Ladies and gentlemen, Elvis is in the building!
Homeland Center residents, staff, and guests were treated to the musical sounds – and shaking hips – of Elvis Presley impersonator Brad Crum, on a Friday afternoon in April.
Dressed in a sky-blue suit studded with rhinestones and dripping with chains, Crum sang an array of favorites made popular by the King of Rock ‘n Roll. Just like Elvis, he would drape a scarf around his neck, serenade a lovely lady in the crowd, and end by draping the scarf around her neck.
Audience members tapped their toes to “Suspicious Lies” and “Rollin’ on the River.” They swooned to “Can’t Help Falling in Love with You” and “Teddy Bear.” A few melodies came from Elvis Presley’s movie career, such as the title song to 1961’s “Blue Hawaii.” Some of the songs were covers from other artists that Elvis performed in his lifetime, like Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline” and the Righteous Brothers’ “Unchained Melody.”
While Elvis strolled the room, residents and staff enjoyed another cool treat – ice cream sundaes dished out by Homeland staff. The sundae bar choices included chocolate, caramel, and strawberry syrup, sprinkles in all flavors and colors, and whipped cream. Residents could even have a banana split if they liked.
Crum drew laughter and applause when he employed all the classic Elvis moves – hips swiveling, shoulders shaking, hand outstretched. He did have to apologize, though, for not dropping to the floor, Elvis-style.
“I can’t do that move because I just got my knee replaced,” Crum confessed. But he expects the move to be back in his repertoire in time for Elvis’ many summertime gigs.
After a few tunes, Crum told the crowd filling the Homeland Main Dining Room that he would sing a few of the gospel songs that Elvis recorded. To appreciative applause, he said, “I kind of thought you would like that.” The set included “Mansion Over the Hilltop” and “Crying in the Chapel,” a number-one hit from 1965.
Concluding the gospel set, Crum encouraged the crowd, “Everybody help to sing this one because I know you know it.” Then he sang the familiar words of “Amazing Grace,” as residents did, indeed, sing along.
As his hour was ending, Crum said his last song was one that few Elvis impersonators close with, “but I’m going to do it, anyway,” he said. Then he performed a full-throated rendition of “I’m So Hurt to Think that You Lied to Me.”
Resident Irene Gohrig snagged a moment of conversation between songs with Crum, telling him about her memories of Elvis.
“When I was a young girl, I used to go to the concerts that he had,” she said. “I was in high school.” All the girls were screaming and squealing, and “I was just like the other kids,” she said.
While Elvis shocked some of the older generations of the 1950s, Irene’s parents “heard a lot about him, too, so they thought he was okay. When I was in high school, everything was Elvis.”
Crum, she added, “is terrific.”
Crum has been an Elvis impersonator for 18 years. He started because, he said, “My wife requested it.” At the time, he had a band named East Coast Invasion. He was drummer and lead singer, a gig he had for 36 years, playing songs from various bands including Queen and Boston.
Then his wife asked him to sing Elvis songs outside her gift shop, “to bring all the ladies in, and that’s how it started.”
His costume – one of eight in his Elvis wardrobe – cost $2,200 when he bought it, and the price today is around $3,200. Meticulously crafted, it came from Indiana-based B&K Enterprises.
“If you ever saw the movie ‘3,000 Miles to Graceland,’ they made those suits,” he said, evoking images of Kevin Costner and Kurt Russell resplendent in their Elvis attire. “They’re the best.”
Crum, of Halifax, said he loves singing in retirement communities. They are places where many audience members, just like Irene, have memories of seeing Elvis in person. “Some of them even have scarves,” he said.
The power of Elvis Presley’s music is uplifting, especially for those from the Elvis generation, Crum said.
“People can relate to it,” he said. “It brings them right back to where they were when they first heard it. It’s good stuff.”