BWW Interview: Bill Cherry of ELVIS LIVES

This week I spoke with Bill Cherry, one of the performers on the ELVIS LIVES tour. Cherry was a welder almost a decade ago until he was laid off. A friend told Cherry, who had always loved the king's music, about the Ultimate Elvis Tribute Artist contest. With a clear knack for performing and raw talent, Cherry won the preliminary contest and then took the whole content after fighting off 24 other guitar-slinging, hip thrusting, sideburn-wearing tribute artists. Now, Cherry and two other Ultimate Elvis winners take the stage every night giving people a whole lot of Elvis Presley. Read below to see what Cherry says about the show, touring and how he was first introduced to the music and movies of Elvis Presely.

JCA: Why Elvis? What about the king of rock'n'roll just connects with you?

BC: Well for me, my mother was an Elvis fan so I was exposed to his music early one. My mother would have me and my brothers watch his movies and we would gather around TV. We had 5 albums and, after listening to them, I would grab my guitar and practice the songs and I self-taught myself how to sing for what would unexpectedly be my career later on. Some people had their heroes as Superman, but mine was Elvis.

JCA: My understanding is that the layout is three performers, each representing a different era of Elvis' music. Tell us about your era.

BC: The era that I do is the 70's Elvis so I will be in the jumpsuit. It will be songs like "Suspicious Minds" and "Burning Love" and "American Trilogy." But we open the show with the 50's featuring songs like "Heartbreak Hotel." We also do a gospel section because the only Grammy that Elvis only won was actually for his gospel album. Then we do a movie section and intermission. Then we have do the 1968 TV special "Singers Present Elvis," where the Elvis is decked out in black leather and then I finish the show.

JCA: How did this tour come about? What was that moment that made it all spring to life?

BC: Part of the winnings, when I won the contest, was getting a contract with Legends in Concert in Vegas. They had put together this tour and so it was ultimately a part of the winnings. At the time, I was the only Ultimate Elvis Tribute Artist winner but now we all are.

JCA: How fun is that to be a part of on a national tour?

BC: It has its good sides and it has its downsides. At the beginning, it took a long time to get used to being on a bus and driving around with a bunch of strangers. At the end of the day, we do work, there's no doubt about it. But it's fun because it is a lot of sightseeing and traveling and seeing the world.

JCA: Lastly, Elvis is iconic. How do you prepare for this role? How do you even begin to prepare for this?

BC: First of all, we live our own lives and we portray a character. We are fans. When we put our makeup on, and the jumpsuit, and I am about to go on stage, it's a rush. It's hard to describe. When you hear the roar of the crowd and the music, it's just a rush. They aren't there to see me, or the other guys. They are just there to experience seeing Elvis live. So as you get closer to fully becoming the character, you just become ready for the show.

"It's an all age show and it's good entertainment, whether you're an Elvis fan or you got talked into coming to the show," says Cherry. "Most people who come in that situation, maybe they don't leave as a fan but they leave with an appreciation for Elvis and the career he had."

ELVIS LIVES will be at the Fabulous Fox Theatre for just one performance on March 9 at 7:30PM. Ticket prices vary and are available online here, by calling the (855) 285-8499, or by visiting the Fox Theatre Ticket Office.

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