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 Fans look forward to Elvis Week

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charmainejensenvoisine
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PostSubject: Fans look forward to Elvis Week   Thu Jan 03, 2008 11:27 am

By Andy Hogue
GAINESVILLE DAILY REGISTER (GAINESVILLE, Texas)

GAINESVILLE, Texas —
The King of Rock and Roll would be 73 on his birthday if he were alive.

But his memory is just as young as it ever was in the hearts of his fans — Even in small towns like Gainesville and Thackerville.

At least two events in Elvis Presley’s memory are scheduled locally for the week of Presley’s birthday.

On Presley’s birthday, Jan. 8, “Elvis Night” is scheduled at the Woolf Den, in Gainesville, featuring local Elvis impersonator Jerry Headrick. The performance is set to begin at 7 p.m.

That weekend, on Jan. 11, Travis LeDoyt, a professional Elvis tribute artist, is scheduled to appear in concert at WinStar Casinos, in Thackerville, Okla. The show is scheduled to begin at 8 p.m.


LeDoyt, who was on the road traveling during a telephone interview Thursday, said he prefers the term “Elvis tribute artist” to “Elvis impersonator.”

“Anyone can be called an impersonator, like guys who sing at family gatherings, do backyard barbecues and things like that,” LeDoyt said. “People know we’re trying to do justice — we’re paying a close enough tribute as we can. We’re not out to make mockery off him or anything.”

LeDoyt, a native of Greenfield, Mass., was the third of five children and was born the year Presley was found dead in 1977. He said he wasn’t immediately an Elvis fan after being exposed to his music but over time developed a respect for him. He began Elvis tribute performances in 2000.

Most weekends LeDoyt has a show, though he said it gets slow around holidays.

He specializes in mimicking the 1954-59 years of Presley’s career, when the King was sometimes billed as “Elvis the Pelvis,” often wore a suit jacket and had slicked-back short hair. He said he doesn’t care much for the mutton-chopped, jump suit concert hall crooner Elvis of the ’70s

“I would like to try other things when I’m done with this ... I can’t do the young Elvis thing forever,” LeDoyt said. “I don’t have any interest in donning the jump suit era as I get older.”

On the other hand, Headrick, 59, of Gainesville said he doesn’t mind donning the jumpsuit and doing Elvis tunes of all decades.

Headrick, a manager at Tom Thumb supermarket in Gainesville, said he grew up a fan of Presley’s and collected all of his albums — even visiting Elvis’ home of Graceland in Memphis, Tenn., two weeks following Presley’s death.

Around 2004 while working at Tom Thumb, Headrick made up a song for a service luncheon and performed it as Presley, he said. One thing led to another and Headrick soon found himself donning the Elvis outfit for company events, private parties and club meetings.

He said he “does Elvis” about half a dozen times a year, and mainly for fun. But there is a community service angle to many of his performances, Headrick said.

“We do a rest home tour —it always entertains them,” he said. “Actually, the rest homes are my favorite places to sing. A lot of the people there ain’t got much to look forward to, so it’s always good to give them a show.”

Headrick said his enjoys Presley’s gospel selections the best. To this day, he has a music room full of Presley memorabilia rivaling a religious shrine.

“It’s got every kind of foam doll, rug — you name it —in it,” Headrick said. “I don’t worship Elvis, though.”

Jennifer Oldaker, a manager at the Woolf Den, said Headrick performed Valentine’s Day in 2005 and packed the house.

“We’ve had good luck with it before, and Jerry does a good job,” Oldaker said, hoping for an encore.

Presley himself was a long way from packing the house during his one and only concert in Gainesville in 1955.

On the evening of April 14, 1955, at Owl Park (now Locke Field, a baseball park located off Garnett Street and visible from I-35) about 150 people of various ages and backgrounds came to a concert the featuring rock pioneer Elvis Presley and two other acts, comedian Onie Wheeler and Frank (Andy) Starr.

It ended up being Elvis’ only known concert to not clear a profit, or so some fan literature says.

According to the Aug. 14, 2005, Register, Presley’s publicist was paid $300 for the Gainesville performance, which also promoted record producer Joe Leonard’s LIN Records label artists.

“People weren’t quite ready for Elvis,” said Leonard said in the article.

Following the Gainesville show, Presley and his road crew visited Johnny’s B-29 Club near Thackerville, which was near where WinStar Casino is today. Presley was reported to have stayed at the club until 4 a.m.

It was not an uncommon practice for Presley to visit roadhouses and clubs across the Texas-Oklahoma border. According to the book “Elvis in Texas: The Undiscovered King, 1954-1958,” by Lori Torrance with Stanley Oberst, Presley’s Oct. 4, 1955, appearance at a Boys Club in Paris, Texas, was concluded by he and guitarist Bill Black jumping into his pink Cadillac and spending the latter part of the night at a bar called Moseley’s on the other side of the Red River. It was also noted Presley did not smoke or drink at night clubs and roadhouses, which were scattered throughout the South.

Leonard said Presley signed a deal with RCA records not long after the Gainesville show, which was the turning point in his nationwide fame. He said the gentlemanly Presley was apologetic for not turning a profit for Leonard but said he wanted to return — a wish that was never fulfilled in Presley’s lifetime due to contractual obligations and other factors.

“It sure would be nice if we could honor Elvis’s wish by drawing a large crowd at the show,” LeDoyt said.

For ticket information and prices for the WinStar show call 1(800)622-6317. The Woolf Den show is free to restaurant patrons. The Woolf Den may be reached at 940-665-9653.

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