Bobby Simkins won't be competing in the Ultimate Elvis Tribute Artist contest at next month's annual Elvis Week in Memphis, Tennessee, when thousands of fans will flock to Graceland to commemorate the 40th anniversary of Presley's death.
He's competed twice before, advancing to the final 15 out of a couple dozen regional competition winners. This time, he'll be attending as a fan.
But the 56-year-old from Independence considers it a little point of pride that he can perform a highly regarded Elvis tribute concert. His fans have a chance to see him at 6 p.m. Saturday at the Independence Masonic Lodge, 120 Pleasant Street.
“I probably don't put quite as much time into it as some others,” Simkins said of the other top tribute artists. “Usually when I do these contests, I'm actually the oldest one.”
For instance, when Simkins placed second earlier this year in the Ultimate Elvis Contest in Branson, the winner was a 23-year-old from Great Britain, he said. That man, Ben Thompson, earned the regional bid to Graceland that Simkins has won before.
Simkins' concert Saturday will also be fans' first chance to purchase Simkins' latest album, “Memories,” a compilation of 15 songs Simkins said are fans' most frequent requests during his Elvis concerts the past decade.
They're not songs on many people's top-10 Elvis songs lists, he said, but rather “Songs that I normally hear the crowd shout out.”
This is Simkins' first album in three years and his eighth overall, as his singing career spans years before he became an exclusive Elvis tribute artist. Making an album, though, is not one of his favorite things, he said.
“It's kind of boring in the studio,” he said. “You don't have the feel of the live audience. You don't get to hear the cheers after the song that 'Hey, the audience really liked that one.'”
It certainly isn't like the Elvis Week crowds at Graceland, where events span Aug. 11-19, capped by the finals of the Ultimate Elvis Tribute Artist contest. Tickets for the contest shows are sold out. The winner gets a $20,000 contract with Legends in Concert to tour as Elvis, Simkins said.
“It's crazy; it's a whole week of other tribute artists like myself,” Simkins said, not to mention all the fans. “The numbers of the crowd are expected to be off the charts, since it's the 40th anniversary."