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JD Fortune presenting Elvis Presley at deCoste

JD Fortune
JD Fortune

John Lennon is famously quoted as saying “If there hadn't been an Elvis, there wouldn't have been the Beatles” and “Before Elvis, there was nothing.” 

Elvis Presley is credited with single-handedly changed the course of music and culture in the mid-1950s, according to Rolling Stone Encyclopedia of Rock and Roll.

Pictou County singer JD Fortune, who won the reality TV show Rock Star INXS to become the lead singer of the Australian band, echoes Lennon’s sentiments.

“I’m passionate about him, I also owe my career to him,” said the Salt Springs native, about Elvis paving the way for future generations of musicians. “I’m a huge Elvis fan,” he said.

Recently, Fortune’s mother gave him his baby book, which listed his heroes as a youngster. They included Superman, Spiderman and Elvis Presley, he said. When Fortune was a young boy, he said he loved listening to Elvis records. “They were the only ones I wanted to listen to over and over and over.”

Fortune will pay tribute to Elvis on stage tonight (Wednesday), the 40th anniversary of the death of the King of Rock and Roll in a one-night show called One Night With You at the deCoste Performing Arts Centre.

The idea for the show was born at Christmas last year when Fortune was “jamming” with local radio station owner Mike Freeman, who plays bass. When Fortune started singing Blue Christmas, he said Freeman told him he sounded just like Presley. Because Freeman is a member of the deCoste Centre board of directors, they decided to pitch the idea of an Elvis show performed by Fortune.

The show isn’t a traditional tribute performance, though, as he won’t be dressed up like the King. “What separates this show is I’m not a guy trying to be Elvis. It’s just me singing Elvis songs.”

Fortune said the show features footage of Elvis – some public and other rare – that most people wouldn’t have seen before. He explains that a friend works for Graceland, and they obtained permission to use the footage.

He said the show will also focus on a lot of Elvis’s “big power songs,” taking the audience on a roller coaster ride. “There’s a definite narrative that goes through the production.”

“I’m promising one thing – it’s the most unique Elvis show you’ve ever seen.”

Fortune said people who bought tickets to the sold-out show purchased a seat, but they’re probably not going to use it because they’ll be on their feet dancing. “My grandmother came to a rehearsal, and she found it hard to stay in her chair.”

He said he’s excited to present the One Night With You show. “The vibe is great, the energy is great.”

The performance is a return to the deCoste for Fortune, who played Danny Zuko in the West Pictou High School production of Grease in 1987.

Taking place on the 40th anniversary of Elvis’s death, it will also be 30 years since Fortune performed at the deCoste, and also the 40th anniversary of the very first time INXS played together as a band, which was Aug. 16, 1977, the day Elvis died.

“It’s so crazy,” said Fortune about the connections, adding that he and Elvis have a number of things in common. “There are a lot of parallels in our lives.”

He notes that they share a love of martial arts, stints in the military and “both love our mamas.”

After the Elvis show, in September Fortune will go to California, where he will join the cast of Raiding the Rock Vault, a show in Las Vegas that tells the story of classic rock from the 1960s to the 1980s. Fortune and INXS parted ways several years ago.

The role won’t be a huge stretch for the singer, who previously performed in a 1950s-60s tribute band and also for a year with Legends in Concert, a live tribute show on the Las Vegas strip.

“In the end, they wanted me to wear a jumpsuit, but that’s not really for me,” he said.

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