SWAGGERING on stage dressed as The King of rock ‘n’ roll, Vernon Kay’s childhood dreams had all come true.
The Elvis Presley superfan had borrowed a jumpsuit to perform at a Las Vegas wedding — and despite initial nerves soon “embodied the spirit” of his idol.
He said: “As soon as I put on the costume the hips started shaking, the knees started bending and suddenly I was Elvis.
“I was really, really nervous — but thankfully everyone loved it.”
His experience makes him the perfect judge for The Sun on Sunday’s amazing Elvis competition to find Britain’s biggest fan or tribute artist.
Our lucky winner and their companion will bag a £10,000 prize which includes return flights to Memphis, a VIP tour of Graceland and a day in the recording studio.
Speaking to us as part of our Elvis Month series, Vernon could be a contender to take home the prize himself.
The 48-year-old presenter’s impressive memorabilia collection includes a “Taking Care Of Business” necklace that Elvis gifted to a friend, as well as pictures of The King which line his home study.
But perhaps Vernon’s most sentimental item is a replica of the Hound Dog singer’s horseshoe ring.
The telly host said: “When Elvis first signed his record deal he bought himself a pinky ring with a lucky horseshoe on it.
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“When I was in Memphis I bought a replica of it — just one of those pieces of tat that you buy from a tourist shop for 20 dollars.
“I sat it on my desk in my study when I got home but it went missing and I was a bit gutted.
‘HIS LEGEND LIVES ON’
“But it turned out that for our wedding anniversary Tess had taken it to a jewellery maker and had it remade in platinum and diamonds.”
He said it was one of “the most romantic” things that his Strictly presenter wife Tess Daly, 53, had ever done for him, admitting: “It was quality. She did a really good job.”
We are celebrating Elvis this month to mark the 45th anniversary of the rocker’s death and the release of new movie Elvis, starring Austin Butler and Tom Hanks, next month.
And Vernon is well placed to judge our competition because he delved into the weird and wonderful world of tribute acts for BBC1 talent show The World’s Greatest Elvis in 2007.
The series followed an eclectic mix of 30 performers competing to be crowned The King’s King.
Vernon said: “We met tribute artists from Germany, Japan, America and the UK. They were from all kinds of backgrounds — Asian, black, white, Japanese.
“Everyone took a little bit of the King and personalised it themselves which shows how much his music and the way he performed means to all those paying tribute him.
“Elvis left his mark on the world. So the next time anyone sees an Elvis artist tribute in their local Chinese restaurant they should go and enjoy it because those guys really do put 110 per cent into every performance.”
Brendan Paul, who was one of the contestants on the show, encouraged Vernon to perform at a wedding himself — and The I’m A Celebrity star described the experience as “surreal but brilliant”.
Making the programme also enabled Vernon to meet Joe Esposito, 74, who was one of Elvis’s best pals.
Joe told Vernon how Elvis would come on stage in £10,000 of jewellery then hand it out to lucky audience members at the end as his way of saying “thank you for listening”.
Vernon said: “He also loved his mates. He took his mates everywhere with him.” And Vernon, whose favourite Elvis songs are In The Ghetto and Viva Las Vegas, believes it was his “destiny” to become a fan.
As soon as I put on the costume the hips started shaking, the knees started bending and suddenly I was Elvis.
He said: “I do feel a connection there. The weirdest thing is that Elvis’s dad was called Vernon and his mum was called Gladys — and my mum’s called Gladys.”
As a lad, Vernon listened to his lorry driver dad Norman’s collection of The King’s records.
Vernon recalled: “He had two older sisters who idolised Elvis. So every Christmas when I was a kid Elvis was always on the record player.”
Vernon got to go to Graceland when he was filming in Memphis as part of an Elvis special on Channel 4 — so he knows just what the winner of our amazing competition has in store.
He said: “When you go into Graceland you can definitely feel a presence. It’s an amazing experience.”
He believes that Elvis’s legend lives on today because he is an “enigma” — and that includes his colourful love life.
It’s been said that the rock and roller “busied his evenings with various girlfriends” and had rumoured relationships with Hollywood stars Natalie Wood and Marilyn Monroe.
But Vernon believes he was a “family man” at heart, coming home to his wife Priscilla, now 76, and daughter Lisa Marie, now 54.
He said: “There’s loads of urban myths around Elvis and I think that’s why his legend lives on.
“He lived such a rock and roll lifestyle and yet he was all about the family.
“He loved the simple things — his mum and dad, gospel music and all that Southern American culture. He really submerged himself in black music and the community.
“There was a period where all his albums were gospel albums and that all goes back to his roots.”
And, for Vernon, the icon will never be bettered. He said: “Elvis is the ultimate pop idol.”
“He’s survived the test of time. His audience has evolved and his influence on the music scene speaks for itself.
“He’s one of the most handsome and sexiest frontmen of all time and that’s what added to his charisma on stage.
“He just had a presence.
“His appeal crossed all generations, from pensioners to teenagers. They all love Elvis.”
SOME OF OUR EARLY ENTRIES
MAINTENANCE worker Carl Williams, 58, from Salford, loves the King so much that even his wife Susan calls him Elvis.
He said: “To get to go to Graceland would be amazing.”
JACK PRICE, pictured here aged eight, has inherited his love of Elvis from mum Cheryl, 52, and dad Carl, 53.
The couple from Leicestershire got married in Vegas, and Carl surprised his bride by dressing up as the King.
VOICEOVER artist James Burrell, 46, was just nine when he heard Elvis sing for the first time.
The Londoner, who now lives in Devon, said: “I play in hotels, cabaret bars, festivals and golf clubs.”
ANDREW BAGNALL, 56, a dad of three from Barnsley, has been a fan of the King for as long as he can remember.
He likes to dress up as his idol – even if he’s just going out to walk his dog.
WIN A V.I.P. TRIP TO GRACELAND
HERE’S a prize that’s fit for a King – it’s your chance to enter The Sun on Sunday’s contest to find the ultimate Elvis fan or tribute artist. Above are some of the best early entries.
And it’s one for the money . . .
The incredible £10,000 prize for the winner and their companion includes return flights from London and seven nights’ accommodation in a Memphis hotel with netflights.com. It also includes two brilliant tours in Memphis and a day in the studio with UK-based sound engineer Glenn Keiles.
Two for the show . . .
The winner and their companion will also get free tickets for the Hound Dog Tour, a high-energy concert and sightseeing tour all rolled into one. PLUS they will get to enjoy the Graceland Ultimate VIP tour and spend the night in Elvis’s birthplace with the VIP Tupelo Experience.
Three to get ready . . .
To enter, dress up and do your best Elvis impersonation or prove you’re the UK’s biggest Elvis superfan with your incredible collection or story.
Now go, cat, go!
Email pics or video of your impression or act to [email protected] with ELVIS COMPETITION in the subject line and explain, in fewer than 200 words, why you are the ultimate Elvis fan or tribute artist.
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