Be There When Lightning Strikes

News

Set your text size: A A A

Donny Edwards puts his heart into Elvis tribute

Donny Edwards will perform his Elvis Presley tribute show through April 17 at the Flat Rock Playhouse Downtown. Donny Edwards will perform his Elvis Presley tribute show through April 17 at the Flat Rock Playhouse Downtown.

Even though he did not think of himself as musical, Donny Edwards had a natural connection to Elvis Presley.

“I always had people tell me I looked like him even as a kid,” Edwards, who is performing his Elvis tribute show at the Flat Rock Playhouse Downtown through April 17, said in a telephone interview from his home base in Las Vegas last week. “It was weird.”
Edwards’s was the standard singing of the non-singer — “in the car, in the shower.” Until one day “I was goofing around with my dad’s karaoke machine.”
“I put a tape in and I recorded myself singing a few songs just a cappella,” he said. “A few days later my dad called. He said, ‘Is this you?’ I didn’t even think about it. I figured he’d record over it. He was real impressed and before I knew it he was giving me a karaoke machine and I started playing around.”
In August 2002, he performed for the first time on stage in an Elvis contest.
“I ended up winning and before I knew it some people contacted me to do shows here and there,” he said. He didn’t quit his day job, as a department manager at Target, but his gift for singing and his uncanny resemblance to Elvis Presley soon vaulted him fulltime into playing Elvis.
“It was something that kind of snuck up on me,” he said.
What separates Edwards from other Elvis Tribute Acts — he actually uses the acronym ETA when he talks about them — is the study he’s put into Elvis and his life and the genuine respect he has for the performer.
Some ETAs “just put on a white jumpsuit and do their own thing,” he says. “The whole point is to pay tribute to him. That’s what it should be about. I kind of morphed the show into kind of a history lesson,” adding tidbits about “why Elvis sang a certain song.”
Edwards travels much of the year. His Elvis act has taken him all over the world. His biggest thrills have come when he sang with surviving members of the Jordanaires — Presley’s backup band — and when he was invited, three years ago, to sing at Graceland.
“That’s something no other ETA has ever gotten to do,” he says.
While one might think that songs of a performer whose career ended with his death 39 years ago would attract a white-headed audience. Not entirely, says Edwards, who describes Elvis’s appeal as timeless.
“What I see honestly is it’s actually kind of amazing. We see a lot of more youth popping up,” he says. “It’s amazing how many kids are showing up. You’ll have a little boy or little girl show up in an Elvis outfit; he’s kind of like a superhero. … I’ve only met a few people in my life that didn’t like Elvis. If you listen to him and you look at this story of where he came from you can’t help but like him. When people called him the King, he said, ‘No, Christ is the king. I’m just an entertainer.’ He was quick to always tell people.” (Yes, Edwards’s show does include “How Great Thou Art” and several other gospel numbers.)
Edwards once told an interviewer that when theaters offer up their house band “it's usually a train wreck.” He doesn’t feel that way about the Flat Rock Playhouse band, which backed him up when he performed at Music on the Rock show a year ago.
“Last year was amazing,” he said. “The crowd was good, the band was phenomenal. We had a great time in North Carolina.”

 

“Donny Edwards: an Authentic Heart and Soul Tribute to the King” will be performed through April 17 at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Thursday, 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday . Tickets are $30 and can be purchased by calling the Playhouse box office at 828-693-0731 or visiting www.flatrockplayhouse.org.