SWAGGERING on stage dressed as the king of rock ‘n’ roll, Vernon Kay’s childhood dreams had all come true.
The Elvis Presley superfan had borrowed a jumpsuit to perform at a Las Vegas wedding – and despite initial nerves, he quickly ’embodied the spirit’ of his idol.
He said: “As soon as I put the suit on, the hips started shaking, the knees started bending and suddenly I was Elvis.
“I was really, really nervous – but luckily everyone loved it.”
His experience makes him the ideal judge for The Sun’s incredible Elvis competition on Sunday to find Britain’s biggest fan or tribute artist.
Our lucky winner and companion will take home a £10,000 prize including return flights to Memphis, a VIP tour of Graceland and a day in the recording studio.
Speaking to us as part of our Elvis Month series, Vernon could be a contender to win the award himself.
The 48-year-old presenter’s impressive memorabilia collection includes a ‘Taking Care Of Business’ necklace that Elvis gave to a friend, as well as photos of the King that line his home office.
But perhaps Vernon’s most sentimental item is a replica of the Hound Dog singer’s horseshoe ring.
The TV host said: “When Elvis first signed his recording contract, he bought himself an ear ring with a lucky horseshoe on it.
“When I was in Memphis, I bought a replica – just one of those tattoo pieces you buy at a tourist shop for 20 bucks.
“I put it on my desk in my office when I got home, but it disappeared and I was a little drained.
‘HER LEGEND LIVE’
“But it turned out that for our wedding anniversary, Tess had taken it to a jeweler and had it redone in platinum and diamonds.”
He said it was one of the ‘most romantic’ things his wife, Tess Daly, 53, presenter of Strictly, has ever done for him, admitting: ‘It was quality. She did a very good job. »
We’re celebrating Elvis this month to mark the 45th anniversary of the rocker’s death and the release of the new Elvis movie, starring Austin Butler and Tom Hanks, next month.
And Vernon is well placed to judge our competition as he dove into the weird and wonderful world of tribute acts for BBC1 talent show The World’s Greatest Elvis in 2007.
The series followed an eclectic mix of 30 artists competing to be crowned The King’s King.
Vernon said: “We met tribute artists from Germany, Japan, America and the UK. They came from all kinds of backgrounds – Asian, black, white, Japanese.
“Everyone took a bit of the King and personalized it themselves, which shows how much his music and the way he played means to everyone who pays tribute to him.
“Elvis left his mark on the world. So the next time someone sees a tribute to an Elvis performer at their local Chinese restaurant, they should go there and enjoy it because these guys really are 110% invested in every performance.
Brendan Paul, who was one of the show’s contestants, encouraged Vernon to perform himself at a wedding – and the I’m A Celebrity star described the experience as ‘surreal but brilliant’ .
Doing the program also allowed Vernon to meet 74-year-old Joe Esposito, who was one of Elvis’ best friends.
Joe told Vernon how Elvis would take the stage with £10,000 worth of jewelery and then hand it over to lucky audience members at the end as his way of saying ‘thanks for listening’.
Vernon said: “He loved his buddies too. He took his friends everywhere with him. And Vernon, whose favorite Elvis songs are In The Ghetto and Viva Las Vegas, thinks it was his “destiny” to become a fan.
As soon as I put the costume on, the hips started shaking, the knees started bending and suddenly I was Elvis.
He said: “I feel a connection there. The strangest thing is that Elvis’ father was called Vernon and his mother was called Gladys – and my mother was called Gladys.
As a boy, Vernon listened to his truck driver father Norman’s The King record collection.
Vernon recalls, “He had two older sisters who idolized Elvis. So every Christmas when I was a kid, Elvis was always on the record player.
Vernon was able to make it to Graceland when he was filming in Memphis as part of a Channel 4 Elvis special – so he knows exactly what the winner of our amazing contest has in store.
He said: “When you walk into Graceland you can definitely feel a presence. It’s an incredible experience.
He believes the legend of Elvis lives on today because he is an “enigma” – and that includes his colorful love life.
The rock and roller was said to “occupy his evenings with various girlfriends” and had rumored relationships with Hollywood stars Natalie Wood and Marilyn Monroe.
But Vernon believes he was a ‘family man’ at heart, returning home with his wife Priscilla, now 76, and daughter Lisa Marie, now 54.
He said: “There are a lot of urban myths around Elvis and I think that’s why his legend lives on.
“He lived such a rock and roll lifestyle and yet he was all about family.
“He loved the simple things – his mom and dad, gospel music and all that South American culture. He really immersed himself in black music and the community.
“There was a period when all of his albums were gospel albums and it all goes back to his roots.”
And, for Vernon, the icon will never be matched. He said, “Elvis is the ultimate pop idol.”
“He has survived the test of time. His audience has evolved and his influence on the music scene speaks for itself.
“He’s one of the most beautiful and sexiest singers of all time and that’s what added to his charisma on stage.
“He just had a presence.
“Its appeal has crossed all generations, from retirees to teenagers. They all love Elvis.
SOME OF OUR FIRST ENTRIES
MAINTENANCE worker Carl Williams, 58, from Salford, loves the King so much that even his wife Susan calls him Elvis.
He said, “Going to Graceland would be amazing.”
JACK PRICE, pictured here aged eight, inherited his love for Elvis from mum Cheryl, 52, and dad Carl, 53.
The Leicestershire couple got married in Vegas and Carl surprised his wife by dressing up as the king.
VOICEOVER artist James Burrell, 46, was just nine years old when he first heard Elvis sing.
The Londoner, who now lives in Devon, said: “I play in hotels, cabarets, festivals and golf clubs.”
ANDREW BAGNALL, 56, a father-of-three from Barnsley, has been a King fan for as long as he can remember.
He likes to dress up as an idol, even though he only goes out to walk his dog.
WIN A VIP TRIP TO GRACELAND
HERE’S a prize fit for a king – it’s your chance to enter The Sun on Sunday contest to find the ultimate Elvis fan or tribute artist. Above are some of the best early entries.
And it’s one for the money. . .
The incredible £10,000 prize for the winner and companion includes return flights from London and seven nights’ accommodation in a Memphis hotel with netflights.com. It also includes two brilliant tours in Memphis and a day in the studio with UK-based sound engineer Glenn Keiles.
Two for show. . .
The winner and his companion will also receive free tickets to the Hound Dog Tour, an energetic concert and a guided tour all rolled into one. PLUS, they can enjoy the Graceland Ultimate VIP Tour and spend the night in Elvis’ birthplace with the Tupelo VIP Experience.
Three to get ready. . .
To enter, dress up and do your best to look like Elvis or prove you’re the UK’s biggest Elvis superfan with your amazing collection or story.
Now go, cat, go!
Email photos or video of your print or take action to [email protected] with ELVIS COMPETITION in the subject line and explain, in less than 200 words, why you are the ultimate fan of ‘Elvis or the tribute artist.
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