Good Life

Mike Albert “The Ultimate Tribute” with special guests AM Radio

When Mike Albert goes backstage, he’s a guy with a band. When he comes out, he’s the glittering, shimmying king of rock and roll. It’s the clothes that make the man a re-creation of a musical god.

“Just putting on my suits — my tailor got permission to use the original designs and patterns — gets me in Elvis mode,” he said.

“They’re as close as you can get.

“Putting on those heavy rhinestone studded suits and belts, that’s what does it.”

Albert’s “Ultimate Tribute” show has become known worldwide for a respectful portrayal of Elvis Presley, he says. The show, featuring Albert and the seven-piece Big “E” Band, had its beginnings decades ago with Albert as a singing-in-the-shower type of kid.

“Well, they didn’t have karaoke then,” he said, with a chuckle. “I just always loved to sing along with the radio, with records — 45s back then. Every once in a while, I’d just go to my bedroom and sing.”

Albert knew he had the crooning pretty close, but he didn’t see how he could be transformed into the King.

“I never thought I could look like Elvis,” he said.

“Then I found out I can give an image that goes along with the sound.”

After shining at several international Elvis contests, Albert decided to form a band to help shape the show-stopping sound Elvis’ band created in Vegas performances and on tour.

Next came TV appearances that put his group on the tribute music map — Oprah Winfrey featured Albert on her show, and he and his band were highlighted in six music videos on the show “A Current Affair” with Maury Povich. Another nod to their talent came when the vocal groups that backed Elvis, the Jordanaires and J.D. Sumner and the Stamps quartet, toured across the U.S., Europe and all the way to Australia and New Zealand with Albert and his band.

“I’m told we’re one of the most authentic shows,” he said. By now, he’s been a return act at fairs, festivals, dinner shows and large car cruises around the nation.

The group also has performed at the Miss Tennessee beauty pageant, with a full orchestra and choreographed dance routines, a gig that garnered a repeat invitation. His trek to Centre Hall is a replay, too, but the group aims to mix up song choices so each performance is memorable.

“We love playing at the Grange Fair,” he says. “It’s a great atmosphere, and my favorite part is being able to interact with the audience.

“We’re hoping to see those we’ve met before and make some new fans, too.”

His performances include a mix of Elvis’ rock and roll and love songs spanning three decades --- the ‘50s, 60s and 70s --- and he often leaves room for special requests, he says.

“You don’t have to have an Elvis shrine in your home to enjoy the show,” he says. “We see from one extreme to the other.”

Albert says he’s found that some of the hymns Elvis sang are still surprisingly moving along with, of course, his top hip-shaking hits.

“ ‘How Great Thou Art’ is a great one,” he says. “And you can’t beat ‘Suspicious Minds.’”

Close encounters with Albert-as-Elvis are likely.

After the show, he sticks around to pose for photos with Elvis fanatics and sign autographs.

“I don’t stay on stage the whole show,” he says. “I like to come down into the crowd. Elvis couldn’t have done that. They’d have torn his clothes off, but I feel pretty safe out there.”