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Co-signed by Elvis Presley’s tour manager, Kraig Parker brings tribute act to Coeur d’Alene Casino

The jet black hair and sideburns are real. As is the soft Southern drawl.

The only difference is Kraig Parker got his from living in Dallas, and Elvis Presley, the performer to whom he has paid tribute for the last 20 years, got his growing up in Mississippi and Memphis.

Over the years, Parker said he’s gotten his Presley transformation down to a science, needing just about an hour to become the rock ‘n’ roll icon.

“It takes a little bit longer than walking into the phone booth and walking out as Superman…” he said. “Just a little bit of makeup, get the blow dryer going and the hair mousse and all that fun stuff. Put on the suit and it’s time to rock and roll, baby.”

Fans can hear Parker’s spot-on imitation of the King for themselves when he brings his tribute act to the Coeur d’Alene Casino on Thursday.

The son of a big Presley fan, Parker grew up listening to the singer and collected a few Presley records of his own. He began singing around age 10 and would imitate Presley for fun.

In high school, he started a rock ’n’ roll band, adding a Presley song into the band’s set list here and there, but his career performing as Presley didn’t take off until he performed at his office’s Presley-themed party.

Parker had to be persuaded to perform, but once he saw his then-co-workers’ reactions, he was hooked.

“When you’re a singer, you like a solid reaction from the audience,” he said. “It’s like getting fed, so I was fed Elvis, so to speak. A taste I couldn’t put down.”

Parker then began doing solo performances at weddings, retirement parties and birthdays.

To get his tribute to Presley as accurate as possible, Parker studied the singer’s music and videos of his performances.

He said the martial arts Presley incorporated into his live shows was difficult to master, though he also paid special attention to Presley’s body movements, charisma and vocal range.

“There’s a lot of stuff to try and master if you really want to take on Elvis Presley and do it right,” he said. “When I did start getting serious about it, it did take a lot of practice to hone the craft and be as respectful as you can. You’ve got to bring the King to the people.”

As the number of bookings he received grew, Parker decided it was time to take his act to the next level and formed the Royal Tribute Band and Orchestra.

Together Parker and the band created a Las Vegas-style show that features all of Presley’s greatest hits, including “Heartbreak Hotel,” “Jailhouse Rock,” “Don’t Be Cruel,” “My Way,” “Suspicious Mind” and “Burning Love.”

“Hopefully any of the big ones you can pull out of the hat, we’ll have them in the show,” Parker said.

Parker especially likes singing the gospel songs Presley was fond of and said “How Great Thou Art” is one of his favorite songs to perform.

Parker’s tribute to Presley has earned him and the Royal Tribute Band and Orchestra acclaim from audiences around the world, and he has performed with Presley’s backing groups the Jordanaires, the Stamps Quartet and the Sweet Inspirations.

Adding even more credibility to his performance is Charles Stone, who worked as Presley’s tour producer in the ’70s and who now manages Parker and the band.

“Sometimes it’s hard for me to believe that I’m actually hooked up with him,” Parker said.

Parker and Stone were introduced after Parker and the band headlined an Elvis Presley birthday event at the Hard Rock Café in Dallas.

Stone’s wife encouraged him to reach out to Parker and after attending a few more shows, he did.

“He approached me and said ‘How would you like to get out of these bars and restaurants and go on tour?’ ” Parker said. “I said ‘What took you so long?’ ”

Parker said Stone didn’t give him too many tips on his performance, though he did help the band reach international audiences and arrange performances in casinos and with symphony orchestras.

“I never thought I’d be doing this for a living but sometimes your fate finds you,” Parker said.

Parker is grateful for the fans who continue to show up to watch him perform and said he, as a fan of Presley himself, understands the magnetism Presley’s music has with listeners.

He called performing as Presley exciting, invigorating, powerful, “any kind of good word you want to use,” and hopes he gets to keep donning the singer’s trademark white, rhinestone-adorned suit for many years to come.

“Elvis is still a powerful force to reckon with and as long as people crave the King, I’m going to put on the suit and sing, baby, so y’all come out and enjoy the show and let’s rock ‘n’ roll,” he said, again slipping into Presley’s famous drawl, which isn’t so far off from his own.

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