The seventh annual Elvis Rocks Mesquite Competition was held at the CasaBlanca Showroom on June 18 with preliminary rounds held earlier. Elvis Tribute Artists came from all over the country, 19 of them, to compete for a total of $10,000 in prize money.
Winning the 2016 Elvis Rocks Mesquite Competition was Travis Allen who took home a check for $3,000 and bragging rights for being the best tribute artist in the Mesquite competition.
Allen isn’t a stranger to the competition or to the many performers who pay tribute to the King. Each of the performers, although in competition with one another, support and encourage others to compete. Two of the twelve finalists in this year’s ERM competition were instrumental in pulling in the winner of a past contest. The camaraderie between these tribute artists is impressive.
In 2014 ERM winner, Frank Werth said, “I gotta tell you that four years ago I was playing in Kansas City, Missouri and I met two of the greatest guys I’ve ever met. Mr. E-Rock has a voice that could raise the roof off of any theatre. There’s this other guy who’s like a big brother to me and said, “Boy you better calm your butt down and get out there and do this.” He was Mr. Rich Vickers. Mr. Rich Vickers said, “Frank, you gotta come to Mesquite.” So after four years with Mr. Travis Allan… now I know what it’s like to win this… boy it means the world. Mr. Robert Washington, one of the first Tribute Artists I’ve ever met in my life and saw on You Tube, thank you both very much and to all the tribute artists who didn’t make the finals, follow your dream, love Elvis… study him and may God Bless you all.”
The competition began on June 17 with the ‘Best of the 50’s and 60’s. The final preliminary round was on June 18 with the best of the 70’s. After the preliminary rounds were over 12 contestants were chosen to go on to the finals held June 18 at 8 p.m.
During the ‘Best of’ rounds audience members were able to vote on their ‘Fan Favorite.’ The winner was announced at the end of the finals competition before the judge’s picks were announced. The winner of the ‘Fan Favorite’ went to the youngest member of the competition, 20 year old, Jacob Roman.
Even at his young age this wasn’t Roman’s first ERM competition. Last year Roman took home fourth place and $500 for his efforts. This year he took third place as well as being the ‘Fan Favorite’ and a check for $1,500.
Last year’s winner Tyler James helped hand out the awards to the 2016 tribute artists along with Krissy Ayon, Entertainment Director for the CasaBlanca Resort and coordinator of this annual event.
Coming in second in the competition was Robert Washington the Elvis Rocks Mesquite 2012 winner. Washington came 3,000 miles from Auburn, ME. Washington took home $2,000. According to a press release issued by the CasaBlanca resort in 2014, Washington was the first African American to win the World Championship Elvis Impersonator title. He beat out 100 other competitors and has traveled the world carrying on the memory of Elvis’s music.
Mark Stevens took a fourth place trophy home to Vancouver, WA and James King took fifth place home to Long Beach, CA.
Other finalists in the competition were:
Sixth place, Todd ‘TNT’ Taurus; seventh place, Will Humbarger; eighth place, Tony Freetus; ninth place, Seve Botello; tenth place, Anthony Alcala; eleventh place, Claude ‘Doc Elvis’ Nielsen; and twelfth place, Bob ‘Bobby’ Presley.
Claude ‘Doc’ Nielsen, a Mesquite resident and favorite, has been in every Elvis Rocks Mesquite competition since its inception and has placed in the finals several times over the years. Nielsen was born the same year as Elvis, just 34 days apart, and is the oldest tribute artist to compete in the ERM events in all its years. Nielsen came in fourth place out of 40 contestants in 2010.
For the finals of the competition audience members were treated to two songs from each of the artists. Tribute artists start with a clean slate in the finals, scores are not accumulative, and are judged based on vocals, stage presence, appearance and overall performance.
Past winners of the competition have been Australian Mark Anthony who captured the inaugural ERM in 2010 while Johnny Fortuno of Henderson took home the gold in the 2011 showdown, Washington grabbed the title in 2012 show and Shelby, N.C. native Travis Powell took the home the crown in 2013. Frank Werth won in 2014 and Tyler James took home the trophy and bragging rights in 2015.
One thing is certain, Elvis may be dead but his music, legacy and memories are kept alive by these men who love, honor and continue to pay tribute to the King and to entertainment venues like the Casablanca Resort who continue to hold these ETA competitions.