Oktoberfest 2012 line up features Elvis, Jr.
By Matt Echelberry
Gehen wir! Oktoberfest in Galion begins tomorrow. From Sept. 27–29, the Uptowne District will be a haven for food, rides, beer gardens and live entertainment. Among the bands scheduled to perform at the festival are Tommy Vale & the Torpedos, Classics IV and—wait, is that The King? No, it’s Elvis Aaron Presley, Jr.
That’s right, Elvis’ son will hit the main stage at the festival on Friday evening.
But first, Tommy Vale and the Torpedoes will put the crowd in a nostalgic mood beginning at 7 p.m. Vale is the group’s saxophone player and has been playing for 26 years. He formerly played with Bill Haley and the Comets.
He described the Oktoberfest headliners as a “classic rock reunion.” The theme for his band’s show is “The History of Rock ‘n Roll,” as they will begin by playing songs from the 1950s, then work through the 60s and 70s.
Vale will also be playing saxophone for Elvis Jr.’s performance and hits the stage again on Saturday with the Classics IV. He also serves as an agent for both acts.
After Tommy Vale & the Torpedos, Nann Flamingo will open for Elvis, Jr. He told the Inquirer that Flamingo is a very talented performer that the crowd is going to love.
When Elvis, Jr. hits the stage that evening, some audience members may write him off as just another impersonator. But the man says he loves skeptics—especially proving them wrong when they see his live show.
He does not use the facade of being the son of Elvis Presley as a gimmick. Elvis, Jr. was matter-of-fact when he explained how he found out who is real father was at the age of 21.
His mother, Angelique Pettyjohn, was an extra for “Blue Hawaii,” a 1961 film starring Presley.
She was impregnated by a then unmarried Presley, but at that time it was taboo for a famous entertainer like Elvis, whose career was still on the rise, to have a child out of wedlock.
Elvis’ manager, Colonel Tom Parker, was raised by circus performers and therefore encouraged Pettyjohn to give her child up for adoption to be raised by circus performers as well.
In fact, that is how Elvis, Jr. spent his childhood, which he described as a “glamorous upbringing.” He started as a clown when he was five-years-old, then advanced to an animal trainer during his teenage years. He started with horses and worked up to more exotic endeavors such as elephants, tigers and panthers. His early forays into show business led him to doing live animal shows, and some of his animals were used in films.
The condition of Elvis, Jr.’s adoption was that he could not be told who his real parents were until he turned 21. He was told the truth, but does not look back in anger. Elvis, Jr. had already begun experimenting with singing; when he was 16, he started performing in bars and clubs as a second career. “The second career took over the first career because insurance for the animals was just getting too expensive,” he said. ($2–3 million per day).
It made sense to him to follow in his father’s footsteps. “I said ‘I don’t want to be 40-years-old some day and say that I bummed out on my career and could have done this or that,’” he commented.
The U.S. Federal Court granted him the right to change his name to Elvis Aaron Presley, Jr. after legal documents and testimonies were provided. Since then, Elvis, Jr. has been touring around the world for over 20 years at arenas and festivals in what he calls a “roller coaster” of a career.
He has released 34 albums that include covers of Elvis, Sr. songs, as well as gospel, rock, country and Hawaiin music. He has produced some original material and has worked with many of his father’s songwriters to complete some unfinished work. For many years he also worked with Bobby Morris, Elvis’ conductor from 1969 until his death.
At the end of November, Elvis, Jr. will unveil the Dreamland Elvis and Friends Museum,” a 53-foot, custom made semi trailer with all kinds of Elvis memorabilia, from costumes to movie nostalgia. It will also feature items from close friends of Elvis.
He said he is looking forward to performing in Galion on Friday, one of many shows he is doing throughout Ohio and Pennsylvania. “I’ll be doing quite a bit of Elvis, Sr. stuff…we’ve got a great 12 piece band, including Tommy Vale. He’s a phenomenal sax player.”
He added that if the girls run up to the stage quick enough, they’ll get one of his scarves. After the show, there will be an autograph and picture session.
In a separate interview, Vale called Elvis, Jr. the most powerful singer he has ever worked with in his life.
Look for a preview of Saturday night’s headliner, Classics IV, in the Saturday issue of the Inquirer.