“A lot of it seemed to come natural,” Kraig said of learning to imitate the King. “It’s not a total transformation. It’s more like altering my ego a little bit.”
Parker alters his ego three times a week, reincarnating Elvis for the entertainment of fans young and old at parties, concerts, grand openings and any other event where attendees need to get all shook up. For the second year in a row, Parker tonight will bring his show to the hot rodders at Hot August Nights.
Growing up, Parker said his mother was a big Elvis fan and was always playing his records. At age 12, Parker picked up the guitar and learned a few Elvis songs, but as a young adult in the mid-1980s, his musical efforts leaned toward music that was popular at the time, such as the sounds of ZZ Top and Van Halen. He played for some hard rock bands and then headed a gospel rock project for about seven years before his life was sent along a different path: fatherhood.
Coaching baseball and other paternal activities got him out of music for a time, but while working in the graphic design department at Hunt Oil in Dallas his co-workers, who knew of his musical abilities, asked him if he ever did any Elvis performances. To that point, the closest he had ever gotten to being The King was earning the nickname “Elvis” in high school because of his slow Texas drawl and hair style. But, he thought he’d give it a try for the company party.
“I bought a cheap costume and went through the motions and learned enough to get through the party,” Parker said. “It was almost magical what happened that day. ... It felt really natural.”
From that day on, Parker was Elvis Presley. He started getting more gigs with his Elvis act. After first shying away from his inner Elvis, Parker started to embrace it and spent time really studying the man whose voice and on-stage persona allow Parker to travel the world re-living his music with fans. Parker has even recruited a band, comprised largely of musicians he worked with in his pre-Presley days. And now, rather than buy cheap costumes, Parker uses the services of renowned Elvis costume maker Janet Tegels, spending anywhere from $500 to $2,500 for outfits.
Authenticity is what it takes, though, to stand out in a world full of Elvis impersonators. In fact, Parker’s act takes authenticity one step further: He has recruited the help of Charles Stone, who in the 1970s worked with Elvis as a concert promoter. Stone caught Parker’s act at a Hard Rock Cafe in Dallas and was amazed by his act. Stone’s contacts and his first-hand knowledge of Elvis helped Parker elevate his show above the crowd of other such acts.
“It’s hard to convince people to hire an Elvis act,” Parker said, referring to people’s notions of bad “fat uncle in a jumpsuit” Elvis impersonators. “So many are skeptical from the get-go. You have to get past people’s skepticism.”
Parker is making believers out of Elvis fans all over the world, playing to crowds as small as 500 and as big as 5,000, he said. It’s not all the older generation at the shows, Parker said. There are also a lot of younger fans, he said, and sometimes it is the older fans who get out of hand.
“Sometimes it blows me away how ladies will swarm the stage and fight over scarves,” he said. “It’s gotten physical at times and I have to remind people that I’m not really Elvis Presley and they need to just be nice to each other.”
The European fans have their wild side, too, he said. He has already performed in England, Iceland, Denmark and France and is slated to perform in Germany and “other European countries I can’t pronounce” in the near future, he said.
“In Denmark they were really boisterous, even to the point of stomping their feet,” Parker said. “I’ve never experienced that. But that’s where the Vikings came from. They either love us or they’re fixing to kill us.”
Feet will be stomping tonight at 8:15 p.m. at the outdoor ampitheater in downtown Sparks. The show is free.