1. What made you want to become an ETA?
Honestly it wasn't really a conscious decision. I have always been an Elvis fan and so one Halloween I decided to be Elvis for Halloween. My grandmother sewed me a jumpsuit and I did the decorating. I decided to make the Aloha jumpsuit, so I headed out and bought fabric paint, acrylic stones, lame, and fabric glue. Well, my Aloha suit was not quite and "exact"
replica. In fact, it has become affectionately know as the "Pigeon Suit" because the Eagle actually looks like a pigeon. So Halloween came and we had a coffee shop/restaurant/bar called Jazzin' Java at which we had karaoke and of course I had to sing a few songs. I have never been a singer, but everyone was like, "hey, that's not too bad." Actually in my opinion it was pretty bad, but since I owned the place I could force myself on people. Then my manager, Diane Gaines, entered the picture and asked me to do a show at the local Council on Aging where she works. They said they would pay me $50. I was like, "you're going to PAY me to do this". So, I did the show and the rest is history. The TV and newspaper showed up to cover the event and Diane started getting phone calls about me and offers for shows. I said, "hey, since you're getting phone calls already why don't you be my manager and she has been ever since." Lucky the phones have never stopped ringing. That is basically how I got started, but once I fell into this, it was the fans that kept me doing this. Elvis was such a phenomenon that will never be fully recaptured or duplicated. However, just to experience even the slightest sense of what it was like when he walked out on stage and performed is a better high than any drug could ever provide. I think that is also what keeps the fans coming back. Trying to recapture just a little bit of that magic again.
2. What is your main goal being an ETA?
My main goal as an ETA is to have people get lost even for just as second at my show (not lost headed to the bathroom, but lost in the moment LOL!) Making people happy is the biggest benefit to what we do. I'm never happier than when I'm on stage.
3. What are some of your favorite songs to perform?
Well, honestly, that changes almost monthly. Elvis had over 700 songs and it is so fun to discover "new" songs that you haven't heard to often and try to perfect them enough to perform. In fact in Memphis this year at the Images of the King contest I did quite a few songs that are a little obscure. I performed "Bitter They Are, Harder They Fall", "Only the Strong Survive", "How the Web Was Woven", and "For the Heart" to name a few. I thought it was a gamble, but it worked since I finished third. Overall though, I love to perform "Suspicious Minds" and "Polk Salad Annie", etc. or anything with a lot of moves. I am very partial to "That's The Way It Is" because of all of the moves and the songs he performs. That was Elvis' peak to me.
4. Where has or where would you like your show to take you?
My main career goal is tri-fold. First, like any ETA that is in the contest circuit winning the World Championship at the Images of the King contest is up on the top of my list. I was so happy this year for my good friend David Lee. In fact, we have come a long way together in these contests and I bet I was as happy for him as he was to win it.ah, well maybe not, but close. The honor of placing in the contest this year was a goal I have been pushing or for a long time. Just to place in that contest is a HUGE honor. With the quality of guys that were in the contest, it just meant so, so much to me. In fact, I went back to thank Jackie after the contest and I said, "I bet you have never seem anybody so happy to win 3rd." She then responded, I know, I was thinking, he did hear me say 3rd right?" So, definitely, that is one of my main goals in the near future. Secondly, I have put together a very good band called the "Cadillac Kings" which now includes horn players and female backup singers in order to try to secure regular
work at casino's, on cruise ships, and conventions, etc. We just completed a video of our latest show that has me performing every era of Elvis' career (I have to insert a little plug here, the DVD's and VHS tapes of the two hour show is $20.00 including shipping and I'll be happy to send them out to anyone if they just e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org). We are also making a demo video to send out to casinos from that show. Working with a full band doing casino work, to me, is the pinnacle of this profession if you can stay busy. Last but not least, I would love to eventually find a niche and do some of my own stuff whether in singing or acting. Elvis takes you a long way and puts you in positions that you wouldn't't normally find yourself in. I have had many opportunities to do things and perform with stars, etc. that would never have happened to me otherwise. Elvis opens a lot of doors.
5. Have you been to Memphis? If so what did that experience mean to you?
I have been to Memphis numerous times. Actually too many times to even tell you how many. Memphis to me kind of brings it all to life. You just feel close to Elvis when you are in Memphis. I actually remember going to the gates when I was a kid and Elvis was still alive and my grandmother got out and went to the gate and asked if Elvis was home. Of course, he wasn't, but Elvis and Memphis have always had a sort of magic to me and have kind of drawn me in.
