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Always on their minds

Gone 40 years now, Elvis Presley is still unforgettable, with a group of impersonators meeting regularly to pay tribute to the king of rock 'n' roll

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Jamie Koh on 21 Aug 2017

The Straits Times

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"Viva Las Vegas, Viva Las Vegas," they chorused with great abandon as they bopped to the beat of the Elvis Presley song, ending the night on a high note, to the delight of the audience of about 200.

 

Dressed in custom-made jumpsuits, and with some rocking the pompadour, the group of mostly senior citizens were at Thomson Community Club with their friends to pay tribute to the American music legend.

 

Forty years ago on Aug 16, the king of rock 'n' roll died of a heart attack at the age of 42, breaking millions of hearts around the world.

 

But he is not forgotten here.

 

The group of about 10 impersonators meets at least twice every year - in January to celebrate the musical icon's birthday, and in August to remember his death.

 

The tribute artists are entertainers from the Thomson Community Club Elvis Singing Group, who put their hearts into impersonating the king.

 

"This year being the 40th death anniversary, the group put on a special remembrance show," said Mr Charles Kang, 69, chairman of the community club's senior citizens' executive committee.

 

Sometimes they meet other Elvis tribute artists at events, where they exchange views and performance tips.

 

At 52, Mr A. Jegatheesan is the youngest tribute artist in the singing group, and wants to get more young and old people interested in Presley. The father of four girls has been a fan since his brother took home a cassette tape of Presley's chart-toppers the day after he died. He still remembers the news report on the front page of The Straits Times.

 

"The entire house was filled with his music and you could hear it throughout the house," recalled the estate officer in the civil service.

 

"This guy was someone different. He didn't sing like anybody else and I wanted to be like him."

 

He spent the following years listening to Presley's songs, watching his movies and learning everything about the legend's life.

 

Mr Ken Cheong would have been eight years younger than Presley were the king still alive today.

 

It was only in 2011 that he discovered his passion for impersonation.

 

"He had beautiful jumpsuits and great dance moves," said the businessman, who owns a landscaping firm. At 74, he is the oldest impersonator in the group.

 

But age is no impediment to the enthusiast, who has amassed a collection of costumes, accessories and even a wig, mostly purchased from the United States, that would have had the king's thumbs up. Beaming with pride, he confessed that his collection is "very expensive" but it gives him a "wonderful feeling".

 

The men and women of the singing group come from all walks of life and gather at least once a week at the community club to belt out numbers from Presley's repertoire of about 700 songs.

 

As Mr Kang observed: "The rapport is wonderful and it is a great way to make new friends and share common interests."

 

Mr Cheong added: "I think it is the right time now for me to enjoy life a little bit, and there is nothing better than to be merry, take in plenty of oxygen and sing lots of Elvis songs."

 

VIDEO 

 

Watch the Elvis tribute artists in action. http://str.sg/4rSK

 

The Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Limited. Reproduced with permission.