Gary James' Interview With
Elvis Tribute Artist
He's often referred to as the Best Elvis In Las Vegas. He's entertained audiences throughout the United States. He's appeared on television shows such as The Tonight Show, The Jimmy Kimmel Show, The Joan Rivers Show, MTV and the list goes on and on. He's been performing professionally as an Elvis Tribute Artist for 24 years. He is - Eddie Powers.
Q - What happened to you that you decided to pursue a career as an Elvis Tribute Artist?
A - Well, actually I was very interested in singing since I was a small child. You know when you're a kid and you have the 45s laying around?
Q - Yeah.
A - That's what you did in the '70s. You played your 45s on your little record player. What I'd do is I'd sing along with the records. It wasn't enough for me to sit and listen to music, OK? I found I really enjoyed singing and getting out probably a lot of frustrations as a child, and emotions. There's so much emotion in music. I remember the first time I ever heard Elvis' music was some of those 45s my mother had lying around the house. All I know is when I put those records on, those Elvis records on, it made me feel happy. It made me feel good. That's all a child wants, something to entertain them, make you feel good, forget life for awhile. When I put those Elvis records on, that what it did for me. Before I ever saw Elvis really, I listened to his music. The first time I ever saw Elvis was on the '68 Comeback Special. When I actually saw him performing in that black leather after listening to those records, I thing I was 5 or 6 years old, I just went "Oh, my goodness, gracious." The black leather, the black hair flying all around, the women screaming, I thought this guy is the greatest thing since sliced bread. When I was growing up, I didn't really have a father in the house; I was raised by my mother, I kind of adopted Elvis as my male figure in the house. Everybody knows that Elvis fans have Elvis rooms or Elvis shrines. It's quite common. But back then, I just put Elvis pictures up all over my bedroom. All I know is that when I was singing with Elvis, spending time with Elvis, my life was perfect. That's all I know. I know I loved singing. I got to have a relationship with Elvis through his music to where you really love the guy. You don't interact with him on a personal level obviously. So, all this person gives you is entertainment and makes you feel good.
Q - Did you ever seen Elvis in concert?
A - When I was 15 years old, I saw Elvis on October 17th, 1976 at the Met Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota. It's not there anymore. It was next door to Metropolitan Stadium. I saw him 'live' and in concert and let me tell you, to see Elvis in person, a live show, there's no DVD or VHS that can stand up to seeing someone 'live'.
Q - I saw Elvis in concert in July of 1976.
A - Oh, yeah. So you saw him the same year I did, the Bicentennial year.
Q - The night I saw him, he didn't even know what city he was in. I suppose that is understandable if you're on the road.
A - He gave more concerts in 1976 I believe than any other year in the '70s. For some reason he worked himself crazy. The number of concerts he did in 1976 was the highest in any of the other years in the '70s. I saw some of these photographs of Elvis in early 1976. His weight went up and down. He looked really ill and sick some times, on certain tours. But on the tour I saw him he happened to be trimmed down. In fact, he was wearing one of his outfits from 1973. He looked great. It came out in books later, his entourage said his Minneapolis show, the magic was back for one night. The night I saw him he was in great form, in great shape. He put on a fantastic concert.
Q - So, how did you get to be so well-known? Is it because you're living in Las Vegas?
A - See, I started in San Diego in 1985. I'm a SAG member as well, Screen Actors Guild member. I've been in several movies and on TV shows. I was one of the Elvis' in The Golden Girls, in the episode of 1987.
Q - I remember that show.
A - When Sophia got married and all the Elvis' stood up and sang the "Hawaiian Wedding Song". It says Eddie Powers in the credits. I'm in the very front with the black and gold jumpsuit on. You know who was one of the Elvis' in the back row there?
Q - Who?
A - Quentin Tarrantino. He was just up and coming. I was in a lot of movies. I was in Fools Rush In. That was a big movie for me. I have gotten a lot of work from that.
Q - You performed at an exclusive VIP party at the MGM Grand after a Rolling Stones concert?
A - Yeah. That was back in the '90s. I was the Elvis they had there at that party, during one of their concerts. I can remember hearing the concert. We were so close to the stage. It was so loud. I remember hearing their hits. If I was a huge Rolling Stones fan, I thought I'd been in heaven right now.
Q - Who was at this VIP party?
A - Well, I mean it was just a cocktail party. It was just a little party off to the side. I mean, I never met them.
Q - That was going to be my next question.
A - Yeah. But it was a party for them. That was about 15 years ago. I did do a gig with Aerosmith and Kiss. They were both on the same bill and I was photographed with the lead singer (Steven Tyler) of Aerosmith. I did see Kiss. Man, those guys are scary looking in person. They're frightening looking in person. Very intimidating. To finish my story, when I was in high school I just loved singing. After high school I went into the Navy. Then my wife at the time said "What do you want to do now?" I said "I want to do the Elvis Presley Show." At that time, in San Diego, there wasn't that many Elvis Presley shows. You had to figure out how to get a costume. It was very hard. Everything at that time had to be handmade. To buy a little packet of studs was a small fortune. But you had to have something. You couldn't do Elvis without having some kind of costume. I started at the very bottom, man. I worked my way up. I kept going to L.A. for auditions all the time. I'd get some parts. Some parts I wouldn't. In L.A. the first thing you try to get is unionized with that Screen Actors Guild card. And, I did have enough credits to get my card. So that was great.
Q - So, how many gigs a year are you doing these days?
A - I've been doing Elvis since 1985. Larry King flew me to Washington D.C a few months ago for his big benefit for his Heart Foundation. Aretha Franklin was on that same bill. Shortly after I performed, Aretha Franklin took the stage. I met Larry King and was photographed with him. This was before the trouble with him and his wife.
Q - So Eddie, what keeps you going? You must really love singing Elvis songs!
A - Absolutely. There's a guy in town, I just saw him on TV a little while ago. He's 68 years old. I'm 48 (years old). I'm 20 years behind him. This guy's name in Pete Wilcox. He was saying "Doing Elvis is like being Santa Claus at Christmas. Everyone loves you, wherever you go." (laughs) It's the music really. Obviously a lot of these people have never met Elvis. They never went to lunch with him. They never spent a day with him. Right? So obviously you have to think about it. It's the music. There's something about his voice and his music that makes him more than just a Rock 'n' Roll singer to people. He's more than just a Rock star. It's a personal thing with people when it comes to Elvis. Everybody has their own personal reasons why they love him. I happen to be a Christian. I love the Lord Jesus Christ very much. Elvis loved Jesus and he was a Christian. He gave his all and glory and thanks to God for his talent. There's this famous story of these women holding up a banner at one of Elvis' concerts saying "Elvis, you're the King." He stops the show and he points at it and says "No, I am not the King. There is only one King and that is Jesus Christ." When they were holding that banner up, they weren't meaning the King Of Kings, the Lord Of Lords.
Q - They meant the King of Rock 'n' Roll.
A - Yeah. But Elvis, because he's a Southern Assembly of God Church member, when he saw that banner, he couldn't help himself but to tell them, to make sure they knew who the King was, so there was no mistake. That was his upbringing coming out again. He wanted to make sure they were perfectly crystal clear that the King was Jesus Christ.