With the release of the Elvis Biopic, Ben was recently featured in the Sunday People by reported Karen Rockett. A full transcript of the report is below:
WHEN Elvis died in 1977 there were around 170 impersonators worldwide copying the King.
Today there are an estimated 250,000 Elvis imitators in operation – with some more believable than others. One of the best British Elvis tribute acts is Ben Portsmouth from Reading. The 42-year-old singer and guitarist made tribute history when he became the first non-American to win the Elvis Presley Enterprises Ultimate Elvis Tribute Artist Contest in Memphis in 2012 where he was crowned the Worldwide Ultimate Elvis Tribute Artist.
His success led to offers from promoters around the world and Ben and his Taking Care of Elvis Band have enjoyed 10 years at the top of the tribute tree.
Here, he talks to KAREN ROCKETT about his alter-ego…
“I grew up listening to Elvis in the back of my dad’s car.”
“He was a huge fan and it kind of stuck with me.”
“I started like most musicians do playing gigs in pubs in and around Reading where I grew up.”
“Then it just grew from there. I have been doing Elvis since 2005 properly
and I am 42 now, the same age that Elvis was when he died.”
“It is a weird life earning a living being someone else. I am aware of how strange it is but it’s also wonderful being able to work at what you love. I love the music and I love playing to an audience.”
“We have just toured South America and I have a green card so I divide my
time between the UK and the US. I’m currently in Texas for the Lonestar Festival and am in my hotel having just eaten a big steak. Very Elvis!”
“It is a bizarre life though, being someone else. I think through my work I have some idea of what life must have been like for him. I have the knickers thrown on stage, the screaming women, I give out the scarves like he did.”
“And I know that feeling of being like a toy in a box when you are in
a hotel room night after night and just brought out to perform. The difference between us of course is when the show is over I go back to being Ben.”
“I dye my hair black, of course, like Elvis – but when I’m not on stage I try not to look like him. I get the odd look but I can generally go out and be left alone.”
“He had the constant pressure of fame and all that goes with it. The prescription drugs, pills to help him sleep, pills to help him wake up and perform, it was all too much in the end.”
“Not that he didn’t enjoy performing, he loved it, but he was unable to switch it off. He was trapped by his fame. To me, Elvis is inspirational. He
was a country boy who came from nothing. He had the looks, he had the charisma and in those days the music was amazing, not like now.
“I try to tell his story in my theatre show. We go through his time at Sun
Studios, his army days, the movies, the 1968 comeback special, the Vegas years – there are lots of costume changes.”
“The fans’ favourite songs are the ones you would expect, Suspicious
Minds, Love Me Tender. I end the show with Can’t Help Falling In Love which he always did.”
“He never did an encore. They would just say ‘Elvis had left the building’ – but I come back and do an encore.”
“I also do a Willie Nelson / Julio Iglesias song To All the Girls I’ve Loved Before which I think Elvis would have enjoyed singing if he got the chance.”
“I am very aware that I am 42 now, the age Elvis was when he died. I know I can’t do this for ever but I maybe have a few years left. I will look in the mirror and know when it is time to stop.”
“I don’t want it to be undignified. I have too much respect for the man.”