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A Young King: Teen Elvis tribute artist strives to be the best

By Austin Jackson | Published Wednesday, February 6, 2019
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Becoming the king

BECOMING THE KING — Decatur resident Moses Snow, 15, has taken his love of performing Elvis songs to competitions and gigs across the country as an Elvis Tribute Artist. This summer, he’ll tour Europe performing Elvis songs from the 1950s. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

Three years ago, a boy with jet black hair, glasses and a voice beyond his years took the stage for the first time.

Moses Snow, 15, of Decatur had grown up dancing and crooning Elvis Presley tunes around his house, but never in front of a crowd.

At a restaurant in Roanoke, James Wages, an Elvis tribute artist wearing a lavish white jumpsuit swaggered off the stage and started talking to the then 12-year-old.

“He went up to our table, not knowing who we were and talked to us,” Snow said. “My dad told him I like to sing some Elvis around the house, and he said, ‘Oh really, why don’t you shake a leg up on the stage in a little bit.'”

Despite being shy and looking more like Buddy Holly at the time, Snow overcame the nerves, falling back into the comfort and familiarity of “Blue Suede Shoes.”

After feeling the adrenaline and seeing the crowd’s reaction, Snow said a switch flipped that night.

“I just fell in love with it,” Snow said.

Looking back on the performance, Snow said it was a humble beginning and a far cry from where he is today. Now, he’s one of the top amateur Elvis tribute artists in the nation. He recently won the Florida Elvis Extravaganza.

“It’s really crazy to see how far Elvis has taken me,” Snow said.

What started at that restaurant turned into series of gigs and competitions across the country. Wages took him under his wing, giving advice on how to enter the business as an Elvis tribute artist.

Snow quickly rose up the ranks, adding moves, new songs, rhythm guitar and coming to fully understand and emulate the Elvis swagger.

The difference between Elvis and Moses is large when he’s going about his normal day. But once he gets on the stage, wearing the suits and shoes, with a mic in his hands, Snow said he feels like Elvis.

“There’s a big separation between me personally, being myself and from me on stage,” Snow said. “When you put the stuff on and sing like him and move like him, you feel kind of how he felt on stage. It’s cool it’s hard to describe. You feel like how he felt.”

While many teens’ Spotify accounts are packed with rap and pop music, Snow immerses himself in Elvis’ sprawling catalogue. His favorite songs are from the 1950s, early in Elvis’ career.

After completing his school work, Snow spends his days studying the artist, watching documentaries and researching his life and his career.

Snow said it’s important, not just to replicate the moves and the voice, but to understand who Elvis was and how he got to be the King.

“There’s a lot to study about the guy. There are lots of little details you have to focus on to get the essence of him right,” Snow said. “I’m still practicing and learning to this day through documentaries. You can’t fill his shoes. That’s why I consider myself an ETA [Elvis tribute artist] instead of a impersonator.”

Snow said there’s a big difference between impersonation and being a tribute artist. Being an impersonator you claim to be Elvis, he said.

“Being an ETA, it’s like a tribute. It’s honoring Elvis,” Snow said.

This summer, Snow will tour Europe with his family, honoring the king of rock-n-roll at competitions and gigs. He’ll also perform on cruises this summer.

While his accomplishments are long, including winning competitions against professional Elvis tribute artists and touring the world, Snow said there’s a lot more he can do. But he doesn’t foresee leaving the king behind.

“I want to do Elvis for as long as I possibly can,” Snow said. “As of accomplishing stuff, there’s still a lot to accomplish. There’s still so much to do out there in the ETA world. Germany is a big step for me.

“I want to continue this for as long as I can.”

His main goal, once he turns 18, is to win the Ultimate Elvis Tribute Artist Competition in Memphis, Tenn.

“If you win first place, you are considered the ultimate, the ultimate champion,” Snow said. “That’s my goal. It’s the biggest of the biggest competitions in the ETA world.”

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