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Dennis Perkins

Dennis Perkins is a freelance writer who lives in Auburn with his lovely wife, the writer Emily L. Stephens, and their cat, Cooper. When not watching all the movies ever made or digging up stories about the Maine film scene, he can be found writing for the AV Club and elsewhere. The rest of the time, he's worrying about the Red Sox.

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Posted: September 23, 2016

Tribute show celebrates early Elvis

Written by: Dennis Perkins
"All About Elvis" includes a concert by Rex Fowler and the Rockabilly Kings and the showing of Fowler's documentary "200 Cadillacs" about the cars that Presley gave away. Photo courtesy of Rex and the Rockabilly Kings

“All About Elvis” includes a concert by Rex Fowler and the Rockabilly Kings and the showing of Fowler’s documentary “200 Cadillacs” about the cars that Presley gave away. Photo courtesy of Rex and the Rockabilly Kings

If you hear “Elvis Presley tribute show,” you might conjure up images of paunchy, be-wigged guys in jumpsuits, but Rex Fowler says his Presley extravaganza, “All About Elvis,” couldn’t confound those expectations more.

“Our goal is to remind people about the 19-year-old kid who turned the whole world upside down — the energetic, inventive young man who was an inspiration to musicians everywhere,” said Fowler, co-founder of the longtime, internationally renowned folk-rock duo Aztec Two-Step.

At Fowler’s multimedia tribute show, happening at the Vinegar Hill Music Theater in Arundel on Saturday, Elvis fans are assured a full evening of Elvis-centric music, as well as movies.

In addition to a concert of Elvis covers and a few Presley-inspired originals by Fowler and backup band The Rockabilly Kings, audiences will be treated to a showing of the Fowler-produced 2004 documentary “200 Cadillacs,” which chronicles Presley’s legendary largess.

“Elvis gave away over 200 Cadillacs — and some other luxury cars — over the course of his career, and so we decided to chase down some of the recipients,” Fowler explained. “His generosity is really one of the things that set him apart.”

In the 48-minute film, Fowler talks to those who, for various reasons, earned the Presley’s ultimate present. Girlfriends, backup singers, his hairdresser and other member of his “Memphis Mafia” entourage all received (typically pink) Caddies, but so did some ordinary folks — and for some extraordinary reasons.

“That’s what was so unique about Elvis,” said Fowler, a lifelong Presley fan. “When he first came on the scene, he was cast as this juvenile delinquent by the press, the police, PTAs, but he was the sweetest 19-year-old kid ever. He caused this seismic shift, this cultural revolution, but he has this beautiful heart and mind. As his career grew, he’d give away these cars. It became a defining part of his persona. His nurse, his caretakers — sometimes if he simply caught your eye in the Cadillac dealership, you’d get a car. And back then, these cars cost as much or more as an average person’s yearly salary.”

Fowler, who was born in Pittsfield, credits the Vinegar Hill Music Theater’s facilities and his love of Maine with luring him to Arundel for this one-time event.

“It was just a great opportunity to come to Arundel,” said Fowler. “We do a big, multimedia show. In addition to the movie, there are images from Elvis’ life and career showing behind the band while we play, and I do a Q-and-A after the movie. It really is a visual as well as musical evening — a real tight but fun show.”

As for the music, don’t anticipate those Vegas-era jumpsuits.

“Elvis eventually got lost,” Fowler said, “and that Vegas era sort of made him a laughingstock, but he was extraordinarily important. Our goal in doing this show is to remind people of who the real Elvis was.”

To that end, Fowler and his band (including Joe Geary on drums and brothers Steven and Billy Roues on slap bass and electric guitar, respectively) will play nothing but the best of that young, groundbreaking Elvis.

“We’re planning on playing about 40 songs,” said Fowler, who’ll be rocking his signature acoustic guitar. “It’ll be music from his Sun Records and RCA years, and some film music, back from that time in Elvis’ life when he was so raw and original and influential.”

Fowler, who’s taking time away from Aztec Two-Step’s regular touring schedule for the gig, encourages all Elvis fans to attend. “This isn’t Elvis impersonators,” he explained. “This is a celebration of the originality and brilliance of a young kid who changed music forever.”

“All About Elvis” is a one-night-only event at the Vinegar Hill Music Theater in Arundel and features a full concert with Rex Fowler and the Rockabilly Kings and a showing of Fowler’s documentary “200 Cadillacs.” Tickets are $45-$50 and can be purchased at vinegarhillmusictheatre.com or by calling 207-985-5552.


COMING TO LOCAL SCREENS

PMA Movies
Friday & Sunday: “Imber’s Left Hand.” A wrenching, but ultimately inspiring Maine-made documentary about acclaimed Maine painter Jon Imber’s struggle to continue his artistic career after being diagnosed with ALS.

SPACE Gallery
Monday, Oct. 3: “Kate Plays Christine.” Called a “gripping, nonfiction psychological thriller,” this genre-busting documentary follows actress Kate Lyn Sheil as she researches her upcoming role (in this film) as real-life newscaster Christine Chubbuck, who infamously shot herself live on air in 1974.

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