The King of rock and roll Elvis Presley died 40 years ago this month, but his legacy lives on in music, film and costume — and in fanatics’ homes and hearts across Australia.
The town of Romsey in Victoria is home to Elvis superfan Barry Copeman and his living room museum, full of LPs, figurines, replica jumpsuits, posters, tour memorabilia and more.
Mr Copeman, 70, was married at the Elvis chapel in Las Vegas and has been a fan since he was 15 and first heard Elvis on the radio.
“I don’t remember specifically what song it was, but it was the music and personality that grabbed me straight away,” he said.
“There are a lot of imitators, but there will never be another Elvis.”
In Western Sydney, Allan Hazelton and Margot Dawson run Australia’s only dedicated Elvis World, packed literally to the rafters* with memorabilia.
Their impressive Elvis cave has become a must-stop for international and Australian Elvis tribute artists.
“I’ve always been an Elvis fan but our lives really turned around when we rode our motorbikes to the Parkes Elvis Festival one year. The rest is history,” Mr Hazelton said.
Even though Presley never came to Australia and died four decades ago, tens of thousands of fans and impersonators flock* to a small NSW town each year for the Parkes Elvis Festival.
In 2007, a group of 147 performers at Parkes broke the Guinness World Record for the greatest number of Elvis impersonators at one-time in a single place.
Hundreds of impersonators are kept busy throughout the year, performing at parties, officiating wedding ceremonies and strutting their stuff at events.
The Elvis competition at the VIVA Surfers Paradise festival this year saw 19 lookalikes vie for top prize.
Stuey V entered the Ultimate Elvis Tribute Artist Contest after two years of practice.
“The most challenging thing about impersonating Elvis is getting the tone right, you have to research his voice, his performances, it takes time,” he said.
SO, WHO WAS ELVIS?
Elvis was an American singer and actor, born in 1935 in Memphis, Tennessee.
He began his music career in 1954 but his first number one on the US charts wasn’t until two years later with Heartbreak Hotel in 1956.
The same year he made his film debut in Love Me Tender.
From there, Elvis built a huge career with success across pop, blues and gospel* music.
It’s widely believed that Elvis modelled his look with the quiff, sideburns and jumpsuit on teenage comic superhero Captain Marvel Jr.
Elvis’ favourite foods were peanut butter and bacon. He was known to love and regularly enjoy fried peanut butter, bacon and banana sandwiches.
On August 16 1977 Elvis suffered a fatal heart attack aged 42.
Before his untimely* death, Elvis won three Grammys and a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.
rafters: part of a roof
flock: go somewhere quickly
untimely: not at the expected time
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Activity 1. Elvis fanatics
Elvis has left a long lasting legacy in the musical world. Even 40 years after his death he has fans all over the world.
• What were some of Elvis’ achievements?
• Where could Australian Elvis fans go in Australia to see lots of Elvis memorabilia?
• Which festivals would be good for Elvis impersonators to attend?
• What is most challenging about becoming an Elvis impersonator?
• Why do you think Elvis made such an impression on so many people?
Extension: Elvis events in Australia
Use Google Maps to locate the places in Australia for Elvis fan’s to visit.
The names of places are listed in the article.
List the places and explain what Elvis fans’ could enjoy at each one.
Time: allow 40 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum links: English, Humanities — Geography
Activity 2. Timeline
Create a timeline of events in Elvis Presley’s life.
Begin your timeline in the year he was born and complete it when he died.
Some key events are mentioned in the article.
You will be able to find more information on the internet.
Include some things from childhood as well as later on in his life.
You might also be able to include what world events were happening at the time.
Elvis did not come from a rich family or have lots of opportunities in his childhood.
Yet he still became a world famous musician and actor.
What skills and character traits would have helped him achieve what he did in his lifetime?
Time: allow 60 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum links: English, Humanities — History
(Vocabulary, Connectives, Openers, Punctuation)
Rhyme like Elvis!
Choose 10 words from the article and find between 5 and 10 words that rhyme with that word.
Can you find any WOW words?
Eg. Prize = size, rise
Can you create a song using some of the rhyming words you’ve listed?
Make it so fantastic that even Elvis would want to sing it!
Time: allow 15 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum links: English, Big Write, VCOP
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