“I remember the exact moment I first wanted to be like the King,” said Everette “Howie” Atherton, professional Elvis impersonator. “When I was 11 years old, I went to go see Change of Habit starring Elvis at the Hollywood Theater in northeast Minneapolis. I saw all the girls loving him, and I thought to myself, ‘Hey, that guy’s cool.’
“I went to a record store in Saint Anthony Village right after the movie, where I bought the soundtrack from Speedway. I still have it today. I’d stand in front of the bathroom mirror every night, learning how to sing every word on that record. The house I grew up in only had one bathroom, so my sister wondered what the heck I was doing in there for so long.
“I kept on learning Elvis’ songs over the years, getting better and better at singing and dancing like him, but I never thought I could do that kind of a thing for a living. So one night I happen to stop by a bar, where the bartender told me that they just had to fire their Elvis guy. Without even thinking I told him ‘I can do it for you.’ The bartender looked me up and down and asked me to sing a song. And then another. And then another. I sang in front of everyone in that bar, and when I was finished he said ‘You’re hired!’ I performed 70 songs the first night I worked there.
“Now I perform everywhere. It’s a passion, man. I’ve done dives, high class places, corporate gigs, a lot of charity performances, even homes with just two or three people. One time I drove to Kansas City on Christmas Eve just to sing to a lady on her deathbed who wanted to see Elvis before she passed on. The ladies, they’ll just be shaking in their boots when I come up and give them scarves. I’ve got my beautiful wife Kathy to play my music for me, and my friend Jerry who does my lighting. We have a good time traveling all over. If I lived down south or in Vegas I could have performed full-time, but my whole family is here and I don’t want to move.
“Most guys who do Elvis, they’re just in it for the money, or because they think they look good in the jumpsuit. But they’re not lifetime fans, because they didn’t grow up with the guy like me. Now I’m not saying I’m the best, but I rank right up there. Not many people can sing Elvis like I can. Sometimes I have to change up the lyrics just to prove I’m not lip synching. And you’ve got to stay in shape if you want to keep doing it, man. When you’ve got $30 thousand worth of Elvis costumes like me, and you can’t fit in them, then you’re out of luck.
“Elvis had the whole package, man. He had the voice, the music, the looks, and the moves. I come as close as I can, but no one will ever come close to Elvis. I remember exactly where I was when I heard he passed away. That was devastating. But guys like me, we keep Elvis alive. There are still so many people coming to shows, who love Elvis, and we’re talking young and old. I’m no spring chicken myself anymore, but I can still do the kicks.”
Although a native of Minneapolis, Howie will travel far and wide to treat audiences to the kind of show like only the King could have given. If you’d like Howie to come and perform at your special event, you can reach him at (612) 790-6104 or firstname.lastname@example.org. He is also available through GigMasters.
By David Scheller