Larger Than Life
lotta shakin' goin' on
impersonators keep his image
and music alive through
the many tribute shows around the region
A tribute artist has to stay as true as he
can to the
original artist and his music. You have to have
the whole package: the sound, look and style.
Todd Bodenheimer, Elvis tribute artist
(January 2012) From the moment Todd Bodenheimer
takes the stage in a brightly sequined jumpsuit, he immediately feels
a connection to The King of Rock and Roll, Elvis Presley.
From enthusiastic audience response to all of the opportunities it has
afforded him, being an Elvis tribute artist has been nothing but fun.
He left one of the best legacies anybody ever lived, said
Bodenheimer, 38, who performs regionally and every Wednesday night at
El Nopal Mexican Restaurant in La Grange, Ky. He says Elvis is still
extremely popular today because of the way he impacted everyones
life and the fact that so many people grew up listening to him. In addition
to having a superior talent for entertaining, Elvis was perceived as
down-to-earth and as someone who came from a modest background.
Even before he died, a lot of people mimicked him, said
Bodenheimer, a Louisville native who resides in Owen County, Ky. And
like Bodenheimer, there are quite a few Elvis tribute artists throughout
Kentucky, Indiana and Ohio. Locally there are close to a couple
hundred, he said. World-wide, there is probably 3,000 to
So singling out the best from the rest may be difficult. The thing that
makes a good tribute artist is not letting the image go to your head,
A tribute artist has to stay as true as he can to the original
artist and his music. You have to have the whole package: the sound,
look and style.
Several people have contacted him in the past for advice on becoming
an Elvis tribute artist. He tells them, You have to love the music
and enjoy entertaining. Youre bringing back a memory for many
people. You have to feel the music in your heart before you can send
it out to other people.
Bodenheimer has played many different venues as The
King. It has been a full-time job for him for the last three years.
If he pulls off a full-packaged performance, sometimes people
will look at you and think, Thats Elvis!
Based on the way the audience reacts, he said he can see why some tribute
artists feel theyre a superstar. But for him it comes
down to the fact that its our job to keep Elvis spirit
Bodenheimer enters a lot of Elvis contests and competitions. This past
year he was the 2011 National Champion at the Midwest Tribute to the
King. Five months later he entered a world competition in Memphis, Tenn.,
and placed fourth in a category based on image and was a finalist in
Over the years, Bodenheimer has gotten to meet a lot of people
who actually performed live onstage with Elvis, his family and friends,
he said. Along with these individuals, Bodenheimer says he feels Elvis
impact as an entertainer and as an individual. You cant
help but hear his music and enjoy it. When he passed away, everybody
felt as if theyd lost a family member.
courtesy of Jimmy Supplee
the region, including
a weekly show on
at El Nopal restaurant
in La Grange, Ky.
Many that remember The King of Rock and Roll
also remember his sometimes flamboyantly designed clothing. Bodenheimer
said his favorite Elvis costume was the aloha jumpsuit that Elvis wore
in 1973 for Aloha from Hawaii. Bodenheimer gets all of his
reproduced Elvis costumes from B&K Enterprises in Charlestown, Ind.
This costume is so famous that a statue wearing this clothing was dedicated
to Elvis and erected in Hawaii at the site of the arena where the original
performance took place.
They contacted us for the costume, said Kim Polston, co-owner
with her husband, Butch, of B&K Enterprises. The clothing
was placed on the statue and bronzed over.
In business full-time since 1993, Polston said, We have the original
patterns from the original designers. Owning all rights to the
original designs guarantees a B&K Enterprise costume will be perfect
in every way.
Butch Polston did all of the research by hand that was needed to recreate
the Elvis clothing, said his wife. Californias Gene Doucette,
one of two original designers for Elvis clothing, also works
for us. He does all of the embroidery work for us, she said.
But Elvis did not only impact the United States. The Polstons have shipped
their Elvis costumes around the world to such places as Holland, Brazil,
Poland, England and France.
The couple has been big Elvis fans for quite some time,
said Polston. They were engaged when Elvis died. The last time he performed
in Louisville, Butch stood in line for what seemed like forever, only
to learn the show was sold out before he could purchase tickets.
Like the Polstons, Bodenheimer did not get to see the King perform live,
but he does own a piece of Elvis memorabilia. My mother saw Elvis
in concert in Louisville, he said. She managed to get to the front
of the stage, and Elvis placed a scarf around her neck. She gave this
scarf to Bodenheimer on his 21st birthday.
