Up-Close and Personal with Elvis Presley tribute artist Ryan Pelton

Ryan Pelton

Recently, Ryan Pelton (RP), an internationally known Elvis Presley tribute artist, currently performing in Branson’s Legends in Concert show was kind enough to take time from his busy schedule to do an interview for a Branson – Up Close and Personal, a service of the Branson Tourism Center (BTC), one of Branson’s largest and most respected vacation planning services.

It’s intended to provide an “up close and personal look” at a Branson star or personality and uses a “Question and Answer” format.

BTC: Outside of Elvis Presley, if you could meet and perform with anyone, living or dead, who would it be and why?
RP: Well there are three, Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and the Big Bopper. [Jiles Perry Richardson, Jr.] If I have to pick one it would be Buddy Holly because he was so talented, both as a song writer and singer. I’ve always been a Buddy Holly fan and his songs are catchy even today. He had a different sound, combining a little bit of Texas Swing, rockabilly, rock and roll and country.

BTC: What do you like most about performing the Elvis Tribute in the 2018 edition of Branson’s Legends in Concert?
RP: Splitting up the Elvis set of the show into two mini concerts reflecting two different eras of Elvis’ life. I open the show wearing a military uniform and doing a patriotic tribute to the movie  “GI Blues,” and our Veterans. I just love that era and honoring our Veterans! It’s done without sideburns because Elvis did not have them in the movie and or while in the military. During the second half of the show, I close the set with the 70’s era Elvis, complete with white jump suit and sideburns.

BTC: Whether you’re in it or not, what’s your favorite part of the this year’s Branson Legends in Concert Show?
RP: ­­Absolutely the Veteran’s tribute and singing “America the Beautiful” to open the show.

BTC: Why should someone coming to Branson plan to see the Legends in Concert?
RP: To see one of the most unique and entertaining musical shows they will ever see. Unbelievably talented entertainers pay tribute to entertainment legends. Not only do they sing like the stars they pay tribute to, but they have the look and mannerisms too. It’s five miniature concerts letting the audience experience the realism of the legend getting the tribute. And if that’s not enough, its done amid a full scale choregraphed production with dancers, singers, a live band, colorful costumes and special effects providing a spectacular entertainment experience.

BTC: Why would kids like this show?
RP: Kids might not know who some of these stars are, but good music is just good music and kids appreciate that. Bruno Mars started as an Elvis impersonator and he’s one of the most popular stars today.[Click here to see when!]

BTC: Where were you born?
RP: State College, Pennsylvania overlooking Beaver Stadium.

BTC: When?
RP: January 12, 1973.

BTC: Do you have any formal musical training?
RP: Zero.

BTC: What was your profession before you started performing as an Elvis Tribute Artist?
RP: I owned my own website development firm when the internet first started gaining prominence in the early 1990s.

BTC: Just have to ask this, “Do you have a web site and did you design it?
RP: Yes and Yes,  RyanPelton.Com

BTC: It is said that you sometimes refer to yourself as “The Forest Gump of the Elvis Tribute Artists (ETA) World.” Is that true and if it is, what’s the story behind it?
RP: Yes. In the movie Forest Gump, Forest just goes through life living it as best he can, and things just happen to him because he’s at the right place at the right time. I have been very blessed to be able to do what I do, I take it very seriously, and have been blessed to be in the right place at the right time many times.

BTC: When did you first become interested in Elvis Presley and why?
RP: I had zero Elvis influence growing up, except for some people saying I looked like Elvis. Had no interest in Elvis, or music through high school, my stint in the U.S Marine Corps and college. Then one day, out of no-where, my mom faxed over an entry form for a local Elvis Contest and said, “I dare you to do this.” I saw it and thought, “She sent that thinking I’m not going to do it. She’s just having some fun with me because people say I look like Elvis.”

Even though I knew nothing about Elvis, I took the dare. A week later I competed in the contest. The guitar didn’t have strings on it and I taped the lyrics to it because I didn’t even know the words to the songs. I sang “Stuck on You,” “I Need Your Love Tonight,” and “Love Me” in the preliminaries, “Jail House Rock” in the finals, and won the contest. I rented a VHS video called “Elvis 56” from Blockbuster Video. It was all I had and I went from there.

