(Australian Associated Press)
When Kingsley Rock is not crawling through roofs getting shrouded in cobwebs fixing air conditioners, he moonlights as a “casual” Elvis.
What began as fun dressing as the King for nostalgia festivals turned into a part-time gig for the Gold Coast impersonator, who’s been in the game nine years.
“I started singing a bit and thought I could give this a crack,” he says aboard the Blue Suede Express train in 2018, as we chug from Sydney to the annual Parkes Elvis Festival.
For him it’s more a hobby than a job, and unusually, he became a fan of Elvis through imitating him.
“I was a casual Elvis fan and didn’t even own a record – but to say I didn’t like Elvis wouldn’t be true either,” he says.
“Most people are hardcore Elvis fans and that’s how they get into it – I just did it for a bit of fun.”
Kingsley marvels at the “reflected celebrity” he gets through impersonating. Once he dons his black leathers and wig, he finds himself signing autographs as if he is the real deal.
“It’s hard to get your head around, because I am just an air conditioning mechanic. But then I’ve become this character, Kingsley Rock, and it’s like I’m semi-famous in the Elvis world,” he says.
“Once I get on stage, I start talking like this,” he says with an southern drawl. “But the minute the shows over, I drop back into me.
“I haven’t met anyone that thinks that they’re Elvis full time.”
Tall, lanky Brody Finlay makes for a striking young Elvis, with his jet black dyed hair gelled into an impressive quiff.
“I’ve listened to him every day since I was three,” the 22-year-old Sydney musician says.
Brody admits he is in Elvis mode “99 per cent” of the time and most of his spare moments are spent studying his master, whom he credits as a generous soul with the “voice of an angel”.
“You’ve got to study every little detail, when he touches his ear, touches his nose,” he explains.
“The hardest thing is the voice – there’s just no one that can live up to his voice, but we just all do our best.”
Brody admits being a bit shook up by the reaction he sometimes gets.
“I had a woman kissing me on the lips and sticking her tongue out. That’s probably the weirdest one,” he recalls.
But the lure of recognition in the promised land of Memphis spurs him on even if his relative youth in the world of Elvis impersonators raises eyebrows.
“They hear me sing and they’re like okay, I understand now.”
John Collins, from Berry, NSW, is a veteran on the scene, having impersonated Elvis for 27 years.
“It’s an interesting world, this Elvis impersonator business,” he muses, in his red studded jumpsuit.
“There’s a difference between people like myself who fell into this business. But there are the people that do it because they actually want to be Elvis – and there’s only one Elvis.”
The chef’s foray into the Elvis world came after a winning karaoke session.
He has also worked as a celebrant travelling the country doing Elvis weddings.
The key to being a good Elvis, he confides, is honesty.
“You have to connect to the crowd, that’s number one – that’s what Elvis was all about,” he says.
For Stuey V, being a full time Elvis tribute artist on the Gold Coast means he is always in Elvis mode.
“Every time I go to shopping centres, people look and stop, and say, ‘Elvis is here, how you’re doing, and thank you very much’,” he muses.
Stuey, who used to run an entertainment business, has had a vocal coach since day one and an opera singer to teach him how to emulate his idol’s tones.
“She gives you a whole vocal range of about six octaves, she’s an amazing singer and she teaches you breathing techniques, and how to expand your lungs,” he explains.
“The voice is the hardest thing, because people expect to hear Elvis straight away.”
Does that mean anyone can become an impersonator with a bit of training?
He laughs. “If you put your heart and soul into it, anyone can sing. Whether you become an Elvis impersonator is a different story.”
IF YOU GO
GETTING THERE: Dedicated Elvis train services run from Sydney Central train station to Parkes, 365km west of Sydney. Regional Express (REX) flies directly to Parkes from Sydney several times daily. The drive from Sydney to Parkes is five hours.
STAYING THERE: Accommodation books out quickly. The Astro Dish Motor Inn (www.astrodish.com.au/) offers modern decor and facilities and is a close walk to Cooke Park, the hub of the festival, featuring the main stage and markets. The Home Hosting Program is also an option for groups and couples while comfortable tent accommodation is available, with sturdy ready-built tents including stretcher beds and mattresses. Other camping, caravan or motorhome sites are also available.
PLAYING THERE: The Parkes Elvis Festival takes place annually on the second weekend in January. For more info, visit www.parkeselvisfestival.com.au
You can also see the rural town’s rich agricultural and mining history in its museums, take a hike through Goobang National Park, enjoy the magnificent vista from the top of Parkes Memorial Hill and check out the world famous Parkes Dish, as the CSIRO radio telescope tunes into the universe. The town has a thriving social calendar, hosting events throughout the year.
The writer travelled as a guest of Destination NSW.
The writer travelled to the Parkes Elvis Festival as a guest of Destination NSW.