When Rod Toovey first heard music legend Elvis Presley sing, he was mesmerised.
- Beaconsfield’s Rod Toovey has been an Elvis tribute artist for more than a decade
- He got into Elvis after stealing a gold record from his older brother
- Performing has taken him around the world, singing in Memphis was a career highlight
“I got into Elvis when I was a young fellow, my brother bought home a gold record of Elvis, I’ll never forget it,” he said.
“He was the best thing since sliced bread!”
Paying homage to the “King of Rock,” Elvis Presley, is now Toovey’s full-time job, after previously installing garage doors.
“After all these years of doing other things through life, I’ve ended up doing the thing I love,” he said.
Living a double life
People who see Toovey walking down the street in the small Tasmanian town of Beaconsfield wouldn’t suspect that his long dark sideburns and shiny black shoes are part of his Elvis look.
“I don’t get dressed up and walk around (in costume) in Beaconsfield, I think I’d get something thrown at me,” he said laughing.
“I started getting into singing Elvis properly when I was about 48 and decided I’d start up professionally around 50 and I’ve been doing it for about 12 years so you can guess how old I am.”
Toovey considers himself a tribute artist, not an Elvis impersonator.
“I like to be called, and I think most of the guys who are professional at it like to be known, as an Elvis tribute artist rather than an Elvis impersonator,” he said.
“Some guys do do the impersonation that’s the talking like Elvis — I’m an Australian so I’m never going to be an American. I try and deliver the songs the same way Elvis delivered them and in the same voice and the same range.
“I think that’s the difference between a tribute artist and an impersonator, you’re playing a tribute to a guy that was just one of the best entertainers ever.”
“Elvis to me, he was an exceptional human being, I think just far ahead of his time, he wasn’t accepted at the time, my dad didn’t like him … but most of the women liked him!”
Performing in Memphis
Despite not owning blue suede shoes, Toovey said Elvis was always on his mind, and his passion had taken him around the world singing and performing.
“It was at the Crown Plaza Hotel and we had Americans in the audience and Canadians … and I ended up getting a standing ovation from the Americans … they said, ‘Wow you can sing, boy, how can you Australian do that?'” Toovey said while laughing.
Elvis Aaron Presley was born in 1935 in Tupelo, Mississippi and died at age 42 in 1977 from a heart attack.
“We went into the little house that his dad actually built where he was born, very poor area, but the tourism from Elvis is great for the area,” Toovey said.
“I think that’s where he saw the African-American side of the blues and that’s where he got his roots from, singing in church, gospel music, which I like doing too, that’s where he basically started.”
Rock magazine Rolling Stone names some of his best-known songs as Suspicious Minds, Jailhouse Rock and If I Can Dream.
He remains one of the best-selling solo artists with more than 1 billion records sold worldwide.
Moving to Tasmania
Toovey and his wife Trish first came to Tasmania to perform in a show at the St Helens RSL more than a decade ago.
“We got booked and we thought, ‘Oh well, let’s come down to Tassie, get paid to go down there, what a great thing,’ and we spent six days down here and met some really nice people … and it built up from there and we ended up doing about 18 or 19 shows every summer for 10 years.”
“We loved it down here, we loved the people in Tassie, we loved the climate and the laid-back lifestyle.”
The pair also run an Airbnb in Beaconsfield.
“We work very well together, we did everything here together and we’re still doing it together which is great … she backs me in everything.”
“Making people happy is the thing now, I think if you’ve got a job and you can make people happy at the same time while doing it, you’re not really working.”
“I love it, I like doing it and I like getting the reaction I get from people … and when I can’t do it properly anymore I’ll give it a miss, so still going alright for now.”