A local professional Elvis Presley impersonator has won a spot to compete on the world's biggest stage of Elvis tribute artists.
Ladner resident Eli "Tigerman" Williams, a Delta Secondary graduate, won the professional division in the prestigious Penticton Elvis Festival on the weekend. The contest, which had contestants from across B.C. and around the world, is one of several official qualifying events for the Ultimate Elvis tribute contest, an even bigger contest organized by Elvis Presley Enterprises. It can be considered the World Series of Elvis tribute contests, as the winner will be crowned the top performer in the world.
The contest will take place in Memphis, Tenn. during Elvis Week 2012, from Aug. 10 to 18.
Just making it to Ultimate Elvis is a major accomplishment, but now Williams, 23, will compete against the top Elvis impersonators from around the world.
"It's a real thrill. It's taken a lot of hard work and practice to even get here," he told the Optimist following his win in Penticton, B.C.
Williams enjoys singing the songs of Elvis in "the king's" 68' Comeback Special era. He's also branched out into the Elvis's jumpsuit era, singing tunes Elvis sang in the 1970s while the legendary performer was in Las Vegas and on tours.
Williams has been a big-time Elvis fan his entire life and took an interest in performing as Elvis while still in high school.
In an interview last year, Williams said most of his friends considered him somewhat cool for his dedication to Elvis, who passed away in 1977 at the age of 42. Williams even has tattoos bearing the moniker TCB (Taking Care of Business), as well as the Sun Studio logo honouring where Elvis cut his first major record.
"Not many people my age walk around with big pompadours and sideburns and the retro cloths," he said.
Williams said that his mother, when it comes to his Elvis obsession, is "all over it, but didn't get it at the start."
Williams practiced relentlessly trying to emulate the singing style of Elvis and watched many hours of concert footage to pick up every small nuance. He also sang at a few karaoke shows in Delta and around the Lower Mainland, but it wasn't until he met through Facebook a Surrey-based tribute artist, Brian "Elvis" Simpson, three years ago that he began receiving more formal training.
Simpson, who has sung internationally, runs a school called Elvis 101. There, both male and female students learn the fundamentals of being a credible Elvis tribute artist, covering everything from vocals, stage moves and costumes.
Williams said, "That (Elvis school) was a real eye opener. I didn't realize there was such a world of Elvis fanatics out there, people that studied every little minute detail like that."
Williams noted it's important for anyone considering becoming an Elvis tribute artist to know that they shouldn't consider themselves another Elvis, but that they pay a respectful tribute to him.
Williams, who has a regular job as a graphic artist, said he isn't into Elvis just to make money or compete in contests.
"I like performing. I don't care if I don't make a million dollars doing it. If I sing in front of 15,000 people or five, I sing because I just like doing it," he said. "A lot of it is also about getting to meet fans and other Elvis tribute artists and being in that atmosphere of such fandom. It's a lot of fun."