A teenager pretends to be Elvis | New


SUMMIT STATION – Is Gino Mercuri alone tonight? No, but he feels sick. When we speak on the phone, his memory wanders to a brighter summer day, a scorching Sunday at the Schuylkill County Fairgrounds. It was 17-year-old Mercuri’s last gig as an Elvis Tribute Artist (ETA), not to be confused with an Elvis impersonator. “If you talk to an Elvis tribute artist, they’ll tell you they’re paying tribute to Elvis,” Mercuri said. “If you talk to an Elvis impersonator, they’ll tell you they’re Elvis.”

When not studying at Abington Heights High School, where he will begin his senior year this fall, Gino channels the King to a nostalgic audience. Grace Karrer, responsible for entertainment at the exhibition center, considers herself a fan.

“There are Elvis I love and Elvis I don’t like,” said Karrer, wearing a Graceland shirt her daughter Jessica gave her for Mother’s Day.

“He’s great. He looks like Elvis if you close your eyes. My house is full of Elvis. I have velvet paintings, ceramic busts. When I die, I want Elvis at my funeral.

“Can you imagine going to school with a kid who looks like Elvis?” Jessica said. “That would be great!”

“He’s a good boy,” adds Grace.

Growing up at Clarks Summit, Mercuri visited his grandfather Joe Doherty every day after school. Doherty, himself a musician, taught Mercuri the music of the 50s and 60s.

“He’s just my favorite artist,” Gino said of Elvis, “the power of his voice and his personality, his charisma. He ushered in a new era of music.

After years of listening to Elvis’ music, Mercuri learned that his voice sounded a lot like that of the King.

“When Gino is on stage he feels the music,” said Tracy Mercuri, his self-proclaimed “mom” and “biggest fan”. “He doesn’t choreograph or force, it comes naturally to him. “

Tracy is responsible for her son’s finances, travel arrangements and costumes. The wetsuits come from B&K Enterprises, the world’s leading manufacturer of Elvis wetsuits. He gets custom shirts from another Thailand-based Elvis costume company. A hairdresser at Clarks Summit gives Gino the Elvis look of the 70s.

In the trunk of her Subaru Outback, Tracy carries sound equipment, backing tracks, and copies of Gino’s CD of Elvis cover art (which she designed). Signed copies were available at the fairgrounds for $ 20.

“It’s her job in high school,” Tracy says. “Some children work at McDonald’s. Gino sings Elvis.

It is expensive work and the whole family is involved. On the Fairgrounds stage, Mercuri reviews the setlist with his girlfriend Gabriella Gabrielov. Doherty adjusts the height of the speakers.

“Should I call daddy?” Mercuri asks when he’s having trouble with the speaker jacks.

At the age of 13, Mercuri became a professional ETA, people wanted him to perform at local events and private parties. Her first gig was at the Bedford Tower Apartments for the elderly. From there, his voice took him to Memphis and Tupelo, Mississippi, Elvis’ birthplace, where he came first in an ETA competition for young people. In Saratoga Springs, NY, he finished third in another Elvis impersonation contest. He played in the “Pro” division, with people paying homage to Elvis for decades.

“It was fantastic,” he said. “I didn’t even think I would reach the final, it’s a very good surprise. Every time we go down to Memphis or Tupelo there is a great camaraderie between the guys.

From his ETA colleagues, he learned new vocal techniques and new ways of interacting with audiences, but “if you really want to improve yourself you should see the real Elvis.”

Later this year, Gino will return to Tupelo to perform at ElvisFest and will make an appearance at the Graceland Soundstage in Memphis. He wants to attend Bloomsburg University with a major in marketing and business management, then study law.

“Unless it works really well,” he said, “I can’t imagine doing this forever. “

When the time for the scales finally comes, Gino walks over to the microphone. The 17-year-old in basketball shorts and camouflage cowboy boots, who wears his thick black hair covering his eyes (“People ask him all the time if it’s his real hair,” Tracy says. “They think he wears a wig.) and enjoys going fishing with his grandfather starts to sing. And Elvis’s voice comes out.


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