For Reno resident Brian Andrews, watching Elvis Presley perform live at the Sahara Casino in Lake Tahoe in 1976 was life-changing.
“I was 12. I wanted to see Pink Floyd, but my mom and aunt wouldn’t let me. Elvis wasn’t in my age era,” the 49-year-old said. “It’s different seeing someone like that live. For a kid who didn’t like him, it was something. It was like a religious experience. He came out and the hair on the back of my neck stood up. People started screaming. It was pandemonium.”
Partly due to that experience is why Andrews became a full-time Elvis impersonator.
“I have fun. What else can you do where you can do your job and be your hero,” Andrews said. “I do it not to be Elvis, but because I truly am an Elvis fan. I don’t do anything he didn’t do. There’s some of them out there that are just so bad. You have to love it before you can actually do it.”
Andrews spent most of his career traveling with different shows including American Superstars In Las Vegas and Reno, and Legends in Concert out of Las Vegas.
Andrews said he has the largest Elvis music collection in the area.
“I have close to 3,000 Elvis records. There’s no songs I haven’t heard,” he added. “There’s probably one or two I haven’t performed. I like a lot of the movies he did. His voice was much better.”
Elvis would have turned 79 on Wednesday, and the Carson Valley Inn is celebrating with giveaways, food specials and performances.
Backed by the CVI band, Andrews performs as Elvis on Wednesday through Jan. 11 in the Cabaret Lounge twice each night.
A jam session featuring ’50s and ’60s music and plenty of Elvis tunes wraps up each night.
Former Elvis body guard Dave Hebler will share stories and answer questions between the Elvis shows.
Hebler was Elvis’ bodyguard whose primary responsibility was the personal safety of Elvis at home as well as at recording sessions, personal appearances, concert tours and various recreational activities. Hebler also taught Elvis martial arts and, with two other Elvis bodyguards, was one of the three collaborators on the book “Elvis: What Happened?”
“Elvis fans are like baseball. You don’t have to like it to come see it,” Andrews said. “The fans aren’t there to see me, they’re there to remember Elvis.”
As well as impersonating the king, Andrews also portrays about 20 other singers including Buddy Holly, Dean Martin, Nat King Cole, Jerry Rice and Johnny Cash.
“I’m always adding,” he said.
Elvis was known for his eclectic taste in food and a few of his favorites will be served in Katie’s 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Monday through Jan. 11. Included are biscuits smothered in white sausage gravy, fried peanut butter and banana sandwich on country-style white bread served with bacon strips, cornmeal-battered fried catfish with cole slaw and French fries and banana pudding with nilly nanilly wafer cookies.
“I think I tried it (fried peanut butter and banana sandwich) once in Memphis,” Andrews said. “I can see how he gained weight.”
Andrews gets his costumes from B&K Enterprises, the same company that made Elvis’ costumes.
“They are the same ones that Elvis used,” Andrews said, “except mine don’t have real gold and emeralds.”
To hear Andrews’ music, visit www.myspace.com/brianandrewsthelegendofel/music/songs.