The wonder of Elvis always on his mind

HANNAH MCKEE
Last updated 15:41 09/06/2014
CAMERON BURNELL/FAIRFAX NZ

Elvis impersonator Murray Johnson has just been to a convention in Hawaii.

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Murray Johnson is a baker by night, a sleeper by afternoons, and a lover of all things Elvis in between.

This month he will be entering the annual Elvis Down Under competition for the sixth time but his love for the King does not stop at impersonations.

Not only is his Paraparaumu home full of Elvis memorabilia, but he and wife Denise share the same wedding anniversary as Elvis and Priscilla (May 1) and also had identical rings made.

His passion dates back to early childhood. "My mother had some Elvis records and as kids we used to play them and as soon as I heard Elvis I was hooked.

"I still have that original album, it's called Rock n' Roll Album One." It is one of his collection of about 400.

Johnson's first competition was in 1989 when he wore a hired suit.

He now owns five replicas that range in value from $1500 to about $5000. His latest purchase was a pair of original sunglasses by Dennis Roberts, an optician who made so many shades for Elvis that he was dubbed "The Man Who Framed the King".

For Johnson, loving Elvis is about more than embroidered jumpsuits and crooning tunes.

"A lot of people don't know [Elvis] was a generous man and gave to a lot of charities. Last year I went to Hawaii for the 40th anniversary of the Aloha concert, when he raised $65,000 to start the Pearl Harbour war memorial."

Johnson has been practising daily for the seventh annual Elvis Down Under. "I'm wearing a new jumpsuit, it's a rare one he wore at two concerts in 1970 and 1971 with unicorns down the front."

His wife is supportive of his hobby. "Denise loves Elvis as well.

"She helps me with my hair before the shows - it's not a wig."

Elvis Down Under organiser Cathy Finau started the competition in 2008 because she was "such a huge fan".

She said Elvis fans should give the amateur division a go. "A lot of people think oh, I haven't got the suit and the gear - but that doesn't matter, just wear black jeans, a shirt and glasses, which you can get from The $2 Shop."

Mark Southan and John Lancaster will be on the judging panel, looking for the most convincing mannerisms, moves, sound and charisma to award the $2000 prize.

"It's not just a karaoke thing.

"These guys take it very seriously," Finau said.

The competition will take place at the Petone Working Men's Club on June 27 and 28.

Tickets for the weekend are $40 from eventbrite.co.nz.

Email mrspcathy@hotmail.com to enter.

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- The Dominion Post

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