Return of the King

Travis LeDoyt as Elvis
8 p.m. Saturday Riverwind Casino
154 West Highway 9, Norman

Travis LeDoyt wants to get something straight right away: He doesn’t think he’s Elvis Presley.

Although LeDoyt is an Elvis impersonator with an uncanny ability to sound and look like the King, he refuses to be lumped in with so many wannabes decked out in white jumpsuits and oversized sunglasses. LeDoyt is Elvis when he’s onstage. Once the houselights go up, however, the 32-year-old husband and father from Nashville, Tenn., shakes off the persona.

“I’m not trying to be Elvis. It’s a part I play,” he said. “I’ve had some guys come to my show dressed in character, and then after the show they’ll go” — here, LeDoyt affected his best Elvis vocal swagger — “‘Hey, man, how’s it going?’ It’s the weirdest thing. Some guys take it too serious. When people ask what I do for a living, I usually just say I’m a musician.”

What LeDoyt does take seriously is his Elvis tribute act, which he brings to Riverwind Casino on Saturday.

“I think it’s a nice tribute, and we’ve always had satisfied people,” said LeDoyt.

At least one fundamental difference separates him from the bulk of Presley practitioners. Most channel the Elvis of the late 1960s and early ’70s, when he spiraled into Vegas-styled self-parody. By contrast, LeDoyt impersonates the Elvis of the mid-1950s, when he snarled and gyrated his way into the national consciousness.

That’s the Elvis who fired LeDoyt’s imagination back in high school.

“I saw a documentary special on Elvis in the ’50s, and man, his look, his sound, everything — it was captivating,” LeDoyt said.

He went out and bought a collection of Elvis’ early hits. LeDoyt sang along constantly to “That’s All Right,” “Good Rockin’ Tonight” and others.

“The next thing I know, my dad bought me a karaoke machine,” he said. “The only stuff he’d heard me sing was Elvis, so he bought me Elvis karaoke tapes. And then I just started.”

LeDoyt discovered a natural talent for singing. It didn’t hurt, either, that he bore a physical resemblance. In his senior year, LeDoyt dyed his hair black; his classmates called him “Trelvis.”

An appearance in a high school talent show led to a gig in his Massachusetts hometown, and before LeDoyt knew it, he had become a professional Elvis impersonator.

That was 10 years ago. Since then, he has performed at casinos, festivals and fairs across the nation, and to audiences as far away as China and Chile.

“We’ve had people that were at (Presley) concerts at that time pay me a big compliment when they come up and say, ‘You really took me back,’” he said. “Or we get people who say, ‘I wasn’t really that into Elvis before, but now we really like it.’ And that’s a great compliment.”

Among the best responses he’s had anywhere, however, are audiences at Riverwind. LeDoyt has played there a number of times.

“We always look forward to it,” he said. “They have the best sound company and the craziest audience. The last time I went out there, the ladies were just crazy, jumping out of their seats.”

Phil Bacharach

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