People of all ages come to Matthews to enjoy the music of Elvis, but the majority are 50 or older. Many sing along with the often-familiar tunes. Eyes closed, they are transported back in time; back to their youth, and a simpler time when this music was their music.
On a handful of nights each month, people walking by Jonathan’s Restaurant (10630 Independence Pointe Parkway) might catch the sounds of songs by Elvis Presley, or June Carter and Johnny Cash. Maybe they’ll hear a song originally sung by Patsy Cline or Conway Twitty.
On the nights that Elvis is in the house, it might be sung by Chad Champion (of Charlotte) portraying a younger, more energetic version of Elvis; Wayne Brockwell (of Albemarle) showing a more mature side of the actor/singer or even the more polished and sophisticated show by professional Elvis impersonator Jack Byrnes (of Mint Hill). Some nights, “Shelvis,” Helene Mueller, will perform, often with her husband, George (of Mint Hill).
On this night, the third Thursday of the month, it’s the Rock and Roll Oldies Club of the Carolinas. The 1st Thursday of the month, it’s the Elvis Fan Club of Matthews-Mint Hill. And, on the 3rd Saturday of the month, it’s Danny and Donna’s Saturday Night Showcase. There are approximately 200 total members in all these groups, but members often appear at each others’ events. Over time, this gaggle has become more like family. (In truth, there are groups just like these meeting all year, throughout the country.)
Tonight, as with most nights, it’s more than a dozen newbies and old-time performers belting out the tune of their choice. Everyone gets respect and their due. More than 80 people are eating, laughing and intermittently watching the performers. Tonight’s headliner is Wayne. But, at one point, he’s joined by former Monroe resident, Josh Clough, 50, back in town from Arkansas with his Elvis impersonation (and his Elvis-hair).
Josh is passionate about this role, swinging around in fine Elvis fashion, finally hitting the floor with a signature Elvis move. He apologizes to the crowd for his apparent rustiness, he says, but this doesn’t seem to stop him from being in the moment, or them from enjoying his spontaneity and passion.
In each and every case, the few-minute spotlight is theirs…in this moment in time and with this song. Performers patiently wait while the headliners sing, then the remainder of the group performs in the order they are registered. Since this is karaoke night, each has the benefit of the nearby computer scrolling the lyrics, although most don’t seem to use this extra help.
As nearly always, people of all ages are in attendance, but the majority are 50 or older. Many sing along with the often very familiar tunes. Eyes closed, they are transported back in time; back to their youth, and a simpler time when this music was their music.
Recently, long-time DJ, promoter, booking, and productions, Danny Jordan (the Danny of Danny and Donna’s Saturday Night Showcase) has taken up the mantle for these shows. At 60 years of age, he is one of the younger members of the group – a group he passionately loves and loves to promote. “I love all of them,” he said.
“We’re all keeping Elvis and the Oldies music-tradition, alive….I’m kind of trying to preserve the Elvis and the Oldies-image and give them a place to showcase themselves,” Danny said. “It’s a part of history that’s a dying thing. We will probably not have as big a following as the years fade away. This will probably be the last generation where we have this big of a following and commitment to Elvis and Oldies music.”
Back at the restaurant, long-time members are quick to discuss where they were when they saw these late-great headliners; who they may have met in person and who still knows someone related to these favorite, well-known singers.
While this might be fun, the fun is often used for the greater good – helping those out in the community. Many volunteer their time in nursing homes and at specialty events. Often they rotate between groups throughout the region. Each evening, a bucket is passed around for donations; one-half of the money goes to the headliner, the remainder goes to that Club.
“These guys are really serious about what they do,” said Danny. “They go to nursing homes, raise money for NC Special Olympics…we raise money for people who are having financial issues. We do that when needed.”
Often shows are put together just to raise money, but at the end of the day, this remains pure old-fashioned, old-time family entertainment.
“We’re a bunch of old(er)….guys who have been in the entertainment business,” said Danny. “Now we’re just kicking back and having a good time with people who enjoy the same kind of entertainment and music.”