The ‘ultimate’ Elvis to shake up Wildhorse

Elvis impersonator Justin Shandor will perform Feb. 13, 2014 at the Wildhorse Resort and Casino.

Elvis impersonator Justin Shandor will perform Feb. 13, 2014 at the Wildhorse Resort and Casino.

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Justin Shandor gyrates his way through his performances in full Elvis mode.

'The King' Live

Renowned Elvis impersonator Justin Shandor will perform at 8 p.m. Feb. 13 in the Wildhorse Resort & Casino Rivers Events Center, 46510 Wildhorse Blvd.

Tickets are $20 and seating is limited.

For reservations or more information, call 800-654-9453.

Sometimes you just have to put on your blue suede shoes and go, cat, go.

Elvis Presley impersonator Justin Shandor does so — figuratively — every night he works, from North and South America to Europe and Asia. And that supports his family of five, including three little boys, making those the greatest shoes he says he could ever step in.

“I’ve been making a living at it since I was 16, said Shandor in an interview. “I’m not rich, I’m not poor, but I’m happy.”

The entertainer will be shaking, belting, hip-rolling, lip-curling and crooning out the King at Wildhorse Resort & Casino near Pendleton.

At 29, Shandor is quickly rising in the Elvis Presley tribute world. It started with his grandmother 20 years ago.

“I was a little kid and go to her house and she would say, ‘Oh, here’s my Elvis,’” he said.

When his father, a jazz musician, got a cassette tape of Elvis Presley’s music, the youngster was smitten.

“It was unlike anything I’d heard, growing up in Detroit with jazz, blues and Motown. It was a whole different sound.”

In 2010, Elvis Presley Enterprises — under the simpler title of Graceland — held a contest in Memphis and invited the top Elvis tribute artists from around the world. Shandor won it all and was named “World’s Ultimate Elvis!”

USA Today newspaper was captivated enough to put the Detroit native on its front page, slotting Shandor and others under “Hunks of burning love” and singling him out for his “extreme likeness to Elvis.”

Testimonies scattered throughout the Internet identify the artist, now living in Las Vegas, as the closest-thing-to-the-King many have heard and seen. Indeed, Shandor’s manager has become accustomed to assuring Graceland that pictures of Shandor are just that — not images of Presley improperly used.

“I got an email from Graceland saying ‘Stop using this image,’” recalled Jamie Goetz. “I had to point out to her that Justin was holding a wireless mic in the photo. And they didn’t have those when Elvis was alive.”

There is no confusion among Shandor’s fans, who range from babies to centenarians. Women cry when he sings, tiny children grin and young girls clamor for his autograph.

“Even my kids like Elvis,” he said. “I think he’ll be around another couple hundred years.”

But there is a little tension between the fans who saw Elvis Presley in life and the younger ones, Shandor noted with a laugh.

“One time I shaved my chest. The older ladies who saw Elvis, they like a hairy chest, but the younger girls like the ‘Blue Hawaii’ look,” he said, referring to Presley’s 1961 movie. “The older ladies told me to never shave my chest again.”

The show’s costumes help create the magic.

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Elvis impersonator Justin Shandor with his band.

“It’s my favorite part,” he said. “They’re all pieces of artwork if you ask me. He wore so many colors and patterns, they are all beautiful.”

Shandor has gone around the globe as Elvis, dead since 1977. This fall he was hired by the Million Dollar Quartet to perform at Harrah’s Las Vegas. The show is a Broadway-born musical inspired by the famous recording session that brought Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and Carl Perkins into a recording studio for a single instance.

The musical is another step in fulfilling dreams of singing tenor and trying opera — “I want to become something like a Harry Connick, Jr.” — but the Wildhorse show is just as special, Shandor said.

“I’ll be doing my show with my own live band, the way I want to: having fun with the crowd,” he said.

He’s not trying to be Elvis, he emphasized. “It’s a tribute to his music.”

Sheila Hagar can be reached at sheilahagar@wwub.com or 526-8322.

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