With a shake of a leg and a curl of a lip, Steven Betts IS Elvis, the King of Rock and Roll.
The crowd quiets at the first pounding notes of the theme from “2001: A Space Odyssey.” Heads turn and there’s Elvis, microphone in hand and dressed in his signature gold lamé jacket and large tinted glasses.
Steven Betts, a.k.a. Elvis, strolls over to the stage—today, the gazebo at the Farm in the Dell in Helena. Occasionally he stops to strike a pose or wave to the crowd.
It’s a warm June afternoon, and Betts is giving the audience of farm residents, employees and visitors a sneak preview of his upcoming Harvest Days performance. Betts is well known to this crowd, and cheers and encouragement to “shake it, Elvis” begin as soon as he launches into “Burning Love.”
Betts, 25, has been doing his Elvis impersonation for the last several years, performing at West Mont’s Farm in the Dell annual fund raiser as well as other special occasions.
His transformation for these events is complete. It starts with the costumes, whether the gold lamé jacket or white jumpsuit, and grows when he dons his wig of black lanky curls and long sideburns.
Blame it on Bubba
But the crux of Betts’ ability to call up his mastery of the King’s mannerisms. With a kick, a lip curl and a tuck of the chin, Elvis comes alive.
Betts became infatuated with Elvis when he was just five years old after his Uncle Don, or “Bubba,” showed him how to imitate the King’s moves. That’s all it took.
“Dog-gone Bubba,” said Betts, with a grin as the story is told.
Betts’ love of being Elvis is obvious. His favorite Elvis movie is “Jailhouse Rock,” but he’s watched them all many times. He knows every piece of Elvis trivia and calls his niece “Priscilla” even though her name is Sierra. His Elvis mementos and possessions range from a recipe book of the King’s favorite foods to Elvis bath towels.
‘All Shook Up’
Elvis tunes are the only music Betts listens to—“All Shook Up” is his favorite— and he turns them on as soon as he gets up in the morning. The only time Betts isn’t listening to Elvis is when he’s at work.
“He knows all of the words to all of the songs, as do his parents,” laughed his dad, John.
Betts loves Elvis because “he is the King of Rock and Roll,” adding that he also likes Elvis’ hair and his good moves that make the girls scream.
“They just go nuts I guess,” Betts said.
Some of Betts’ biggest audiences as Elvis have been wedding guests. One reception included about 500 people. Betts started performing at weddings when his older sister, Jackie, was the matron of honor at her best friend’s wedding.
In recent years, Jackie’s children—Brekken, 8; Bridger, 5; and Sierra, 1—are among Betts’ biggest fans.
“Sierra doesn’t walk yet but she dances to Elvis,” Jackie said.
Betts lives with his parents in Helena where he attended Ray Bjork Elementary, Helena Middle and Helena High schools. His academic strength was reading, but his participation in Steven Michelson’s chorus class at Helena High was the highlight of his school years and where he honed the performance skills he uses today.
“Steven was welcomed into the chorus class after some discussion about a ‘probation’ period to see how he would fit in with students who were serious about their music,” said his mom, Dawn. “Because of Dr. Michelson’s and his students’ open hearts and minds, Steven spent his sophomore, junior and senior years enjoying chorus, making friends and using his musical talents.”
When he isn’t Elvis, Betts works at Van’s Thriftway grocery store four days a week as a produce clerk.
“Steven adds a lot to the store,” said Paula Vander Jagt, owner of Van’s Thriftway. “I think it’s more to our benefit even than to his to have him working here.”
Betts also works two days a week at Papa John’s, folding pizza boxes. He’s held both jobs for about five years.
Betts leaves Elvis at the door when he’s on the job but once his workday is done, the King is back.
My hands are shaky
and my knees are weak,
I can’t seem to stand on
my own two feet.
Who do you thank
when you have such luck?
I’m in love,
I’m all shook up
Mm mm oh yeah!