The Reporter Online
Although he didn’t live to see it, Elvis Presley’s 74th birthday is today.
The Tylersport Fire Company Ladies Auxiliary saw it coming from a mile away, and booked Chalfont musician Frank Fierle (pronounced FEAR-lee) and his Elvis tribute show for Saturday night at the firehouse. Proceeds benefit the auxiliary.
Fierle said the show is likely to include songs from the ’68 Comeback Special, the Las Vegas period (including the handing out of scarves), Madison Square Garden 1972, “Elvis, Aloha from Hawaii” and more.
“He did 800 songs, so every show is different,” Fierle said of the massive Presley recorded catalog.
In his tribute, Fierle sometimes performs with a band, but for this show, he will sing to backing instrumental tracks lifted from actual concert recordings. So that means “Hound Dog” will be in a blues arrangement and “All Shook Up” will be ultra-fast.
“I want it to look as much like a Vegas show as possible. In the ’70s, Elvis covered a lot of other people’s songs — Neil Diamond, the Righteous Brothers ... People will know those songs, but didn’t know Elvis did them,” he said.
In May, Fierle won second place at a regional Elvis Extravaganza Competition held at the Ohio State Fair, and qualified for the Elvis Extravaganza National Competition to be held in Tampa next month. It’s no small feat for somebody who has been at it for just 3œ years.
The 30-year-old Fierle, who regards many “Elvis impersonators” with suspicion, was born after Elvis died.
“My parents were not big fans. My Aunt Joan, she would like and die for Elvis. Her house was nothing but Elvis always. There was something about his music. I got an appreciation for it real early. I always said Elvis isn’t as much a singer of a song, (but is more) a performer of a song. Everyone that’s a rock star wanted to be him. He was the one that started the whole bling thing,” he said.
The doors open at 7 for the 8 p.m. show, and it’s a good idea to arrive early. George Di Domizio of Tylersport and Bill Greene of North Wales, who both served with Elvis during his Army tour of duty in Germany from 1958 to 1960, will be on hand to share their unique memories and memorabilia, including photos and an original copy of Elvis’ discharge orders that brought him to Fort Dix, N.J.
‘D’ and ‘Big E’
Although the whole world already knew what his name was, Elvis would still introduce himself to people by saying: “Hi, my name is Elvis Presley. What’s your name?”
When Di Domizio heard those words in the late ’50s, he and Elvis were both Army draftees stationed in Friedberg, Germany, near Frankfurt.
When Di Domizio told him his name, “he leaned back and said: “I’ll call you ‘D’.”
“He was down to earth when you talked to him. He had a nickname for everybody,” said Di Domizio, who became a personal friend of the King of Rock ’N’ Roll thanks to Army buddy Joe Esposito, a soon-to-be key figure in Elvis’ inner circle, the so-called “Memphis Mafia.”
Being drafted made Elvis uneasy about being away from show biz for two years. In private, Di Domizio said, Elvis was afraid the fans would turn fickle and forget about him by the time
he got discharged.
The Army was in a tough spot as well. According to Di Domizio, the military was sensitive to Elvis’ celebrity, and didn’t want anyone “taking advantage” of him, yet Elvis asked that he not be given special treatment.
“Elvis played the good soldier to the hilt,” he said.
Sunday touch football games with Elvis and the base draftee team made for many good memories that Di Domizio carries with him to this day. Elvis was either quarterback or the one calling the plays, he said.
“Come out to Hollywood and I’ll show you a good time,” Elvis told Di Domizio upon the end of their tour of duty.
In September 1960, “I was a member of the Memphis Mafia for two weeks,” he said.
Di Domizio went on to work at Merck after the Army, but he believes Elvis was thinking of asking him to come work for him.
Through his continuing friendship with Esposito, who actually was asked by Elvis to work for him, Di Domizio occasionally visited Elvis on movie sets and at Graceland.
Although, he didn’t see Elvis in those overweight and drug addled years late in his life, he could see his demise coming. Di Domizio said that despite Elvis’ friends’ best efforts to counsel him, he was able to talk his way out of advice to not indulge so much.
“Whatever he did, he did to excess. He didn’t buy one motorcycle, he bought six motorcycles,” he said.
