Elvis Lives - The Business of Being Elvis
Book by Pamela Thomas-Williams
Review by Ronnie

"ELVIS LIVES-The Business of Being Elvis, is written with the intent of giving the reader an idea of what does on in a world full of people that continue to follow, respect, and pay tribute to Elvis Presley. It is not an encyclopedia, anthology, or biography…"
– Disclaimer to ELVIS LIVES

The disclaimer for ELVIS LIVES pretty much tells what this book isn't. What this book does tell is the motivation behind ETA's and what goes into making one. What is an ETA you ask? Well, there are currently 35,000 of them in the world today. The phrase means, "Elvis Tribute Artist". First the book describes what goes into the production of an Elvis show, from the costs of the costumes (and of course those signature Elvis scarves) to the choosing of a live band for backing or simply karaoke.

The bulk of the book is taken up with interviews of more than 58 ETA's. I was truly surprised as to how universal the Elvis phenomenon was - with ETA's from the following countries: Canada, Great Britain, Ireland, Italy, France, Norway and all over the U.S. The ages of these performers range from 7 to 63 and there is even a Native American and an African American ETA. (Note: one of the ETA's interviewed is Johnny Thompson - interviewed in our June 2002 issue.)

I enjoyed the interview section most of all. It was interesting to find the various motivations, reasons & style preference that each ETA gives. Also fascinating was to find out just how some of the ETA's got into the business; Some did it once at a party or on a dare from friends with karaoke machine and it turned into something serious!Some of them do it full time, some just part time. Others have evolved from doing the tributes to full-fledged production work. While some put emphasis on entering many of the Elvis Contests, others avoid them totally, saying they are 'rigged' or 'political'. Each ETA had different attitudes for their performance, but I think Jesse Aron summed it up best - "I'm living out something I am having a lot of fun with. Performing as Elvis makes a lot of people happy and if I can bring back just even a little bit of the memory of what Elvis did, then that's cool…that's really cool".

My only complaint about the book was that all the photos of the ETA's were in the middle of the book and there was no reference (or index) to each interview. I kept finding myself flipping back to the middle photo section on each interview to find the picture of the ETA in question. (I'm guessing the reason for putting all the photos in the middle was purely economical.) Still, it is great that the time was taken to include photos (and in some cases more than one) of each ETA interviewed.

Finally, this book is an excellent resource for ETA's, with 3 ˝ pages of internet contacts. So, all you budding Elvis Tribute Artist wannabes…this is a great place to get started. You'll get an idea of what goes into this sometimes very competitive market of ETA's. And ELVIS LIVES is a fun read for those of us who are just Elvis fans!

Click here to read our interview with the author, Pamela Thomas-Williams

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