Ben Portsmouth never particularly liked competing in singing competitions, but he was glad he was nudged into participating in the Ultimate Elvis Tribute Artist Contest (UETA) in Memphis during Elvis Week in 2012.
“I was very pleased and surprised to win,” said the Elvis Tribute artist from his home in England. “I am the first and only non-American to win the contest. [I] Never actually thought a non-American would win.”
Portsmouth is making his way to British Columbia for the first time later this month, and after his performance at the first Vancouver Island International Tribute Festival this weekend in Parksville, he will be making stops at Nanaimo’s Port Theatre, Victoria, Surrey and North Vancouver.
Portsmouth’s father was a huge Elvis fan and he grew up listening to and singing along with the music.
Although he taught himself Elvis songs on his guitar at home, it wasn’t until he was in his twenties that he formed the Taking Care of Elvis Band in 2005, which includes his brother on drums.
When he was 26, he was voted Best Elvis at the International Elvis Festival in Porthcawl, Wales, and while a lot of other tribute artists were donning wigs and fake sideburns, he took a different approach.
“I did not wear a wig, I still don’t—my hair and sideburns are au natural, although I do use hair dye to make them jet black like Elvis.”
Portsmouth was the youngest competitor at that festival and he had authentic outfits flown in from the United States.
Portsmouth, now 34, went on to win a number of other high profile Elvis events including World Champion at the Images of the King contest in Memphis in 2010 (where he represented Europe) and the 2012 Collingwood Elvis Festival in Ontario which snagged him a spot in the UETA competition in 2012.
Following that win he was invited to perform the Late Show with David Letterman in February 2013.
“Of course, I’m used to performing in front of large crowds, but to know that there were millions of people watching through the lens of the camera was rather surreal. I met with David briefly and he is a rather nice chap.”
Portsmouth is really looking forward to checking out the West Coast when he arrives in a couple of weeks, he said. Parksville’s tribute festival is a fundraiser for the Canadian Cancer Society and Portsmouth is glad to be taking part.
“Every family, including mine, has had a family member who has suffered from cancer, so it’s always good to give back and raise awareness.”
Since Portsmouth won the UETA he no longer competes, and instead he’ll just enjoys performing. He’s looking forward to meeting Elvis fans in Parksville, he said.
The Vancouver Island International Tribute Festival is taking place at the Parksville Community and Conference Centre May 23-25, Portsmouth will be performing at around 9:30 p.m. on Saturday, May 24. For more on the festival visit www.islandtributefestival.com.
At the Port Theatre in Nanaimo he’ll be performing Tuesday, May 27, for tickets and more information visit www.porttheatre.com. May 28, he’ll be performing at North Vancouver’s Centennial Theatre and on May 29 at the McPherson Playhouse in Victoria.
Contest: Win two weekend passes to the Tribute Festival in Parksville this weekend. Email firstname.lastname@example.org with Send me to the Tribute Festival in the subject line. Include your name and phone number. Draw will be done Thursday morning, May 22.