Elvis Presley: Belfast tribute artist Jim shocked by star in new King biopic

Belfast-based Elvis tribute performer Jim “King” Brown has “goosebumps” when he sees actor Austin Butler as Presley in the trailer for Elvis, a new biopic about the legendary star, which hits theaters on Friday.

My hair stood on end when I saw this,” said Brown (54), who has been performing King songs alongside original material for 25 years.

His full-fledged musical career only began after a Royal Mail colleague told the late Belfast singer-songwriter Bap Kennedy that he knew a man who could “sing just like Elvis.”

This led to Jim being invited to London by EMI Records, who called him “the world’s first Elvis translator”.

He recorded the Gravelands album containing tracks by deceased singers. Elvis-style performances included Nirvana’s catchy version of Come As You Are.

Jim was initially wary of paying homage to Elvis despite being a lifelong fan.

Faced with the prospect of recording a cover album of King’s greatest hits, Jim told his team, “There’s no point in drawing Mona Lisa again – Elvis has already laid down masterpieces.”

Insisting that he has no plans to become a full-time performer, he explained, “I kind of got into music. In a way, it came to me.”

Now he hopes the film will introduce Presley, who died in 1977 at the age of 42, to a whole new audience.

Butler, a mostly unknown actor from California, reportedly beat out Miles Teller (Top Gun: Maverick) and Harry Styles for his role in the biopic directed by Baz Luhrmann.

Critics described Butler’s performance as a “revelation”, and Presley’s daughter Lisa-Marie predicted that he would be presented with a Best Actor award at the Oscars next year.

Jim agrees. He added, “It looks fantastic, although I hope it’s not one of those movies where the trailer looks better than it actually is.”

Butler’s elevation to the role was not without controversy.

Many Elvis fans have taken to social media to point out that the young actor bears little resemblance to a king.

Jim said: “I actually saw a lot of negative comments on social media from all over the world, and when I recently performed in Germany, I was among the many fans who didn’t seem to give him a chance.

“I actually saw Austin Butler in a movie a few years ago and I remember turning to my wife to say I saw the charisma of a young Elvis in him, so I don’t see a problem with casting Baz Luhrmann.”

The performer will return to the continent in August for the European Elvis Festival in Germany, just one of his many Elvis-themed concerts this year.

He’s also excited that Presley’s music is experiencing something of a renaissance that hasn’t been seen since the remixed version of A Little Less Conversation hit No. 1 in 2005.

“I was blown away after this track came out, so this movie will definitely bounce all Elvis around. You definitely win when these things happen,” he said.

The film’s soundtrack was also eagerly anticipated, as Butler, contrary to the trend of typical biopics, sang as Elvis rather than backing up. The track list also includes Doja Cat, Eminem and Stevie Nicks.

“My only hope is that the movie doesn’t have any bad moments, but it looks like an amazing show and I hope it gets a new appreciation for Elvis’ story and what he has achieved musically and in his acting career.” Jim added.

He has no plans to stop performing, noting that artists like him have already lost two precious years due to the pandemic.

He said, “I told my wife if I ever start looking ridiculous doing this, let me know because I’m not going to offend the person himself… I can’t stand actions that make Elvis into a joke.”