Zac McDorrElvis Presley was not from Maine, but he was supposed to be in Maine for a concert on Aug.17, 1977. He had to cancel due to his death on Aug. 16.

Curtis Johnson was not from here either; he was born in Alabama. He became known as “The Elvis of Maine” regardless, due to the rockabilly songs he recorded at Event Records in Westbrook. A quick search of Youtube brings up a few of his old recordings, which do indeed sound a lot like Elvis.

Today’s Elvis impersonators are trying to capture the nostalgia of The King. While it’s impossible to look like young Elvis, anybody with sideburns, sunglasses, and a rhinestone suit can look like old Elvis. I had an Elvis impersonator at my own wedding, and it was fantastic.

In the ‘50s, however, Elvis imitators cropped up everywhere to take advantage of the singer’s massive popularity. Many of them experienced local success, as The King himself couldn’t be everywhere at once.

Curtis Johnson was the closest thing that most Mainers could get to the real thing, so he found great popularity here. After coming to Maine in 1956 to record with guitarist Sleepy Willis at WMTV, he cut a record at Event Records and starting performing. Johnson often appeared on local TV and did private appearances.

The first phase of Elvis mania died out when the Beatles arrived. Early rockabilly went out of fashion, and the Elvis sound-alikes had to move on.

Curtis Johnson played at clubs and fairs in Maine until 1964, and then moved back to his native Alabama. He sold insurance during the day, but continued to croon at his brother’s bar on weekends. Sadly, he died of lung cancer in 2001.

Fortunately, we have a great Elvis impersonator right here in Bath: Robert “Elvis” Lewis. I saw him snow blowing his driveway yesterday in his Elvis pompadour.

Source and photo: “When Rock N’ Roll Rocked Maine,” Will Anderson, 2007.