The best Elvis impersonation you’ll ever hear

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As an Elvis Presley fan (yes it’s true) I recently discovered the music of PJ Proby (pictured on the left circa 1960). I was searching for one of the greatest Elvis songs of all-time, Fun in Acapulco, and came across a video that contained two versions of the song. The first is a “demo” cut by Proby. The second is the official version that was later released by Elvis. If you listen to both versions (which are contained in the same video below) I think you’ll agree that Proby does a very remarkable job. He may very well be the first and greatest Elvis impersonator there ever was.

Proby also portrayed Elvis Presley in a theatrical production of Elvis – The Musical, winning a Best Musical of the Year award in 1977.

I’m in the mood for a little musical break, so here’s two versions of the same song, Fun in Acapulco. First Proby, then Elvis himself. Enjoy!

25 responses

  1. Elvis is called The King……Proby in my opinion is better. Both wonderful singers!

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    1. I think they both have their good points.

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      1. Elvis was the most fantastic singer but now & again he did copy other people’s interpretations of songs.That’s not a crime,all singers do it including P.J. Look at Michael Bublé,he copies the style of every old crooner out there.
        As for Proby doing “covers” of Elvis songs afterwards & then pretending they were genuine demo’s…..what would be the point of that?
        I know the guy who found one of the Proby Elvis demo’s in Texas & I also know the lady who bid the highest on the 10 inch,78 rpm acetate of “Slowly But Surely” back in 2003 at Cooper Owen’s in London.I’ve seen the item for real. Sooner or later a few more are bound to surface.
        Other Weisman demo songs are also out there that he sent to Elvis using Proby’s voice. Not all were accepted. “I’ll keep your secret” is one fantastic example. Beautiful song,beautifully performed by P.J. but Elvis did not go for it.
        All people accept everything that Elvis did as truthful & genuine…..why not show the same respect to P.J.?
        I’m pleased shoutabyss does.Thanks.

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  2. At the risk of inciting rage from P.J. Proby fans and being labeled anti-Proby (a favorite word for anyone questioning his claims), the known facts are:

    (1) P.J. Proby worked as a demo singer for Ben Weisman (co-writer of this song) in 1962 and 1963 and Weisman said Proby was one of a group of singers he used to demo songs he wrote for the Elvis films. He never said publicly or in print that Proby did a demo of this song or even how many Proby-demoed songs were actually chosen for Elvis soundtracks.

    (2) P.J. Proby’s promoters and supporters (one of whom created the video above and put it on YouTube) seem hell-bent on convincing everyone else this is a Proby “demo” Elvis copied exactly. They even claim Weisman said it as well. Weisman was very proud of the demos he produced and the quality of the musicians he chose for his demos. He was invited to Elvis’ soundtrack recording sessions as a music consultant. He wasn’t a singer nor an expert on voice. He actually said in interviews that “they” (everyone involved in the session – musicians, arrangers, sound engineers) copied his demos note for note. He never said Elvis mimicked any demo singer.

    (3) No one involved in the Weisman produced demo of this song has ever come forward to authenticate the recording in the above video. Nor has anyone given witness to the fact it was Proby who sang on the real demo. The absence of authentication hasn’t prevented P.J. Proby from selling copies of “his demo” and the Elvis version on his website. The story from Proby’s promoters is his recording was “found a few years ago in a dirty old box in a Texas record shop”. I wonder how many people would be buying it if they realized it could be a cover.

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    1. In the wonderful book “Writing For The King” Ben Weisman is quoted as saying he used P.J.Proby as an Elvis demo singer.He did not say on which songs but he used Proby!. In another book by Ernst Mikael Jorgensen he says about the demo “Slowly But Surely”…..P.J.Proby,a Weisman discovery, succeeded in outsinging Elvis & Elvis’ version failed to recapture the freshness & energy of Proby’s cut. Songwriter Ruth Batchelor also wrote in 1964 that Proby did 20 Elvis demo songs for her & she paid him $10 a song.Ruth said that she was now (Aug. ’64) so pleased that he is an unbelievable world talent.
      Now if the odd person chooses not to believe these people & their words then they have a mental problem. It’s probably because they are 100% anti Proby! we can’t change that so let them get on with it! I will NOT be getting involved it tit for tat arguments. As the title of a Proby L.P. says, “Believe It Or Not”,…the majority do. Case closed!

