By Annie Howard
David Lee travels all over the country and even beyond the borders imitating Elvis for the crowds.
But next month he gets the chance to come home to perform and raise money for the Creative Montessori School.
Lee, an award-winning Elvis tribute artist, will be performing at the Blue Hawaii-themed Elvis Ball at WorkPlay on March 4. A Tarrant resident, he’s looking forward to being in town again.
“I literally travel all over now doing shows,” he said, “so when I do get to do a local show it’s always great because, as they say, there’s no place like home!”
Like many kids, Lee first encountered Elvis at the age of 3 or 4 through the song “Hound Dog,” but it didn’t stick. At 21, he was on track for a retail management career.
He has Kevin Muir, a former retail coworker, to thank for his change of plans.
“Elvis was all he listened to. I must admit, at first I thought that was a little strange,” Lee said.
But gradually, Lee found himself listening, too. Then he caught himself singing along in the car. Soon enough, he was off and running in a new direction, with his own Presley suit and a few shows under his belt. In 2001, he went into Elvis entertainment full time.
Lee’s been a tribute artist for 23 years now. It’s an unusual job with unusual challenges. For example, he has to try to keep himself separate from the role. He never “becomes” Elvis; even onstage, he’s always just David Lee from Birmingham.
“One of the biggest challenges I face is having other people in public know that,” Lee said, “which is hard to do when you have the big sideburns 24/7. All they see is Elvis, even when I have a ball cap on!”
He also continues to learn little things along the way. He’s still refining that signature Elvis croon, learning new breathing techniques, reaching higher notes. Reading the crowd has gotten easier with time, too. He can spot their mood and adapt, becoming “playful or more serious if need be.”
All in all, he likens his job to playing billiards. “You can become very, very good, but I don’t think you can ever master it where you don’t still make a mistake or two,” he said.
That may be, but it’s clear he’s “mastered it” pretty well. During his two-decade stint as a tribute artist, he’s traveled to 46 states, Canada and Mexico. He’s won multiple awards, taking first place in both the 2004 Memphis World Championship and the 2012 Tupelo Elvis Festival. In 2015, he was crowned the “Ultimate” by Elvis Presley Enterprises; that’s the Super Bowl for Elvis tribute artists.
He’ll be applying all that expertise when he takes the stage for Creative Montessori’s Elvis Ball. The event, a major fundraiser for the school, will feature casino gaming, hula dancers, live and silent auctions, a photo booth and, of course, David Lee.
Guests can munch on food from Rojo, Urban Cookhouse and the J. Clyde, as well as enjoy complimentary wine and beer from Cahaba Brewing Company and the J. Clyde.
Creative Montessori serves children from across the area.
“We try to keep a really diverse population so we try to keep the tuition affordable,” said Natalie Garcia, the school’s communications and development director. Proceeds will go toward offsetting costs, keeping tuition affordable for all Creative Montessori students.
The event will be held at WorkPlay downtown on March 4. To reserve a ticket, visit cmskids.org.