He’s Tumut’s very own Rock and Roll King, and this weekend Len Connolly is joining thousands of other tribute artists and fans in the annual pilgrimage to the Parkes Elvis Festival.
“I’ve been performing here since about 2010 and it’s such a great festival,” he said, speaking to Region while on the road to his first gig for the day.
“It’s very tiring though, because you’ve gotta run from show to show and you don’t get much time in between!
“I’m actually in an international show on Friday night with a guy from Scotland, a guy from Japan and a guy from New Zealand.”
Len is Australia’s only Wiradjuri Elvis Tribute Artist (ETA) and has been a fan of the King since he was a boy growing up on Brungle Mission between Gundagai and Tumut.
“I was singing Elvis before I went to school,” the 62-year-old said with a laugh.
“I used to get up and sing Teddy Bear and shake a leg in front of the class when I was about five or six in the little school on the mission.
“So I’ve been singing for a while now, but I only started doing the full show in all the costumes and everything since the 2000s.”
Held annually in the second week of January, the Parkes Elvis Festival coincides with the King’s birthday on the 8th.
In the decades since it began in 1993, it has become one of the nation’s best-known music events, attracting die-hard fans and curious spectators alike with more than 25,000 visitors pouring into the NSW town.
“I like mingling with other musicians, moving around and performing and making people happy,” Len said.
“I think performing is one of my favourite parts and where I feel at home.”
As the only First Nations Elvis at the festival, Len points out that Elvis himself had Indigenous heritage (Cherokee) and said he’d attracted plenty of fans.
“A lot of Koories like Elvis, it’s part of the culture,” he said.
“I’ve had a lot of Koorie people at my shows here and a few years ago I had a couple of ladies come and say, ’We come from Townsville just to see you!'”
In 2022 Len was chosen to perform at the World Expo in Dubai and said it was a surreal experience.
“Yeah, that was fantastic singing at the Australian pavilion at the World Expo for a week,” he said.
“I was the only Elvis at the expo and it was a big hit!”
In 2022, a photo of Len was selected as a finalist in the Australian Life photo competition.
The image by photographer Stuart Miller captured Len in the spotlight as he stepped out of the dressing room/Gents at a Parkes Bowling Club to begin his set.
For the uninitiated, Len reckons you’ve got to get to the festival at least once in your life.
“If you have never been to the Parkes Elvis Festival you should come along because it’s a great event and there are just so many people that come,” he said.
“And we’re all here for one reason – to keep Elvis’ music alive!”