Ultimate Elvis brings burnin luv to Corbett

Justin Shandor joins lineup of tribute acts at Fourth of July festival
by: contributed photo Justin Shandor portrays all the Elvises you’d want to see, from Elvis in the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s.

Friday the 13th turned out to be the luckiest day ever for Justin Shandor, an Elvis Presley impersonator.

On Aug. 13, 2010, Shandor won $20,000 in the Ultimate Elvis Tribute Artist Contest in Memphis, Tenn.

'It's funny because my manager was like, 'This could be a tough day,'' Shandor says during a phone interview from his home in Las Vegas.

However, Shandor's third try at the annual contest's title turned out to be a charm, as he belted out 'Unchained Melody' and 'Polk Salad Annie' to take the crown.

Shandor, 26, notes he mimics Elvis as he appeared in the 1950s, '60s and '70s, something few Elvis impersonators can pull off.

'I think I'm the perfect age right now to be able to pull off all three Elvises,' he says.

Folks who attend Corbett's Fun Fest on the grounds of Corbett schools, 35800 E. Historic Columbia River Highway, will get a chance to judge for themselves when Shandor joins the music lineup Monday, July 4. Entertainers include acts paying tribute to Buddy Holly, Neil Diamond, Johnny Cash and Journey.

Teddy Bear

Shandor was only 8 years old when he fell in love with Elvis, after his parents played him a cassette of the rock 'n' roll king's music.

'I never heard anything like it before, the excitement of the music,' Shandor says. 'The rock 'n' roll, I guess, got me moving.'

Shandor become a professional Elvis impersonator at age 16, and has gradually built a career by creating a stylish act. In particular, he loves singing 'Unchained Melody,' made famous by the Righteous Brothers, and later covered by Presley backed only by his piano playing.

'He showed you all the talent that he had just sitting by the piano all by himself with that operatic voice,' Shandor says.

Shandor says audiences seem to like Elvis in his later years the most, when Presley concentrated on gospel music and power ballads.

'They love to see the rhinestone suits and the capes and the belts and the long sideburns,' he says.

On the throne alone

One thing Shandor makes clear is that while he loves Presley's music, he wouldn't want to change places with him. At the end of his life, Elvis was 'very lonely,' Shandor says, and 'he couldn't walk down the street and get a cheeseburger like the rest of us.'

He's even experienced a bit of the fear Presley may have felt when fans became obsessed with him, Shandor says.

'I do get people who follow me around a lot,' he says. 'One time I was up in Sweden, and I was never scared to be up on stage - but I was for this show. I was nearly pulled off stage and had my shirt ripped off. I went down to give a particular girl a kiss on the cheek, and she grabbed my shirt. It ain't that bad, but it gets you a little scared about what he went through.'

Shandor, who plays bass, guitar and piano, also writes his own songs and eventually hopes to become an original artist, writing rhythm 'n' blues material in a manner akin to Stevie Wonder, he says. Till then, he says he'll keep reliving the glory that was Elvis, on stage.

'He was just a normal guy from a poor Tupelo family, and he turned out to be an icon,' Shandor says. 'That's what intrigued me so much.'