SOUNDS Magazine: August 18, 1990
By Jack Crapp
It's the picture that's got the whole world all shook up. That CURLING lip. That SKYSCRAPING quiff. Those SWIVELING hips. It could only be one man, ELVIS PRESLEY.
But Elvis died in 1977. Or DID he? In recent months, The King has allegedly been spotted ALIVE and SHOPPING in American supermarkets. This sensational snap -- brought to you on the anniversary of Elvis's 'death' -- catches "The King" in a Chicago 7-Eleven. The items on his shopping list tell a familiar story. Cheese, bacon, eggs, bananas, PEANUT BUTTER, lard, baps, one pair of blue suede shoes, and BURGERS (KING SIZE) -- the ingredients of ELVISBURGERS.
Who else but The King Of Rock 'N' Roll would take on such a burger? Has Elvis risen to 'rock' again? They said it couldn't happen, but as those plucky Frog-bashing Eurovision champs Bucks Fizz used to say, the camera never lies.
THE LEGEND LIVES!
Can it really be true? Is Elvis Presley alive? We sent our crack investigative team, Jack Crapp and snapper Len Smith, to Chicago to root out the true identity of The Man They Call King. They uncovered an alien life form and a reggae group born of a miracle to play Led Zeppelin tunes the way Elvis decreed. It is...
THE MOST SENSATIONAL STORY EVER TOLD
The Windy City in the summer of 1990. A big man shoe horned into truss-strength, rhinestoned polyester stands on a street corner, his lacquered quiff as big as an anthill, sideburns hanging like hams.
Across the street, reflected in the big man's amber-tint sunglasses, is The Biograph, where Chicago gangland supremo John Dillinger ate lead and croaked on the sidewalk back in the Prohibition era.
The big man eyes a newspaper. His top lip trembles and peels up in one corner as he reads the cover story: ELVIS' TOMB IS EMPTY.
Cars float by. As they spy the big man, little boys and little old ladies alike point and mouth silently from behind the cars' glass, "Elvis".
A tatty Buick slows and its driver leers from the nearside window, "Hey, Elvis! What are ya doing, man?"
"Ever hear of Dread Zeppelin?" the big man asks.
"Ever heard that Elvis is dead?!"
The big man shakes his head and holds up his paper for the sob in the Buick to read.
"Elvis' Tomb Is Empty," he squints. "So is your head, buddy!"
Later that same evening, the big man, heavily disguised, sits at a quiet table in a Mexican restaurant. An old man with a guitar is running through some Hispanic folk staples. The big man has taken one bite from a plate of enchiladas when the old man kicks into a Spanish 'Jailhouse Rock'.
Yup, Elvis lives! The King of Rock 'N' Roll was laid beneath the green, green grass of Memphis, Tennessee, some 13 years ago, but the legend lives on in this big man, Tortelvis; The King's double and singer for new pop sensation Dread Zeppelin.
Forget ELVIS' TOMB IS EMPTY, STATUE OF ELVIS FOUND ON THE MOON and CAVEMAN LOOKED LIKE ELVIS. The story of this remarkable man they call Tortelvis is the most sensational story ever told.
It is a story of courage, tenderness and pathos, of a father and his son, of space aliens, Elvis Presley, miracles in Ford family cars and more. It is the story that touched America's heart. And here it is in Tortelvis' own words.
You will laugh and you will cry as our roly-poly hero recalls a life on a mission from Elvis in the pop group created to carry out the King's dying wish.
"Let me first of all tell you the story of my creation," says Tortelvis, his jowls shaking like pork jelly as he cradles his infant daughter, The Baby Chaydis, in a Chicago bar.
"I was created by aliens and modeled on the most popular person on Earth, which of course if Elvis Presley. For a couple of years as a small child, I orbited the Earth, I think it was on Skylab or something, I'm not sure.