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      1. Good information from both sides. I find this all very interesting and I’m glad you both stopped by to fill in the blanks.

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      2. I don’t deny P.J. Proby was one of Weisman’s demo singers. In fact I already said it.

        There are two demos of Weisman songs on the disk included with the book “Writing For The King” and neither is by P.J. Proby.

        It’s an odd person who thinks the recording in the above video is authenticated in some way by Ernst Jorgensen’s critique of “Slowly But Surely”. And that person is no less odd for believing a commentary by a different songwriter, Ruth Batchelor, has any bearing on your “case”. Batchelor may have written 20 songs she hoped Elvis would record but he recorded only five of them. If P.J. Proby demoed any of the five Batchelor songs Ernst Jorgensen didn’t mention it in his book nor did Sharp in “Writing for the King”.

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    2. Thanks for the info. I didn’t mean to step into a Pile of Proby Plots. 🙂

      The information is just something I found on the net because I liked the video. I failed to consider that it might not be 100% true.

      I have to admit that I felt a little surprised at the notion there might have been demo singers to give Elvis ideas on how to perform songs. The thought had never occurred to me.

      Is that something standard in the industry or is that idea really far out there?

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      1. I don’t think it has anything to do with industry standards. There’s always somebody around who didn’t make it as big as they hoped and tries to steal some of the glory from somebody like Elvis.

        Elvis got the reputation in the early and mid sixties that he wasn’t trying very hard. He was tied down by a movie contract that required churning out a lot of bad songs to fill up soundtrack albums. At least he didn’t break contract after contract the way P.J. Proby did.

        It’s easy for anybody to guess why Proby would pass his covers off as demos. Nobody’s interested in buying a cover of an Elvis song sung by an Elvis impersonator. Flip the order of the two recordings and the response is like your initial one.

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      2. When Elvis left the army he became “normal”……his rebel days long behind him. P.J. always has been a rebel & still is even at the age of 74. This is why he’s still got many fans,he changes for no man!
        By the way P.J. is NOT an Elvis impersonator. On Elvis demos he sounded more like Elvis than Elvis himself…he had to. When he did demo’s for Johnny Burnette,Bobby Vee,Johnny Cash etc etc he sounded exactly like them…he had to! But nothing & nobody can beat P.J.’s own natural voice.
        By the way Elvis had Proby records in his private collection. Doesn’t that tell you something? Proby also started singing before Elvis did,he was on the radio in 1949.
        I respect both singers. musicjunkie34 obviously does not.

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      3. Proby is obviously talented whether or not he make demos to assist Elvis or not. To me it sounds, perhaps, like we can’t know with absolutely which is the case.

        Question: What is a good example of a song with Proby using his own voice? Can such a thing be found on YouTube? I’d like to give it a listen.

        To me, a motive for claiming to demo for Elvis is obvious. Who wouldn’t want to be an influence on the King?

        I very much appreciate the information both of you have brought to this topic!

        Honestly, though, 100 years from now I won’t remember this debate. 🙂

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  3. Saying P.J. Proby sounds more like Elvis than Elvis only proves he’s an over the top exaggeration. Nothing can be more real than the real thing. The “I’ll Keep Your Secret” demo you mentioned wouldn’t fool anybody into believing it was Elvis. P.J. Proby is like every other Elvis impersonator, he can’t duplicate Elvis’ voice and style unless he has an Elvis recording to mimic.

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    1. P.J. can mimic any singer in the world when necessary. He can also mimic any actor in the world’s talking voice which he does for a laugh! Presley’s singing voice was unique…so is Proby’s.
      Many Elvis fans truly believe that it’s him singing on “In My Dreams”. Sensible people know it’s Proby singing on the demo which he also co-wrote. Elvis loved the song & was determined to record it but then he heard that it was Proby writing & singing so he backed off. Elvis & P.J. had earlier fallen out because P.J. got engaged to Dotty Harmony when Presley was a GI. private.
      Ricky Nelson eventually got the song & did a reasonable version.
      Another great song on YouTube. (one of very many) by P.J. is “My Elusive Dreams” from 1968 & sung “live” in Sweden.
      Presley was The King…..Proby could have been but he was an awkward so & so…LOL!
      I think it’s time to close this discussion now. I enjoyed it.

