Originally created 02/20/00

Grand Strand tradition keeps Elvis' spirit alive



MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. -- Even before he went to that great Graceland in the sky, the King was a legend along the Grand Strand.

Elvis Presley may have died in 1977, but to legions of fans, he is still the King of rock `n' roll.

Along the Grand Strand, those who pay tribute to Elvis in the form of song, dance and appearance are numerous, blessed with cult followings and longevity that dates back to the early 1970s.

Jeff Roberts, co-owner of Sounds Familiar in Village Square Shopping Center, a lifelong Elvis fan and one of the most familiar faces in the Grand Strand music scene, can still recall impersonators of all shapes, sizes and creeds.

One of the first Elvis tribute artists, Mr. Roberts said, was Elvis Wade, who performed around the Grand Strand from about 1973 to 1975. Back then, he held down a steady gig at a Seventh Avenue South country-rock-bluegrass bar called the Pickin' Parlor, Mr. Roberts said.

When he wasn't onstage, Mr. Wade was still in character, Mr. Roberts said. He would show up for performances with an entourage, an oddity in the much-sleepier Myrtle Beach of the 1970s.

"He always considered himself the chosen one because his name was Elvis," Mr. Roberts said. "He was a real country, twangy, overblown, almost-grotesque Elvis. His act was really almost too much. He was kind of overwrought."

Mr. Wade spawned a trend among other clubs that eyed the Pickin' Parlor's success, Mr. Roberts said, and as tourists flocked to the beach in greater droves with each passing year, Elvis became a popular way to attract them.

While Elvis for years came and went in the form of local entertainers, perhaps none has the staying power of Ken Jordan, Mr. Roberts said.

Mr. Jordan, who performed as recently as last year with his band, Blue Suede, still haunts the local club scene, Mr. Roberts said. And Mr. Jordan followed Elvis' career with almost scary similarity, he said.

"He'd play any club that would take him, and his brother was always with him, almost like his bodyguard," Mr. Roberts said.

Despite his proliferation, Mr. Roberts said Mr. Jordan probably isn't the most recognizable Grand Strand Elvis -- that title goes to the injured Eddie Miles -- or the most unusual -- that honor belongs to an American Indian by the name of Stardancer.

"He may have even been a local Indian, a Lumbee Indian, I think," Mr. Roberts said. "He had the pork-chop sideburns, and even though he didn't speak real good English, he definitely wanted to be the King. He had business cards advertising that he would perform at parties and events, but I never saw him at one."

Mr. Roberts has no idea what happened to Stardancer.

Mr. Miles, one of the best-known, most-beloved Elvis impersonators on the Grand Strand, arrived on the local scene about five years ago, Mr. Roberts said. He made an immediate impact with his openness and availability.

"He was the only one really involved in the community," Mr. Roberts said. "It was pretty amazing to me when he first got to town how available he made himself to everybody. I think all the charity work he did contributed a great deal to his success."

Mr. Miles, unfortunately, suffered a serious back injury a year ago when he was literally hugged too hard by a zealous fan. After two back surgeries, Mr. Miles hung up his Grand Strand jumpsuit and left for Tennessee.