We can hardly believe that it’s been almost three months since our first foray into the world of Elvis Presley and the Elvis Tribute Artists. The event that got it all started for us was the 2013 Elvis Festival in Lake George, New York.
Since that unforgettable week, we’ve followed numerous Elvis festivals worldwide. All of this, however, acts as just a lead up to that ultimate event of the year: Elvis Week in Memphis.
What and when is Elvis Week?
Each August, fans, musicians and tribute artists of all ages and backgrounds gather in Memphis, Tennessee to celebrate the memory of the King of Rock’n Roll, Elvis Presley. Just looking at the roster of world class performers scheduled to appear, the parties, jam sessions, contests, exhibits, the candlelight vigil, film screenings, tours, forums, and more parties, we realize that, to use the term “celebrate” is only putting it mildly!
This year’s festival is August 10th to the 17th. The reason that Elvis Week happens in August is because it coincides with the anniversary of the day he died on August 16, 1977. While the significance of that date conjures up a certain amount of sadness for many devoted fans, it is also balanced by the overwhelming excitement of coming together in Memphis to remember the life, music and legacy of this uniquely gifted artist.
This year’s festival is particularly significant for us here at DanseTrack because it will be our first time covering this preeminent event. Also, this will be an exciting opportunity to catch up with some of the amazing performers we first saw at the Elvis Festival in Lake George, NY. (See feature: here.)
Jesse Aron will represent Lake George, NY at the Ultimate ETA Championship
And now we’re gonna let you in on a little secret.
Besides this being our first time at Elvis Week and the fact that we’re so greatly looking forward to seeing all of these fantastic performers, there’s one more thing that at least I personally can hardly wait to do. That is to get to hear the sound of my family’s own warm, familiar Tennessee accent. It goes something like this:
“Jesse Aron? Lawd Hammercy! That man can sang!!”
One of the artists we first saw perform at the Lake George Elvis Festival (whose incredible tribute to Roy Orbison literally brought down the house) was Jesse Aron. Originally from Chicago, Illinois, Jesse now lives in Green Bay, Wisconsin. We had a chance to ask Jesse a few questions about Elvis Week. Also, check out the photo of Jesse as Roy Orbison below.
DanseTrack – “You’ve had tremendous success and experience as an entertainer, and while this is all probably second nature to you, what is it like to perform during Elvis Week in Memphis?”
Jesse Aron – “Performing in Memphis is actually bittersweet because, first and foremost, I am an Elvis fan, even before I put on the jumpsuits and costumes. Also, I try to resist letting anything that may go on behind the scenes take over the true reason that we are there! On the flip-side, we are all paying tribute to the man to ensure that we keep his legacy alive & well for future generations. So, overall, it is quite a rush to finally be accepted by Graceland and to get to perform in Memphis.”
DanseTrack – “For the Ultimate Elvis Tribute Artist Competition, do you get to choose which song(s) you’ll sing?”
Jesse Aron – “We do get to pick the songs that we like. For the first round, we pick 12 of our favorites and are asked to list these songs in the order we’d prefer to sing them. I have several selections with “Hurt” being one of them and also “How Great Thou Art”. Now, whether or not I get to sing these particular songs, now that’s another story. It goes according to performance order and I am further down the line in the 20’s on the list. Therefore, if my 12 chosen songs have already been picked, I have to move further down the line of selections. Luckily, I know over 500 Elvis songs, so I think I will be fine .”
DanseTrack – “In Lake George, NY, we were also treated to a few performances by your lovely and talented wife, Tarie Macdonald Aron. Will we also get to see her perform in Memphis?”
Jesse Aron – “Tarie is usually very busy in Memphis during our ‘King Of The World’ Competition at The Memphis Airport Hotel and Plaza (formerly the location for “Images of the King”). We are currently in our 4th year, so we’re still pretty new, but Tarie is now the head of our Judges at this particular contest!
“Tarie used to sing backup for just about all the Elvis Tribute Artists in Canada when I met her. She has even been fortunate enough to sing backup for the late, great Godfather of Soul – James Brown as well as the late Jeff Healy band! She has quite an impressive resume ranging from modeling to TV appearances, and is a very well-known singer in her own right. I am proud to walk into a room with her by my side.” – Jesse Aron
Thank you, Jesse!
And now, just when we thought we’d gotten our Tennessee accent back under control, here it comes again…
“Lawd O’mighty! Baby shake that thang!”
This outstanding performer from the United Kingdom, is the 2012 winner of the Ultimate Elvis Tribute Artist Awards in Memphis. We were fortunate to also ask Ben a few questions about Elvis Week 2013.
