PUBLISHED: 9:28 AM on Tuesday, August 15, 2006
Legend of Elvis lives on after 29 years

Photo by Brian Wallace
  Richie Cavanaugh performs as Elvis during the Fourth of July parade. Elvis died 29 years ago on Aug. 16. Elvis's musical talents blossomed when he was given an acoustic guitar for his 11th birthday. The young Elvis, however, was disappointed - he had wanted a bicycle. However he persevered and taught himself to play a few chords, strumming away to blues and gospel songs, and the legend was born. Aside from three concerts in Canada, Elvis never performed outside the United States.
The infamous Elvis Presley's death anniversary is this Wednesday August 16. Elvis died in 1977 and 29 years later, after a massive heart attack, there are still Elvis tribute artists keeping his image alive in memory of him being the true king.

Local Elvis fan and tribute artist, Jason Brown, has been performing as Elvis for three years. The first time Brown performed as Elvis he was inspired by his audience and instantly felt comfortable in the role.

"Performing made me see how people felt about Elvis," Brown said.

"This made me decide to try and make my own career out of it."

Brown's first experience as an Elvis tribute artist was at a competition to help raise funds for the tsunami relief victims in Asia. He volunteered to raise money and got hooked on the rush from the audiences' excitement toward Elvis.

Now Brown performs to raise money for his 12-year-old daughter's beauty pageant contest and donates all earnings to her fund.

Brown said that impersonating Elvis is not easy and has taken him years of studying and although his act is believable, Brown said he is still working on becoming better. He studies Elvis's appearance, voice, dance and persona by watching Elvis shows, performances and always listening to the king's music wherever he goes on his MP3 player.

"It took a long time to learn how to dance," Brown said. "I'm still learning. "Elvis had a lot of flare and I spend hours in front of the mirror practicing. There are many aspects to Elvis including his stage presence, looks and moves and personality and it's the over-all package that is judged.

Photo by Rosie Milligan
  Jason Brown as Elvis with his daughter Charlotte Brown, who assists in his performances.
Initially Brown sewed his own costumes, but after traveling to Seattle and California for performances he became aware that he would have to buy the real deal. He spent $2,500 on a professional Elvis jump-suit made from Elvis's original patterns.

Brown said he couldn't have the energy without his family's support. His wife, three sons and daughter constantly help him practice. His daughter Charlotte Brown said she enjoys being part of the action.

"I like his singing best, my dads," she said.

Brown has performed at several venues including; the Southeast State Fair, The Palmer State fair, Relay For Life, Alaska Native Brotherhood Hall and private parties and receptions.

Brown thrives on the response he receives when people recognize him as Elvis. "Everywhere you go, everyone knows him," Brown said.

He said he loves to dress up as Elvis but is still always himself, representing Elvis.

"I'm an Elvis tribute artist. Nothing can compare with Elvis. I'm not trying to be Elvis; I'm just trying to keep his image alive. He's the real King," Brown said.

Jason Brown is available for performances, has all his own equipment and is organizing a band to play with him. For information call him at 321-2514.

Brown said one of the best things about Elvis is his universal presence. There are more than 30,000 Elvis tribute artists worldwide and several of them reside in Juneau, supported by the legend's fans.

Another local Elvis tribute artist and life-long musician, Archie Cavanaugh, 55, has been engaged as an Elvis impersonations for about a year and a half. Cavanaugh started his Elvis shows when a friend asked him to perform for a birthday show and has become extremely passionate about it ever since.

"I was really surprised when I ventured into this world of Elvis, that I can really shake like him. I've got rhythm and can sing like him," Cavanaugh said.

Cavanaugh said he makes a very good impersonator because he's a tenor voice and can lower his voice one octave and be right in Elvis's range. He promises the audience loves his performances and this just shows how inspirational Elvis was. He said he finds it amazing that so many people are still so fascinated with Elvis.

"My goodness. Elvis has been passed away for how many years, and look at the response I still get. I was amazed by that," Cavanaugh said.

Cavanaugh has done several performances both as a tribute artist and band member. He has performed as Elvis at weddings, private parties, Christmas shows, on a Forth of July float and at concerts at the ANB Hall.

Cavanaugh also attributes his successful performances to his custom ordered costume. He ordered apparel from Canada and said it was an intensive process with all the fittings and attention to detail involved.

"This process took a real long time. Both making the suits and becoming an Elvis impersonator," Cavanaugh said.

Cavanaugh is the director of VTRC, the Spring King Salmon Derby and Higher Education Center Counsel for Scholarships. He has lived in Southeast his entire life and loves to invest in the community's entertainment.

Cavanaugh is available for performances. If you are interested in his entertainment please call him at 790-3669. He warns people that he is sometimes picky about who he chooses and is big-show oriented. Cavanaugh guarantees an exciting act.

"I'm very confident in my ability to pull this off," Cavanaugh said.