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Ever since he was a toddler, Jeffrey Krick Jr., 19, loved the music and style of Elvis Presley, "The King of Rock 'n' Roll."
And because Krick's father, Jeff Sr., has performed for decades as Elvis in Berks County and beyond at festivals, fairs and fire halls, the son had an inspirational and talented mentor, and so became a born-again Elvis too.
"I'm basically a shy guy who wouldn't do cartwheels in front of people, but when I put on the Elvis jumpsuit and step onstage, I have a job to do and try to give the best performance I can," said Krick, answering questions during a video and recording session for the Sound Room at radio station WEEU in Reading, where he recently performed Presley's renditions of "My Way," "Unchained Melody," "Proud Mary," "Rubberneckin' " and "Fairytale."
Without wearing his eyeglasses, but sporting a classic 1950s duck-tail hairdo with long sideburns (his naturally blond-brown hair is dyed black), Krick is
5-feet-10-inches tall and weighs 185 pounds. He appears as a very young Elvis, even though he wore a white-fringed and beaded jumpsuit similar to what the aging Elvis used to wear in Las Vegas in the 1970s. "But I also have some Elvis-style '50s jackets and a '68 black leather outfit," he said. While Krick looks the part, he also sings the part with passion and a vocal range that goes from bass to falsetto. And that apparently is why he was selected nationally to be among the top 10 finalists in August at the 10th annual Ultimate Elvis Tribute Artist Contest Finals at the roughly 2,000-seat Orpheum Theater in Memphis, Tenn. The event, sponsored by Elvis Presley Enterprises, draws its contestants from those who have already won regional festivals or contests such as Krick, who captured the first spot at the Ocean City Elvis Festival in Ocean City, Md. Krick said he was competing against 20 other Elvis tribute artists in Memphis, who hailed from places across the country, mostly from the South, but also from New York City, London and Porto Alegre, Brazil. "I believe I was the second-youngest tribute artist there," he said. "I didn't win or place in the top five, but I was among the top 10." For his efforts, Krick said he won $500 and signed paperwork to appear in the Legends in Concert programs.
Jeffrey at Elvis Presley Enterprises " Ultimate Elvis Contest" in Memphis 2016 Jeffrey at the Reading Fairgrounds, PA 2015 Jeffrey in Fleetwood, PA 2016
The first-place grand prize of $20,000 went to Elvis tribute artist Dwight Icenhower, a representative from the Branson Elvis Festival in Missouri, and, yes, the name sounds like the late World War II general and president, but the surnamed is spelled differently, "Dwight has a really good voice, and I don't take anything away from him," Krick said. "I thought if I couldn't win it, he would have been the one I would have picked." Admitting to being nervous to perform as Elvis on a Memphis stage, Krick said he was allowed to pick 12 of his favorite Elvis songs for the competition beforehand, and then organizers assigned him two songs on the first day of competition and two other songs on the second day. "I sang 'The Impossible Dream' and 'Hurt' the first day during the semifinals, and then 'My Way' and 'Unchained Melody' for the finals," Krick said. "I really wanted to do 'Hurt' because that is among my favorite Elvis songs along with 'If I Can Dream.' " Singing professionally for the past two years, often with his father at area venues, Krick credits his dad with being his inspiration. "If it wasn't for him, I wouldn't be doing what I am doing," he said. As for Elvis himself, Krick believes the classic rocker who died in 1977, about a generation before Krick's own birth, will remain a talent for the ages. "He just sang great music," Krick said. Nevertheless, Krick candidly admitted he is probably out of step with musical tastes of his own millennial generation. Possessing a natural musicality, Krick said he has not had formal vocal lessons and doesn't play a musical instrument. "High school could be rough for me from time to time, and I wasn't the most popular kid," said Krick, describing himself as an A-B-C student who loved math, but not geometry. He also played football his sophomore and junior years as a running back at Schuylkill Valley High School, and did some choral work, but kept his Elvis passion a little more hush-hush, deciding not to participate in the senior talent show. When he's not in his Elvis mode, Krick prefers country music and gravitates to the work of Brad Paisley, Luke Bryan, Blake Shelton and classic country artists such as Conway Twitty and George Strait. "I like the storyteller aspect and melody of a song," said Krick, who has been praised for having a musical passion and conveying the deep emotion of a song. A love of early rock 'n' roll and the joy of getting a positive reaction from an audience are the driving forces that fuel Krick's persistence in striving to excel as a tribute artist. "I'd guess two-thirds of my audience are ages 50 and up, but I'd say the other third are younger people," Krick said.
But Krick knows that not only singing but movement matters as a performance artist, especially when you are supposed to appear as Elvis.
"I gave up football when I was a junior in high school because I tore something in my hip," Krick said. His injury apparently hasn't adversely impacted his Elvis swivel. Krick, now a top Elvis tribute artist, can still sing and gyrate. And that's what he hopes to do.
Contact Bruce R. Posten: email@example.com.