With the approach of the thirtieth anniversary of Elvis Presley’s death, we’re inevitably being flooded with articles about the King, even though there’s not much left to discover about him. Maybe the way to mark the occasion is from an entirely different perspective, and if imitation is really the sincerest form of flattery, then we should be able to celebrate the memory of Elvis by featuring one of the best of his sound-alikes.
I should quickly reassure you that I’m not referring to Elvis impersonators, that bizarre group of entertainers who have existed for years in a sort of quasi-musical world, a place where many can also sky dive or perform wedding ceremonies. Instead, I’m talking about those singers who were contemporaries of Elvis and consciously (or unconsciously) had similarities in singing styles. Some of those guys were pretty good and had hit songs of their own. One of the best was Terry Stafford.
Stafford was yet another singer from the great state of Texas, which has produced many, and as he grew to adulthood and began singing professionally, he soon became known as one of the Elvis sound-alikes that seemed to pop up from time to time. Of course, it might have had something to do with his choice for his first recording. “Suspicion” had been recorded a few years earlier by Elvis, but Stafford’s 1964 version struck gold and became his signature hit.
Although some music historians have given him the dreaded “one-hit wonder” tag, Stafford actually had a continuing career after that song, both as a singer and a songwriter. “I’ll Touch a Star” was a good seller for him, and a few years later he had some success with “Say, Has Anybody Seen My Sweet Gypsy Rose”. (Although Tony Orlando’s version sold a lot better.)
Stafford had some gems as a songwriter too, including “Big In Vegas”, a hit for Buck Owens. Another tune he co-wrote and recorded as a singer ended up as a huge seller for another star, George Strait. Anyone remember “Amarillo By Morning”? Thought you might.
Sadly, by the 1980’s Stafford had pretty much disappeared from the music scene and he died in Texas in 1996. A talented singer who will always be remembered mostly for one song.