He also has a ring that was once owned by Elvis. It was given
to me by a lady in Memphis who I had gotten to know through Elvis competitions,
he said. The woman had known Elvis personally and gave Bodenheimer a
ring in her possession that had belonged to the King.
tribute artist Robert Shaw
of southern Indiana performs at
the Derby Dinner Playhouse in
Clarksville, Ind. He is scheduled to
return in October 2012.
The craze to keep Elvis memory alive is still apparent
today, even here in Kentuckiana. On Dec. 17, an Elvis tribute show,
Blue Christmas: A Tribute to the King, was performed at
Joe Hubers Family Farm & Restaurant in Starlight, Ind. The
star, Robert Shaw, is well-known in the Brown County area. Hes
also a concert promoter, said Kim Huber Kiser, president of Joe
Hubers Family Farm & Restaurant.
Kiser said she is finding there is a lot of interest out there
in Elvis. The fact that Shaw has an awesome reputation helps fuel
the fire, she said.
She has heard many people rant and rave about Shaw. Hes
just as good looking as a young Elvis.
Shaw, born in southeastern Indiana, began performing at age 10. He studied
voice, acting and dancing and accepted an offer in 2005 to perform the
role of Elvis at the Gaslight Theater in Tuscan, Ariz., where he resides
in the winter months.
We put on large-scale, theatrical-style concert productions where
the focus is really on performing the music and capturing the spirit
of Elvis rather than trying to be a clone, said Shaw, 33. He has
assembled eight different types of Elvis productions including How
Great Thou Art-The Gospel Music of Elvis and a live on-stage recreation
of Elvis 1968 Comeback Special.
Producing and performing is my full-time career, said Shaw.
As his shows gained the attention of Elvis fans, he formed a production
company to handle the business end of his concerts, Lonely Street Productions.
In addition to the Elvis productions, the company produces or manages
almost 20 different types of concerts, all geared toward the nostalgia
tribute artist Robert Shaw
is pictured in a black-and-white portrait
that he uses to promote his shows.
To be the best at what he does, Shaw said an Elvis performer
needs to be a tremendous vocal talent. Elvis was arguably the
most gifted entertainer who ever lived, and you cant pull that
off with a sub-par voice or lack of pitch.
Shaw said it is also important to have respect for the memory of Elvis
and put on a top-notch show, which includes using a live band. Even
if an individual doesnt physically match Elvis but does have a
good voice, just stick with singing the songs, he advises.
There are a lot of guys out there with cheap plastic sunglasses
and paste-on sideburns who are doing more harm to the memory of Elvis
The audiences he performs to are comprised of very loyal Elvis fans.
He places heavy emphasis on telling a story in his stage routine, such
as talking about how Elvis got to certain points in his career or telling
about how he came to record a certain song. Weve found that
this really engages the audience and they usually leave the theatre
having learned something new.
Shaw sees the best part of his job as being able to connect to the audience
through their memories. Elvis changed everything. I like to think
of the mid-1950s as sort of a cultural storm swirling around and Elvis
was the tornado that shook it all up.
Over the last five years, he has performed locally many times at Derby
Dinner Playhouse in Clarksville, Ind. Annie Myers, the Derby Dinner
Playhouse manager, said Shaw got his start here as an actor.
He is scheduled to perform a program titled, Heartbreak Hotel,
on Oct. 15, 2012, that will feature hits from the 1950s.
The thing that audiences find so appealing about him is the all-around
authenticity of the performance. Hes very professional,
said Myers. Shaw travels with a full band and backup singers.
Myers says she is amazed that so many people are still enthralled by
Elvis. She attributes it to the fact that his music is timeless.
All ages enjoy it.
Originally from Bardstown, Ky., tribute artist Eddie Miles travels all
over the country year-round to bring his show to Elvis fans. He said
Elvis left a whole legacy of music and was a great performer.
People miss that.
His desire to become a tribute artist grew out of wanting to be
an entertainer. He learned to play guitar as a young boy. He learned
country songs and people saw and liked it.
He eventually organized a band and played the county fair circuit all
over the Midwest. He ended up purchasing his own theater in the Smokey
Mountains, Memories Theater, and in the late 1990s moved to Myrtle Beach,
S.C., to open the Eddie Miles Theatre. In 2000 he went on the road again
with his show.
The thing that makes a good tribute artist first and foremost is being
a vocalist, he says.
Elvis was the greatest singer ever, said Miles, who would
not give his age. A second factor is how an individual presents himself
on stage, down to wearing authentic costumes.
If you cant sing, you shouldnt be up there,
said Miles. It ruins the image. You have to put a lot of work
and attention to detail into the whole show.
Miles moved back to Bardstown five years ago and said he receives a
standing ovation at every show. He said Elvis is still popular today
because young people want to know what he was all about. People
still want to be entertained with live music.
Back to January 2012