Gilmer Civic Center
"The King Has Not Left East Texas"
First met Elvis Tribute Artist Donny Edwards in August 2002, when he entered and won an Elvis contest at the Lake Theatre in Lake Jackson. This was the first time that Donny had ever performed as an Elvis Tribute Artist -- and I was amazed at Donny’s physical resemblance to a young Elvis, and his voice, which truly captured the spirit and soul of “The King of Rock ‘n’ Roll.” Donny had to take off that Saturday night from his job at the Lake Jackson Target to enter the competition -- and that move changed the course of his life. Donny, who has a degree in computer science from Brazosport College, quit his job at Target following his win, and virtually overnight he became one of the premier Elvis Tribute Artists in America.
Donny, who now lives in Las Vegas, has become somewhat of a global sensation for his ability to capture the essence of Elvis. “I have been to Hong Kong, Japan, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Sweden, England, Spain, Australia, Venezuela, Canada, Mexico and Chile, where I did an Elvis show for 12,000 people,” Donny says. “And, of course,” he adds, “I’ve performed all over the United States.” In addition to his live concerts, Donny has made several television appearances. “I’ve been on VH1, ABC’s Monday Night Football, ABC’s The Next Best Thing, CBS’s The Young And Restless, and I also did some European TV commercials.” Donny has worked with the likes of DJ Fontana, Elvis’ drummer, and the Sweet Inspirations, who sang back-up for “The King.” In 2006, Donny was chosen to perform in Tupelo, Mississippi, “as a young Elvis, and to recreate the 1956 Tupelo ‘Welcome Home Elvis’ homecoming concert with the Jordanaires (Elvis’ back-up singers). Later, in August 2006, I was chosen to perform in Elvis Presley Enterprises, first-ever, Elvis Tribute Artist Show.
“I’ve won many awards,” he says, “but I am most proud of my two major world championships in 2006 and 2007.” Born in Des Moines, Iowa, Donny was raised in the Lake Jackson/Jones Creek area. At the age of 2, he discovered Elvis “through my family’s album collection.” Growing up, he also listened to the likes of Patsy Cline, Sam Cooke, Michael Jackson and Journey.
When Donny was 11, he first realized his resemblance to Elvis. “I saw a photo of Elvis as a child and realized that I looked a lot like him.” But it wasn’t until 2002 that Donny realized that he could sing like Elvis. He discovered that “while experimenting with my dad’s karaoke machine.” And later that year he made his first public performance as an Elvis Tribute Artist at the Lake Theatre Donny, who had just graduated from Brazosport College, says he entered the contest because “I wanted to see what I could do. I wanted to find out if I would be good as an Elvis performer, and to find out what it felt like to be onstage.” And it obviously felt rewarding for him. “After winning the contest at the Lake Theater,” he says, “I thought I should give it a try (as an Elvis Tribute Artist). I felt such a rush onstage -- and I loved performing Elvis’ songs.” Elvis has had a direct impact on Donny’s life. “Elvis has helped to shape and mold a good majority of my life in many ways, including my career, my values, my marriage, my personal style, etc. He influenced my dress, my attitude and my desire to strive to be a humble and good person. He taught me to always respect one’s elders.
“Elvis means a great deal to me. He is the measuring stick of greatness for me as a performer. He could sing everything.
He had hits with every style of music ~ gospel, rock, country and blues.
“It’s an honor being able to pay tribute to the greatest entertainer of all time and to do it as a career.” When Donny is on stage, he says, “it’s about recreating the magic of an Elvis show. I start with the 50’s rock ‘n’ roll hits, into the movie hits, and finally close with the concert years of the 1970’s. I keep it as authentic as possible at all times.
“It is an amazing feeling,” Donny says of performing his Elvis tribute concert. “It’s such a rush. I think Elvis felt the same.
We perform for the fans.” And Elvis’ fans are very receptive to Donny’s tribute to “The King.” “I’ve been told how great my show is and how much I look and sound like Elvis. They tell me that I capture Elvis onstage and that they feel they are watching him all over again.” Being an Elvis Tribute Artist, Donny says, “brought such joy into my life. I get to travel the world, performing my tribute to Elvis, my hero. I’ve met so many great people along the way and it’s also lead me to find the love of my life, my wife and partner, Donna. We were married at Graceland in Memphis. “I truly feel blessed to be able to perform for fellow Elvis fans like myself, all over the world. It’s a dream come true for me. Whenever I hit the stage, I do my best to always bring honor to the name Elvis Presley, and to uphold that respected legacy. It’s all about him and what he’s meant to so many people. I am really looking forward to performing in my home state in my upcoming January shows “My goal,” he says, “is to continue to be successful in my career and ultimately perform on the same stage as Elvis did at the Las Vegas Hilton.”