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The King of Rock 'n' Roll is alive and has multiplied at the Shake, Rattle 'N' Roll Elvis Tribute Artist Contest.

The event will take place Friday and Saturday at the Deadwood Mountain Grand in Deadwood, with three qualifying rounds for 13 tribute artists from across the United States, Canada and England to see who's the King of being the King. There will also be a concert Saturday afternoon. 

"The Elvises will try to do the best job of sounding like Elvis, looking like Elvis, getting his mannerisms, wearing his clothes, getting his audience response and giving the illusion and memories of Elvis," said Jeff King, co-producer of the show.

King and co-producer Howard Pitch, both of Howard Pitch Entertainment, regularly run Elvis tribute artist contests leading up to Elvis Week in Memphis every August, where fans and tribute artists from all over the world come to pay tribute to Presley. Pitch and King think Presley keeps people coming back for a number of reasons.

"He converged in a time of musical, cultural and American history, where a white man was replicating what was happening in the black music world," Pitch said. "And let's face it, there's a strong sex appeal to him."

"I think people come back to tribute shows because it captures the humanitarian aspect, how giving he was to his fans," King said.

Among the 13 artists trying to capture that is Kraig Parker of Fort Worth, Texas. Parker got his start 20 years ago at a corporate day job when a boss had an Elvis birthday party and he was asked to perform.

"I can't explain the electricity that was in the room when I first did it," Parker said. "It started the train rolling, and ten years ago I met with Craig Stone, Elvis' tour director in the '70s, and he offered to manage me and I thought, 'What took you so long?' 

Parker has done Elvis tributes all over the world, specializing in the King's '70s Vegas era and citing his rendition of "My Way" as his favorite song to perform.

"It's a beautiful song and rendition, and I love his gospel and ballads," Parker said. "The glitz and glamour years are showier, and I think people recognize that more. That's the icon you see in the media, cartoons."

He's not alone: Doug Church of Mishawaka, Indiana, started performing as Elvis in 1983, and it's been his day job since 1990. He, too, specializes in '70s Elvis.

"The costumes are flashier, he's more polished, and for me the music is better," Church said. "It's a well-rounded Elvis that people really identify with. I love performing 'Pork Salad Annie' and "How Great Thou Art.'

In 30 odd years of playing Elvis, Church said it's gotten easier with the smaller equipment and availability of costumes and background music.

"It opens things up, where costuming is more authentic," Church said. "Anyone who wants to do it can get the equipment and music."

Chuch added, though, that though there are a lot of talented up-and-comers in the Elvis tribute game, he had confidence in his abilities.

"My pork salad may be starting to wilt, but I can still serve it up hotter than anybody,' Chuch said.

One of those up-and-comers is 22-year-old Brycen Katolinsky of St. Catherine's, Ontario, Canada. Katolinsky got a start young, going to an Elvis festival and singing when he was ten.

"It's weird going somewhere were there's a lot of guys singing and dancing, and you sing one song and people say you're good, and it takes off from there," Katolinsky said. 

A professional Elvis tribute artist since he was 17, Katolinsky specializes in the pre-army Elvis days in the 1950s, saying he loves performing "Jailhouse Rock" and other songs from the period.

"Most people coming haven't seen Elvis live, and if they did it was in the '70s," Katolinsky said. "For the '50s, most of us only see it in short clips, so bringing alive what's a mystery to most is enjoyable."

Each of the performers is ready to get the audience "All Shook Up," but they all go back to the singer who started it all.

"He's just a phenomenon," Parker said. "He drew me then, and he's still drawing people now."

"People still go to that vigil at his house 39 years after he died," Katolinsky said. "Not many people hold that kind of fan base."

"It's the best music in the world, as far as I'm concerned," Church said. "It speaks to every emotion."

For tickets, visit deadwoodmountaingrand.com or call 605-559-1188.

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Contact Max B. O'Connell at 394-8427 or max.oconnell@rapidcityjournal.com

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