6. Have you attended Elvis Week?
Actually, I have been to Elvis Week probably for the past 6 years or so that I have been performing and once before I became an ETA. I love Elvis week and all it entails. The Images of the King contest is the main reason I go, but it is awesome how it just ties everything together that week and you get to share your love of Elvis with thousands of people. It is definitely a high point of the year for me and something I look forward to all year.
7. Have you ever considered throwing any "Non-Elvis" songs into a show?
If fact, I have done several shows where I did Sinatra, Harry Connick, Jr., Dean Martin, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Ricky Nelson songs. I kind of impersonated them, but just in mannerisms. I also do some stuff with my band sometimes that is not Elvis related. I do some Jimmy Buffet, George Strait, etc. Probably, the Sinatra, Harry Connick, Jr. stuff is what I'm actually the best at. I have fun at it all and am kind of working on my own style that will kind of be a mix of all of the above.
8. How do your family and friends feel about what you do?
I think they really enjoy it. At first, it was kind of a shocker I guess because I have never sung before or anything like this. At first my mother would tell people, "oh, he just does it for fun" and would kind of down play it, but now she thinks it is just great and takes it very seriously. My guy friends think it's cool and help me out by "Charlie Hodging" for me (you didn't know that was a verb did you?). Girlfriend wise, I think it is a little out of the ordinary for them at first and it takes them a while to actually kind of get used to it, but once they do, they like it too. Overall, I have great support from my family, friends, and community.
9. Have you met anyone that worked with or knew Elvis?
I have in fact met quite a few people who have worked with or knew Elvis. Let's see, James Burton (lives about an hour from me and he and his wife are very nice people), Charlie Hodge, Joe Esposito, Kathy Westmoreland, Dick Grob, Sam Phillips, Al Dvorin, D.J. Fontana, Patty Parry, Kang Rhee (Elvis' Karate Instructor) and quite a few girls that were in movies with him. I also have performed with the Jordanaires and have become very close with Wayne Carman (one of Elvis' Karate instructors) and his wife Susan, Mack Girley, and Bob Stuart who were good friends with Elvis. I can honestly say I have never heard one bad word about the guy from any of those folks.
10. Have you made any new friends resulting from your tribute?
I have made all kind of new friends since I became an ETA. In fact, I have made many, many friendships that I know will last a lifetime. I would start naming folks here, but we'd be here all day and I know I would leave some folks out. All I will say is Elvis fans are the GREATEST FANS IN THE WORLD!!!
11. What era of Elvis do you like to portray?
Hmmm, this is a tough one. I actually perform every era of Elvis' life and enjoy doing all of them. Each one is so different, that they are even hard to compare. I have always said that contests must be very hard to judge, because comparing the 50's Elvis to the 70's Elvis is like comparing apples to oranges. They are completely different. I enjoy the Army and the 70's the most at contests and in my shows the 70's stuff is my favorite. I just love the fullness of the horns and all the instruments, the ballads, the moves, the jumpsuits, the energy.actually just everything about it.
12. What other interests/hobbies do you have?
I can honestly say I have a love for life, so I have my hand in a bunch of cookie jars. I LOVE to travel, love the University of Louisiana Indians football (who have won 3 in a row by the way for the first time since 1993,GO INDIANS!!!) and all sports. Of course, I am a lawyer and am currently trying to build my law practice during the week. My ideal thing would be to do law work all week and perform at casinos on weekends. As for other hobbies and interests, I am starting to make some of my costumes and in fact just made the Aloha cape. That may be hobby that goes away real quick!!! It has taken my about 50 HOURS on this stupid thing!!! LOL!!! Besides for new technology, gadgets, and my 2-year-old nephew. uh. some would say girls, but I better say my girlfriend.
13. Any Comments to the fans/friends?
Ok, now here you go making me name folks when I said I wasn't even going to try that. Let's see how I can do this. Thanks so much to ALL the Elvis fans, ALL my fan club, ALL my family, ALL my fellow ETA's, Diane Gaines, my manager, for putting up with me, Candy, my girlfriend for putting up with me, my mother, for putting up with me, my band the Cadillac Kings, for putting up with me, and all my friends, for putting up with me. Obviously, I'm kind of hard to put up with sometimes.