Pittston native Shawn Klush to perform Elvis tribute show in Wilkes-Barre
Shawn Klush has compiled a stellar portfolio of accolades for his work as an Elvis tribute artist, and many of his honors come with the highest seal of approval.
The Pittston native holds the title of World’s Greatest Elvis, bestowed by BBC One in London. He was named the first-ever Ultimate Elvis Tribute Artist by Elvis Presley Enterprises in Memphis, Tenn., and he was chosen by Mick Jagger and Martin Scorsese to portray “the King” in a 2016 episode of HBO’s “Vinyl.”
Klush will perform at 8 p.m. April 8 at the F.M. Kirby Center in Wilkes-Barre, and he’ll be backed by Presley’s own background singers, the Sweet Inspirations.
Klush said he doesn’t always get to “stop and smell the roses,” during his schedule, which includes a tour of the United Kingdom in 2017, but that when he does, he gets a sense that he’s making “a little impact here or there” with the Elvis faithful.
“To stand in front of 10,000 people in South America blows your mind,” Klush said. “And they’re singing ‘In the Ghetto’ back to you in English. It’s hard to comprehend how (Elvis) must have felt when the whole thing was happening to him in a natural way.”
Klush said he’s always taken aback by how many fans Presley has around the world, even 40 years since his death. But, he said, encounters with fans who saw the genuine article and tell Klush he looks and sounds like Presley are particularly affecting.
“The feeling is that you’re doing the right thing,” Klush said. “It’s what they remember. It’s what they sought. I’ve developed more friendships through Elvis than I have through anything else.”
The fact that Klush is honoring Elvis properly has been recognized by Presley’s close friends and collaborators. Klush has performed with DJ Fontana, The Jordanaires and the late Joe Esposito among others.
“We bring the Sweet Inspirations in on the show,” Klush said. “Those folks are like royalty. They performed with (Elvis) for a long time.”
In addition to meeting and often befriending key figures in Presley’s life, Klush said he continuously learns about the icon by regularly listening to Elvis Radio and reading accredited books like those of Elvis photographer and storyteller Sean Shaver.
“That’s the constant deal is to do that kind of stuff,” Klush said. “It’s always there. I’m a sponge when it comes to that. It just interests me.”
Working across the expansive catalogue of Presley’s music, Klush said, is also important to the performance he and his crew present.
“We constantly try to rotate songs in and out,” Klush said. “We keep it fresh not only for the people but for the band too. You can get on each others’ nerves quickly. We never do that, and if we do it’s over in three seconds.”
Klush’s fascination and appreciation for Presley is a life-long engagement.
“Since the minute I had any kind of comprehension, I knew who this guy was,” Klush said.
Klush’s father, a DJ in the 1950s, used to spin Elvis records. In the early 1970s, Klush had all of the legend’s recordings.
“Elvis Presley was probably not the coolest thing at that point,” Klush said. “Led Zeppelin was big then.”
“I dig Billy Joel and KISS and Queen, and they all have their own place, but this man started it all. He was the first one to come in and say ‘this is how you do it.’ He was a hell raiser, and we try to incorporate that stuff into the show.”
Reach Matt Mattei at 570-991-6651 or on Twitter @TimesLeaderMatt.
IF YOU GO
What: Shawn Klush as Elvis
Where: F.M. Kirby Center, 71 Public Square, Wilkes-Barre
When: 8 p.m. April 8
Ticket information: Tickets cost $29.50, $39.50, $42.50 and $49.50 and are available at the Kirby Center box office, online at kirbycenter.org and by phone at 570-826-1100.