GREENVILLE — What started as a lark during Danish Festival weekend has turned into something more for local Elvis impersonator Jim McKay. Depending on his showing at an upcoming Elvis contest in Saginaw, who knows where his impersonation of “The King” could take him.
According to McKay, a regular on the local karaoke circuit, his first serious attempt at mimicking Elvis was only a couple years ago, when some friends suggested he perform on the open stage at Danish Festival.
“I told them I wanted to do some Elvis, and that I had done it before in karaoke contests and gotten a couple second-place prizes,” McKay explained. “I tried it at Danish Fest and raised a pretty big crowd. Pretty soon people started asking about business cards. The next year, I did it again and, this time, I had made some cards and flyers and performed in black and really raised a crowd.”
From there, McKay started asking if he could perform for organizations and events.
“I’ve played as far away as Big Rapids and Mecosta. My biggest crowd was at St. Robert’s in Ada; they had a summer picnic and there were about 250 in that group,” he said.
By this time, McKay was dedicated to impersonating and began promoting his performances and actively seeking out venues willing to let him sing before a group. He went so far as to contact an “official” group of Elvis impersonators that were performing recently at Little River Casino.
“They called back after looking at my YouTube video and said I was pretty good, and that I should contact the ETA (Elvis Talent Association),” McKay said. “I called them and they suggested I join this contest in Saginaw.”
The Saginaw contest, known as the “King Fest,” is Jan. 25 through 27 at the Temple Stage. It will be McKay’s first time performing with a live band, as opposed to professionally recorded backing tracks.
That band, the EAS Band, is said to be the top Elvis tribute band in the world. The band tours extensively, backing tribute artists worldwide and performing over 400 Elvis tunes, each arranged to sound as close to the original recording as possible.
“Friday night, they let you sing three songs to your backing tracks,” McKay explained. “Then, on Saturday, you get to pick three more songs to play with the big band. It’s really neat just to be involved in this.”
According to McKay’s wife of 16 years, Mary McKay, she’s expecting her husband to do well in the competition.
“I guess his chances are as good as anybody’s,” she said. “These are folks coming from all walks of life and the playing field is wide open.”
Likewise, Dave Mendrea, a family friend of the McKays, believes McKay stands a good chance in the contest.
“Jim is very talented and has been appearing around the state for several years and really is good at the Elvis thing,” Mendrea said.
For his part, McKay said he isn’t particularly nervous about the upcoming competition.
“I like playing in front of crowds,” he said. “The bigger they are, the better I like it. I’m not one of those guys who gets nervous performing in front of an audience.”
If things go well in Saginaw, McKay may have even more chances to perform in the future than he’s had already. Contest winners often go on to national — and even world-level — competitions.