By TONY TAGLAVORE, Journal Services
While attending the University of North Texas in Denton, Victor Trevino Jr. did what a lot of college students did – and still do – to earn money.
He worked at a restaurant waiting tables.
But one day, a diner offered Trevino more than a tip. She offered him a career.
“I waited on Cathy Rogers, who inherited her father’s circus company,” Trevino told the Shreveport-Bossier Journal from his home in Fort Worth, Texas. “The company booked all the animal acts for The Ed Sullivan Show in the 1960’s. She also had a look-alike department. She wanted to hire an “Elvis”. She worked with a few but was looking for a younger one. We got to talking. She liked my look. I told her I sang. She asked if I had ever thought about doing “Elvis” work. I said, ‘No, I never have.’”
After all, impersonating someone dead wasn’t – and probably still isn’t – high on many college student’s list of life goals.
“I didn’t really know it was a whole thing – a whole community, a whole line of work, a whole career. I gave it a shot. Some 20 years later, it’s a full-blown career.”,
Trevino’s career will bring him to Shreveport Saturday night. Elvis is in the Building will be a symphonic tribute to The King of Rock and Roll. Trevino will perform as part of the Shreveport Symphony’s Willis-Knighton Masterworks Series at 7:30 in RiverView Theatre.
“I’ve always wanted to do a show with a Symphony Orchestra…It’s going to be a very cool experience. I always enjoyed musicals and classical music growing up. This is definitely a bucket list moment for me, to be able to perform with a live orchestra.”
When you think of the symphony, you probably don’t think of Elvis. But each season, the Shreveport Symphony likes to mix in some “Crossover” shows with their “Classical” programs.
“In the case of the Elvis show, we have been aware of his history with the Louisiana Hayride and have been looking for the right occasion to bring in such a show, and this is it,” explained Lois Robinson, the Symphony’s executive director. “Vic Trevino is a very impressive performer, and I am quite sure he will put on a great show.”
Trevino is also well-aware of Elvis’ connection to Shreveport, which will make Saturday’s show special.
“Elvis was a regular on the Louisiana Hayride. There’s a lot of history. That’s pretty much what made Elvis so huge – so popular – was his residency at the Louisiana Hayride…To do stuff in Shreveport is always really cool because Shreveport had such a big effect on Elvis’ career and getting his name out there.”
After working for Cathy Rogers, Trevino eventually went out on his own, mostly performing in Elvis competitions. That’s when “I started growing a fan base and thought, ‘Wow! I can actually do this.’”
In 2011, Trevino got his big break. He became a part of Legends in Concert, which its promoter describes as the world’s greatest live tribute show.
“That was a major game-changer for me. Living in Las Vegas when you’re in your mid-20’s is quite the experience,” Trevino said with a hearty laugh.
Another milestone event happened just last year when Trevino won the Ultimate Elvis Tribute Artist Contest (and its $20,000 cash prize). It is the only Elvis tribute competition endorsed by Graceland and Elvis Presley Enterprises.
“Winning was really a goal achievement. I always wanted to win it and I had not competed in six years. Last year, I decided to go for it at the last minute. I entered a preliminary contest in Memphis just two days before the finals. I won, then went on to win the overall competition. I was honored.”
So, what is Trevino? An Elvis impersonator? An Elvis tribute artist? A performer?
“I think of myself as all of the above. Some people give the term “impersonator” a bad rap, but that’s pretty much what it is. When people say, ‘Oh, I’m not an impersonator. I’m a tribute artist,’ Well you are an impersonator, which is fine, because as long as it’s not cheesy and bad, there’s nothing wrong with it. Tribute artists and impersonator shows are so huge now.”
No matter what you call Trevino, don’t call him Elvis – at least when he’s not performing.
“I’m always Victor. Once I’m off stage, even after meet and greets, I don’t act like Elvis. Even in-between songs, I don’t refer to myself as Elvis. I’m very much Victor, singing about Elvis and talking about Elvis.”
Trevino will arrive in Shreveport Friday, and rehearse with the symphony orchestra Saturday morning. When it’s showtime, Trevino will be wearing an Elvis trademark.
“My jump suits are all made by this amazing company in Thailand. They take my measurements and make the suit custom to fit me. They cost anywhere from $1,000 to $5,000, depending on which suit you want and how much embroidery, stones, and handwork go into it. It’s no Party City Elvis.”
Trevino, who is single, will sing at least 20 Elvis songs during his two-hours on stage. They will all be from the 1970’s. But that doesn’t mean you will check into Heartbreak Hotel if you prefer songs from Elvis before the 70’s.
“For example, All Shook Up, Jailhouse Rock, and Hound Dog are from earlier in his career. However, he also sang them later in his career, in a different arrangement. When we do those songs, they will be in the 1970’s arrangements.”
Trevino, who will turn 39 later this year, doesn’t know how long he will perform as Elvis. But Trevino does know he won’t leave the building past the age of 42.
“I don’t want to be doing it then because that’s the age Elvis passed away. By the time I’m 43, I no longer want to be doing it. I might end sooner than that – it just depends. I have other styles of music I’m working with. I have some other projects I’m dabbling into, to possibly switch careers.”
But it’s doubtful a new career will include waiting tables.
Contact Tony at SBJTonyT@gmail.com