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Meet some of the European Elvis impersonators competing to be crowned "King"


This weekend, a king will be crowned in a Hilton conference room in Birmingham, England.


UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: (Singing) I had to leave town for a little while. You said you'd be good while I'm gone.


A king of rock 'n' roll, that is. The European Elvis Championships are underway as we speak, the biggest competition of the year for the thriving world - who knew? - of European Elvis tribute artists.

MIKE NOVA: You know, it's quite a serious business, to be honest.

SUMMERS: Mike Nova, who was runner-up in 2008, is hosting this year's competition.

NOVA: And I also get to do a few other songs myself. So it's the best job in the world (laughter).

SUMMERS: It's a job that entails ushering dozens of singing and dancing Elvises on and off the stage as judges winnow down the field.

NOVA: You've got guys of all ages and sizes. You know, the more professional guys - they're helping out, you know, the younger colleagues that are coming through and giving them advice. And it's basically a brotherhood, really, more in that sense.

KELLY: Matt King is one of those veteran Elvises.

MATT KING: I would say I've got a chance. I'm not saying I've got no chance. I have a challenge. I'm a bit older now. You know, I fit into my suit still. I haven't got a big tummy and all that, so I think I've kept the weight down. My voice is still holding out pretty well, I think.

KELLY: King is 57. He has been performing since 1990. He won the very first European championship in 2004. This year he's mixing it up by singing deep cuts instead of the classics.

KING: I don't know whether I'm allowed to let my songs out. So I feel like I can tell you. I'm doing "Danny Boy." And then I'm doing a song called "Any Day Now" and then a song called "It's Only Love."


ELVIS PRESLEY: (Singing) It's only love that I feel inside. But I'll get by somehow.

EMILIO SANTORO: I mean, I've grown up watching these guys. And to be sharing a stage with them even is just an honor in itself. And I never thought I'd be able to hold my own against them.

SUMMERS: If there is an up and coming European Elvis, it's Emilio Santoro. And he does more than hold his own. Last year he won the championship at 19 years old, leaning into Elvis' young heartthrob era from the '50s.


SANTORO: (Singing) I've got those hup, two, three, four, occupation G.I. blues.

KELLY: So as is customary, he will not compete this year.

SANTORO: I'll be having to pass on the title to someone else. It will be very sad, but I mean, I'll be supporting all the guys. We're all brothers in this business.

KELLY: But he will still be there to perform. And he gave us a little preview.

SANTORO: I've not warmed up, so I apologize in advance, but I'll try a few bars of "Can't Help Falling In Love." (Singing) Wise men say only fools rush in, for I can't help falling in love with you.

There we go.

SUMMERS: So it is deep cuts and classics all weekend at the Birmingham Hilton.


PRESLEY: (Singing) Wise men say only fools rush in, but I can't help falling in love with you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Christopher Intagliata is an editor at All Things Considered, where he writes news and edits interviews with politicians, musicians, restaurant owners, scientists and many of the other voices heard on the air.
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