I’m Not Trying to Be Elvis

I noticed this was leaving the Criterion Channel, and figured I’d watch it. I never really knew much about Orion (Jimmy Ellis) or listened to him at all, dismissing him as an Elvis impersonator. I know y’all aren’t Elvis (RIP PBUH) devotees like I am, so I don’t know if you’d find it as fascinating, but I was transfixed. Also, there is a ZINGER about 3/4 in, that they focus on for about 5 seconds, that discusses who his real father is (you can guess), and why he may sound EXACTLY like Elvis when he sings. As someone who has listened to a lot more EP than you have, I mean Exactly.

The first part is about him trying to convince people that’s just the way he sounds, but in 79 he meets Shelby Singleton (boo! hiss!) who convinces him to put on the mask and take on the character of Orion, based on a popular book at the time (Elvis ran away to escape his fame, has surgery, etc. ) It hits big, but Singleton has in the contract that Ellis can’t go in public without the everchanging mask.

Really interesting documentary, even though it does a bit of that making bad reproduction video (or quirky animation) to fill space where they don’t have anymore good video. Also, a lot of his songs, which I don’t think he wrote, were really good, and he had a really good band that was together for years and played tons of dates. It’s really, sadly, what Elvis might have sounded like had he lived and gotten kind of hip. I will sadly now need to crate dig all the Orion records I can.

4 Replies to “I’m Not Trying to Be Elvis”

  1. Thanks, great story. Given his fate, I felt bad for how hard I laughed when they tried to remake him into a 30+ Rick Springfield clone.

    I’m surprised I never heard about a masked Elvis running around playing gigs. Starting sometime in the early 80’s I regularly attended impersonator shows at a hotel in Whitehaven during Dead Elvis week. One year we bought leisure suits at a thrift store, rented a room, and threw a party with a big plate of Oscar Mayer bologna, Wonder Bread, Velveeta slices, French’s mustard, and some kind of shitty alcohol that made me very ill.

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