Celebration Fit For The King

Don Rose is once again in the building making sure Elvis keeps rocking the jailhouse and the concert stage. Since the “King of Rock and Roll” has been gone a little more than 40 years now, the younger generation never knew of Presley through films or ground-breaking concerts other than a short clip here and there in documentaries.
Elvis set the standard and changed the face of the music industry. He proved millions of people wrong, particularly those who thought rock and roll was a flash in the pan.
The genre outlasted every naysayer, and no entertainer in the history of music has had such a profound and long-lasting effect on both fans and the business than Elvis Presley.
Many people who were around during his time on earth didn’t have the opportunity to experience Elvis live in the Vegas showrooms or through his many concerts held across the country. If we were lucky, we got to watch one or two of them via satellite on television, which was considered a technological miracle at the time.
So this is where tribute artists like Don Rose, come in. They provide a glimpse of the kind of stage presence and entertainment power Elvis possessed. That is why “getting it right” is important to Rose, who just happens to be one of the biggest Elvis fans out there, whether he was making a living with the connection or not.
His heartfelt tribute comes from a place of someone who felt that Presley was a lifeline to better days and the American dream. If an unknown musician from Tupelo, Mississippi could go against the grain and create a genre of music while developing a loyal following to this day, then the hope was there for the rest of us.
Rose grew up on the sounds of Elvis.
From an early age, Rose watched Elvis movies with his family and collected records as fast as they were released. Attached to the man, like many hardcore Elvis fans, Rose was devastated when Elvis died.
The Ohio native decided to use his own vocal gift to keep Presley’s music and his memories alive for future generations. His genuine affection for Elvis was the fuel that ignited his passion to take on the persona of Presley.
All that time he spent singing for his own enjoyment in the basement of his parents’ home would one day pay off.
While the road from fan to tribute artist was long, and as Rose was dedicated to perfecting his vocal ability, it didn’t take Rose long to turn all that practice into making a dream of his own come true.
“I was raised in an Elvis-fan family. My mom is a big Elvis fan. My brother was playing Elvis music in a band. I just grew up with him,” Rose told the Laughlin entertainer.
“But what attracted me to him—that’s a hard question for Elvis fans to answer. Why is he more popular now, 40 years after his death than he was when he was alive? He connected with people in many different ways. For me, his character was just bigger than life. It’s his voice that has always attracted me.”
And it is Rose’s vocal ability that fans are attracted to at his shows. His voice is as close to the original most of us will ever experience.
Twice a year he makes his pilgrimage to Laughlin to Don’s Celebrity Theatre within the Riverside Resort to perform his tribute shows around two important dates, Presley’s birth in January and his death in August. Well, it’s January and his “Happy Birthday to the King” show takes the stage for another run, Wednesday-Sunday, Jan. 3-7.
These regular performance dates mean Rose’s portrayal resonates with fans time and time again because of one important element—his passion for his craft.
“People have always said that my strength is my voice,” Rose said. “There are people who look more like Elvis than me but don’t sing well. The look is a great asset to have but if you don’t have it you can overcome that by making sure that you’re strong in your portrayal—in your ability to deliver the character on stage.”
Rose has that part covered.
“I just developed by being an Elvis fan,” he said. “I have all the concerts, all the music, all the movies, and all the bootleg stuff. I’ve watched it all so many times.
“I never really practiced anything like stage movements or mannerisms. I just picked it up by watching. The only thing I’ve had any training on or practiced was my voice. Everything else is just embedded in my head. When I’m on stage doing Elvis, I see Elvis. It’s always in there, I guess because I’ve seen it all so many times. I can’t get enough of that. I still watch Elvis movies, still watch his concerts.”
Sharing in that passion for the music is Rose’s band of players who include Hal Hays (drums), Pam Hays (keyboards and vocals), John Morrison (bass and vocals), John Scott (guitar and vocals); and newest member Jay Boyer (keyboards and vocals).
“We have added about five new songs we’ve never done before in Laughlin and a couple of those I have never done before, period,” Rose said. “We also have a brand new gospel CD that has been a highly requested item over the years, and we will have two brand new gospel songs in the show this time.
“We previewed the sale of the gospel CD last time we were there, but we only had a few and they sold out quick, so hopefully this will be a nice treat for our fans.”
The show touches on various elements of Presley’s career and the different styles of music he experimented with.
“We will touch on Elvis’ movie career in the beginning of the show — 33 movies and the 10 years Elvis dedicated his career to making them,” Rose added. “There’s some very memorable music in there and we hope to highlight some of the best and most fun songs from that era.
“Then we will move to the jumpsuit era, an area that has always been my specialty. I love the jumpsuit era and the vast amount of different kinds of material that Elvis was able to perform,” he said. “As an entertainer and vocalist, I think Elvis really arrived in this era, performing some of his most memorable material live in front of his legions of fans across the country.
“As I get older and more seasoned, I worry less about how much I can gyrate and I find myself bringing more substance to the material… I still discover new songs that say so much on a continual basis.
“It will be a fast-paced, fun show and as always, when necessary, we will go with the flow for our loyal following here at the Riverside,” he said. “I always look so forward to performing in Don’s Celebrity Theatre. They have special people there, we’ve made long-time friends and maintained relationships from our many years of performing there. We look forward to seeing our loyal fans and making new fans along the way.”
The whole show still revolves around the power of Rose’s voice.
“That is my biggest asset. I am just me — I love Elvis Presley and the many blessings he has brought to my life, and that is what I am most thankful for. So I will keep giving everything I have on that stage to portray Elvis in a way that I can feel proud of when I walk off stage at the end of a show. And hopefully, people will see the connection I have with this character I portray, and understand the passion I have for performing this music.”


HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO THE KING

Don’s Celebrity Theatre within the Riverside Resort

Wednesday-Sunday, Jan. 3-7 (7 p.m.)

See “Showtimes” for tickets