There wasn’t just one Elvis impersonator at Anna’s Diner Saturday night. There were three. And two of them aren’t even in their 20s yet.
Usually doing an Elvis show on the third Saturday of the month at the Highland City restaurant, Carol Ladois last Saturday had three Elvis impersonators, one of them Austin Irby, who at 18 years old, won first place in the Ultimate Elvis Tribute Artist Contest in Myrtle Beach and will compete in August in the Ultimate Elvis Tribute Artist Contest in Graceland.
“Some people are shocked,” Irby said about his being so young. But exactly how good his impression is even catches him a little at times. He is the youngest person to win the Legends show, the website said.
He said he was shocked when he heard his name and sort of blacked out on everything going on around him.
“I was standing there with a friend and I heard my name,” he recalled from the May 31 show. “My friend told me to go up there but I don’t really remember anything else (after hearing my name).”
“I had no idea I was going to win,” he said, adding his tender age is not that unusual.
Also taking to the stage at Anna’s Diner was 17-year-old Cote Deonath. An Elvis fan since he was 2, Cote was able to sing at least an octave lower to capture Elvis’ singing style.
But it should be noted regarding their ages, as Irby points out, there is Hank Poole, who does an Elvis impersonation on stage and he’s 8 years old.
“He’s got all the moves,” Irby pointed out.
But Irby’s the real deal, his agent Joyce Turner said.
“I saw him Brunswick (Georgia) in a show and I said to myself, ‘I want him,’” she said. And she’s been booking shows for him ever since.
The owner of Anna’s Diner, Carol Laudois, has been an Elvis fan all her life and in fact has a wall dedicated to Elvis Presley at the restaurant. It’s full of concert posters, pictures, albums and has a few autographs up there. She and friends saw Irby play at the Elk Lodge in April in Orlando and she thought he had to play at her place.
Irby first got into Elvis as a fan when his father and he saw Jailhouse Rock when he was 4.
“He would be standing there in front of the TV and he did everything,” his mother Tammie Irby said.
She said he’s been performing since he started singing at his church when he was 4. That morphed into an Elvis act that was only encouraged by his family. Both his father and mother are big Elvis fans (his mother called him “the prettiest man in the world”) and his grandmother is a big fan, too.
To Austin, it went a lot further than the looks.
“I liked the songs, the way he was holding the (microphone) pole and the dancing,” he said.
When he was 10 he started doing his Elvis performance on stage and since he’s done it, he’s never thought of doing anything else.
“I love being in this,” he said. “this is something … I like being around it.”
How well does he think he’ll do at the Graceland competition? Irby’s not too concerned but he’ll just wait until August to find out. He’s looking more forward to going and seeing the others who have taken on this act.
“I’m just honored to be one,” he said, quickly adding he’s looking forward to going. “We’re all like a big brotherhood.”
That brotherhood was shown as Irby and Deonath did a set together Saturday night.
Deonath saw his first Elvis Presley movie when he was 2 and by the time he was 4 he was dancing and making the moves. At 5 he started getting his first gigs, playing at private schools, churches and where ever he could sing the blues.
“After that he was just hooked,” his father, Eddie Deonath said.
Steve Gillis, of Steve Gillis Productions, who also participated in Saturday’s show as a Elvis impersonator, is impressed and pleased that the Elvis impersonation act is continuing. Many times, he joked these teens do a better schtick than he does, he’s just encouraged by it and loves to take part in the fun, both booking it and doing the act.
It was Irby’s mother who put it into the words when referring to her son’s act, on what this means.
“I think this is awesome,” she said.