Elvis impersonator talks links to Wolverhampton
With a swing of the hips and a flick of his quiff, Gordon Hendricks looks every bit Elvis re-incarnated as he saunters onto the stage at the Wolverhampton Grand.
Recently crowned the world's top impersonator of the King, you'd expect him to be a dab hand at getting the audience all shook up, and Hendricks does not disappoint.
But few of those there to see the hit show Spirit of Aloha would have been aware of that Hendricks' path to stardom was partly forged in Wolverhampton.
His manager, Alan Clayton, of Shropshire, was once part of a so-called 'Golden Age' of music in the city.
He used to be a director of Wolverhampton-based entertainment agency Astra International and ran the city's infamous Club Lafayette, which hosted top acts including the Sex Pistols before closing its doors in the early 1980s.
Along with his fellow agency directors, Alan managed the likes of the Montanas, Light Fantastic, the Californians and pre-Slade band the N’Betweens, as well as comedian Jim Davidson.
He promoted shows across the West Midlands, working with Tony Perry, a fellow director from Astra Agency, and in 1988 along with Mark Blackstock who had taken over as manager of Wolverhampton Civic Hall.
"We began to promote concerts at the Civic and get it back on the map for concerts, and Alan recently toured artists such as Ladysmith Black Mambazo, the Chinese State Circus, The LadyBoys of Bangkok and Bananas in Pyjamas," he said.
On first witnessing Hendricks live, he described his talent as 'extraordinary' and vowed to focus on managing his career.
Hendricks was born in 1971 in Stoke on Trent. He says he was inspired to become an Elvis impersonator through 'a love of music' that he developed at an early age.
"I was heavily influenced by the love of Elvis everyone had at home and because of this, I started to find out more about him," he recalls.
"As I got to know more about the man and his music, I came to understand why Elvis was called The King.
"I remember sneakily listening to my sisters' recordings of Elvis, developing an interest in the late 60’s and early 70’s songs."
Hendricks played the recordings constantly and began to sing along.
He said: "When people heard me sing, they began saying how similar I sounded to Elvis.
"I've had no formal training. My early singing experiences came merely from joining in with karaoke with his friends."
He was asked to sing two Elvis songs at a local night club for a lady's birthday. The owner of the club was so impressed, he sent him away to get an act together and then come back for a formal booking, which Hendricks did.
His first full performance was a tribute to Elvis in 2003 The audience response was so overwhelming that he began to tour and perform in local pubs and clubs.
"It all seemed to happen so fast. One minute I was singing karaoke, the next I was on stage giving it my all," he said.
It was 2005 when Hendricks shot to fame, winning the Grand Final of TV show Stars In Their Eyes.
To his astonishment, he achieved a record number of votes and a viewing audience of more than 12 million.
His performance impressed award-winning songwriter Geoff Morrow – who has penned hits for Elvis, Barry Manilow, The Carpenters and Billy Fury – so much that he signed Hendricks to his Yellow Records label.
When he saw Hendricks' performance, he said: "Over the years I have heard many Presley impersonators but when Gordon started to sing I actually shivered."
Since then, crowds across the world can't help falling in love with Hendricks' renditions of the King's back catalogue, and he has gone on to win a wealth of awards for his efforts.
Earlier this year in Memphis a selective panel of judges chose him as the world number one Elvis tribute, a title that came with a cheque for $20,000.
He had first been recognised as the world's most convincing Elvis tribute act at the 2014 Collingwood Elvis Festival in Canada, where his talent was recognised in front of the legend's widow Priscilla Presley.
When he takes the stage people can be forgiven for thinking the King himself is up there.
One thing is for certain, Hendricks is certainly achieving his goal of keeping the King's legacy alive.
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