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Elvis lives on in Donny Edwards' tribute shows

Donny Edwards: A Tribute to Elvis

7:30 p.m. June 16

Texas Opry Theater

315 York Ave.





Posted 3:06pm on Thursday, Jun. 14, 2012

Mojo Nixon once sang that Elvis is everywhere, and although that's a comic exaggeration, Elvis Presley sightings -- or at least Elvis-tribute-artist-sightings -- have been getting pretty common around here.

Locally based Elvis tribute artist Kraig Parker recently played the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra's Concerts in the Garden series, and now Donny Edwards, whose website bills him as "The next best thing to THE KING," is set to perform Saturday at Weatherford's Texas Opry Theater.

Perhaps it's not a surprise that Houston-raised, Las Vegas-based Edwards and Parker have crossed paths. They even came in first and second in an Elvis-tribute-artist contest an Isle of Capri casino. Edwards says fans often find room for both Elvises.

"I've always gotten along with Kraig, but I think any time you're in a business like this, it's going to be a little bit competitive," Edwards says. "But you get a lot of people [who go to both shows] because there's just something about the Elvis atmosphere, and they want to see it and be around it. A lot of fans will come by and say, 'Oh, I just saw Kraig,' or they'll be on their way to go see him if I came through first."

Edwards stresses that there's a difference between an Elvis tribute artist and an impersonator who merely dons fake sideburns, aviator shades and a sequined jumpsuit. Edwards' act spans all the King's career phases -- the '50s rebellious rocker, the '60s movie star, the '70s Vegas crooner -- and Edwards has had to learn a variety of moves to maintain authenticity in his act.

"In the '50s, Elvis did a lot of leg movements and hip movements, and there was a certain way he moved that was just different from anybody else at that time," Edwards says. "In the '60s, after he came back from the Army, the music had changed, and Elvis did more Jackie Wilson moves, like a little bit of a Twist. By the 1970s, he'd matured, he'd totally changed, and he was really into martial arts. At the end of Suspicious Minds sometimes in the '70s, he would go into a full-on kata where he'd be doing a whole bunch of martial arts."

Edwards was a floor manager at a Target before he entered his first tribute contest in 2002, but even before that, he was obsessed with finding out things about Elvis -- people said he looked like the singer -- and how he changed popular culture.

Edwards says his Elvis fascination began before he could walk, as he'd bop along to the King's music on the stereo. He was a toddler when the real Elvis died in 1977, but he's a font of Elvis knowledge now. Edwards likes playing Texas -- this will be his third Texas Opry show in three years -- and not just because he grew up in the state.

"People don't realize, outside of Vegas, Elvis probably played Texas more than anywhere else," Edwards says.

With commercial radio's tendency to follow demographics -- especially the 25- to 54-year-old demographic that advertisers desire -- many older songs, including Presley's, don't get the airplay that they used to. Although the '50s stuff sometimes comes up, usually in specialty shows, you're more likely to hear something from the late '60s or early '70s, and even that is fading. But Edwards believes that no matter how radio treats Elvis, the music will endure.

"Elvis could sing anything, and he had so much of a range that you could listen to him as a rock 'n' roll singer, you could listen to him as a gospel singer, you could listen to him as a country singer, a blues singer," Edwards says. "With Elvis' music, it covers such a span that when you look at his recordings, you just go 'Wow!'"

Robert Philpot, 817-390-7872

Twitter: @rphilpot

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