvis Presley's "Promised Land" into his futuristic vehicle’s player, Williams picked up several of Elvis’s albums, got himself a pompadour hairstyle and started growing out his sideburns.

Williams, 26, started performing as an Elvis impersonator in 2008. He shared his passion for the King’s music with CBC's The Early Edition.

On what drew him to Elvis when he was a teenager: “I really liked the music. He was a cool-looking guy, cool hair, sideburns...it was just so much different than everything else at the time and, I'd even say, now. There's definitely something to be said for someone who passed away almost 40 years ago now and we're still talking about him.”

On how he got started as an Elvis impersonator: "A friend of mine said — and at that point, I’d started combing my hair in the Elvis pompadour and growing out my side burns — he said to me, 'I have a band, we should do this on the talent show.’ I said, 'I’ve never sung in public before. I'm an Elvis fan, but not a singer.' He said, 'It'll be ok. We'll do it, it's fine.' So we did it and after that, I was like, wow, I really love performing."

On impersonating Elvis: "It’s very difficult because everybody has their own interpretation of what Elvis was — be it the skinny guy in 1954, be it Elvis in the movies, Elvis in the army. It’s very hard to be a very sincere act … and I try to be, in my mind, as authentic and stick to the source as possible."  

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