Some artists are only really appreciated once they’re gone – this was not the case with Elvis. The first recorded Elvis impersonation occured in 1954 by a man named Carl ‘Cheesie’ Nelson. This was the same year that Presley himself began his career.
As Elvis’ fame grew, so did the amount of impersonators — I imagine it was incredibly alluring due to his sense of style, his distinct singing pattern, and the wave of excitement he was creating among the youth of the 50’s.
While the fad has passed it is not gone. Fact is, I was on the bus the other day listening to podcasts on my phone and looking out the window at the city passing me by. The bus pulled up to one of the busier stops downtown and I saw a man dressed up as The King himself walk up, tap his transit card, and take a seat near the front of the bus. He was wearing that iconic white jumpsuit with the red cape, and had quite the impressive pompadour. Clearly this was not Elvis himself. It was one of many Elvis Presley impersonators, a group of people who love The King and enjoy dressing up, talking, and performing like him.
Despite my experience, the numbers on Elvis impersonators are scarce.
The largest gathering was recorded by Guinness World Records at Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Resort in Cherokee, North Carolina in July of 2014. They counted a whopping 895 people in attendance. I can only imagine how surreal it would be standing in the middle of that gathering and hearing hundreds of Elvis impressions simultaneously.
If you’re looking to attend something like this, the Collingwood Elvis Festival held in Collingwood, Ontario, Canada is one of the largest annual Elvis festivals today and is sanctioned by Elvis Presley Enterprises.
The website Elvis.net was able to provide some numbers on the total amount of impersonators, but there were no sources so take these with a grain of salt.
The site states that in 1970 there were an estimated 250 professional Elvis impersonators – folks who make a living through the craft. They estimate that today there are 35,000. If that trend continues, it is projected that there will be 700 million Elvis impersonators by the year 2060. That’s almost double the population of the USA today. Now, I have no idea how they reached this number – if we round the year to 2020, that means that over 50 years the amount of impersonators increased by 34,750. By my calculation, if the rate stays the same, that means by 2070 there should be 69,500 which seems to be a much more reasonable number. If what Elvis.net says is true though, and there really will be 700 million Elvis impersonators in 2060 – I’m not sure if that’s fantastic or horrifying. Maybe they will buy a series of islands, form an Elvis-themed society, and base their economy on tourism. I’d definitely visit.
Suffice it to say, Elvis-based Halloween costumes could still be a trend long into the future.