The master bedroom at Graceland had not one, but three, TVs in it.
“During his lifetime, he never gave an encore. When you do your best and make people happy, leave,” Di Domizio said, explaining manager “Colonel” Tom Parker’s philosophy. That’s why there had to be an “Elvis has left the building” announcement at his concerts, he said.
The irony is that, with tribute artists like Fierle trying to capture the essence of the larger than life performer, “it’s like a continuing encore,” Di Domizio said.
If you haven’t already heard these stories, ask Di Domizio on Saturday about:
* The stuff at Graceland that tourists will never see in person.
* How Elvis nearly broke his fingers while showing off his karate skills on the set of “Flaming Star.”
* Privately witnessing Elvis accompany himself on piano singing the Christian hymn “How Great Thou Art” years before his memorable recorded version.
* Listening with the King to the almost-final take of “Are You Lonesome Tonight” before the song was mass-pressed to vinyl.
Intelligencer Video Interview
Augusta Chronical - Augusta Georgia
Contestants vie to present best image of the king of rock 'n' roll
What would possess a 29-year-old guy to drive roughly 600 miles from suburban Philadelphia to Augusta to sing the songs of Elvis Presley?
"If you look at some of the bigger names in this industry (professional Elvis tribute artist), many of those have taken part in the Augusta contest," Mr. Fierle said. "My goal is to be one of the top handful of those performers. I've only been doing this a short time, but I've been making a good name for myself in my area."
The competition takes place at VFW Post 3200 on Gun Club Road behind the Pilot gas station on River Watch Parkway at Interstate 20. It's best if you try to find it first in the daytime, because it's a poorly lighted turnoff and difficult to see at night.
The winner of the Augusta regional contest advances to the national Images of the King Elvis contest in Memphis, Tenn., in August.
It's hard to believe it will be 30 years on Aug. 16 that the king of rock 'n' roll took his last breath in the second-floor master bathroom of his Graceland mansion in Memphis.
In the three decades since, the Presley legend has continued to grow, thanks in large part to the hundreds of Elvis amateur and professional tribute artists who perform the king's music with love and deep appreciation.
What truly is amazing is at the 2006 national Images of the King contest in August, none of the top three finalists was American.
The winner, Elvis Jr. (whose real name is Frank Goovaerts), was Belgian. The second- and third-place winners respectively were Gino Monopoli, from Toronto, and Kjell (that was his only name), from Norway.
Like many of the national contest winners, Mr. Fierle never saw Presley perform live.
"I became a fan of Elvis when I was a kid, which was strange because my parents really weren't into his music," Mr. Fierle said. "I heard Elvis on an oldies station singing. I think it was If I Can Dream. I just loved the tone of voice and the feeling he put into his music."
Until six months ago, Mr. Fierle worked third shift at a commercial printing plant and sang on the side at wedding receptions, karaoke bars and other places.
Now, he works full time as a party disc jockey and does his Elvis shows with the help of his wife, Laynee.
"I also got to perform my Elvis show at a wedding reception in Puerto Rico," he said. "I sang Love Letters Straight to Your Heart to the bride and groom for their first slow dance as a married couple."
Don Rhodes has written about country music for 36 years. He can be reached at (706) 823-3214 or at email@example.com.
Live At Five with Glen Cury - 7-11-07
Live At Five With Glenn Cury - 7-23-07
Radio Review of the Show at the Clayton Opera House
Bucks County Courier Times
It’s the King’
By Tom Waring
Times Staff Writer
Even an avowed Elvis Presley worshiper like Rockin’ Ron Cade is surprised that the late undisputed "King of Rock ‘n’ Roll" remains as popular as ever.
"It’s amazing," he said. "Thirty years in death and he’s still very topical and relevant. People still love him, and will for years to come. They still want more of him."
In Philadelphia, Cade is the man to see for all things Elvis.
The veteran disc jockey has hosted the Elvis & Friends radio show for more than 29 years. The show, which has been on various stations, began on Feb. 3, 1978 with the playing of Hound Dog. The debut came a few months after Elvis died on Aug. 16, 1977 at his Graceland mansion in Memphis.
