Interviews Elvis70s(lead)

Published on August 15th, 2013 | by Ballard Lesemann


The King at the Roof: ‘All Shook Up’ Celebrates Elvis Presley

Back in February, Charleston-based freelance writer, vintage clothier, and music fan Kelly Rae Smith put together an all-night, multiple-band tribute show at the Tin Roof in honor of the Cramps and their late singer Lux Interior. This weekend, on the date of Elvis’ passing 36 years ago, she’s assembled yet another massive tribute night in honor of the King himself, Evils Presley.

On Fri. Aug. 16, a handful of Lowcountry bands and musicians will render their favorite Elvis tunes, from his earliest Memphis material to his later Las Vegas stuff.


Kelly Rae Smith (provided)

The lineup features Mackie Boles, Joel Hamilton, Johnnie Matthews, Jordan Igoe, Lindsay Holler, Tim Edgar, Kevin Hanley, Will Cox, Danny Infinger and Jessa Vaughan, Brett Nash, Jim Faust, Justin Allen, Matt Walker, Scott Dence, Laura Jane Vincent, Cheyne Dowds, Jenna Ave-Lallemant, Corey Bounds, and yours truly. Lesley, Nick and Shawn from the Tin Roof staff are on the bill, too. Big Heavy (Mark Hudgins) will MC. A screening of 1964 Elvis flick Viva Las Vegas starts at 7 p.m. and the live music starts at 8:45 p.m. Door proceeds to go to a local dog-related charity.

Smith encourages attendees to “dress dramatically for the night” in anything from Hawaiian shirts to bell-bottoms to gaudy gold glasses. Extra activities will include an “Actual Pelvis Off,” pompadour stylings from Lava Salon, photo ops, and banana-themed cocktail specials.

Smith spoke with Metronome Charleston this week:

Metronome Charleston: Obviously, you’re a genuine Elvis fan. When did you first hear Elvis Presley, and what do you remember first liking about his music?

Kelly Rae Smith: My family is responsible for my lifelong Elvis obsession. We’ve all been bit by the Elvis bug. My mother fell in love with my father because she respected that a man could admit he loved Elvis. I guess it wasn’t as cool for boys to show their love back then. So, they passed the Elvis bug down to my sister, who I always mimicked when I was little, anyway. It’s with her that I watched every Elvis movie ever made while growing up, but I’ll never forgive her for being a brat and spoiling the ending of Love Me Tender for me the first time I saw it!

I always knew his music was a feeling. It’s one of those spine-tingling things you can’t explain. I always just loved his unmatched, beautiful voice and his ability to make me feel things. I can seldom listen to “Are You Lonesome Tonight?” without openly weeping.


Metronome Charleston: What are some of your favorite early-era Elvis tunes and why?

Kelly Rae Smith: “Blue Moon” is my favorite song ever made — ever. Those early songs are just so pure and so raw. “That’s All Right, Mama,” “Blue Moon of Kentucky,” “You’re Right, I’m Left, She’s Gone” — all of the stuff of Sun Studio days are sung before Elvis the boy became Elvis the star. I can hear his poor Tupelo [Mississippi] upbringing, the devoted hours he spent in church, his worship of the Delta blues, and the hope that Memphis brought to him and his family.

Metronome Charleston: Looking back, do you personally prefer the late-’50s rockabilly Elvis, the ’60s “comeback” Elvis, or the 1970s high-collar/fat Elvis?

Kelly Rae Smith: I immediately think 50s Elvis but then I remember what the Comeback Special’s “Trying to Get To You” and “Lawdy Miss Clawdy” does to me, and I gotta say, give me black leather and 1968.

Metronome Charleston: What’s your favorite Elvis record and why?

Kelly Rae Smith: His self-titled album from 1956. I discovered this back years ago and found a few songs on it a few I’d never heard him do previously — like “I’m Gonna Sit Right Down and Cry Over You” and “One-Sided Love Affair” — and every one of those songs on it are my very favorites. My sister and I recently went through some records that belonged to our dad. He had that record … of course he did. It felt as if he and I had a little moment just then, a bond shared even eight years after his passing. I’m tellin’ ya, Elvis is our family’s glue.

Metronome Charleston: What’s your favorite Elvis flick and why?

Kelly Rae Smith: Well, Jailhouse Rock is magic and the best song done in a film ever in my opinion. But my favorite is G.I. Blues. I love the soundtrack mostly but also the story surrounding it and how he had to make these films pre-Army so he could stay in the minds of his fans when they were released during his time in Germany. And then while this movie is playing in the States, he’s back in Germany meeting the love of his life. When I was little, I had the record up on my wall that belonged to my dad. Then when I moved to the Scotland for a few years, I came across it and bought it there. A few days later I heard a street bagpiper playing “Wooden Heart” and it made me smile that this movie and record were obviously loved the world over.

Metronome Charleston: Elvis passed away in 1977. What would have happened to Rock ‘n’ Roll if he were still alive today?

Kelly Rae Smith: What do you mean if?


Metronome Charleston: This lineup of Charleston musicians is pretty eclectic. How does the music of Elvis tie everyone together?

Kelly Rae Smith: I think Elvis has hit a nerve or ten in a lot of musicians, no matter their schtick. Knowing these guys, I know that Justin Allen picking “Little Sister” is so fitting when you listen to the guitar in the song, and the bluesy “Big Boss Man” is so Mackie Boles.

When approached, everyone was completely into it. The “Pelvis Off” wasn’t even my idea … thank you, Danny Infinger! The tribute thing was put out there, and then the fire was started. Brainstorms commenced and the excitement was/is definitely present. I was kind of shocked and super pleased to see so many Elvis lovers in my  circle of friends. I never really realized.

Metronome Charleston: Will anyone be on hand dressed as key characters from the Elvis legacy — like Col. Tom Parker, Vernon or Gladys Presley,  Priscilla Presley?

Kelly Rae Smith: I’m pretty sure there will be a Priscilla. Mark [Big Heavy] is wearing a bedazzled Elvis jumpsuit, which will be amazing. I’m sure I’ll put on my blue suede shoes. I’d love to see some GI Blues boys and some Blue Hawaii shirts and a Vernon, a Gladys, and a Colonel too.

Metronome Charleston: When you hear Elvis’ stirring “American Trilogy,” do you feel more patriotic?

Kelly Rae Smith: Ha, not really! I think I feel more American with a peanut butter and banana sandwich in my mouth.

Metronome Charleston: What’s the one song on the list for Friday night at the Tin Roof that you absolutely can’t wait to hear?

Kelly Rae Smith: So hard to answer! I’m excited about all of it. I’m gonna say the obvious: “All Shook Up.” The event’s namesake will be performed by one of my favorite local music extraordinaires, Scott Dence. Should be pretty damn fabulous.

All Shook Up: An Elvis Tribute Showdown goes down on Fri. Aug. 16 from 7 p.m. ’til late. Admission is $5. Visit for more.



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About the Author

Ballard Lesemann

is a musician and writer. Born and raised in Charleston, S.C., he spent years playing in bands and working for Flagpole Magazine in the bustling music town of Athens, Ga. He returned to his hometown and served more than seven years as the Charleston City Paper's music editor. He's better at drumming than he is at playing guitar.

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