Even 45 years after his death, the music of Elvis Aaron Presley continues to resonate. With more than 13.5 million monthly listeners on Spotify and one of the most listened to channels on satellite radio, there is little doubt he is still the “King of Rock and Roll.”
Elvis is like a good recipe or a family heirloom that gets passed down.
What might be surprising, though, is that with 71 percent of Spotify users under 44 years old, it’s apparent that it is not only the boomers listening to Elvis’s music today.
Tribute artist Thane Dunn can attest to Elvis’s ability to attract new fans by building a career portraying The King on stage after he first sang Heartbreak Hotel in a grade six talent contest.
“Elvis is like a good recipe or a family heirloom that gets passed down,” says Dunn. “When I started doing this, it was the baby boomers who would come to the show, but what I’ve seen happen, and it’s amazing, is the grandparents brought their grandkids, or they had brought their kids, and now their kids are bringing their kids.”
Dunn remembers Elvis always being somewhere in his life and, in fact, was introduced to Elvis by his parents, including road trips from his hometown of Moncton to visit his grandparents in Amherst.
“My dad had a Pontiac Parisienne Brougham, and it had Elvis Live in Concert stuck inside it,” he says. “Going back and forth to their place every Sunday for dinner, after about three trips, I learned all the words to all the songs. It was a big car, so I’d stand up in the back and shake my leg and all that stuff.”
Dunn’s childhood introduction would eventually lead to a life as a two-time world champion Elvis tribute artist.
“It’s not something that I ever, in my wildest dreams, thought I would do,” Dunn admits. “I had a great sales job, and one day I went crazy and decided to venture off and see what I could do with this. I didn’t want to be 65 years old, sitting on the front porch, wondering what I could’ve done.”
Now 15 years into his career, Dunn’s admiration for Elvis and his music is undeniable. And while he may have gotten his first taste singing Heartbreak Hotel in elementary school, it might be surprising to know while he thinks it is a great song, it is also what he considers “filler.”
“I think my favourite Elvis song right now is How Great Thou Art,” says Dunn. “But my tastes change. In another month, I may tell you another song altogether.”
The gospel song will undoubtedly be center stage as Dunn embarks on his Elvis Greatest Hits tour, including a stop at the Rebecca Cohn in Halifax on June 30.
Now ready to get back on the road following the pandemic lockdowns, it is a tour two years in the making as Dunn slimmed down to once again put on one of the handmade jumpsuits patterned after the originals, covering what he considers the height of Elvis’s career.
“I’m in love with Elvis’s 1971 to 1973 period,” he says. “Those are the years when Elvis got on stage and wasn’t afraid of how the audience would judge him. He didn’t have to get out and prove something. He was Mr. Charisma, and the charisma oozed out of every pore; he could stand there and smile at the audience or say the alphabet, and people would love it.”
It is a feeling Dunn brings to his tribute show, especially now as audiences are looking to escape the stresses of the last couple of years.
“I think right now everybody needs to have a good time,” he says. “We have a lot of fun on stage, and I don’t just get on stage and sing the songs. Our show is dynamic, with people singing along with us and fighting for scarves. It’s kind of like legal pandemonium.”
Thane Dunn’s Elvis Greatest Hits plays at the Rebecca Cohn Auditorium (6101 University Ave, Halifax) on June 30. Visit dal.ca for tickets and information.