An Elvis impersonator (also known as an Elvis Tribute Artist; people who perform professionally usually prefer this label over Elvis impersonator) is a musician who makes a career out of emulating, in looks, voice, or both, American musician Elvis Presley. They are extremely popular in Las Vegas, in Pigeon Ford, and in many other areas in the United States and other countries. There are impersonators who specialize in performing as the early Presley, the Las Vegas late 1960s Presley, and the late 1970s gospel Presley.
The first Elvis impersonator was a sixteen year old boy named Jim Smith. He began in 1956, right as Presley was becoming popular. Smith resembled Presley physically and was noticed by DJ Norm Pringle of Victoria. Smith was featured several times on Pringle's show, but he was only pretending to be able to sing or play the guitar.
Many impersonators appeared while Presley was still alive, competing in small-town talent shows. Not until Presley's death on August 16, 1977 did impersonation of the star become popular in the mainstream. This is an essential part of the Elvis Presley phenomenon.
Jimmy "Orion" Ellis' natural voice sounded almost exactly like Presley's which was a double edged sword for him, which resulted in his rise to fame, and ridicule as if he were imitating Presley, hence his song "I'm Not Trying To Be Like Elvis". He also covered several songs of Presley's in addition to his original music.
Elvis Presley Enterprises hosts a yearly Elvis Tribute Artist contest.