This month, Ronda Marson, president of the Canadian chapter of the Love for Elvis Fan Club, chronicles a hospital visit that ETA Travis LeDoyt made to see a fan who was ill and very disappointed at not being able to see Travis perform at the Tupelo Elvis Festival. Many thanks to Ronda for this month’s guest column.

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Music is food for the soul, and it has ways of reaching people like few other mediums do. Elvis always said it was a passion felt from within - and you either had it, or you didn't.

Surprisingly Travis LeDoyt's talent or passion for music didn't surface until his later teen years. His father, Chuck LeDoyt, was the Elvis fan, and like most children Travis says, "I figured the music couldn't be that good if my Dad liked it!" But good it was! After purchasing the Sun Sessions CD and watching a few programs about Presley on TV, Travis became inspired. "Elvis brought music to the forefront for me. It was his voice, looks, energy...the whole persona. The more I found out, the more I loved it." In fact, Travis is "into” a lot of the music from that era. "I always think I was born at the wrong time," he laughs. When asked if Elvis has changed his life Travis responds by saying, "He has completely changed my way of life." One aspect of being an entertainer in LeDoyt's position is the way in which he is able to also touch lives ~ Elvis Style!

I am reminded of a touching story from the book, 'In The Twilight Of Memory' written by June Juanico, Elvis' girlfriend from Biloxi, MS.

FLASHBACK TO JULY 1956: One evening June and Elvis are relaxing at her mother's home in Biloxi, when the phone rings. It's Mrs. Manuel, a lady whom June knows whose little girl has Leukemia, and happens to be a B-I-G Elvis fan. Although he is tired and on holidays, Elvis doesn’t hesitate to invite them to come over for a visit. Elvis greets them at the door, and they congregate in the living room with little Carole sitting in Presley's lap. He sings to her and holds her tiny hands. After the guests leave June remarks to Elvis how sweet he was to spend time with them. Elvis says to June "I'm thinking about that beautiful child, and the pain her mother must be feeling. Did you see the look in Mrs. Manuel's eyes while I was singing to her little girl? It's the same way my mother used to look at me when I was a little boy, and she would tuck me in at night and kneel down by my side to pray. It was like her eyes would open wide enough for me to come in, where I'd be safe."

FLASH FORWARD TO JUNE 2003: Belinda Thomas, 44, of Southaven, MS has just been diagnosed with Acute Leukemia. She is in Tupelo visiting her Mom, just days before the highly anticipated Tupelo Elvis Festival. Her doctors tell her that due to her weakened immune system she isn't able to leave the hospital. All might be fine - except that Belinda is upset because she won't be able to see Travis LeDoyt perform his tribute to Elvis at the festival. Up to this point she had never missed the festival and Travis' performances.

Enter Donna Oswalt, festival office manager and "Blue" staff member, John Pannell. After being contacted by Belinda's relatives they ask Travis if he would be willing to visit Belinda in the hospital prior to his performance Saturday evening, and agree he did. Travis honestly admits that he didn't know what to expect, and only grabbed his guitar as an afterthought on his way out the door. "I thought I'd stop by, say Hey - maybe sign a picture and sing a song or two. I'm not really good at those kind of things," he humbly says. No - LeDoyt is right, “good” is not the appropriate word - I think “awesome” is perhaps a better fit.

Two and a half hours after arriving at Belinda's bedside Travis, Donna and John left the hospital. "He sang just about the whole time," Belinda says and laughs when she relates that he even spoke to her girlfriend from Ohio who Belinda happened to call during Travis’ visit. Although it was a bleak time in Belinda's life, Travis managed to bring her some sunshine. LeDoyt talks about how fun and easy-going Belinda was and she, in turn, relates how humble and down-to-earth he was. Her favourite moment? Seems it was a memorable moment for everyone present! "When she (Belinda) asked Travis to sing 'Precious Lord, Take My Hand' there wasn't a dry eye in the room, or the hall outside the room," Donna Oswalt says. That's right - Travis' singing had attracted quite a crowd. The nurses, staff, and any patients who were able to make it down the hall were crowded around to hear.


How inspiring! The same could be said of Belinda. She has certainly touched my life with her faith
and her positive attitude."I believe everything is possible with God, and I believe that he is healing me, and will pull me through. I am here for a reason," she says. Talk about Character, Hope & Perseverance!

LeDoyt is currently in the studio working on a CD with "original" material ~ a la Elvis Style. It was inspired by his current career. Originality is certainly a rarity these days, I tell him, to which he reminisces about his Mom always telling him to "Never lose yourself, and that is why I always try to allow part of myself to come through on stage." In the ETA world, where performers can sometimes blend together, Travis seems to do things a little differently. His life demonstrates where character, hope & perseverance may lead - the same qualities that Belinda will lean on during the road ahead of her. No matter where it may lead for LeDoyt one can sense that he'll never lose that "edge," or that twinkle in his eyes that drives him on.

Like Elvis said, "You either have it or you don't," and LeDoyt most certainly does!

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An update: Belinda is continuing to display courage, faith, and a positive attitude in her ongoing battle against leukemia. Athough not in remission yet, her doctors, family, and friends are hopeful.