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DSO has a hunka hunka burnin' love for Elvis Presley
There are scores of Elvis Presley impersonators around the world.
But Terry Mike Jeffrey is the king of them all -- primarily because he's determinedly NOT an impersonator.
Oh, the Kentucky native is certainly a Presley lover and makes a living singing his songs around the world. and he has the blessing of Presley's Graceland estate, which uses Jeffrey for official productions -- including "Elvis -- An American Musical," for which he was music director -- and sanctions his other performances.
"They've been good to me," Jeffrey, 61, says from his home in Kentucky. "Y'know, I don't try to dress like him, look like him, move like him, do the karate moves or anything like that. I just try to do his music and treat it with a lot of respect. (The estate) tells me they like the similarities between my voice and his which, to me as a huge fan, means a lot.
"But I think there was only one like him. There isn't anyone who can express musically the way he did. So I'm grateful the people at Graceland have that kind of faith in me. It's a great working relationship with them."
Jeffrey has been singing Presley's music with orchestras -- as he will Nov. 28-29 with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra -- since the late 90s, when he and his band began doing shows with the Memphis Symphony Orchestra to celebrate Presley's birthday and the anniversary of his death. It's since become a nationwide concern and is, according Jeffrey, "my very favorite thing to do, musically."
"It's such a nice big wall of sound, and so tastefully done," he says. "The musicians and symphony orchestras are always extraordinary. It's such a great way to present this music."
And, Jeffrey adds, it allows him to dip deeper into the Presley repertoire, though he also rocks things up with favorites such as "Don't Be Cruel," "Burning Love," "Suspicious Minds" and more."
"He did a lot of other people's songs, (Simon & Garfunkel's) 'Bridge Over Troubled Water Troubled Water,' for example, and 'The Last Farewell,' which was a hit for Roger Whittaker," Jeffrey says. hose," Jeffrey says. "That's a powerhouse song and a very powerful arrangement. So I get to do something like that, even though it's not known to be a big hit for him.
"Those big, dramatic songs are a lot of fun to do. There aren't a lot of (Presley impersonators) that do those, so it helps us stand out."
Jeffrey became involved with Presley's world through a friendship with Charlie Hodge, who played guitar for Presley and was part of the singer's inner circle. That did give Jeffrey a degree of access to the man himself, and despite the assorted stories that circulate about Presley you'll be hard-pressed to hear a bad word about him from Jeffrey.
"He was such a nice man," Jeffrey recalls. "I met him four different times and he treated me like somebody who deserved to be treated special. I had a little band and we were playing around and touring, like, Holiday Inns and that kind of thing, and he always spent the few minutes that I had with him asking about me rather than talking about himself.
"That was very kind and friendly, and I noticed he was the same with other people. I'm glad to be able to say that."
Elvis at 80 featuring Terry Mike Jeffrey
8 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 28 and 3 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 29.
Orchestra Hall, 3711 Woodward Ave., Detroit.
Tickets are $19-$105.
Call 313-576-5111 or visit dso.org.
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