"Then I landed in Daddy Telvis' backyard in Temple City, California. He raised me and gave me the name Tortelvis. I'm not sure where he got it from but, of course, his last name is Telvis, Daddy Telvis, so he called me Tor Telvis. When I was a child he called me Tortster, so I'm very fond of that name.
"Daddy Telvis sometimes mixes words up. One day, instead of yelling out Tortelvis, he yelled out Tortaydis. I said, Tortaydis? He goes, Yeah, Tortaydis Chaydis. He called me Chaydis and I couldn't figure out what the hell Chaydis was. That's now my nickname, and then we got the baby, and the boys tell me that I'm the father of the Baby Chaydis. I'm not sure who the mother is.
"The Baby Chaydis is also a counterbalance for Put-Mon's bass, but when we sang 'America The Beautiful' in Canada, the Canadians got a little upset and somebody ripped an arm off The Baby Chaydis. I was just doing what Elvis woulda done -- Elvis used to sing The American Trilogy.
"But getting back to my story, back in 1977, just a few months before Elvis died, God rest his soul, he came to me and he told me, You gotta do this Led Zeppelin thing and you gotta do it reggae style, the way it was meant to be done.
"And I wasn't sure exactly what he meant at the time, that's all he said and he walked away, and I found out he died a few months later. For years I wasn't sure, but just two years ago, it hit me. I knew what I had to do.
"I was driving along delivering the milk like I did for so long in beautiful Temple City, California, and I ran into the back of a Pinto. Now Ford Pintos are known for blowing up. They have a gas tank mounted right in the back and, if you hit it from the back, it blows up. Well, this one didn't. It was kind of a miracle. And out popped five reggae musicians, so I hired 'em on the spot."
The men Tort hired are Ed Zeppelin, Jah Paul Jo, The Prince of Peace 'an Love, Carl Jah (a school pal of Michael Jackson's), Put-Mon and Fresh Cheese & Cheese. Charlie Haj is the man who hands Tortelvis his water and towels on stage.
The group have made an LP of reggae-style Led Zeppelin songs called Un-Led-Ed. Members of Led Zeppelin have admitted that Dread Zeppelin are much better than they were.
"Robert Plant is a great fan. He thanked me over the air, nationally, for giving him hours and hours and pure enjoyment. And that meant quite a bit to me. And of course, the boys appreciated it too. Jimmy Page said recently that a lot of Led Zeppelin's songs were originally supposed to be done reggae style, but John Bonham couldn't play the beat.
"Of course, Plant had this great fixation with Elvis and that's another way this whole thing fits together. The songs seem to go easily into a reggae style, and here we are doing it and people are liking the whole concept."
Tortelvis doesn't think Led Zeppelin should reform -- at least, not without him.
"Y'know, I, uh, I think that's gonna be up to them. I just don't think it's the same without John Bonham around. They're probably gonna go out and do it, it'll be innertaining. But, uh, it's possible that I could sit in on drums for them. I play a little bit of drums, I dabble. If they asked me, I don't think I'd turn it down."
Plant and Page had best be quick. Tort's drumming on Dread's 'Moby Dick' is sure to have caught the attention of the world's top bands, like The Rolling Stones, UB40 and Queen.
"I started out playing the drums as a child, but a few years back, I realised I had a beautiful singing voice. I'm not bragging or anything. It's just something I was created with, the aliens gave it to me. On 'Moby Dick' I'm also reading from the book Moby Dick. Y'know, I've gone over and over that book and I just don't understand some of it. That darn Ahab character, I don't know.
"Our second album is gonna be entitled 'Albert', It's based loosely on a man who couldn't cut it as a musician and had to be a rock critic. This man has written certain books about certain dead artists. And I'm not gonna mention any last names but it is entitled 'Albert'. It's gonna be a rock opera, containing a lotta Led Zeppelin tunes and a lotta original tunes. There's 'The Ballad of Charlie Haj'. Charlie, of course, is the man who hands me my water and towels on stage.