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      1. Interesting stuff. I’m very glad this discussion took place. Have a good one!

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      2. I don’t know any Elvis fans who would believe the singer on “In My Dreams” is Elvis. Proby sounds like somebody trying to sing like Elvis to the nth degree. That’s an interesting story too about Elvis loving the song but you won’t find anybody but P.J. Proby fans believing it. What’s more likely is Elvis’ people recognized “In My Dreams” as too much like the 1960 hit Pocket Full of Rainbows and figured fans would spot that as well.

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  4. shoutabyss,
    I think P.J. Proby’s signature song is “Somewhere” from West Side Story. There are several videos of him singing it on YouTube.

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    1. Thanks. I listened to some of his stuff yesterday. Is it just me or does some of it sound a bit odd?

      He does an excellent job on Fun in Acapulco is awesome, that’s for sure. I bet most casual listeners wouldn’t even suspect he’s not Elvis on that track.

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      1. Odd is putting it mildly. P.J. Proby doing P.J. Proby is often a mixture of different voices, styles and accents. It’s probably one reason he never made it big in the States. From comments I’ve read from other parts of the world, people elsewhere seem to think that’s the way Texans talk.

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  5. “In My Dreams” does have a small but difficult part in it that sounds like a line from “Pocketful Of Rainbows”. I did not want to have to mention this but some anti Presley people believed he rejected the song because he could not reach all those high notes which Proby did with ease.
    I think “In My Dreams” by P.J.Proby & the version by Rick Nelson are also both on You Tube.
    Jack Good incidentally called P.J. “The man with a thousand voices”. Jack also said” Proby can sing the pants of anyone else in the world….including himself”

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    1. Jack Good was P.J. Proby’s backer who brought him to England in 1964. Any testimonial from him is hardly unbiased. Would he say his protege wasn’t any good? Even though they fell out later, that would be like admitting he backed a no-talent.

      Your reluctance to quote those “anti Presley people” is touching. Since P.J. Proby’s recording of In My Dreams is on YouTube anyone can judge for themselves why it didn’t get chosen for Elvis to record. Besides why would Proby write a song for Elvis that would be too difficult for him to sing? Was Proby that out of touch with the realities of shopping a song?

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      1. Unlike you I am being fair to both P.J. & Elvis. How would Proby know who would find the song diificultto sing….is he a fortune-teller also? LOL!
        As for the song itself…..it’s beautiful & just made for Elvis. His fans love it & it’s on different Elvis CD’s (listed as maybe Elvis)….that’s how good it is.
        Now I really do think it’s time to stop dragging this “difference of opinion” any further.
        As P.J.’s last Liberty single from 1970 said, “It’s Goodbye”.

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    2. Hey you’re the guy who’s saying people believed Elvis couldn’t reach the high notes. P.J. Proby’s the Elvis mimic but he couldn’t figure that out? You were right the first time, you shouldn’t have mentioned those opinions of your “anti Presley” friends.

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      1. YOU said why would Proby write a song for Elvis that would be too difficult for him to sing? I’m just stating what a few people said….the high notes were maybe a bit too much for Elvis. I easily believe Elvis could have sung it so to me that was not the genuine reason why he rejected it. Other reasons given are that P.J. & his fellow song-writers were not prepared to give up a large proportion of their royalties to Hill & Range & Elvis.I personally still believe it was the bad feeling from Elvis towards P.J. over Dotty that was the real reason for him rejecting the great song.
        This topic by the way has nothing to do with Ben Weisman who had 50 or so demo songs accepted by Elvis, a few of which were sung by P.J.Proby.

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  6. You brought up the song In My Dreams. Where’d you get your reasons why Elvis didn’t record it? So far all I’ve seen is speculation on your part about Elvis’ voice and girlfriends. Anyone else would assume Elvis didn’t like the song. If Proby didn’t submit it for a specific film soundtrack it isn’t likely Elvis would have been interested. It was only included on a Rick Nelson album not released as a single. Did anyone else ever record it? It doesn’t sound like it was considered hit material for Elvis or anyone else.

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    1. Mr.musicjunkie34……we’re going round & round in pointless circles now.
      Adios Amigo.

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