DanseTrack – “To much acclaim, you have performed your tribute to Elvis Presley essentially all over the world. In your opinion, what is it like to be onstage during Elvis Week in Memphis? Also, is there any event that you are particularly looking forward to this year?”
Ben Portsmouth – “Performing at Elvis Week is great and very manic. It also feels a bit odd getting a lot of attention sometimes. I feel like a charlatan. If I had to choose one event in particular out of all of them, that would be August 10th when I’ll get honor of playing at Elvis’ birth place in Tupelo, Mississippi.”
DanseTrack – “As last year’s Ultimate ETA Champion, do you feel any additional pressure about performing during this year’s Elvis Week?”
Ben Portsmouth – “Well I am a perfectionist full stop, so there’s always pressure. I just want people to enjoy themselves.”
DanseTrack – “And enjoy it they do! Thank you, Ben.”
Ooh! Wee! That Cliff Wright knows how to rock the Rockabilly Blues!
One of the shows we’re especially looking forward to will feature the phenomenal artist Cliff Wright. Cliff was born in Dallas, Texas but was raised in Athens, Alabama. Looking back at the Elvis Festival in Lake George, here is something that particularly struck us about Cliff Wright. First of all, one of the things that we find most intriguing about performers is when they have an unassuming presence offstage, but as soon as they hit the lights, they take on a larger than life quality that holds their audience utterly spellbound. That’s pretty much Cliff in a nutshell. In our lead-up to Elvis Week 2013, we were lucky to ask him a few questions.
DanseTrack – “In the world of tribute artists, you are widely recognized for your skills as a performer and particularly for your ability to play the guitar. In fact, in addition to your appearance in the Ultimate ETA Contest, one highlight of this year’s Elvis Week in Memphis is a concert “Cliff Wright and the Rockabilly Blues”. Can you tell us anything about what you’re planning to do for this event?”
Cliff Wright – “The concert in Memphis is something I am extremely excited about for multiple reasons. This debut will happen on the most historic street in the world – Beale Street, in Downtown Memphis, Tennessee. It is the home of the blues and to think that I will be performing at Jerry Lee Lewis’s Honky Tonk. That is a huge honor because, like Elvis, Jerry Lee has been a major influence on my career. The theme behind this concert is basically myself performing the music I grew up on and doing it in my own way. In other words, my aim is not to change the foundation of the old classic songs, but renew them in a style that connects to myself and to my style of guitar playing.”
DanseTrack – “At the Elvis Festival in Lake George, NY, we soon discovered that you already have legions of devoted fans. Considering that, along with this being such a huge celebration of the legacy of Elvis Presley, it must be so exciting to perform during Elvis Week. What has it been like for you?”
Cliff Wright – ”I feel, at times, like I am just dreaming all of this because these things have happened so quickly in my short career as an Elvis Tribute Artist. I have worked very hard on this, and I am lucky to have the support and confidence of such a terrific manager: Terri Futreal, but still feel I am not worthy of a title that has the name Elvis in it. He was the greatest ever in my eyes. To take that into consideration, along with being recognized by Elvis Presley Enterprises as one of the top tribute artists in the world for 2013 is, to me, as good as it gets. I mean, you cannot rise above that feeling. And to know I get to walk out on that stage in front of his fans in his hometown, just steps away from where he once stood, and will get to perform one of his classic songs, is probably going to be the greatest moment of my life as a tribute artist.
I know that the Ultimate ETA Awards is a contest, but I feel I have to go out there and give them a show. I want to connect with that audience and my goal for that contest is to remind the fans in some way of Elvis, even if it’s just for a split second. Then, I will know that I did my best to respect his memory the only way I know how.
DanseTrack – “Brilliant, but humble. Thank you, Cliff.”
You’ll find more information about Cliff Wright and the Rockabilly Blues: here.
Ok. So what do we have so far?
“Jesse Aron? Lawd Hammercy! Oh, that man can sang!!”
“Ben Portsmouth? “Lawd O’mighty! Baby shake that thang!”
“Cliff Wright rocks the Rockabilly Blues!”
You can probably see this one coming…
“Now, don’t y’all step on these Blue Suede Shoes!” Hit it!!
Check out this awesome video. Also, see the links below for what’s happening in Memphis during Elvis Week!
- Elvis Presley Official Website: http://www.elvis.com
- 2013 Ultimate Elvis Tribute Artist Contest – Official Website
- Cliff Wright and the Rockabilly Blues: Ticket information
- Images of the King: ETA Contest and Showcase – http://imagesoftheking.com
- King of the World: ETA World Championships – http://www.elvisworldchampionships.com
- DanseTrack ETA Feature – A Tribute to the King of Rock-n-Roll, Elvis Presley
- Useful website for Elvis-related info and events: http://elvisevents.com