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Arts and Entertainment

An Elvis Impersonator's Tricks Of The Trade: Real Sideburns, Crowd-Pleasers & Hitting That 'Money Note'

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By Michaia Hernandez

By day, Chris Luna is a finance guy, but when he gets home, he trades in his business suit for a flashy jumpsuit.

LAist had a chance to speak with the 43-year-old Elvis Presley tribute artist, who has been performing for 14 years. Although Luna takes his role seriously, he's still a fanatic at heart: he still listens to Presley's records for fun and he even managed to convince his wife to name their 4-year-old son Presley (she nixed naming their 2-year-old "Grace Lynn" in tribute to Graceland but they compromised on Madilyn Grace). We asked Luna about how he got into this line of work—and his own tricks of the trade.

LAist: Tell us about how you got started doing Elvis tributes and impersonations.

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Luna: I think the first time I found out I could do Elvis, I was around 18 or 19 years old. That year I went to Universal Studios with a bunch of friends on Halloween night. I think it was their first Halloween Horror Nights that they have now. We were leaving the park, and there was one of these novelty recording studios in the park. They let you record something and put it on a cassette tape—of course, way back then they didn't have CDs. So I went in and did two songs. As we were leaving we popped it into the car stereo, and my friends were impressed. They said, "Wow. You sound just like him, actually." That's how I figured out that I kinda sound like him.

And then, someone I knew was getting married, and a lot of their guests were fans of Elvis, so they asked me to sing. So I performed during the reception, and they loved it. It just snowballed into more and more people asking me, "Come sing here, come sing there." It's nothing that I intended.

LAist: What is your favorite Elvis song to perform?


That’s a really hard question. There are so many songs, considering what I do! If I had to pick one… one of the more popular, most catchy songs is "This is Mine," especially with my band, it really gets the crowd going. I have many favorites, but as far as performing, it would probably have to be this.

LAist: Was there something other than your ability to sound like Elvis that drew you to this job?


No, I wouldn't say that. I'm a fan first. To me, it wasn't so much as a conscious "Hey, I'm gonna do this." I actually have a full-time job as well in finance for a major healthcare organization, but during the weekends I put on a jumpsuit and become Elvis. I'm fortunate to have a certain amount of talent to able to do this. It's not the easiest thing to do, to be quite honest. There's a lot of work that goes into this: studying Elvis, learning the music, the costumes, everything is a cost and a dedication. It's really something that I've gotten better and better at over the years.

LAist: Do you consider it a job or a hobby now?


There are times when I consider it a hobby, and times when I consider it more of a job. When I first started out doing it, it was more of a hobby. I love doing it, but there's definitely an aspect of it being a job. The way an actor studies for a play, it's the same dedication that goes into honing your craft.

LAist: What difficulties did you have when you were starting out?


When I first started out, there weren't suppliers that catered to the industry, so you kinda had to put together your own costumes and props. I was very limited with what I had. You kinda do the best you can. Nowadays, everything is out there.

LAist: What makes you different from other Elvis tribute artists?


Everybody brings to the table something different. Some have better voices, looks, and costumes than others. As far as what I bring to the table, I think my voice is probably my strongest point. Some tribute artists might shy away from doing songs with that big note at the end—we call it the money note.

LAist: Do you ever bring the job home with you?


I think it’s embedded in my life. For example, one of the things I always have with me are my sideburns. I can get away with wearing a wig or dying my hair like Elvis, but my sideburns are so much better than paste-on artificial sideburns. And of course, as a fan, I listen to Elvis at home.

LAist: Is this something that you see yourself doing for a long time?


I haven't really thought about that. I've been doing this for a while now, and at this level I can still do the shows at a certain level. As long as I'm still able to do the performances that people are happy and engaged with, as long as I can, I will. But I know there's going to be a point someday in my life when I'm going to have to hang up the jumpsuit, so to speak. Doing what I do keeps the legacy of Elvis alive. I think that's the number one goal from the job.

You can celebrate your New Year’s Eve with Chris and the TCB Flash Band at the Grove Theatre (276 East 9th Street) on Dec. 31 at 9 p.m. To learn more about Luna, visit Chris'website or find him on Twitter or Facebook

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