When David Lomond shows up for a show, he often arrives in a ’77 gold Cadillac Coupe de Ville, a ride fit for the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll.
Lomond, 61, calls himself the Hawaiian Elvis, a distinction that is necessary when Elvis impersonators range in appearance and performance styles. His impersonation career paying tribute to the King’s showmanship and songs began decades ago and has taken him from county fairs to Branson, Missouri, and, on Dec. 18, to Springfield’s Monkey’s Paw Tiki Bar.
Growing up in Hawaii in the 1960s, Lomond says he could see Elvis in Blue Hawaii, listen to a Don Ho song over the radio and watch Hawaii Five-0 on TV. “We thought the whole world revolved around Hawaii,” he says.
After graduating from high school, Lomond sort of followed in the footsteps of Elvis’ character in Blue Hawaii: He was a tour guide and often sang in an Elvis voice, which he says resulted in big tips from tourists. He learned Elvis’ songs by singing along with the albums.
But Lomond’s professional Elvis venture would happen decades later.
His Elvis impersonation began around 1995, he says. He’d been living in Eugene for years working for his family’s business after giving up his musical career. He submitted an application for an Elvis contest for Eugene’s 99.1 FM KODZ radio station, which then played oldies. The radio station management was impressed, he says, and Lomond was the official Elvis of 99.1.
The title came with radio advertisements and promotions that led to more work, which took him to doing shows, including casinos, country clubs and county fairs. “I was able to buy a house, take care of my kids, I had another kid — just really make a living,” he adds.
Lomond’s Elvis career took him to contests throughout the U.S., where he says he’d often place third or fourth. The contests sometimes attracted impersonators who invested tons of money in plastic surgery and costumes, he adds. But not many of them could match Elvis’ vocals, which is what Lomond says is his strong suit. He proves it over the phone, crooning a bar of “Blue Christmas” in Elvis’ unique baritone voice.
Around 2003, Lomond went to Branson, where he performed as Elvis and did a Sunday gospel show for five seasons. During that time he did 12 shows a week, a workload that resulted in getting a double hernia, he adds. But playing in Branson led him to doing gospel shows for churches throughout the Midwest. “I’m one of the few Hawaiians who’s toured the Bible Belt,” he laughs.
In 2009, Lomond returned to Eugene. Since moving back, he’s continued to perform as Elvis at events, and he says he’s the only Elvis impersonator in Oregon who performs year round (the others move to sunnier parts of the country).
Since social distancing measures have eased, allowing the return of live performances, he says his private shows have seen an increased interest as younger audiences are rediscovering Elvis. “They get an opportunity to hear someone who was a master,” he says about younger generations discovering Elvis. “He was the biggest influence of the 20th century, and he was a master showman. There’s all this stuff on YouTube, and it’s addicting for some.”
Lomond also does ministry work, so it’s not too surprising when he says Elvis’ gospel works are among his favorites to perform. But he says his favorite era of Elvis is post-Army, when he recorded songs such as “Can’t Stop Falling in Love,” “It’s Now or Never” and “Surrender.”
Of course, Lomond’s repertoire runs the gamut of Elvis’ career, from “Hound Dog” all the way to songs popular from Elvis’ Las Vegas shows, such as “Sweet Caroline” and “Proud Mary”.
Lomond’s stage performance is inspired by lounge performances, he says, and takes direction from how Elvis would run shows. He interacts with his audience, tells stories and jokes, and runs the setlist based on the energy from the crowd.
The art of the lounge act, he adds, is something that the younger generation — Millennials and Gen Z — aren’t familiar with. When he performs at Monkey’s Paw Tiki Bar, he says he’ll show the audience “some old school entertainment.”
And nothing says showmanship like pulling up in an old school Cadillac.
David Lomond, “The Hawaiian Elvis,” performs at the Monkey’s Paw Tiki Bar, 420 Main Street, Springfield, 8 pm Saturday, Dec. 18. FREE.