Friday, February 4, 2011
life with Elvis (tributes)
Les Vogt became a king in the tribute-concert biz thanks to success with
his ‘Elvis Elvis Elvis’ shows — not long after Presley died.
When Roy Orbison (the real guy) couldn’t go on with the show due to
pending heart surgery, concert promoter Les Vogt turned to a bunch of
performers who looked and sounded like Elvis Presley.
“I had to think of something, because I didn’t want to cancel the show,”
recalled Vogt of the ordeal, circa 1978. “I saw Dick Clark had put eight
Elvis impersonators on TV not long before that, and that was the
beginning of the whole impersonator phenomenon.”
The change of concert plans in Hawaii led Vogt to become a pioneering
king in the tribute-artist business with his touring “Elvis Elvis Elvis”
shows, hitting amazing highs in the 1980s and still rocking today,
though scaled down considerably.
“At one time I had three different casts going around the world, and
they were filling concert halls,” said Vogt. “I made way more money off
that than I ever did with Roy Orbison” (with whom he worked starting in
the mid-1970s through to his Traveling Wilburys days).
Another of Vogt’s “Elvis Elvis Elvis” tours starts tonight (Feb. 4) in
Maple Ridge, rolling through the region for seven dates with a trio of
King-ly tribute artists doing different eras of the man’s music, moves
and fashion styles, with Memphis Beats backing band. Among the gigs is
Sunday, Feb. 6 at Surrey’s Bell Performing Arts Centre (7 p.m. start,
$39.75 for tickets; call 604-507-6355 for info).
At age 73, Vogt is still a hands-on promoter who closely watches numbers
and knows where “trouble spots” are with concert dates.
“The Bell is one of the better venues because of the capacity, about
1,100,” he said. “After promo exchanges, there’s about 1,000 (seats) to
sell, and we’ll hit 800 to 1,000, which we’ve hit a few times. This one
looks close. It won’t sell out, but it’ll be close.”
Vogt, who lives in Steveston, earned membership in the B.C.
Entertainment Hall of Fame for, among other reasons, his work in the
1960s promoting teen dances with Red Robinson, featuring popular rock
‘n’ roll stars of the day. Years later, he founded what would become
Merritt Mountain Music Festival. Vogt still loves doing the “Elvis Elvis
Elvis” shows, which attract cross-generational crowds.
“I do the oldies circuit of tribute artists because I know the market,”
he said. “With the Elvis shows, there’s a huge female audience, and we
do get some kids. And I know every ‘Elvis’ known to man. They find me,
through the conventions and things — you know, ‘Call Les, he’ll set you
up.’ I’m always looking for new guys, which fans love.”
Las Vegas-based Donny Edwards has been doing his Elvis tribute for seven
years, and is one of the busier performers on the circuit. At the Bell
this Sunday, he gets to don a sequined white jumpsuit as the 1970s-era
“I was the ’60s guy the last time there,” he told the
“But my favourite Elvis is probably the ’70s era, the jumpsuits and
karate moves. The energy was so high, with his big band.”
Looking ahead, Vogt has booked a May 11 date at the Bell for a tribute
to Buddy Holly and his fellow doomed pals.
“It’s all still very enjoyable for me,” Vogt said, “and it’s good to
know that I’ve gone through life without having a real job. If you don’t
have passion for something, your life is over. It’s deadly otherwise. I
have things to look forward to, some excitement. That’s good.”
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