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Bēhance

  • Being Elvis
    A Friday night with Nashville's King of Rock 'n' Roll
  • (Photos: Connie Tsang)

    Every week, Nashville's Elvis, Chuck Baril, brings his jewelled jumpsuit, shades, and high kicks down to Broadway, the city's famed honky tonk strip.

    Dropping in regularly to sing at various bars, he fulfills his life-long dream of being a full-time entertainer, which involves hours of posing and interacting with evening revellers -- an estimated 100,000 of them since appearing on the street 15 months ago -- thus, making him the city's most recognizable public impersonator.
  • "I actually came to Nashville, Tennessee, 18 years ago to be the next country music star, and that didn't happen. When I turned 42 about 10 years ago... I could see the writing was on the wall that wasn't going to happen for me, and I had to do a little soul-searching and praying and find out, you know, what's next? This isn't what you want from me, God. What do you want with my gift of music?" - Chuck Baril, Nashville's Elvis
  • "I recalled when I was in college 20 years ago, I got my first standing ovation as an entertainer doing Elvis' 'Jailhouse Rock'. But at that moment, I didn't realize this could be a career option, you know, something to fall back on in case doing me didn't work." - Chuck Baril, Nashville's Elvis
  • "I decided, actually, on the 25th anniversary of Elvis' death, which was 10 years ago, August 16th, to try. I knew I could do one, two songs okay, but to do a 30-minute set and hold your attention as an Elvis fan on the 25th anniversary of his death? That was a little intimidating to me, but I mustered the courage. Fortunately, there was a lot of friends and family in the audience, and everybody seemed to enjoy it... But that was 10 years ago and 450 public appearances ago, and I've been doing Elvis full-time for a year and a half now." - Chuck Baril, Nashville's Elvis
  • "You know, people know I'm not Elvis. It's like they love him so much, they have such a respect for him, they miss him so much, that I created enough of the illusion where they want to touch me, you know? It's almost like a religious experience, a spiritual thing for people. I shake more hands than a politician out here." - Chuck Baril, Nashville's Elvis
  • "I hit a wall in my shows during the fall/winter months. My wife emailed me at home and she said, 'Why don't you go downtown dressed as Elvis a couple hours before the [Country Music Awards] and do photos for tips?' And I was a little apprehensive... I went down believing it wasn't going to work, but in the two hours I was down there, I made $113. So that was about $55 an hour. My photo career was off and running." - Chuck Baril, Nashville's Elvis
  • "I estimate in the last 15, 16 months since I started doing the photos... I think I've taken pictures with about 100,000 people. And I believe in the last year, there's not a human being who has taken more photos on this planet, with people on a personal level, where they've got their arm around me, than I have." - Chuck Baril, Nashville's Elvis
  • "I'm a happily married Christian man. I've been married 24 years. I've got 3 children. And there is nothing more flattering to the male ego than when you see a beautiful, hot... woman who is just, like, floored by you. I mean, basically, when you're Elvis, under any given night, especially on the weekends, I could come down here and find a couple hundred women to go home with me because of the legend -- not because of me, but me as the legend -- and you have to get a grasp of that and not get swept away. Most guys could not do what I do because we're just kind of geared that way, you know? But literally, before I come out here, every night, I pray. I have to pray, because I'm a human. Though I'm a Christian and walking with the Lord, I'm still human." - Chuck Baril, Nashville's Elvis
  • "I feel more like [Elvis] is my father than my own father because I'm more like him, because my father wasn't musical. I dressed like Elvis before I was doing Elvis. I didn't feel like I chose to do this. I feel like it chose me. It was my destiny, and I had to find it. God will push you in a certain direction, and he'll leave you bread crumbs as far as where your gifts are and where your greatest joy and happiness and purpose is, and, you know, it took me until I was 42 to find it, but I'm glad I did. I've always wanted to be a professional entertainer, always. That's what I wanted to do, and it took me until I was 50 to be able to do it full-time, but it was worth it. Everything I went through to get to where I'm at today was worth it, and I wouldn't trade my life for anybody's." - Chuck Baril, Nashville's Elvis
  • "I love it so much, and I'm so confident in what I do and my ability to do a good job as Elvis. There are other impersonators who are better than me, but it's not about who's best. I just want to have fun with it, put a smile on people's faces." - Chuck Baril, Nashville's Elvis
  • "What's an interesting observation is that this is Country Music [City], USA, and there's not one statue of a country music star down here on Broadway, but there are 6 statues of Elvis, which just shows the impact that this guy had." - Chuck Baril, Nashville's Elvis
  • "Before I came down [to the honky tonks], almost all my shows I did, the private shows, were with tracks, and it's totally different to sing with a live band with a live audience in a honky tonk situation. And I feel like I've really learned how to truly emulate the essence of Elvis as a performer by singing with bands. I'm doing stuff I could not do before that I won't do without a band... It's totally a different experience, but I get such a rush when I sing with the different bands down here." - Chuck Baril, Nashville's Elvis
  • "I love doing the photos, but at the end of the night, it's very intense. Because of the costume, me and Santa Claus are the most recognizable humans that have ever walked the planet, okay? And so once I'm in costume, I can't go anywhere." - Chuck Baril, Nashville's Elvis
  • "What's so beautiful about what I do is the fact I'm not Elvis, and so when I go home, I can hang up Elvis in the closet. I can take the glasses off, and I can go to Wal-Mart... I can have a regular life. [Elvis] never could. And if you're going to be a celebrity, I have the best celebrity career you could have, because I can hang it up." - Chuck Baril, Nashville's Elvis