I had no costume for the finals because I didn’t expect to get that far. I was singing Jail House Rock so I went to K-Mart and got a black jeans jacket and sprayed white t shirt with black stripes. I didn’t know the music so I wrote clues to all the verses on my hand. It was hot out and it melted so I ended up singing one verse five times, but I ended up winning.

BTC: What impact did winning the contest have on your future?
RP: Prior to that point I was not sure what I wanted to do, and sure did not plan on being an Elvis Presley tribute artist. Within a week I was performing in Philadelphia, had offers from all over  and made the decision that, “If I am doing this I need to do it.” I sold my internet business and went full time into a production show called “Pure Gold,” down on the Louisiana coast. It was a tiny version of what Legends in Concert is and was a cool experience. In addition to Elvis I got to  perform others such as “Buddy Holly,” “Elwood” in the “Blues Brothers,” the Indian in the “Village People.” I did two shows a night, six nights a week and wasn’t making much money, but it was worth its weight in gold in terms of becoming an entertainer.

BTC: How did you end up with Legends in Concert?
RP: In about 2000, after “Pure Gold,” I had a live audition for Legends in Concert during one of their shows in Las Vegas and worked with them until 2009.

BTC: What happened in  2009?
RP: I wanted to go out on my own, so I started my own band “Ryan Pelton & the Difference.” We toured extensively performing a combination of Elvis and my own music.

BTC: Were you also in a movie?
RP: Yes, using the screen name “Blake Rayne,” I starred with Ray Liotta, Ashley Judd, and Seth Green in the 2014 movie, “The Identical.”

BTC: How did that come about?
RP: My band and I were rehearsing original music in the studio in Nashville. By chance I met the executive producer of the movie and the result was a role in the movie.

BTC: What did you do after that?
RP: Went back on the road performing over 280 dates per year until I re-established my relationship with Legends in Concert.

BTC: What is your favorite Elvis Period to perform?
RP: The “Black Leather 68 Comeback.”

BTC: Whether you sing it in the Legends of Concert show or not, what is your favorite Elvis Presley song and why?
RP: I have to give you two for that one. My favorite Elvis Presley song is a song called “Pieces of My Life.” Nobody knows it. It is in so many ways the sadder part of my life’s story and some of the things I had to go through. Performance wise it’s “Poke Salad Annie” because of its energy and the response you get from the crowd.

BTC: What’s your favorite genre of music?
RP: I listen to and appreciate all genres of music, but my favorite is “Soundscape.” It’s hard to describe what it is specifically, but it’s just calming and relaxing.

BTC: Elvis Presley or not, what’s your favorite song?
RP: The Spanish version of Hallelujah sung by Il Divo. It’s just so beautiful. [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VzB8xC_CwH8]

BTC: If you could influence someone to remember one thing about Elvis Presley or his music, what would it be?
RP: Elvis Presley was just a man with a very specific vision. He wanted to be a singer and against all the odds he created his own world and made it happen. You can do the same thing.

BTC: When was your first time in Branson?
RP: 2001 when I filled in for Tony Roi.

BTC: What was your first impression of Branson?
RP: There was a sense of community and the friendliness of the people.

BTC: Do you have a favorite hobby or activity?
RP: I have a wood shop in my garage and love woodworking on things like furniture., I’m still a computer geek to this day and love video editing.

BTC: What else would you like our readers to know?
RP: I like to learn. I feel that when you are through learning you are through. Everyday I wake up and think, “What can I learn today?”

For more information on Branson’s Legends in Concert show and other amazing Branson shows, attractions, or lodging, please call one of Branson Tourism Center’s Branson based Travel Planners at 1-800-875-1550. They will be delighted to answer any questions you might have about Branson, its shows, hotels, or attractions and assist you with reservations to help ensure that you obtain the best available seating at shows and the accommodations you desire. There is no charge for this service and they are available daily, except Christmas Day, from 8:00 AM to 9:30 PM.

We hope you enjoyed our article! If so, just sign up below for our Free Monthly Branson News and Information Newsletter: