Elvis Presley has been dead for 40 years, but the King’s legacy is alive and well in Las Vegas.
Elvis impersonators remain a staple of Las Vegas kitsch, performing at casino venues and wedding chapels and on street stages while decked out in garish jumpsuits, sunglasses and sideburn wigs.
At a recent Elvis convention, performers came from as far away as Japan and Australia to compete in a tribute artist contest that paid $15,000 in prize money.
Elvis performer Tyler James recalls going to Graceland for the first time when he was 5 years old — and immediately becoming hooked.
“I told my mom then I wanted my own show in Vegas as Elvis,” he said.
James now has a regular show two nights a week on an outdoor stage in downtown Las Vegas.
Elvis played hundreds of shows here, year after year — with more sellout crowds in Las Vegas than anywhere else. Sin City and the King became so deeply intertwined that fans across the country have continued to make the pilgrimage even after his untimely death. They travel to Vegas indulge in the many Elvis tribute shows, impersonators and nostalgic memories from his heyday.
Presley rose from poverty in Tupelo, Mississippi, to become an international music and movie star in the 1950s and 1960s. His life ended at age 42, when he was found dead August 16, 1977, at his Graceland mansion in Tennessee. By then, his career had slowed and he struggled with obesity and substance abuse.
But to Sin City, he’ll always be the handsome, hip-swinging, lip-curling crooner who gave the town its Viva Las Vegas anthem.
In the modern-day entertainment capital, his influence has waned in recent years. But Presley remains a larger-than-life pop culture icon in Las Vegas’ history.
To this day, the term “Elvis impersonator” is synonymous with Las Vegas — a term the performers dislike. They prefer to be called “Elvis tribute artists.”