Impersonating Elvis

Impersonating Elvis
Donny Edwards impersonating Elvis.
Photograph by Francis George

NAME: Donny Edwards | AGE: 35 | HOMETOWN: Lake Jackson | QUALIFICATIONS: Performs more than two hundred shows around the world every year / Is one of three tribute artists to work for Elvis Presley Enterprises / Performs in Conroe and New Braunfels this month in honor of Elvis’ seventy-fifth birthday

• Ever since I was a kid, people have told me I look like Elvis. Friends would even call me Elvis. I’ve always been a fan, so I got a kick out of it.

• I went to Elvis Week, in Memphis, one August and met the Jordanaires, who used to play with Elvis. They said to me, “Wow, you’ve got a great look. Where do you perform?” And I said, “I don’t. I’m in college.” The same thing happened a few years later when I went to Las Vegas. I was at the Elvis-A-Rama Museum, and people kept asking me where I performed.

• It wasn’t until 2002 that I started playing around with some of Elvis’ songs on my dad’s karaoke machine. My friends signed me up for a contest in Lake Jackson, and I ended up beating out fourteen other guys. It was my first time onstage. I did a few more contests and then got hired to perform at a casino in Oregon for three months. On my way back to Texas, I stopped in Vegas and ended up getting a gig at Elvis-A-Rama. I’ve been in Vegas ever since.

• I was apprehensive about being a tribute artist at first. You look at those guys and think they’re odd, that they want to be something they’re not. But I’ve learned that it is a great tribute to a man and that it takes people back to a good time in their life.

• The hardest things to pick up have been his mannerisms: the way he walked or the way he stood, with his chest up a little bit, and the way he moved his hands. Or his facial expressions: Elvis could express songs so vividly just with his face.

• A typical show is about ninety minutes. I come out to “Shake, Rattle and Roll” or “Heartbreak Hotel” and some of the other hits that made him famous. Then I do ballads, like “Love Me Tender.”

• At intermission I fluff up the hair, put on the jumpsuit, and touch up the makeup so I look a little older. When I go back out, I play with my tone. I can go higher and sound like Elvis did in the

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