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Paducah native musician captures soul of Elvis

By MASON BLANFORD mblanford@paducahsun.com

Terry Mike Jeffrey is an Elvis performer, though audiences won't see an overstylized wig or cheap costume on stage.

"The Kid and the King" is a one-man show about the life and music of Elvis, but also portrayed is the monolithic impact the King had on Jeffrey's own life. The event is ongoing until May at the The Badgett Playhouse in Grand Rivers.

The Paducah-native musician plays acoustic guitar and piano medleys of the rock 'n' roll legend's greatest hits while capturing the essence of the star -- not the caricature.

Included are stories of a long musical career involving associates DJ Fontana and Ronnie Tutt -- two of Elvis' old drummers -- and Graceland performances with the Jordanaires and the TCB Band.

Jeffrey also recounted several meetings with the Legend himself, including a longtime friendship with Elvis' old army-buddy and guitarist Charlie Hodge, and days spent at Graceland where Hodge lived at the time.

He credits their mutual respect for the King as the reason they enjoyed making music together.

"I think they appreciated I wasn't like thousands of other guys," Jeffrey said. "I wasn't an impersonator."

Badgett Playhouse's Bill Minihan said the musical camaraderie was reciprocal.

"The thing I notice as an outsider looking in is that every single person with Elvis all gravitated to Jeffrey after (Elvis') death," Minihan said. "They not only noticed his amazing ability, but the fact he was paying tribute to the songs -- not the white jumpsuits and the scarves."

Minihan added "The Kid and the King" holds priceless nostalgia for audiences. During one show, audience members called for Jeffrey to replay favorites like "King Creole" and "Separate Ways" -- a song about drifting apart, ironically requested by a woman in celebration of her wedding anniversary.

On stage Jeffrey described himself as a performer from an early age, saying: "The bug bit me pretty early."

It began with a diner on Bridge Street in Paducah his parents owned in 1957, and the jukebox songs Jeffrey heard at 3 years old as waitresses delivered food to customers on rollerskates.

There were other hits later in life, Jeffrey said -- The Beatles, Prince and Huey Lewis -- but none quite like "Jailhouse Rock" and "All Shook Up."

"(Music) was in my blood -- but specifically him, I was just immediately (drawn) to his music," Jeffrey said. "I really got into his whole career. I sucked it up like a sponge."

Jeffrey was playing gigs as early as 13 years old. "Right out of high school" he signed a contract with Holiday Inns of America, performing six nights a week in different states.

Though he had a manager at age 14, the achievement was topped by Jeffrey's first meeting with Elvis one year later. It was achieved by sneaking backstage at a concert, told in an anecdote worthy of any coming-of-age film where a starstruck teen meets his idol.

That meeting and others became the cornerstone of Jeffrey's musical passion. He said as he grew older he also considered the weblike influence from artist and artist.

Perhaps it's captured best in a quote from The Beatles' John Lennon: "Without Elvis, there would be no Beatles."

"I like to look at it one degree further," Jeffrey said. "If there hadn't been an Elvis, there would have been no Beatles and then who else?"

While Jeffrey knows his path would still involve playing today, much would have been different without the influence of Elvis Presley.

"I believe I was going to do music at some point, but I don't think I'd have started as early without Elvis," he said. "I've got a lot of favorite artists out there, but he's at the top."

Jeffrey will play three concerts in January with the Nashville Symphony Orchestra. Elvis' former wife Priscilla Presley will be a special guest.

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