Some people think of Elvis Presley as the young, hip-shakin’ rebel who made Ed Sullivan blush and thousands of young women go mad in a Dionysian frenzy, while others only remember the deceased, drug- addicted superstar found face down on a shag rug in front of his toilet.
Some people are just too young to remember Elvis, but they may have heard of El Vez, the campy, comedic Mexican Elvis impersonator. To San Antonio resident Ray Hastings, though, Elvis is no laughing matter. Hastings, also known as RayElvis to his fans, can be found performing some of the King’s greatest hits on any given night at Dad’s Karaoke, a local hangout where wannabe singers flock to the stage in droves.
Partial to the tuneful ballads and the spirited gospel music Elvis was so fond of, Hastings, dressed in a black, studded Apache jumpsuit, performed Elvis’s hit songs “C.C. Rider” and “It’s Now or Never” to a packed house.
“When you put on the jumpsuit, you’re going to get a lot of stares, but you really feel his persona,” Hastings said. He has the moves, the jokes, the mannerisms, the hair, several custom-made costumes, the signature sideburns, and even wears sunglasses no matter what time of day — or night — it is, and everybody loves him.
Hastings is a bona-fide 1970s-Elvis tribute artist who prides himself on his singing abilities — and when he sings, women pay attention. They request their favorite songs, ask for his autograph, and want their pictures taken with him. He plays the part so well that he often throws his custom silk scarves into the audience and kisses old ladies on the cheek.
Hastings is such an avid Elvis fan he even has a room in his house dedicated to the King, filled with the usual memorabilia, everything from ornaments, collector plates, and a clock with dancing feet to original records he had mounted and framed, much like the gold records found in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. He has, of course, been to Graceland and spent time on Elvis Presley Boulevard in Memphis.
Known as San Antonio’s only Elvis impersonator, Hastings has been appearing as Elvis in public for about seven years, ever since he won $1,000 in a karaoke contest for his rendition of “It’s Now or Never.” Since then, he has performed at parties, reunions, retirement homes, and the occasional wedding. “That’s one of my favorite things — entertaining older people,” Hastings said. “They were alive when he was and I love the joy it brings to them. It is really satisfying.”
Although he doesn’t perform full-time (he does have a day job), Hastings enters local contests every year and has, on several occasions, placed first. He has even been to the Las Vegas Nationals where he placed third. Dick’s Last Resort hosts two Elvis karaoke contests each year, one on January 8, Elvis’s birthday, and of course, one on August 16, the day he died. Hastings has won first place almost every year and may very well be the “King” of the Dick’s Last Resort karaoke contest.
In addition to local contests, the Elvis Extravaganza Fan Club hosts an Elvis impersonator contest each year at the Poteet Strawberry Festival. Founded in 1989, the club has become the world’s largest Elvis Presley Fan Club, and the contest features a variety of Elvis impersonators from all over the country competing for thousands in cash and prizes.
Elvis fans can visit myspace.com/rayelvis57, or listen to Hastings’ rendition of “Love Me” at elviiradio.com, where hundreds of impersonators have recorded their own tributes in memory of one of the greatest rock stars of all time. •
Poteet Strawberry Festival