Talent Takes Center Stage!
Two World Champion Elvis Tribute Artists
By Zena Sultana
It takes talent to claim center stage! It takes a lot more than talent to be crowned “World Champion Elvis Tribute Artist!”
What it takes are looks, charisma, stage presence, vocal prowess, the right moves, authentic Elvis outfits, humility, and sense of humor. In other words, the “best representation of the legacy of Elvis Presley.” The King had all these wonderful attributes that made him the “Ultimate Entertainer of All Time”, and so the Elvis Tribute Artists (ETAs) who carry on his legacy have to perfect their art to be “just like Elvis.”
In August 2007, two ETAs were named World Champions in two separate International World Competitions held inMemphis, Tennessee, in honor of the King’s 30th death anniversary.
Shawn Klush of Pennsylvania was crowned Champion of the first-ever “Ultimate Elvis Tribute Artist Competition” which was sponsored by the Elvis Presley Enterprises, while Johnny Thompson of Las Vegas was crowned as the “2007 Images of the King World Champion” in the 21st Annual Images Competition.
Klush was awarded the following prizes: $5,000 in cash; $5,000 shopping spree at Graceland; $3,000 gift certificate from B&K Enterprises to use towards the purchase of a jumpsuit; a one-of-a-kind Ultimate Tribute Artist Contest Champion belt, designed and created by B&K Enterprises; a recording session, courtesy of Sun Records of Nashville; and a contract to perform on the first-ever Elvis Cruise held August 30 to September 3, 2007 (with a compensation package that included double-occupancy cabin, travel for two, and $1,000 cash.) All in all, a total of $14,000 in cash, plus a recording deal and other awards.
And then there was the overwhelming media attention, with guest appearances in several TV shows including Entertainment Tonight, and calls for future appearances from Jay Leno, Dave Letterman and Oprah. Added to that was the adulation of Elvis fans who filled up the 2,100-seat theatre at the Cannon Center of Performing Arts in downtownMemphis. Thousands more viewed his winning performance on YouTube.
Thompson, on the other hand, was awarded $1,500 in cash and $1,500 gift certificate from B&K Enterprises. There was not much media attention here, since the event was not EPE-sponsored. Thompson did however appear on CNN International in an interview that can still be seen on YouTube.
The “Images of the King” will always be remembered as the original ETA competition inMemphis, started in 1986 (21 years ago) by Doc Franklin. It has evolved through the years into a family reunion, expo and entertainment showcase. Well over 2,000 people from around the world also attended this year’s competition.
Runners-up in the Ultimate Elvis contest were Trent Carlini ofHenderson, Nevada, and Donny Edwards ofLas Vegas,Nevada. In the Images of the King contest, the other winners were Gino Monopoli ofCanada and Scott Norton ofFlorida.
The Ultimate Elvis Contest featured preliminary winners in competitions conducted in various cities of theUnited States, Canada, Europe,Australia andNorway. Ten of the preliminary winners moved on to the final round, and they were: Brandon Bennett, Kjell Bjornstead, Trent Carlini, Donny Edwards, Jeff Golden, Joseph Hall, Ben Klein, Paul Larcombe, Shawn Klush, and Jay Zanier.
Finalists in the Images of the King competition, in order of performance, were: (Round 1) Mike Bravener, Will Ganzon, Cody Slaughter, Elvis Wayne, Justin Edwards, Rick Wade, Oliver Steinhoff, Toki, Matthew Spaulding, Tony Grova, Adam Fisher, George Elias, Danny Dale, Kavan and Scott Norton. (Round 2) Jeff Barnes, Matt Joyce, Joseph Hall, Richard Adkins, Lance Dobinson, Joe Trites, Paul Thorpe, Johnny Thompson, Lil’D, Anthony Von, Jason Whited, Todd Martin, David Allen, Jesse Aron, Pete Paquette, Kjell Bjornstead, Gino Monopoli, Rob Langford and Jamie McDonnel-Roberts.
Shawn Klush is an accomplished ETA who has performed in sold-out concerts all over the globe. He has toured the world for ten years as Elvis with the “Legends in Concert”; won the Lady Luck Music’s first annual international King of Kings People’s Choice Awards in Nashville; headlined the Collingwood Elvis Festival three years in a row; mesmerized thousands of fans at the 12,000-seat Arena De Santiago in Santiago, Chile; and won the “Worldwide Elvis Competition” in Montreal, Canada.
He also performed as Elvis in the VH1 CBS movie “Shake, Rattle and Roll”, and in other television shows as well. After winning the Ultimate Elvis Competition inMemphis, Klush was officially crowned the “Top Professional Elvis Tribute Artist in the World” at the First World Greatest Elvis Competition inLondon,England.
Fans all over the world agree that Shawn Klush brings all the electrifying magic of the King to the stage. His popularity as an Elvis Tribute Artist is at its peak, and yet Klush is still as humble and friendly as ever.
Johnny Thompson is also a veteran ETA whose performances include the 2005 and 2006 International Music Festival in Shanghai,China, and sold-out performances inCancun,Bolivia, theDominican Republic, andEurope. He has just finished a week inBritish Columbia,Canada, and a one-month tour of 21 cities inFrance, includingParis. He will be off again to perform inFinland, Denmark andNorway in 2008.
Here in theU.S., Thompson starred at theseLas Vegas hotels & casinos: MGM Grand,Riviera, Lady Luck, and New Frontier, as well as in innumerable venues all over the country. One of his greatest and most memorable performances was hosting the Red Carpet 2005 MTV Music Awards for TRL. He also did a lot of television shows: played Elvis in the TV series “the Chronicle”, VH1 Surreal Life, CMT “Impostors”, “Almost Elvis” Blue Suede Films, HBO’s “Life Moments”, The Learning Channel’s “The Man who would be King”, CBS “Entertainment Tonight”, “Get Golf” USA Network, and “Good Morning Las Vegas.”
Thompson cares deeply for his family and friends, and like Klush, has developed a loyal following nationally and internationally. To most Elvis fans, Thompson is the one who really looks the most like Elvis.
His website is: www.Johnny-Thompson.com
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