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Elvis Lives! He’s Been In Okinawa All Along!

By: Stephen Carr

Date Posted: 2000-05-05

The King is dead! Long live the King! “There have been lots of sightings of me around the world” says Okinawa’s Elvis “but I’ve been here for years. I do ten or 12 gigs a month.”

“I’ve always loved Elvis” he goes on. “My dad could sing like him” says John Jones. He grew up listening to other balladeers like his namesake Tom Jones, the early Englebert Humperdinck and Bobby Denton.

“This all started three years ago when I went to a concert in Kadena and saw a guy in pasted sideburns and a white suit. He was so bad I couldn’t believe he was getting paid to do that. I could do better than that, I thought.”

At the time Jones’s wife was learning how to sew. She and two of her friends made his first jumpsuit, “a black single knit body hugger.” His first gig was in a seafood restaurant in Hamby Town, the Pescaderia. As there was no dressing room “I had to change into my suit with sequins, chains and studs in a toilet stall.”

“Right from that very first gig I’ve never been nervous performing as Elvis” he explains because I’m playing a character. It’s not me out there on stage, so how could I be anxious?”

Jones had some difficulty finding the right material for his suits. His second was made of white satin “which doesn’t stretch, so causes some problems when you’re moving around on stage.” He couldn’t get the right stretch material in either Korea or the USA but found it in the Philippines where his friend has a garment factory.

He says he does not plan or think about what he is going to do on stage. “I just do what I feel and Elvis sort of takes over.” He finds it hard to pick favorites from the Elvis canon but rates highly: Dixie, Battle Hymn of the Republic, It’s Now or Never, Lonesome Tonight, Don’t Be Cruel, Hound Dog and perhaps his best, Treat Me Nice. “Walking around the audience and kissing ladies’ hands” are all part of the show.

John Jones also offers up some interesting Elvis trivia. The King never did Jailhouse Rock in concert, apparently because it plays hell with the vocal chords. “I only do it once in a while. It tears the voice up too much.” In the famous filmed sequence of the number, the dance movements were choreographed by Elvis and “not many people know that.”

Also mentioned are some little known performance tips from Jones’s own strange calling. Head positions while sleeping dry the throat, he tells me and stretch the vocal chords. “You can notice this on waking. Until about ten o’clock, your voice is different.” Once he had a 6am gig at the Sunrise Festival. Rather than wake with a raspy voice, he stayed up all night. The performance was fine. “The crowd stretched as far as the eye could see.”

Alcohol also dries the vocal chords, Jones divulges, except Orion beer, which he has found, lubricates them. The local brewer may just have stumbled upon a highly original new marketing idea.

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