Sunday, April 16, 2006

The dawning of a new day

It’s an interesting thing to be hired on as part of an Elvis duo.

Originally, this woman – Martha was her name, I think – wanted three impersonators. I suggested one I’d competed against once, the only one in the area I really knew of besides myself. And that was it. We were paid $100 each to sing three songs to her friend. Easy money. It was part of a semi-elaborate early April Fool’s joke; they try to one-up each other every year.

Kerry (a.k.a. Elvis No. 2) and I started by practicing in the Albertson’s parking lot in Spanish Fork. I made the suggestion. I, after all, wanted to make certain our voices could/would blend. We were wearing identical jumpsuits, only his was smaller. Makes sense, as I believe he’s a good foot shorter than me. Yes, I’d called ahead and shared a moment of “So what’re you gonna wear?” bliss with this guy. I wanted us to match. And we did. We were like Ahnold S. and Danny DeVito from TWiNS if they’d, you know, gone to Vegas.

Picture if you will a Minus One track of “Don’t Be Cruel” playing out of his car. Both of our driver’s side windows are rolled down and we’re trying our hardest not to look at one another while we sing. We barely made it through a song before being summoned to the supermarket. I held his little ghetto blaster and he held his guitar. On our way to the feminine hygiene aisle – the place Martha wanted to make the Elvis magic happen – a helpful somebody pointed out where we might find the hair spray. Funny man, he was.

When she finally showed – or when the ‘she’ was pointed out to us – we promptly flanked her on both sides and invaded her personal space. Her expression of shocked surprise hardly changed during our singing of “Love Me Tender” and “Don’t Be Cruel”. She tried dancing along, but that didn’t work out very well. She made death threats to Martha when someone else wandered down the aisle (“Somebody’s coming! People are gonna see!”). Martha paid her no mind and continued to videotape. I sang and never looked at whatever product it was she had in her hand.

It’s strange to sing along with another Elvis-like voice. I’d practiced pretty feverishly – well, if commuting for 20 minutes to work and back counts as feverish – for two whole weeks. I hadn’t known the songs all that well and wanted to make sure I wasn’t the impersonator who ended up impersonating poorly. Together, we started off alright. I quickly learned I had to maintain some kind of echo stance, though, as he would switch verses around whenever he felt like it. Then again, maybe it was me. Anyway, I had these visions that singing along with a more “seasoned” performer might be something like singing along to the radio. It wasn’t. We’d sing for a while and get ahead of the music, stop, listen for our cue, backtrack and continue. This is a good reason I opt for doing this sort of thing accapella. I’m not convinced two Elvises are better than one.

The friend thought we were finished. She thanked us and drove off. Martha, however, knew we weren’t. We were to show up while they were having themselves a spot of breakfast. We had planned on singing only one other song (“You’re the Devil in Disguise”), but Martha said she wanted two more before taking off in her mini-van, kids in tow. I said we could do “All Shook Up” as I figured it to be one of the easy Elvis standbys. Besides, I could nail it on my own. And I figured it to be like a jazz standard in the jazz world – no self-respecting impersonator/enthusiast could call himself such without knowing it word for word. Or so I thought.

We arrived at a café called Trails End, only to find we were amongst a crowd of trucker and farmer regulars. Save for the oversized hostess, Martha, her friend and their kiddies were the only female presences in the place. Kerry had a louder boom box in tow, I manned the play/pause button and we were off. There was some eye rolling and some of the same amused (or was it bemused?) expressions from the friend we were publicly humiliating for the second time that morning. And it worked better this time around, for the most part. Maybe No. 2 and I just worked better together after working out the kinks. I mean, there was even some pretty melody that happened in there. But the guys in wiry beards and overalls surrounding us laughed full-bellied, raspy laughs and shouted out brilliant things like, “See? He ain’t dead!”

I soon learned “All Shook Up” didn’t work so well, though. I couldn’t believe Kerry could sing the song so fast. He was singing it at chipmunk speed. It was all I could do to just to keep up. He was getting the words wrong fairly regularly as well. I had to stop in the middle and wonder if he was playing some kind of sick joke on me. It helped some that he was able to urge everyone into a sing-a-long by the final chorus, but still. I guess this is why some guys need to follow along with backing instrumental tracks. When in doubt, though, just keep on pushing. It might not be a pretty journey, but at least arrive at the destination.

Kerry and I had our cash and we escaped with what dignity we still had, but not before a couple of guys yelled out in unison, “The Elvises are leaving the building!” I was waiting for someone to say that. I needed to seal this moment in time, though, so I grabbed the camera. It’s not often you have two Elvi in one place, after all. Not in Utah. We headed to the tire repair shop next door and Kerry took charge. He drawled out that his Pink Cadillac had burned out a few miles down the road and needed some work done; the guy never even cracked a smile. I couldn’t believe it. See, he didn’t do repairs. He could, however, be bothered to take a few shots of us inside their waiting area. A few pointing-at-the-camera photos and we were done.

And that was that. Until the next adventure.


ewesa said...

he's the reverse of you- short dude with large white transportation, and you are tall dude with small white transportation.

Dainon said...

It's not that large. He's just, y'know, miniature sized. It's all about perspective.

upto12 said...

here we go... makes me wanna sing something. blizzard in utah = avanlanche in tahoe? g'luck.

k8 said...


and welcome to blogland dainon.