When Alex Swindle was 10, he competed in an Elvis impersonator contest in Birmingham, Ala., as a spoof. He had never heard of Elvis Presley, but he was a natural performer and won the event.
While there, he caught a performance by David Lee, who had been competing professionally as an Elvis impersonator for a few years, and it changed Swindle’s life.
“I got inspired,” he said. “So I went out and got the videos and music I needed to learn.”
At 17, Swindle now competes against Lee professionally, as happened Friday and Saturday in the CSRA King of the World competition in Augusta. Held at VFW Post 3200 off River Watch Parkway, the competition is in its 13th year. Elvis impersonators from all over the South come to Augusta for the regional contest. The winner is automatically entered into the King of the World national contest, held in Memphis in August during Elvis Week.
The 10 competitors were judged in three categories: appearance, performance and vocals. The winner received $1,200 in cash and $1,300 in prizes.
Chris Staros, one of the sponsors out of Atlanta, has been an Elvis fan since he was 4.
“Keeping the memory of Elvis alive is very important for American culture,” he said.
Staros has been a sponsor of the Augusta competition for five years. He said Augusta always provides an enthusiastic crowd and a family-driven, community-oriented event. Plus, he said the impersonators are always some of the most talented.
“It’s always special to see a great performer,” he said. “For that magical moment, he’s there.”
Lee, who has been impersonating since 1995 and competing professionally since 2001, said all of the impersonators are friends because they have the same purpose.
“We are all out here chasing that Elvis dragon,” he said.
The game has changed since he started, he said. It used to be that finding white boots or a suit would be nearly impossible, now you can pick them up almost anywhere.
At most places he performs, he says he has to stick to Elvis’ most famous songs such as Hound Dog or Don’t be Cruel. Not in Augusta.
“Augusta has the best fans,” Lee said. “These people allow us to break out any Elvis. They are true fans here.”