In 2009, Elvis tribute artist Kevin Mills placed third in the Ultimate Elvis Tribute Artist Contest. In 2010, he came in second. So will 2011 be the year he takes home the crown?
"This year, I'm in my best shape vocally and physically," Mills says. "I really want that victory."
Mills, who is in his 40s, says he's been performing since age 9. Later, when he was in a rockabilly band, people began to remark on his resemblance to Elvis, so Mills went with it.
"I entered the Images of Elvis [now Images of the King] contest in Memphis in 1990. I walked in as a '50s Elvis and won," he says. "After that, it just took off. I started working with the Legends in Concert. I've been with them for 15 years."
Mills now concentrates on the Elvis between 1969 and 1971 — "when he was at his finest." He says that to stand out among the 25 other Elvises, he does his own thing. "I'm more natural onstage," he says. "I don't try to be Elvis. I put my own personal touch."
For Ultimate Elvis, Mills is bringing six costumes made by B&K Enterprises, which holds the original patterns for Elvis' signature jumpsuits from the 1960s and '70s. These jumpsuits can cost between $1,000 and $5,000 each.
He's also bringing scarves, which Elvis would give to his female audience members as a seductive souvenir. Mills' scarves, however, are going home with him.
"You can't do that in the contest," Mills says. "You can't kiss the girls. You can't give out scarves. You have to keep your hands to the stage."
Mills says the Legends in Concert keeps him busy several months out of the year, and he does more work independently as an Elvis tribute artist. But when he's not being Elvis, he is not Elvising, either. He says he has no Elvis memorabilia, and he listens to country, blues, and jazz when he's not working.
"You want that down time, you know?"