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Elvis Presley: Belfast tribute performer Jim is all shook up by star in new movie biopic of King

Belfast singer ‘got goosebumps’ watching trailer of Austin Butler as his hero Presley

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Jim 'The King' Brown

Jim 'The King' Brown

Elvis tribute performer Jim Brown with Eamonn Holmes

Elvis tribute performer Jim Brown with Eamonn Holmes

Austin Butler as Elvis

Austin Butler as Elvis

Press Association Images

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Jim 'The King' Brown

Belfast Elvis tribute performer Jim ‘The King’ Brown “got goosebumps” when he saw actor Austin Butler as Presley in the trailer for Elvis, the new biopic of the legendary star which hits cinemas on Friday.

My hairs actually stood up when I saw it” said Brown (54), who has been performing songs by the King alongside original material for 25 years.

His full-time music career only began after a colleague in Royal Mail told late Belfast singer-songwriter Bap Kennedy he knew someone who could “sing exactly like Elvis”.

It led to Jim being invited to London by EMI Records, which labelled him “the world’s first Elvis interpreter”.

He recorded the Gravelands album containing tracks by singers who had passed away. The Elvis-like renditions included a memorable version of Nirvana’s Come As You Are.

Jim was initially cautious about paying tribute to Elvis, despite being a lifelong fan.

Faced with the prospect of recording a cover album of the King’s greatest hits, Jim told his team: “There is no point painting the Mona Lisa again — Elvis has already laid down the masterpieces.”

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Insisting he didn’t have any plans to become a full-time performer, he explained: “I sort of fell into music. It came to me, in a way.”

He now hopes the film will introduce Presley, who died in 1977 at the age of 42, to a whole new audience.

Butler, a mostly unknown actor from California, reportedly beat Miles Teller (Top Gun: Maverick) and Harry Styles for the role in director Baz Luhrmann’s biopic.

Butler’s performance has been described as a “revelation” by critics, with Presley’s daughter Lisa-Marie predicting a Best Actor statue at next year’s Oscars.

Jim agrees. He added: “It looks fantastic, although I do hope it’s not one of those films where the trailer makes it look better than it is.”

Butler’s elevation to the role has not been without controversy.

Many Elvis fans took to social media to point out the young actor bears little resemblance to the King.

Jim said: “I had actually seen lots of negative comments on social media from all over the world and when I was performing in Germany recently I had been around lots of fans who didn’t seem to be giving him a chance.

“I actually saw Austin Butler in a film a few years ago, and I remember turning to my wife to say I noticed he had a young Elvis charisma about him, so I see no issue with Baz Luhrmann’s choice.”

The performer will return to the Continent in August for the European Elvis Festival in Germany, just one of his many Elvis tribute gigs this year.

He’s also excited for Presley’s music to experience something of a revival not witnessed since a remixed version of A Little Less Conversation went to No.1 in 2005.

“I was inundated after that track came out, so this film is definitely going to give a bounce off for everything Elvis. You definitely do benefit when these kinds of things happen” he said.

The film’s soundtrack is also hotly anticipated, with Butler bucking the trend of typical biopics by singing as Elvis instead of lip-synching. The track list also features Doja Cat, Eminem, and Stevie Nicks.

“My only hope is that there are no cringe moments in the film, but it looks like an amazing show and I hope it gets a new appreciation for the history of Elvis and what he achieved musically and in his acting career,” added Jim.

He has no plans to stop gigging, pointing out performers like him have already lost two precious years due to the pandemic.

He said: “I have said to my wife if I ever start looking ridiculous doing this let me know, because I’m not going to insult the man himself... I can’t stand acts that turn Elvis into a joke.”


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