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Elvis tribute singer remembers the King in Belfast show, 40 years after his death

10 interesting Elvis facts


Elvis in Las Vegas

Elvis in Las Vegas

Elvis tribute artist Jim Brown

Elvis tribute artist Jim Brown

Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph

The King of Rock n Roll on stage

The King of Rock n Roll on stage

© Corbis

Elvis Tribute Artist was winning Elvis impersonator Jim Brown on stage

Elvis Tribute Artist was winning Elvis impersonator Jim Brown on stage

Elvis in Las Vegas

Elvis Presley may be dead four decades today - but his biggest Belfast fan and acclaimed impersonator remembers it like it was yesterday.

Former postman Jim Brown will step onto the stage at the Waterfront Hall to perform his Two Sides Of Elvis show.

But the 40-year anniversary of his hero's death will add poignancy to the performance.

Jim recalled how, back in Troubles-stricken Belfast as a nine-year-old boy, he had been left "devastated" at the news of the Memphis singer's death.

What started as a young fan taking an interest in the All Shook Up singer's music has turned into a career that has seen the Whitewell Road man sell in excess of a million records and tour Europe and America.

"I remember it being announced on the ITN News at 10pm. Gordon Honeycombe was the newsreader," he said.

"I was devastated because I always said that I wanted to see Elvis perform live when I was older."

Despite his love of Elvis, Jim admitted his family weren't fans.

"There wasn't an Elvis record in our house. In North Street, where I think there is a bingo hall now, there was a single storey Woolworth's store that sold re-issued Elvis singles; the rock and roll singles from 1956 like Heartbreak Hotel' and Hound Dog," he said.

"I saved up my pocket money top buy them. I still have them. The covers are tattered now but they are still capable of being played."

Jim has no regrets for developing his lifelong passion for an American musical idol into a career.

"He was hypnotic. He was mesmeric. He had the charm and the stage presence," he said.

"He didn't take himself too seriously. He fooled around on stage and laughed at himself.

"And, of course there was that voice. His range went from being very powerful to giving the softest renditions of ballads. He could sing anything."

Jim said his transformation from fan to impersonator really came about by accident.

"It was a prank played on me by my wife and aunt," he said.

"We used to socialise with my aunt and uncle when they returned from London. They had left because of the Troubles.

"We were in the Docker's Club on Pilot Street one Sunday and they used to let people in the crowd up to sing with the band. They put my name on a piece of paper and handed it up without telling me for a laugh."

One rendition of Suspicious Minds later, Jim Brown's venture into performing had begun.

"The blood drained from me. I remember wanting to buy cigarettes. I don't smoke, but I wanted one to calm me down," he said. "I remember dropping the money I pulled out to buy them all over the floor. Brian McCann the club manager said to me, 'Kid, are you in a band? If you learn six songs, I'll put you on in here on a Saturday night'."

From then on, Jim was no longer just a postman, he was a professional singer as well. It was that Royal Mail connection that also drew him to the attention of the late Bap Kennedy.

Jim worked with a couple of his brothers in the Post Office and Bap came to see him one night to ask him to record an album in London.

But he questioned if there was any point "trying to re-paint the Mona Lisa".

Then he hit upon the idea to record hits by dead rock and pop stars in Elvis's voice - and Gravelands was released in 1998.

A deal with EMI quickly followed as did five more records and tours of both America and Europe.

The record deal was later sacrificed, however, as Jim had a family. But he still harbours ambitions.

"They are all over 18 now. So I wouldn't mind another crack of the whip," he said.

10 interesting Elvis facts

1. Born in Tupelo, Mississippi on January 8, 1935.

2. Had his first US number one hit, Heartbreak Hotel, in January 1956.

3. Made his film debut in Love Me Tender in November 1956.

4. Scored his first UK number one with All Shook Up the following year.

5. Was drafted into the military in 1958 and resumed his music career two years later.

6. Married Priscilla Wagner in 1967.

7. Became a father in 1968 to Lisa Marie.

8. The same year, following a seven-year break from live performances, he returned in the televised comeback special Elvis.

9. On August 16, 1977 he suffered a fatal heart attack at the age of 42 in the bathroom of his Memphis home, Graceland.

10. Had another UK number one in 2002, 25 years after his death, with A Little Less Conversation, remixed by JXL.

Belfast Telegraph