"It's gonna be a double album and it's gonna be, uh, quite an event. If you're gonna do a rock opera, it's gotta be a double album. I think we're gonna record 'Kashmir' and 'Stairway To Heaven' too. There's a lotta big tunes that we didn't put on the first record that we're gonna put on the second."
'The Lemon Song' is certainly "a big one" but Tortelvis thinks it a little too fruity for family innertainers like Dread Zeppelin.
"Well, uh, if you take what he was saying in the song literally, we could probably do it, but for now we're gonna go for the family thing. Something Daddy Telvis could come and see without being offended.
"As far as me and the boys are concerned, there's no hanky panky, there's no double meanings, it's just good family innertainment. The boys can't have women after the shows, there's no drinking, no drugs, just the show."
Many of the world's most beautiful women have flung themselves at Tortelvis.
"Well, yes, and I've hired a complete staff to take care of that problem, to push the women away. Of course, I leave them with an autographed picture or something, a little pat on the butt, something like that, but that's it. No hanky panky, like I said."
Like the father in The King's 'Don't Cry Daddy', Tortelvis can't fight back the tears when he thinks of Elvis' death. Headlines like ELVIS' TOMB IS EMPTY offer Tort no real hope.
"I guess those magazines have to make money," he croaks. "Elvis is not alive, he's uh, dead. I believe that he's dead. And, uh, I'm starting to cry a little bit here, but you're gonna have to forgive me, cos you know that he was pretty much my mentor and, uh, excuse me for a second...No, he's gone."
Tort feels the loss like a son, but, contrary to rumour, he is not The King's first born.
"I didn't know all this information had gone out about me being his son, it's not true. I'd like to tell everybody right now -- I'm not Elvis' son. I'm just created in his likeness, and there's nothing I can do about that. I've tried to lose some weight, but the boys won't let me -- they feel I should keep my weight up for the show.
"I have two things that I try to do. One is go by the world of Elvis Presley. And the other thing is to keep my fans innertained, cos the fans are the most important thing. It's just pure innertainment in Dread Zeppelin, I don't mind if other innertainers add their political thing -- U2 does it, but not me. I just innertain."
Sadly, The Elvis Estate finds Tortelvis and Dread Zeppelin less than innertaining.
"Well, the Elvis Estate, they're very protective of Elvis, and I don't blame 'em. I guess they loved him very much, which is great, just as my boys love and protect me. You can't use Elvis' face in any way to make money and I, of course, resemble the later Elvis. Legally, they can't really do much, but we're going along with them because we respect Elvis.
"I realise that maybe it looks like I'm making fun of Elvis, but I'm not. If anything, I'm making fun of Elvis impersonators. Elvis Presley is a great idol of mine. He inspired me for many years and I, of course, had the great opportunity to talk to him for just a few short minutes in '77."
Where did this great meeting take place?
"Uh, jeez, where was that? I believe it was in Memphis. Actually, it was in Nashville. We were going to the Grand Ol' Opry, me and the boys, and Elvis came to me there."
Is the music of Elvis Presley a sacred thing?
"Oh yes, I think so. People wanna hear it, though, they still wanna hear it, and that's why there are so many Elvis impersonators out there. There's always gonna be somebody imitating him. But I'm being myself, I'm being exactly who I am. I'm just patterned after him, I had no control over that.
"My favorite thing Elvis ever did was the '68 comeback special. That was great, the little thing they did in the round with the boys just playing acoustically. He was a magnificent innertainer. After he came of out the army, he did a special with Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis Jr., and that was also a great moment in his career."
Tortelvis is a man touched by Elvis Aaron Presley. The whole world loves Elvis. Tort loves Elvis. And Tort loves the world. Tortelvis is one big hunk o' love and he's got a whole lotta lovin' to do.
"That's what it's all about. My ultimate goal is to make people smile. Innertainment. I'm just an innertainer, yes."
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