Today, the show can be heard Sundays from 7 to 10 a.m. on WOGL (98.1 FM) and is simulcast on oldies stations in Chicago and Lansing, Mich. It’s Philadelphia radio’s No. 1 music show on Sunday mornings, and the host is grateful to listeners for keeping him on the air for so long in the uncertain business of radio.
Cade also works four overnight on-air shifts on WOGL during the week, and he plays the Elvis 3 at 3, a three-song set at 3 a.m. to keep the King’s night-owl fans happy.
He also sells Elvis merchandise online and produces tribute concerts. Last Friday, a concert at Cannstatter’s sold out.
The next concert is set for Friday, Aug. 17, at the Sheraton Bucks County Hotel in Langhorne.
The evening will include two sets by Lisa Lyman, who performs a salute to Patsy Cline and hits from the 1960s and ’70s. Two Elvis tribute artists will also entertain.
Frank Fierle will don his black leather jumpsuit to recreate Elvis’ 1968 comeback special on TV, and Sammy J will portray the King as he was in the 1970s.
They’ll do all the hits, like Suspicious Minds and Burning Love, plus An American Trilogy and I’ll Remember You, songs that Elvis sang during his Aloha From Hawaii concert in 1973, which was broadcast live all over the world and has since become a particular fan favorite on the radio show.
"That’s a lot of entertainment packed into one night," Cade said of the Aug. 17 show in Langhorne.
Fans also will get to view memorabilia, buy merchandise and enter a raffle and 50-50 drawing.
Cade likes the events to be fun and affordable. Tickets are $20 for general admission and $25 for reserved seats, with a cash bar and food for sale.
Fans come from far and wide, Cade said, and represent all age groups.
"They love Elvis and the type of entertainment from that era," he said.
Cade thinks Elvis, who would be 72 today, became popular because people saw a young guy who grew up poor but used his talents to become a star. Once he made it, he was generous to his parents as well as acquaintances and even strangers, frequently giving away money and cars.
"People love a rags-to-riches story," Cade said. "He started in a one-room shack in Tupelo, Miss., and he followed that dream. He was rock ‘n’ roll’s first superstar. He didn’t invent it, but he exploded on the scene."
Elvis also went on to make 33 movies. He married, had a daughter and settled at Graceland, a 14-acre estate. He had some ups and downs in his career, but he was able to reinvent himself in the late 1960s thanks to an NBC Christmas special that led to standing-room-only gigs in Las Vegas. He began to tour again regularly, performing for the last time in Philadelphia at the Spectrum on May 28, 1977.
Less than three months later, he was dead at age 42, the victim of an enlarged heart and an addiction to prescription drugs.
Since then, tribute artists — some very good, others awful — have been trying to imitate Elvis.
Cade acknowledges that nobody can sing and act exactly like Elvis, but he thinks fans will like the two impersonators who will be performing later this month at the Sheraton. They have the "look" — hair, sideburns, voice, movement and clothing, among other stylish touches.
"I’m very particular who I put in that position to recreate Elvis," Cade said. "Frank and Sammy are good. They’re sincere. They’re very much into Elvis."
Besides the local tribute, Elvis will be remembered nationally in many ways. The TV Land network will air movies, television specials and concerts in August.
Graceland will be packed with the music superstar’s fans later this month, when Aug. 11-19 is celebrated as "Elvis Week" in Memphis.
The sprawling estate has been a popular tourist attraction since the entertainer’s ex-wife, Priscilla, opened the gates to the public in 1982. Memphis is expecting to at least match the 75,000 fans who flocked to the city for the 25th anniversary of Elvis’ death in 2002.
Fans can stay at the Heartbreak Hotel, get married at Graceland or pay tribute at Elvis' burial site on the estate.
Scheduled events include an American Idol-styled competition to choose the best Elvis tribute artist and a screening of Viva Las Vegas, hosted by Dale Earnhardt Jr., on the Graceland lawn.
Cade, who has been to Graceland dozens of times, promises to keep playing the King’s music for his Philadelphia fans.
"As long as I’m around and on the airwaves," he said, "Elvis will always be in the building." ••
Reporter Tom Waring can be reached at 215-354-3034 or firstname.lastname@example.org