Monday, August 19, 2013

Elvis Has Left The Ship, But Not Our Hearts

Joseph E. Hall, 2007 Finalist in the 
Ultimate Elvis Tribute Artist Contest 
Not unlike many baby boomers, I don't remember a time when there was no television. And, like many families in the 1950s, on any given Sunday night mine could be counted on to gather around the television for the iconic "Ed Sullivan Show." September 9, 1956 was no different, except that my mother was excited to see a young up-and-coming singer, Elvis Presley. Mom's anticipation (Elvis was reputed to be somewhat "naughty") wore off on me and I've been a fan ever since.

Since I had the good fortune to attend one of Elvis' extraordinary concerts in Las Vegas many years ago, the opportunity to once again experience all things Elvis was simply irresistible. So, without hesitation, I signed up for the maiden sailing of The Elvis Cruise on board Carnival Cruise Lines' "Funship" Celebration out of Jacksonville, Florida. The sailing—the first ever cruise gathering sanctioned by Elvis Presley Enterprises—promised to be a truly special and spectacular event. Produced by the experts in full-ship music charters, Jazz Cruises LLC (now Entertainment Cruise Productions), it was everything I expected and more.

Drake Milligan, (at left), performing on the 
Elvis Cruise with the Jordanaires in 2007
Elvis Tribute Artists were abundant on Carnival Celebration, ranging from finalists in the Ultimate Elvis Tribute Artist Contest 2007 held in Memphis, to passengers who participated in an onboard challenge of their own. My favorite was Drake Milligan, then a 9-year old who had the looks, the moves, and even (temporarily) the finest back up singers possible... he ran across The Jordanaires at the pool and they appeared with him on stage as he performed "Blue Suede Shoes" (in the photo at right and in the video below) for an appreciative audience who gave him a standing ovation. Drake didn't win the contest on the cruise, but he's certainly the voice of the future and a really nice young man.

Now, six years later, Drake is a teenager and an accomplished Elvis Tribute Artist with many awards for his performances and a wide following. Last week he performed at a Candlelight Vigil at the Fort Worth Science and History Museum to celebrate the memory of Elvis on the 36th anniversary of The King's death. I hope you enjoy it in the video below (as well as his performance at the Collingwood 2013 Festival that follows) as much as I do.

Sadly, there are no more Elvis Cruises scheduled on a major cruise line in the Caribbean. The King may have left the ship, but he will always remain in our hearts.

Happily, the annual Malt shop Memories Cruise, scheduled to sail from Fort Lauderdale on Holland America Line's Eurodam every year in November, features numerous Elvis Tribute Artists. I think Drake would put some of them to shame!

For his many fans, here's Drake performing "Blue Suede Shoes" in Toronto this year. Enjoy!

Images ©, Videos Courtesy of Angela Milligan

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