Monday would be Elvis Presley’s 71st birthday, had he not died Aug. 16, 1977. In his honor, many Elvis tribute artists will perform shows in the area this weekend.
But even though they love their chance to bring Elvis back to life, they say that it’s not easy — or cheap — being the King.
Bob West, a resident of Palos Hills and an Elvis tribute artist, said costs have increased since he began performing in 1975.
“It’s hard to guess at what I’ve spent over the years,” West said. “I imagine someone getting started could begin with one or two outfits and a decent sound and light system.”
West estimated that secondhand clothing could cost a couple of thousand dollars and lighting and sound equipment would be about $3,000.
Sean Klush, winner of the World’s Best Elvis Entertainer Contest in Montreal, also said costs have increased during his time as an entertainer, but the quality of his shows has grown with costs.
Klush said that when he first began performing as an 18-year-old, he did shows in bars until he made connections within the industry and got better opportunities to perform.
Clothes have become an important but expensive factor for a successful show, Klush said.
“The best clothes are made with materials from the 1970s that are considered specialty items now,” he said. “For example, in the ’70s you could go out to any store and get a pair of white boots, but today those same shoes could cost $2,000 or $3,000.”
For Klush, authenticity is essential in the clothing he wears during his shows, so he has everything made by B&K Enterprises, which follows the original patterns used for Elvis himself.
“The original patterns are amazing,” Klush said. “They’re all hand-stitched and really something to be sought after. They’re iconic of Elvis.”
But Klush and West both made it clear they believe commitment to Presley’s legacy is the most important factor in a performance.
“It’s not just about somebody standing up on stage in a suit,” Klush said.
D.J. Fontana, who played drums behind Presley for 14 years, agreed.
“The really good ones have watched all his films and shows and listened to the records,” he said. “They probably know more about Elvis than I do.”
Here are some of the ways Elvis fans throughout the area can commemorate the King’s 71st birthday, even without a custom-made jumpsuit:
West will perform a tribute show at the Outpost Pub & Grill, 14929 S. Archer Ave., Lockport, at 8 tonight. Reservations are suggested. Call (815) 836-8893. For information on West, visit http://www.bobwestelvis.com.
West also will perform Jan. 13 at Pelican Harry’s, 14807 S. Bell Road, Homer Glen. The show will begin at 9 p.m., and reservations are suggested. Call (708) 301-5555.
The Elvis Birthday Tribute will stop at the Paramount Theatre, 23 E. Galena Blvd., Aurora, at 8 tonight. The lineup includes tribute artists Klush, Rick Saucedo, Matt Lewis and Donny Edwards, as well as Fontana and the Sweet Inspirations, who were Presley’s female back-up vocalists from 1969 to 1977. The concert celebrates each era of Presley’s career, beginning with the early rockabilly years and ending with the Las Vegas concert years. Tickets are available at the theater’s box office, by phone at (630) 896-6666 or at http://www.ticketmaster.com. Tickets are $29 or $49.
The Elvis Birthday Tribute moves to the Star Plaza Theatre, Interstate 65 and U.S. 30 in Merrillville, Ind., at 8 p.m. Saturday. Tickets are available through the Star Plaza box office, by phone at (773) 734-7266 or at http://www.ticketmaster.com. Tickets are $29 or $49.
Elvis entertainer Mark Hussman, who normally performs at 8 p.m. every Thursday at the Canoe Club, 15200 S. 94th Ave., Orland Park, will perform this coming Thursday at the House of Blues Elvis Birthday Spectacular. Doors to the Back Porch Stage open at 9 p.m., and the show will begin at 9:30 p.m. Tickets are $13.50 and can be bought through the House of Blues box office or at http://www.ticketmaster.com. For more information about Hussman’s regular appearances at the Canoe Club, call (708) 460-9611.