Tags: Graceland | Names | First | Elvis | 'Tribute' | Champ

Graceland Names First Elvis 'Tribute' Champ

Sunday, 19 August 2007 12:00 AM

MEMPHIS, Tennessee -- The King is dead. Long live the King -- of Elvis tribute artists.

Shawn Klush, a Pittston, Pennsylvania native, on Friday night was named the "ultimate Elvis tribute artist," in the first-ever tournament for Elvis impersonators sanctioned by Elvis Presley's estate.

Klush won over the sold-out crowd at a downtown Memphis concert hall with a version of "Viva Las Vegas" and then clinched the title against a field of nine other Elvis "tribute artists" with a rendition of "You Gave Me A Mountain."

Clad in a replica of Presley's signature 1970s-era white jumpsuit, Klush bested two other veterans of the highly competitive Las Vegas Elvis circuit, Trent Carlini and Donny Edwards, who also made it to the final round.

Contestants were judged on performance, appearance and respect for Elvis by a panel of judges including Joe Moscheo, a singer who performed regularly with Presley in Las Vegas.

Klush's victory gives him $5,000 in cash, a $5,000 gift certificate to spend at Graceland and the marketing value of the first-ever endorsement from Presley's estate.

Reflecting the continuing international appeal of Elvis three decades after his death, the 10 finalists the showdown included a Canadian, a Norwegian and a British hopeful.

Professional Elvis impersonators have flourished on the fringe for years in places as far flung as London and Los Angeles but have never had the sanction of the Presley estate, which shunned them out of concern they were cheapening the value of a lucrative entertainment brand.

But that approach is changing with the commercial growth for Graceland, the Memphis mansion Presley bought for just over $100,000 in 1957.

ELVIS INC.

Forbes magazine ranked Presley as the second-highest-earning dead celebrity after Nirvana's Kurt Cobain, with an estimated $42 million in revenue in 2005-2006.

Since opening to the public in 1982, Graceland has become a major tourist hub with some 600,000 visitors a year and more growth planned.

Entertainment mogul Robert Sillerman bought 85 percent of Elvis Presley Enterprises in 2005, with the remaining 15 percent owned by Presley's daughter, Lisa Marie.

As part of the "Elvis Week" anniversary, Lisa Marie Presley released a re-mixed version of her late father's hit "In the Ghetto," adding her voice to Elvis' original track from 1969.

Sillerman has described a vision for a new Graceland visitors center, convention hotel and digital museum intended to create the effect that Elvis never left the building.

As part of that transformation, Sillerman, who is chief executive of EPE parent company CKX Inc., is attempting to take the company private in a partnership with "American Idol" creator Simon Fuller.

The search for the "ultimate" Elvis tribute artist took on some qualities of the popular "American Idol," including regional contests to find the 10 finalists.

The contest caps a week of Elvis-related events in the city. An estimated 75,000 Elvis fans from around the world visited Graceland during the week for a candlelight vigil, concerts, seminars and souvenirs to mark the 30th anniversary of Presley's sudden death at age 42.

Elvis died of heart failure at Graceland on August 16, 1977 after battling a range of health problems including a dependence on prescription drugs.

© reuters 2007. All Rights Reserved.

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MEMPHIS, Tennessee -- The King is dead. Long live the King -- of Elvis tribute artists. Shawn Klush, a Pittston, Pennsylvania native, on Friday night was named the "ultimate Elvis tribute artist," in the first-ever tournament for Elvis impersonators sanctioned by Elvis...
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2007-00-19
Sunday, 19 August 2007 12:00 AM
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