A local Elvis Presley tribute artist has made a name for himself in the competitive world of Elvis impersonators by winning another prestigious contest.
Ladner's Eli "Tigerman" Williams was selected grand champion last weekend at the Aloha From Hawaii Elvis contest and festival in Hawaii, an event celebrating the 40th anniversary of Elvis's famed concert.
The original concert by the king of rock'n'roll in Hawaii was broadcast live via satellite on Jan. 14, 1973. It is regarded as the most watched broadcast by an individual entertainer in television history.
Last weekend's festival brought impersonators and Elvis fans from around the world.
The contest was also one of a select few qualifiers for an even bigger one this August in Memphis, Tenn., the Ultimate Elvis world championship. The winner in Hawaii got a coveted spot at Ultimate Elvis for a chance to be crowned the best Elvis tribute artist in the world.
Williams' victory means he's now off the Memphis to compete once again against the very best Elvis performers from around the globe.
"I can say it was a big thrill for me when they called my name. It's a lot of fun," Williams told the Optimist by e-mail.
This will be the second time Williams, 24, will get to compete on the biggest Elvis tribute artist stage in the world. Last summer, he won the annual Pacific Northwest Elvis Festival in Penticton, which was also an Ultimate Elvis qualifier. Williams would go on to compete at the worlds that August, something he says was an experience of a lifetime.
Williams, a Delta Secondary grad who has regular job as graphic designer, has been a professional Elvis impersonator for about six years.
He enjoys singing the songs of Elvis's '68 Comeback Special era. He's also branched out into the Elvis's jumpsuit era, singing tunes from the 1970s while the legendary performer was in Las Vegas and on tours, including the 1973 Hawaiian show.
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 a couple of years ago, 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 where Elvis cut his first major record.
Williams practiced relentlessly to emulate the singing style of Elvis and watched many hours of concert footage to pick up every nuance. He also sang at a few karaoke shows in Delta and around the Lower Mainland, but it wasn't until he met Surrey-based tribute artist Brian "Elvis" Simpson through Facebook four 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 is also a dedicated karate student, trying to emulate many of the karate moves Elvis did in his shows.
He performs throughout B.C., including casinos, pubs and charity fundraisers.
"Sometimes we lose sight of why we started doing this in the first place, all the things which I guess are inherent of being in the business of entertainment. There should be one reason and one reason only why we would devote our time and our livelihoods: to preserve his memory and his music," Williams said. "Thank you so much Elvis, for if not for you we'd be a bunch of guys with an odd taste in fashion and very dated haircuts."