Elvis Impersonation is a fine art that requires meticulous attention to detail. The impersonator’s ability to shimmy, shake and gyrate like The King of Rock ’n’ Roll separates him, or sometimes her, from imposters. Patty Manning knows this well, but she hasn’t let her gender stop her from wearing The King’s crown.
She’s been the lead singer of the Patty Elvis Band for more than a decade and considers herself more comedian than Elvis impersonator. At shows, Manning is known to cover a few Michael Jackson songs like “I’ll Be There” and even Cher’s “If I Could Turn Back Time.” The Chronicle recently sat down with Manning to find out how it feels to be King.
The Chronicle: How long have you been in this band?
Patty Manning: It’s been something like 15 years. We started when you were like 5.
The Chronicle: What caused you to like Elvis enough to impersonate him?
PM: I’m a comic, so … I mean I am a singer. I was in theater and stuff in school. I actually went to Columbia for a short time for theater, but I didn’t like it because I never really fit in with the theater crowd because I was more of a comedian. You know how the theater crowd is. They’re a little too much sometimes, too dramatic. I would watch Andy Kaufman impersonating Elvis on TV when I was a kid and he would make fun of Elvis. He would over exaggerate the lip, do his leg real crazy and his jumpsuit would be real short. It was kind of the funny version of Elvis and that’s how I felt about Elvis. I found him funny a little bit, you know, but when I started impersonating him, I really began appreciating him, too.
The Chronicle: Is black your natural hair color?
PM: No, I have to color my hair. I either color it really dark brown or black. It helps. Because I’m a woman, anything I can do to make it more believable, like I have really nice jumpsuits made by this woman who makes suits for Elvis guys. She’s fantastic. The suits make me look like Elvis, and then I put sideburns on and put on a little bit of makeup that makes me look more like Elvis, more of an eyebrow. You have to kind of do whatever you can do, but I pretty much look like Elvis I think—maybe I’m
The Chronicle: Do you get any chaff from other Elvis impersonators for being a woman?
PM: They want to be like that sometimes, but I get nothing but great respect because I can pretty much pull it off. I think they’re like, “Wow, she really has this thing down.” I sound like Elvis when I do it more than a lot of guys. Some of them can’t sing—that’s a bad thing. If you can’t sing, you might end up being a bad Elvis because he can. He had a great voice and a wide range. Sometimes you’d hear him singing “In the Ghetto” way down there, and sometimes it’s real high.
The Chronicle: What’s your favorite song?
PM: “Suspicious Minds.” Everyone loves that.
The Chronicle: When you perform do you get a lot of older people or do you get a mix in your audience?
PM: No, I get a mix. I get people your age that are into it. I mean, it’s everybody. That’s what’s so funny about what I do. Because I’m a woman, I’m a comic and I’m gay, I get everybody. I don’t care who you are, there’s something going on with Elvis in your life, somehow you’re touched by Elvis.
The Chronicle: Do you like fried peanutbutter and banana sandwiches?
PM: Who doesn’t? I try to stay away from them though. I’m the skinny Elvis.
For more information about The Patty Elvis Band, a sample of their music and to watch some of their past performances, visit MySpace.com/PattyElvis.