Elvis storms the CasaBlanca stage in Mesquite

MESQUITE, Nev. – Elvis tribute artists from all over the country gathered at the CasaBlanca Resort and Casino, 950 W. Mesquite Boulevard, in Mesquite, Nevada, to pay tribute to The King of Rock ‘n’ Roll in the only way an Elvis artist knows how – impersonating the man who inspired it all.

Second Place winner Dave Hoover makes the ladies swoon at the 2015 Elvis Rocks Mesquite competition, Casablanca, Mesquite, Nevada, June 20, 2015 | Photo by Carin Miller, St. George News
Second Place winner Dave Hoover makes the ladies swoon at the 2015 Elvis Rocks Mesquite competition, Casablanca, Mesquite, Nevada, June 20, 2015 | Photo by Carin Miller, St. George News

Donned in jumpsuits of all colors and styles, the 16 “Elvi” who took the stage ranged in age and background, but all of them shared one thing, a deep love for the man who turned Rock and Roll on its head nearly 60 years ago.

Though some of the impersonators weren’t even born when Elvis Aaron Presley first appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show on Sept. 9, 1956, each of them offered spirited, passionate renditions of his music from each era of Elvis.

The competition was divided into three elimination rounds by eras, the 50s, 60s and 70s, with a final round for all of those who made it through to the end. Four winners were chosen from each era based on four pieces of criteria; vocals, appearance, stage presence and overall performance; vocals counted double.

Claude Neilsen, known as “Doc Elvis,” is only 34 days Elvis’ junior, and, at the ripe ol’ age of 80, stood his ground with all of “the young Elvis whippersnappers.”

Claude "Doc ELvis" Neilsen does his impersonation of the King at the 2015 Elvis Rocks Mesquite competition, Casablanca, Mesquite, Nevada, June 20, 2015 | Photo by Carin Miller, St. George News
Claude “Doc ELvis” Neilsen does his impersonation of the King at the 2015 Elvis Rocks Mesquite competition, Casablanca, Mesquite, Nevada, June 20, 2015 | Photo by Carin Miller, St. George News

While wooing the crowd Doc pointed out that if Elvis were still alive today, he most certainly would not have a thick head of dark, black hair and full sideburns as he tore his disguise off and passed it to his wife before moving on to his second song.

Though the seats were sparsely filled early Saturday afternoon for the ’70s-era portion of the competition, the concert hall inside of the casino was packed wall to wall with wild and crazy Elvis fans for the grand finale.

For the first year ever, event director Krissy Ayon said, performances were coupled with a live band, rather than using prerecorded music to accompany their set. It made for a livelier competition and challenged some of the Elvis artists who had never sang with a live-band before.

The competition has gone through some changes this time around, Ayon said, and that is because they are hoping to become a preliminary round in the near future for the Ultimate Elvis Tribute Artist Contest which is produced by the events team at Elvis’ home in Graceland.

Jacob Roman does his impersonation of the King at the 2015 Event director Krissy Ayon explains the rules of the Elvis Rocks Mesquite competition to the audience, Casablanca, Mesquite, Nevada, June 20, 2015 | Photo by Carin Miller, St. George News
Jacob Roman does his impersonation of the King at the 2015 Event director Krissy Ayon explains the rules of the Elvis Rocks Mesquite competition to the audience, Casablanca, Mesquite, Nevada, June 20, 2015 | Photo by Carin Miller, St. George News

Along with stepping up the show by adding a live-band, Ayon said, they took on some of the rules established by the Ultimate contest, including a ban of the gifting of scarves – a popular gift to adoring fans that Elvis was known for in the ’70s. This particular change was met with gripes from audience members who were hoping to land a scarf of their own, but the energy put into each performance made up for the heavy hearts.

As the men each took turns wowing the audience, it was as if the entire room had been transported through time and women, young and old, lost their minds screaming in adoration for the wild-eyed young star whose gyrating hips caused such a stir around the world for the vulgarity and sexual connotation attached.

The performers each did their best to emulate the charm and charisma Elvis was known for throughout his life, but in the end, only one performer could come out on top in each round.

First Place winner Tyler James poses for the cameras with wife Elissa James after the 2015 Elvis Rocks Mesquite competition, Casablanca, Mesquite, Nevada, June 20, 2015 | Photo by Carin Miller, St. George News
First Place winner Tyler James poses for the cameras with wife Elissa James after the 2015 Elvis Rocks Mesquite competition, Casablanca, Mesquite, Nevada, June 20, 2015 | Photo by Carin Miller, St. George News

2015 Elvis Rocks Mesquite contest winners

  • Champion | Tyler James, Las Vegas
  • 2nd Place | Dave Hoover, North Las Vegas
  • 3rd Place | Ghassan “James King” Haddad, Long Beach, California
  • 4th Place | Bruce Andrew Stewart, Tiny, Ontario, Canada
  • 5th Place | Jacob Roman, Glendale, California
  • 6th Place | Seve Botello, Modesto, California
  • 7th Place | Will Humbarger, Queen Valley, Arizona
  • 8th Place | Daniel Jenkins, Las Vegas
  • 9th Place | Ryan Collingwood, San Marcos, California
  • 10th Place | Claude “Doc Elvis” Nielsen, Mesquite, Nevada
  • 11th Place | Kevin Conley, St. George
  • 12th Place | Anthony “Anthony as Elvis” Alcala, Fontana, California
Bruce Andrew Stewart does his impersonation of the King at the 2015 Elvis Rocks Mesquite competition, Casablanca, Mesquite, Nevada, June 20, 2015 | Photo by Carin Miller, St. George News
Bruce Andrew Stewart does his impersonation of the King at the 2015 Elvis Rocks Mesquite competition, Casablanca, Mesquite, Nevada, June 20, 2015 | Photo by Carin Miller, St. George News
  • Marlene Peters Fan Favorite Award | Bruce Andrew Stewart
  • ’50s Era winner | Bruce Andrew Stewart
  • ’60s Era winner | Tyler James
  • ’70s Era winner | Tyler James

Other contestants

  • Randy “Randy Love” Black, Melrose Park, Illinois
  • Fred “Fred as Elvis” Cisneros, LaVerne, California
  • Shawn “Shawnvis” Hughes, Alameda, California
  • Ken Yuvienco, North Hills, California

Click on photo to enlarge it, then use your left-right arrow keys to cycle through the gallery. 

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Email: cmiller@stgnews.com

Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2015, all rights reserved.

 

 

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