She is the King: Jacqueline Feilich

She is the King: Jacqueline Feilich.

She Is The King: Jacqueline Feilich.
The Artists Shed, 14 Foster Street, Queanbeyan Saturday, November 16, At 7.30pm
Tickets $20 Available From Ric Bennett on 0458 712 994

Elvis Presley tribute artists are legion. Female Elvis Presley tribute artists, not so much. That was especially the case when Jacqueline Feilich started out. Now well established both in Australia and the US, Feilich is bringing her act, She is the King, to Queanbeyan for the first time.

''It started because I'm a mad, crazy, obsessed fan of Elvis,'' Feilich, 43, says.

''I've been like that since I was three years old.''

Feilich grew up in Perth. She was 7 when Presley died in 1977 at the age of 42.

''It was the worst day of my life, I reckon. I locked myself in my room for a few days. I didn't go to school.''

Even now, she says, if she goes to Memphis and stands in front of the gates of Presley's home, Graceland, ''it feels like it was yesterday''.

Just why she became so deeply interested in Presley, she doesn't know.

''I got the feeling I was sort of meant to introduce him around, to make young people aware of him.''

Her father was a fan of crooners like Nat King Cole but also had an Elvis eight-track tape in his car, which Feilich got hooked on as a child. But her tribute career was a long time in coming.

''I was always into musicals, singing and dancing, but I never really wanted to do anything

with it after school - my parents wouldn't let me, they thought it wasn't a real job.''

When she left school she began training to be a stockbroker but the 1987 stockmarket crash forced her out. Instead, she became a finance journalist for several years before falling in love, moving to Sydney, marrying and raising a family.

''By the time I was 30 I started to be interested in going back to singing. I began singing in piano bars and garage bands around Sydney,'' she says.

But the lure of the King returned and she decided to focus on his music alone.

''I wanted to sing Elvis but I didn't want to sing standards like every other schmuck out there.''

She began performing for free to establish herself and eventually began to secure paying gigs, especially corporate events, which are still her major source of work.

Things really began to take off

at the end of 2006, when she went

to an Elvis tribute artist contest in Las Vegas.

''I had nothing to lose,'' she says.

''My husband hated it all

but he let me go … he thought it would get it out of my system.''

She was the only woman there and didn't dress up in a rhinestone jumpsuit like the men - ''I wore an Elvis T-shirt and a pair of jeans'' - and thinks this refusal to attempt an impersonation helped her to be placed what she calls ''a complimentary second''.

She came back with her passion fully ignited and her husband, seeing her enthusiasm, helped her make an album.

''Now, he is my biggest supporter,'' she says.

She has been invited to sing at Graceland four times and divides her time between Australia and the US.

''I'm definitely not an impersonator, nothing else but a tribute to him,'' she says, though she does dress in Elvis costumes appropriate to the eras she is representing, including a jumpsuit, as she sings Presley's songs.

''I tell a story to the audience,'' she says, interspersing the narrative of Presley's life and music with his songs. She has two favourite periods: 1970, when Presley was in Las Vegas and ''just in perfect form'' singing such songs as Bridge Over Troubled Water and Let's Pretend; and the 1973 Stax Records sessions when he recorded I Got A Feeling In My Body and Thinking About You, and other songs.

Feilich calls Presley ''the King of reinvention'' and says Madonna and Lady Gaga want to take a leaf out of his book. She points out he had a repertoire of nearly 1000 songs that ranged across genres - rock, country, gospel and blues, to name a few - and she likes to explore that repertoire rather than simply concentrate on the well-known hits, such as Suspicious Minds.

Feilich writes songs but says she now sells them to others: ''I just want to sing Elvis.'' She says there are a few reasons for Presley inspiring such deep devotion in her and many others.

''The least important one is he was dead at 42 so he was immortalised young,'' she says.

He didn't grow old and end a

waning career performing in small clubs but died while he was still hugely popular.

''He was so good-looking, he could dance, he could sing. People just wanted to be him - men - or be with him - women.''

She says Presley ''was almost Jesus-like''.

''He ticked every box. He was a kind-hearted, deeply religious person, good-looking and talented

in every way. I couldn't think of a fault,'' she says.

Some women tattoo him on their bodies and some men want to think they are him but Feilich doesn't go to either extreme.

''I'm not nutty. I wish he was still here,'' she says.

''I just want to sing his songs.''