Know Your Role!
First, let me get this off my chest.
I am a little upset and a lot embarrassed, I was invited to a 49 yr wedding anniversary party last month for the grandparents of a friend of mine. The happy couple are two of the most loving people I have ever met and both are really big Elvis Fans. At this party, their granddaughter had hired a local, (I won’t even call him a tribute artist), Impersonator or Imposter even. His show was well presented but what he lacked in talent, he made up for in ignorance. I will not mention his name so as to not embarrass him more than he has already embarrassed himself but what proceeded to happen during his show made me embarrassed for the young lady that hired him and for myself for being part of this business.
It all started well enough with the intro and the first five songs were done very well, then it happened, one of the guests got up and was actually moving better than this guy was. Now, instead of humoring the people that were paying him, the performer stopped singing and proceeded to tell the guy to “get his own gig and let the professional do the entertaining.” Well, that sent a negative twist right through the entire audience which was all family. From that moment on, the magic was lost, the image of Elvis Presley that this man was trying to impress on this now hostile audience was all in vane. He went on with the rest of his performance with little or no interest from the audience. Basically he had bombed and he was the one who lit the fuse. After his show, I introduced myself to him and we had a little talk, he seemed considerably upset that the show did not go well and that he was not tipped, I then asked him if he had informed the person who hired him that he did not want anyone to interfere with his performance and he said that he shouldn’t have to, that people should know better. Well, he is wrong, and now that I am done with my rant, (sorry Douglas), I will tell you why I think so.
In my 15 years as a hired entertainer, one thing I have found is that when someone is paying you for your services and you do not specify how you present your show and why you do things a certain way, they own you or at least they believe they do. Unfortunately, ours is an industry in which people will shop for the lowest price and still expect the best, basically like everything else in life. Once they have paid for your services though, they are your boss, they have every right to tell you when to begin, when to stop, turn it up, turn it down, keep it clean or even get involved. Unless you have specified these things before hand.
When negotiating your performance, do not believe that anything is common knowledge, treat each client like a person who has never driven before and is about to borrow your vintage Cadillac. Explain every detail of how your show is run and when you will start and end. Don’t be afraid to ask that no one tries to perform with you, every family or group has a performer or a clown. “Remember, Uncle Joe used to sing with the “DooWoppers” back in the Fifties”, and after a couple of cordials, he is feeling 20 years old again and he still has it. Or so he believes.
One way of guaranteeing that no one decides to get in on the act is to have a stage, some type of barrier that separates you from the audience. If you are down at their level, they don’t feel that they're just an audience, they are part of the band. If by chance someone does come up to perform with you, play along, make them feel like a star, all they want is their 15 minutes of fame and then they will leave you alone. If the people who hired you think it is interfering with your performance, they will remove them for you. If not, have a little dance off, do some moves with them, once they have realized they have been outperformed, they will leave you alone and at the end of your performance, they will have become your biggest fan. And think about the more money you will make next time.
All I am saying is, be cool, be patient and be true to what you are doing. You are presenting a show based on the most loved entertainer of all time. You don’t have to be the best singer or do all the moves right in order to put on a memorable show, just have fun with your audience. Deep down, Elvis was just a good ol’ boy from Mississippi that loved to sing and was full of Southern Hospitality. To truly pay Tribute to Elvis Presley you must express more than the music, you must express his love for his fans.
Thank you to all of the ETA’s who understand this and keep the legacy alive. .
Until next time E fans, "Ladies and Gentlemen, Elvis has left the building!".
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