Northeast Times

After 35 years, he's still the one

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Elvis Pres­ley fans are spend­ing the week mark­ing the 35th an­niversary of the death of the King of Rock ’n’ Roll, and Jim Bar­one thinks he knows why they re­main so de­voted.

Bar­one, a 39-year-old from Mul­lica Hill, N.J., has been per­form­ing as Elvis Pres­ley for 21 years. He’s in Mem­ph­is, Tenn., this week for the Ul­ti­mate Elvis Trib­ute Artist Con­test and will en­ter­tain the crowd later this month at a char­ity con­cert at Cannstat­ter’s.

“It’s very rare that an en­ter­tain­er comes along who looks good, sounds good and has a tre­mend­ous stage pres­ence,” he said of Elvis. “He had the en­tire pack­age.”

Elvis Aaron Pres­ley was born in Tu­pelo, Miss., and moved to Mem­ph­is when he was 13. He had his first hit song in 1956 with Heart­break Hotel and had nu­mer­ous hits through the 1960s and in­to the ’70s. His mu­sic­al ca­reer was tem­por­ar­ily in­ter­rup­ted by a stint in the U.S. Army, and he later en­joyed a suc­cess­ful movie ca­reer.

In later years, Elvis put on a lot of weight and be­came de­pend­ent on pre­scrip­tion drugs. Still, he con­tin­ued to en­ter­tain.

In 1977, he per­formed ex­tens­ively, in­clud­ing a May 28 date at the Spec­trum in South Phil­adelphia. His tour ended in In­di­ana­pol­is on June 26, and he had plans to go back on the road. But he died sud­denly on Aug. 16 of a heart at­tack at his Grace­land man­sion at age 42.

Since 1982, when Grace­land be­came open to the pub­lic, it’s be­come a pop­u­lar des­tin­a­tion for Elvis afi­cion­ados. More than 600,000 people per year vis­it the mu­seum, mak­ing it the second-most-vis­ited private res­id­ence in the United States, be­hind the White House. Elvis and his par­ents and grand­moth­er are bur­ied on the es­tate.

For those un­able to make the trip to Mem­ph­is, an­oth­er way of re­liv­ing the memor­ies of Elvis is to at­tend a con­cert by a trib­ute artist. The acts began while Elvis was alive, but really be­came pop­u­lar upon his death.

Bar­one, who was 4 when Elvis died, star­ted in 1991 and is proud his voice is very sim­il­ar to the King’s. His fa­vor­ite Elvis song is Are You Lone­some To­night? 

He’s de­veloped a spe­cial bond with the people who come to his con­certs.

“They’re friends to me more than fans,” he said last week from Mem­ph­is. “They love Elvis so much. I try to re­cre­ate something they en­joy.”

Bar­one, who star­ted his 12-day trip to Ten­ness­ee with a few gigs in Nashville, will com­pete later this week in the Ul­ti­mate Elvis Trib­ute Artist Con­test, which is held in part­ner­ship with Elvis Pres­ley En­ter­prises Inc.

EPE man­ages Grace­land and all things Elvis. This week’s high­lights in­clude an Elvis con­cert, via video, at Mem­ph­is’ Fe­d­Ex For­um on the an­niversary of his death. His ex-wife, Priscilla, and daugh­ter, Lisa Mar­ie, will be in at­tend­ance.

Bar­one qual­i­fied for the ul­ti­mate con­test by win­ning a com­pet­i­tion in At­lantic City and has since won an­oth­er pre­lim­in­ary con­test in North Car­o­lina. He’ll be among 28 semi­final­ists, with the win­ner get­ting a prize pack­age that in­cludes $20,000.

Win or lose, Bar­one will be at Cannstat­ter’s on Aug. 31 as part of Digi Found­a­tion’s beef and beer/con­cert to raise money for Chil­dren’s Hos­pit­al of Phil­adelphia. He’ll en­ter­tain with an Aloha from Hawaii set.

Pro­moter Charlie Luecke, pres­id­ent of the non-profit Digi Found­a­tion, said guests are in for a real treat.

“Audi­ences are really in­to Jim Bar­one. Audi­ences love him,” he said. “He’s one of the best ones out there. I think he’s in the top ten. I think he stands a good chance of win­ning the con­test.”

Luecke, whose Digi En­ter­tain­ment has a long-term agree­ment with Elvis Pres­ley En­ter­prises, be­lieves the Elvis phe­nomen­on will go on forever. He cited sur­veys show­ing that Elvis has 55 mil­lion fans in the United States and more than 350 mil­lion fol­low­ers world­wide.

“He has more fans than we have people in the United States,” he said. “Elvis is the second-most re­cog­niz­able per­son ever to set foot on Earth. He’s right after Je­sus.”

Luecke already has lined up a loc­al Elvis trib­ute artist con­test for next year. Cannstat­ter’s will host from April 12 to 14.

First, though, is the up­com­ing Chil­dren’s Hos­pit­al be­ne­fit. Luecke and Bar­one both have had pos­it­ive ex­per­i­ences at CHOP.

Thomas Charles Ma­jkowski, Luecke’s now 4-year-old grand­son, was treated at the hos­pit­al for heart is­sues. Bar­one’s now 6-year-old son, Vin­cent, had a stroke be­fore he was born, but is liv­ing a com­pletely healthy life, thanks in part to the med­ic­al staff at CHOP.

Bar­one, a mem­ber of the Digi Found­a­tion board of dir­ect­ors, will be part of a lineup that in­cludes oldies, Ir­ish mu­sic, comed­ic im­pres­sions and more.

“There’s five hours of non-stop mu­sic. There’s something for every­body. CHOP is get­ting a hun­dred per­cent of all the money. How can you beat that?” Luecke said. ••

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Get all shook up …

A beef and beer/con­cert will be held Fri­day, Aug. 31, from 6 to 11 p.m., at Cannstat­ter’s, at 9130 Academy Road.

The lineup will in­clude Jim Bar­one (Elvis Pres­ley trib­ute), Su­z­ette Dorsey (Tina Turn­er trib­ute), The Im­per­son­at­ors, Mike Jones, Ed Marra (Buddy Holly and Freddy “Boom Boom” Can­non trib­utes), Greg Mar­ti­ello, Tom McHugh, The Trib­utes and the Phil­adelphia Po­lice & Fire Pipes & Drums.

Tick­ets cost $35, or $20 for any­one age 13 to 20. Chil­dren age 12 and young­er are ad­mit­ted free with an adult.

Call 215-983-5200 or vis­it di­gi­found­a­tion.org 

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You can reach at twaring@bsmphilly.com.

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