Still a hunk of burnin’ love for Elvis
It’s been a few years since Randy “Elvis” Friskie slipped on the tight leather pants and slicked on the Brylcreem into that trademark pompadour.
Part of his “uniform” for three decades, Friskie is still considered the ultimate tribute act to the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll even though he’s been off the circuit for a little while.
But like those rare sightings of Elvis Presley in a Burger King, Friskie is back in full form and is currently on the road across the province reprising Elvis’ Aloha from Hawaii concert that was transmitted live by satellite 40 years ago.
Based in Abbotsford ever since he wowed audiences with his Elvis act during Vancouver’s Expo ‘86 World Fair, Friskie has performed on just about every stage around the country, including Vernon on a number of occasions, and he says he’s happy to be coming back on this current tour that brings him to the Performing Arts Centre on Sunday for two shows.
“I haven’t been in Vernon for quite a while. I think my last big show there was eight or nine years ago. I love the theatre. The sound is great and the stage is just close enough to the audience that I can jump off it. Hopefully I don’t land in anyone’s lap,” he laughed.
It was after seeing Presley perform live in Niagara Falls, N.Y. when he was 12 that Friskie started playing the King’s songs in a band he formed with his brother. The spawn of a musical family, Friskie also played drums and piano in a number of country and rock bands.
“My dad snuck me into a club when I was 14 to play drums. I had hair way down my back,” he said.
Eventually cutting his hair, his likeness to Elvis, and ability to swivel those hips, led Friskie to audition for the Elvis, Elvis, Elvis show, and after Expo 86, his star rose leading him to Las Vegas and Reno with Legends In Concert and American Superstars.
“I didn’t want to be an impersonator. In Vegas, I got into character to do a tribute to the greatest character that ever lived. I moved to the music the way he did. Because I’m a musician I got the feel for it... That natural feel comes from the heart.”
With many referring to Friskie as the original ETA (Elvis tribute act), many tours and shows followed, however, six years back the showbiz veteran decided to take time off to look after family matters.
“My dad passed away. He was a tough, old dude who was a musician and played at least 14 instruments,” said Friskie. “Soon after my dad died, my mom had a stroke and so I took a three-and-a-half-year hiatus. I took her home and looked after her. I even brought her to hockey games, which was pretty crazy as she was never a fan, but I wanted her to be close.”
It’s taken time for Friskie to be ready to jump into that wide pit of ETAs since his mom died a few years ago. Fitting into those leather jumpsuits was, at first, a bit of a tight squeeze, but he managed to get that old mojo back.
“I’ve been at the gym today for about three-and-a-half hours and I’ll be going back later today,” said Friskie. “When Elvis was in Hawaii, he was not older and fat. He was still rockin’ it in the ‘60s and early ‘70s. And this show, he was all over the stage moving.”
Besides getting his physical self back into shape, Friskie’s been warming up those vocals, which have been said to match Elvis’, uncannily, to a T. He admits he still gets nervous before sliding across that stage, but then the reincarnation of Elvis just sort of takes over.
“I love doing the numbers that other ETAs don’t do often... There’s one song, Just Pretend, that Elvis recorded in 1970 that is pretty rare,” said Friskie. “I also love doing the popular ones, My Way and Suspicious Minds. It’s dynamic and rockin’ and brings the house down. I also do a lot of slow songs and put different ones in there. Elvis always did that.”
Joining Friskie on his Aloha tour is his daughter Cassandra, a talented singer in her own right, along with the Las Vegas Show Band and the Uptown Horns..
“Cassandra does Patsy Cline and Brenda Lee, but she is also an original singer-songwriter and has her own career,” said Friskie. “I have the best band and the Uptown Horns guys are amazing. We rock. The poor people in the first five rows are going to get wet - we sweat!”
Randy “Elvis” Friskie brings his Las Vegas Show Band 40th anniversary Aloha Tour to the Vernon Performing Arts Centre on Sunday for two shows at 2 and 7 p.m. Tickets are 39.50 at the Ticket Seller, 549-7469, www.ticketseller.ca.