Gary James' Interview With Elvis Tribute Artist
He's one of the top Elvis tribute artists in North America. Hailing from Guelph, Ontario, Canada, he's taken his act to stages around the U.S. and Canada. Jay Zanier talked with us about his Elvis show.
Q - Jay, you're in a pretty crowded field, aren't you?
A - Very much so. (laughs)
Q - Whey then did you settle on an Elvis tribute?
A - I'm a big Elvis fan. If you're an Elvis fan there's no question to be asked 'cause you know what I'm feeling. People who've heard of Elvis usually become Elvis fans and listen to his music. He did all genres. I just loved Elvis since I was a little kid. The music today is not the same. It's not just Elvis that I like. I liked The Beatles, The Rolling Stones. All those acts from the '50s and '60s like Little Anthony And The Imperials, The Coasters. All that music. Elvis is the guy right on top of that list for me. That's all. But, I've been listening to Elvis my whole life. Every day I listen to something to do with Elvis.
Q - You are dedicated!
A - Oh, yeah.
Q - But then, that's your job.
A - Most of the tribute artists are actually. Whoever tributes Buddy Holly listens to Buddy Holly most every day. That's their idol. Elvis was my idol. He lit a torch and I'm just carrying it with a whole bunch of other tribute artists. (laughs)
Q - Where do you perform?
A - I do clubs, private events. I just got called a week ago by a gentleman called Anthony. He had James Anthony Band. I never met the people. The guy's a Blues inductee in the Hall Of Fame in Chicago. They just looked up tribute artists and they chose me randomly I guess. So, I'm going to do some jamming this Saturday. People are taking reservations now. Usually they don't fill up and they're filling up. (laughs) It's gonna be cool.
Q - How often do you perform?
A - Most every weekend. I've got a day job also. I'm in heating and air conditioning. Most every week I'm doing something to do with Elvis.
Q - Do you perform with tracks or do you have your own band?
A - I do both. When we're in the States we usually use a band called sometimes by Elvis Presley Enterprises. I do a lot of cruise ships. I do the Malt Shop Cruise, coming up in November (2015). I'm doing the Country Cruise with Kenny Rogers. I was just talking about that earlier today.
Q - You've been at this fifteen years?
A - Oh my goodness, almost twenty-five years.
Q - When you started out, you probably started out small, didn't you? These jump suits can get expensive.
A - Exactly. I've very expensive, especially if you've got a BK suit. They run $3,500 up. They're not cheap. People try and hire you for a park. "Hey, can you wear your jump suit?" "No." (laughs) You come dressed up to a park? No! (laughs) Unless there's a stage and there's wood on the ground. They don't realize our wedding dress is very expensive.
Q - After you finish performing, what questions do people most often ask you?
A - "What's your favorite Elvis song?"
Q - That's it?!
A - Mostly. "How did you get started?" "Where's your next show?" (laughs) That's a popular one.
Q - I don't know how old of a guy you are.
A - I'm turning fifty in a month.
Q - Did you ever see Elvis in concert?
A - No. I wish I did. I'm sure I would've remembered it. I was twelve years old when he passed away.
Q - So you probably listen to the music and watch the videos.
A - Every day. I still practice every day.
Q - Some guys, even in an interview, sound like Elvis.
A - I try to be myself. Even in the speaking voice, I try to be myself. I'm a fan. I don't want to be Elvis. I want to be his fan. There's one Elvis and he's gone.
Q - That's what people say.
A - (laughs)
Q - Some people I've interviewed say that's not the truth.
A - That he's still around?
Q - Yes.
A - I've talked to people who come up to me and say "Do you think Elvis is still alive?" I go, "Look, if he was still alive, he'd be eighty years old, right?" They have this idea in their heads that he'd be a twenty-one year old man, right? That's what they think. I go, "He's an old man." I wish he was alive. He'd be a hell of a magician 'cause to stay away from the limelight when you're recognizable around the whole world... I met everybody that Elvis knew that's still alive today that were at the funeral. Elvis is gone. I met J.D. Sumner before he passed away and he he said he touched Elvis' hand and said good-bye to him. He knew the hand of a corpse. He said he wished it was wax like everybody thinks, but it wasn't.
I met Larry Geller, who used to do his hair. He did Elvis' hair in the casket. He's gone. Everyone wants to believe he's still around, but he died in 1977. It was a shock to everybody.