TUPELO • Hunter Cole aspires to become an Elvis tribute artist.
The 14-year-old from Cleburne, Texas, currently models himself after the raw, high-energy ‘50s Elvis. But to be a complete tribute artist, he knows he has to add to his repertoire the body movement and stage presence of the Elvis in later decades.
“If I can do his ‘70s and ‘60s moves, that will help me even more,” Cole said.
Cole was one of 11 boys ages 9 through 18 who took part, Thursday morning, in a youth workshop on how to look and perform like the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll. They had their own tribute artist competition in the afternoon as part of the Tupelo Elvis Festival.
Elvis tribute artists Dean Z, Cote Deonath and Taylor Rodriguez shared their extensive knowledge of Presley moves. They also encouraged the youth to be themselves while honoring Presley.
“You’re all tribute artists because we’re all paying tribute to Elvis through our own lens,” Dean Z said. “Make it you. Put it through your own body and how you perceive it.”
Tim Mack, a Greenwood, Indiana, resident who prefers the ‘60s Elvis style, said the tribute artists made it easy for the budding ETAs to learn.
“They’re so personable,” Mack, 18, said. “They’re not like teachers. They’re more like friends, and they make it fun for you.”
Landon James, a 16-year-old from Lemont, Illinois, who relates to the ‘70s Elvis, said he discovered from the workshop how Presley stood while playing his guitar in the ‘50s. According to Dean Z, Presley would tap his right toe and left heel at the same time while moving the guitar neck in a circular motion.
James, winner of the youth competition, wants to continue growing as a tribute artist. “I’ll definitely apply what I’ve learned today, especially the guitar stance,” he said.
Even though the budding artists want to continue honoring Presley, Dean Z encouraged them not to overlook their education.
“Make sure your schooling is a priority and get good grades,” he said. “That is the most important thing in the world. Elvis is for our fun. This is where we get to have a good time, celebrate his music and make people happy.”