My dream: world’s No 1 Elvis!


Welcome to Graceland, the man with wavy black hair and pointy shoes says in front of his house in Kraaifontein, Cape Town.

James Marais (37) is South Africa’s foremost Elvis tribute artist. “Not impersonator, please! Tribute artist,” he emphasises.

He won his title in April at the country’s first Elvis Festival Africa in Storms River in the Eastern Cape. Now he’s preparing for the Elvis World Cup. Yup, James is heading across the sea to compete with tribute artists from 12 countries for the Elvis World Cup in Cardiff, Wales, on 4 July.

His fate was sealed the day his father, Josef, brought home an Elvis’ 40 Greatest Hits record. Josef had wanted his son to follow in his footsteps and become a mechanic. But after three years he realised it wasn’t for him. James, who was born in Durban, just couldn’t forget that rock ’n roll record by the King.

“I knew every single song off by heart and I’d dance up a storm,” he says in the office of the home he shares with his wife, teacher Renata (37), and daughter Katelyn (4).

At 20, with both his parents deceased, James joined the Wild Boys, a group of male strippers who wowed Durban audiences. He has also done stunt work on a number of international movies and met action man Jean Claude van Damme.

He has done his Elvis performance for 10 years. At this year’s Elvis festival he competed against six other tribute artists from across the country, including a woman. The next thing he knew he’d out-Elvised them all.

He was nervous at the Elvis festival. “It was our first Elvis festival but I kept telling myself to have fun and not stress.”

He can’t stop talking about his prize, the trip to Cardiff in Wales worth about R25 000. He’s never been there and he’s taking his family along.

James is practising really hard to be at his best for the competition against champions from Australia, Canada and Germany. “I’m doing Tae Bo and jogging to build stamina. You have to have energy to do Elvis. You have to be able to move.”

He wouldn’t want to do anything else. “I simply can’t see myself as a nine-to-fiver in a cubicle.”

- James’ Elvis show is on at Grand West Casino, Cape Town, from 1 December 2010 to 15 January 2011. For more info visit, e-mail or call  072-893-3265 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting            072-893-3265     end_of_the_skype_highlighting .

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