By Sheena Barnett/NEMS Daily Journal
There’s more to Bill Brooks than the flashy jumpsuits, pompadour’d hair and a smooth, twangy voice.
Brooks has made a career out of being an Elvis Presley tribute artist, but the singer is ready to branch out. For a while now, he’s been performing the music of country legends, but this week he’ll premiere a new show: Mississippi Legends. The show is a tribute to Mississippi musicians Charlie Pride, Conway Twitty and, of course, Elvis.
“There are 43,000 Elvis impersonators around the world,” Brooks said. “Elvises are a dime a dozen, so you’ve got to be able to do something else.”
Brooks started singing as a child, inspired by the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll.
“Elvis was the main guy. He had the biggest impact, not just on myself, but everybody,” Brooks said.
When he started singing professionally, he started out as an Elvis tribute artist.
He loved all styles of music, especially R&B, country and gospel, and, as he expanded his career, he included those styles of songs into his sets.
These days, Brooks stays on the road, performing in Memphis, Georgia, Alabama and Arkansas.
It’s because of a show out in Texas that Mississippi Legends was born.
Brooks performs a show in Rio Grande every year, and with each show, he challenges himself to come up with the most entertaining show he can put on.
“The more I thought about it, Elvis, Conway and Charlie Pride are from Mississippi – three of the biggest names in music,” he said.
The show will begin with a set of Twitty’s biggest hits, followed by Pride covers and will round out with a set of Elvis tunes.
The Texas show isn’t for a while, so Brooks is performing the first-ever Mississippi Legends show at Vanelli’s on Thursday.
Though Brooks has made a living as an Elvis tribute artist, he said he probably loves the music of Conway Twitty the most.
“My type of music is really more like Conway’s music. His music was deeper, a little more controversial. It’s a little more interesting to sing,” Brooks said. “I’ve listened to a lot of Conway over the years. He really knew how to pick songs that could impact the public.”
Brooks loved Elvis’ on-stage presence, though.
“I saw Elvis Presley in 1973, and I was amazed to see someone who could hold an audience on the edge of their seat the way he could,” he said.
Brooks hopes his Mississippi Legends show will combine the quality music with the stage presence for a dynamic show.
He’s also releasing a “Mississippi Legends” CD to accompany the show.
Whether he’s singing Conway, Charlie or Elvis, Brooks is enjoying making a living by singing.
“I’ve been singing professionally for 30 years – I’ve about got it down now,” he said, laughing. “People as me what I do for a living, and I say I sing. They’ll ask me to sing, and I’ll start singing.”
Who: Bill Brooks
When: 7:30 p.m. Thursday
Info: vanellis.com or (662) 844-4410