Pretenders to the Throne

Illustration by Steve Durbin for The Louisville Times

The city’s best-known Elvis impersonator is Jerry Baird, a singer with two well-organized fan clubs. But over the past year, a challenger has emerged. Backed by a big band, Ron Hampton has made inroads on the Baird dominance. He has won fans with a grueling string of 120 one-night stands. He has built a reputation bowling banquet by bowling banquet, American-Legion dance by American-Legion dance.

“I don’t want to get to the point where I think those fans are applauding for me and not for the memory of Elvis,” said Hampton. “I know in my heart I’m not a hair on Elvis’s arm.”

What Hampton hints at and what some Hampton fans say openly amounts to a charge of sacrilege. Jerry Baird has become intoxicated by the role he plays; Jerry Baird thinks he’s Elvis.

Baird smiled. “When I’m onstage, sure, I think I’m Elvis. You gotta. You have to feel it. Elvis was the King, and when you take on the job of being the King, that ain’t easy.” Baird said the town isn’t big enough for two Elvis performers. “I feel I’m the best. I’ve been blessed with the ability to sing like Elvis. I’m also great lookin’.”

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