Jonny Barber to record Elvis's ten original Sun Records singles tonight at Memphis' Sun Studio
King for a day: Jonny Barber is recording at Sun Studio tonight and tomorrow.
Jonny Barber knows what it's like to walk in Elvis's footsteps. Literally. The former Velvet Elvis has been in Memphis and Tupelo for Elvis week, retracing The King's steps and hobnobbing with the iconic singer's cronies (this week, he's already met and shaken hands with Diamond Joe Esposito, Mike Stoller of Leiber & Stoller, who wrote songs like "Hound Dog" and "Jailhouse Rock," and Mark James, who wrote "Suspicious Minds").
And this evening, on the 35th anniversary of The King's passing, Barber has the distinct privilege of honoring Elvis in a way that's as unique as it is significant: He's blocked out the next couple of days at Sun Studio, where he'll be recording Elvis's ten original Sun Records singles in order, along with some of Barber's originals and a song written by Willie Lewis, the founder of Rock-A-Billy Record Co.
Until last year, Barber, of course, had been expertly channeling The King as the Velvet Elvis. The Velvet Elvis, though, has left the building. He was with us for a very short time: six and half years - not even one year in dog years, to be exact. After giving birth to his alter-ego on January 8, 2004 -- 69 years to the day that the iconic figure that inspired his creation breathed his first breath-- Barber laid the Velvet Elvis to rest exactly a year ago on the 34th anniversary of Elvis Presley's death.
So, yeah, Velvet is no longer -- something Barber gently reminded us of a few mornings after his Memphis kickoff party last week at Nick's Café, when he respectfully asked that we no longer invoke Velvet in reference to him -- but Barber's love for The King lives on. In the process of channeling Elvis over the years, Barber has had the rare privilege of singing at Graceland and Sun Studios while retracing The King's footsteps -- a literal act reflected in the title of the book Barber's working on, In His Shoes, a memoir about being the Velvet Elvis, which will also feature interviews with many of Elvis's friends and trusted associates, whom Barber has had the chance to meet.
Jonny Barber at the former site of the Market Square Arena in Indianapolis, Indiana, where Elvis performed his last show.
"The final chapters of the book," Barber reveals, "will chronicle a trip I am taking to Israel to travel in the footsteps of Jesus with members of Elvis's original band's gospel back-up singers in May 2013. I will be getting baptized in the Jordan River, walking by the Dead Sea, and singing 'How Great Thou Art' by the Wailing Wall. And now there is the Elvis Cafe, outside of Jerusalem, where visitors worldwide can come to know why Elvis wore a Chai in concert!"
Long live The King!
Get the Music Newsletter
Keep your thumb on the local music scene with music features, additional online music listings and show picks. We'll also send special ticket offers and music promotions available only to our Music Newsletter subscribers.