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Life and Arts

On the Town: Elvis tribute artist brings the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll to life

Chris Maddox
“I’m not really an Elvis impersonator,” said Chris Maddox. “My goal is to present the spirit of Elvis to audiences and have a party.”
(David Laurell)

While the Starlight Bowl’s summer concert series attendees braved the heat to enjoy their preshow picnic dinners, one of the evening’s featured performers, Chris Maddox, was in his dressing room mustering up some bravery of his own.

With a showtime temperature that had not fallen much from the day’s high of 96 degrees on Saturday, Maddox waited until just minutes before taking the stage to don the rhinestone-encrusted jumpsuit, wig, glasses and rings that transformed him from a sales manager of a major electronics manufacturer into the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll.

LeAnn McDonald
LeAnn McDonald, left, and her daughter Jessica were among those who braved the heat to enjoy Saturday’s concert featuring Chris Maddox as Elvis and Yachtley Crew.
(David Laurell)

“I’m not the fat Elvis as much as I am the medium Elvis,” he said, jokingly, as he fastened a golden lion-adorned belt buckle. “But, performing in this kind of heat, I may just be the skinny Elvis by the end of the show.”

Performing with his band and backup singers known as Graceband, Maddox balked at the term “Elvis impersonator.”

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“I always say what I do is a celebration of the spirit of Elvis, not an impersonation. Our show is about honoring the memory of Elvis Presley, not just doing a parody of him,” he said.

“We do this for the pure love of it, and we make our shows a party with a lot of audience participation. Believe me, this isn’t about making money. If it was, we wouldn’t have a 12-piece band,” he added with a laugh.

Born after Presley’s death in 1977, Maddox, who has been performing as an Elvis tribute artist for over 25 years, said he finds it a bit ironic that he is now older than Presley was when he died.

Chris Maddox
In his dressing room, Chris Maddox makes a final check of his transformation into Elvis before taking the Starlight Bowl stage this past Saturday.
(David Laurell)

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“Believe it or not, my real introduction to Elvis came by watching ‘Full House’ on television when I was a kid,” he said.

“There was an episode in which John Stamos, as Uncle Jesse, does a gig as an Elvis impersonator. After seeing that, I went out and found videos of Elvis performing and got hooked. I realized I could sound like him, and then, when I first started doing this, and realized girls liked it, that was it for me,” he added.

Ascending to the Starlight Bowl stage from the audience as his band played the opening fanfare of “Also Sprach Zarathustra,” from the film “2001: A Space Odyssey,” Maddox spent the following hour rocking through the King’s hits while handing out scarves to women of all ages.

One of the show’s highlights came when he told the audience he had an idea that would help them beat the heat.

starlight bowl
Ready for an evening of soft rock and the King of Rock were Richard Eaton, from left, Lisa Matzner Eaton, Sharon Hetrick and David Kohler.
(David Laurell)

“Christmas isn’t a day, it’s a state of mind. So, let’s put ourselves in a Christmas-in-July state of mind,” he said as he launched into Presley’s hit, “Blue Christmas” while candy canes were handed out to the audience.

The show also featured the 1970s and ‘80s soft rock band Yachtley Crew, which accounted for the white-captain-hat-adorned fans peppered throughout the venue.

The Starlight Bowl will continue its 2019 Summer Concert Series on Aug. 3 with performances by Which One’s Pink?, which pays homage to Pink Floyd, and Neil Young tribute artist Dennis Neil.

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For more information about other upcoming shows and tickets, visit starlightbowl.com.

David Laurell may be reached by email at dlaurell@aol.com or (818) 563-1007.

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