Can't help falling in love with Joe Sir and the Rockabilly Rebels
His black collar beneath his silky purple jacket was popped and pointed, his black hair slicked like smooth, sweet ice cream, his right hand was on the silvery vintage microphone and his left was spread wide at his side.
Those walking past the performance would stop to witness the magnificent image of what appeared to be Elvis Presley singing colorful iconic cries into the mic, his sound filling the fairgrounds with old-time lyrics like "Don't be cruel to a heart that's true."
Was this really Elvis Presley on stage beneath the St. Croix County Fair entertainment tent, back to capture the down-home hearts of the generations, to collect the throbbing hearts and smiling faces of his swooning audience?
No ... but yes. Deer Park resident Joe Sir along with his five-member band from the St. Croix County area has one goal during his impersonations of the infamous Elvis Presley: To bless those that watch and learn more about the King of Rock and Roll, a man of music and of faith.
"If I can bless someone, an older person or a child, that's what amazes me about Elvis's music is it spans the generations," Sir said in a recent interview, "If they're smiling, if they're enjoying themselves, that's what it's all about."
To achieve this goal, Sir and "The Rockabilly Rebels" members try to capture the essence of Elvis and his musical roots by incorporating everything from signature rock and roll to heart-wrenching gospel hymns.
The show includes classics from the 1950s to Elvis's movie career, his 1968 comeback special and Las Vegas years and a tribute to military veterans. The band ends the show with a gospel message that reflects Elvis's life growing up in the church and his relationship with God. Sir also invites the audience to sing along to the hymns like How Great Thou Art and believe in the love God has for them.
Sir said when a lady first approached him about performing a few gospel songs by Elvis for a youth ministry fundraiser, he was shocked someone would want Elvis at a church venue.
"I wasn't real sure how that would be," Sir said, who is also a minister. "But that's when it clicked for me. I saw how I could present the gospel to the audience through Elvis's music and yet have fun with the show and be able to do community events like this.
"I actually met a gal this year who grew up in Memphis and knew him as a teenager and saw him sing and play guitar at church."
Audience interaction is also important to Sir while he sings as Elvis. During nearly every one of the songs at Saturday's performance, Sir walked down the stairs off the stage to find an audience member to sing to personally or hold their hand as they danced in the aisles.
"Elvis was very personal with the crowd, he engaged people, he didn't just stand there. He was a performer, he wasn't just a singer," Sir said. "You got to know Elvis when he was on stage."
On Saturday July 21 at the St. Croix County Fair, the band received a standing ovation and a few hoots and hollers from the crowd of young and old at the end of their performance.
The band averages around six or eight seasonal performances at county fairs, casinos, churches and fundraisers, sometimes traveling as far as Iowa to bring their show to the masses.
Sir has performed over a dozen individual Elvis shows just this year at nursing homes and dementia care units, which is where his impersonations first began more than 20 years ago. The members have been together as a band, including his only daughter on the keyboard, for the last four years according to Sir. The members have their own chances to shine with impersonations of other famous artists from the same time period as Elvis during the show as well.
One of the keyboardists, Chris Ashwood, delivered a jaw-dropping voice and piano performance of Jerry Lee Lewis's unmatched hits Great Balls of Fire and Shake Baby Shake. Both are intricate in technicality and in rhythm and Ashwood played and sang with flawless passion on Saturday, even standing from his chair at one point to pour over the keys.
Lead electric guitarist Terry Jenister also sang and played Carl Perkins's Honey Don't for a touching performance.
Other members, all residents of St. Croix County, include Samantha Sir, Joe's daughter, on keyboard; Paul Ashwood, Chris's dad, on drums; and bassist Jerry Germain.
"They bring a lot to the table, it's been fun to just unleash them and let them do what they do best," Joe Sir said of his fellow band members, "I'm very blessed to have them. I really wanted it to be a band and not just a one-person show."
The only struggle the band has faced, Sir said, is trying to have more opportunities to bring the show to other places. Sometimes they are not called back to certain venues, and often they are not given a reason according to him.
"There's been some disappointments in that sense, that we don't have the opportunity to do this in more places, to bring a positive light to what's going on," Sir said.
Looking to the future with the classic oldies show, the band hopes to add new dimensions and find a better way of promoting their performance, Sir said.