Ramblin' Rhodes

Stroll down memory lane with music columnist Don Rhodes.

Ramblin' Rhodes: Elvis champion to perform in Augusta

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Augusta-area Elvis fans next week will get the chance to see one of the best Elvis tribute artists when British native Ben Portsmouth comes to town.

See Ben Portsmouth impersonate Elvis on Tuesday, Aug. 6, at Mi Rancho on Eighth Street. Tickets are $20.  SPECIAL
SPECIAL
See Ben Portsmouth impersonate Elvis on Tuesday, Aug. 6, at Mi Rancho on Eighth Street. Tickets are $20.

Portsmouth won both the 2010 Images of the King contest and the 2012 Ultimate Elvis contest in Memphis, Tenn., in competition with pre-qualified contestants from across the United States and overseas.

The resident of Waltham St. Lawrence, England, was visiting the United States for the first time when he was named the 2010 Images of the King World Champion from among 27 contestants.

He also became the first non-American to win the Ultimate Elvis contest.

Portsmouth is heading back to Memphis for Elvis Week (Aug. 10-17), but first is making stops in Augusta and Dublin, Ga.

The 28-year-old guitarist, piano player and vocalist will perform at 8 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 6, at Mi Rancho restaurant on Eighth Street at Riverwalk. Tickets are $20 and can be reserved through Terri Futreal at (803) 474-2411.

Portsmouth has played on recording sessions and toured throughout Europe with British artists Lemar, Jamelia and also Melanie Blatt (formerly of the popular All Saints all-girl band).

Last April and May, he completed a very successful tour of Brazil that attracted a lot of attention from the Brazilian media.

“I played in a lot of bands as a kid and in Christmas concerts. I liked Slash, the lead guitarist of Guns N’ Roses, but I secretly in the background played Elvis’ songs,” Portsmouth said in a call last Sunday morning after he arrived in North America.

“Riding in my dad’s car when I was young, I remember hearing Buddy Holly, Roy Orbison and Neil Diamond, but it was Elvis’ voice that always stood out. My dad also had an Elvis’ tape around the house.

“About eight years ago, I decided that I wanted to go out and do Elvis. So I put together my Taking Care of Elvis band and started doing Elvis shows. And now here I am in Canada eating breakfast and talking to you.”

Portsmouth, in his native voice, speaks with a heavy British accent. And yet, when he takes the stage as Elvis, he transforms himself into looking, moving and singing almost exactly like the rock and roll king who died on Aug. 16, 1977, in his Graceland mansion in Memphis.

“It’s a form of acting,” Portsmouth said. “You just become Elvis. I think it may be easier for me to impersonate Elvis’ voice than a Southerner like he was because I’m working with a blank canvas to create him.

“I think what I do is pretty weird, but I love getting away from the rest of the world during that time when I’m on a stage and making people happy with Elvis’ music.”

Portsmouth is looking forward to performing in Augusta where Elvis performed in March and June of 1956 at Bell Auditorium.

“Even before I was doing Elvis, I was doing session guitar work and traveling to different parts of the world including Russia,” Portsmouth noted. “But it just amazes me what has happened to me with this Elvis thing and where it takes you. I’m a very happy chap. Thank you, Elvis.”

GEORGIA-COUNTRY.COM AWARDS: The Web site Georgia-country.com is again having online voting for its 2013 best of Georgia country music awards, and two local guys are in the semifinalist balloting now underway.

Jason White of Grovetown, and Jeremy Graham, of Augusta, are listed on the semifinalist list for Best Male Georgia Artist of the Year along with 11 other semifinalists.

The second round voting continues until noon on Saturday, Aug. 31. The final round will last six more weeks with the winner announced on Sept. 1. Go to www.georgia-country.com/awards.php and locate the voting button at the top of that page.

Daniel Johnson of, Thomson, was a semifinalist last year at this time.

He and his group, Daniel Johnson Band, are supposed to open for country star Craig Morgan on Thursday, Sept. 26, at the Lady Antebellum Pavilion at Evans Towne Center Park. The performance date is not listed on Craig Morgan’s official Web site, but pavilion staffers say the date has been reserved by a person who has booked an event at the amphitheater before.


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