“Every time I think that I'm getting old and gradually going to the grave, something else happens.”- Elvis Presley
The 16th of August 1977 was one of those rare days when the world stood still, shocked into stasis by an era-defining event. It seems anyone who was alive and had ears to hear remembers where they were on that day; the day Elvis died.
Armed with that voice, that lip curl and that hip thrust, at the time of his death at the tender age of 42 Elvis had already cemented his position as perhaps the most iconic musician of all time. And, with hindsight, his early departure from this world only served to increase his legendary status.
Three years before the murder of John Lennon would evoke similar scenes, when Elvis died the world first experienced the death of a new kind of king. A king of a globalising culture, whose influence and image had spread around the planet, adored by loyal subjects from Maryland to Melbourne.
80,000 people lined the streets for The King’s funeral. Thousands queued to see his body laid out in an open casket. Each of Elvis’s six posthumously released singles rode a wave of grief into the top ten of country charts. The millions that had listened, crammed themselves into music halls and gathered around black and white TV sets to see The King, mourned him bitterly.
But here’s the thing. Elvis never really died.
It has become a platitude that music immortalises its most charismatic practitioners. And there can be little doubt that something of Elvis’s spirit is still contained in recordings of his songs scored into vinyl, CDs, cassettes, digital tracks and several films of dubious quality.
But Still Taking Care of Business reveals that Elvis continues to live on most palpably in the men who call themselves Elvis impersonators, and who have made transforming themselves into living images of Elvis their hobby, their job and their passion wherever they live.
Taking the reader backstage to discover the UK’s own flourishing Elvis impersonation scene, this book introduces some of the nation’s most flamboyant new age Elvises, from West Bromwich’s Yam Yam Elvis to London’s Original Black Elvis. Redolent with both humour and nostalgia, the beautifully composed images in this collection situate our continuing cultural obsession with Elvis in the faces of rapt crowds in pubs, bars and clubs across the land. They reveal a sub-culture in which participation spans age, class and culture. Love for the King knows no bounds, it seems.
Perhaps most profoundly, Still Taking Care of Business is a testament to the pseudo-spiritual power of Elvis that survives to this day. Each of the men depicted in this book step into Elvis’s ‘skin’ both literally and metaphysically. Weighed down with symbols drawn from Elvis’s iconic material culture, from gold medallions to the denim of the American blue-collar worker, they are participants in an act of sympathetic magic. They do not simply dress like Elvis, they perform him, become him, channeling a man long dead back into the world in the various phases of his life, with the stage as their temple and the performance their flamboyant ritual.
These men, then, are The King’s mediums, his personal priests, and this book is a window into their secret world; a world where Elvis lives and is still taking care of business.
- Hal Rhoades