50 Million Tortelvis Fans Can’t Be Wrong
Feature Article By Neil Perry and Mary Scanlon, Select (UK), September, 1990
Tortelvis: “You know, ah’m an honorary member of the Drug Enforcement Agency. If I find somebody with drugs I take care of them, talk to them a li’l. Just today, ah had a li’l chat with a young man – a crowd began to gather, figurin’ ah was Elvis Presley, ah said, No, ah’m Tortelvis – and hopefully he’ll get off the stuff, no drugs, no sir, that’s right.”
“A lot of things leaked out sayin’ how ah was Elvis Presley’s son, an’ that ain’t true. Ah was created by aliens, an’ modeled after the most popular person on Earth. Elvis had this notion that he was gonna die at 42 — his mother did ‘n’ he sure did — but now they’re sayin’ it was suicide. Ah have a theory that maybe Elvis’ people, his boys, knew he was gonna die, so they had me created to specifically take over from where he left off.”
So speaks Tortelvis, the flamboyant frontman for Dread Zeppelin, a California-based reggae band who cover Led Zeppelin songs. Their debut LP, ‘Un-Led-Ed’, is the final proof that these are indeed strange times. And this month they can be found at a venue near you.
Aside from the rhinestone-studded Tortelvis, their fashion sense comes from some long-forgotten backwoods psychedelic explosion lost on the outer limits of time; the music comes from another plain entirely.
Tortelvis: “Daddy Telvis raised me up. Ah got very depressed when ah turned from one to two by the way, cos my age had doubled and ah figured that if that kept up, by the time ah was six ah’d be 90.”
This could be the sound of the summer, but which summer is open to question — they’ve been together “Since 1956…no, January ’89, that’s right,” drawls Tortelvis. The singer met the band when he rammed his milkfloat (don’t ask) into the back of their car.
“I thought it was a gift from God,” testifies guitarist Jah Paul Jo, “to have Tortelvis run into us like that. You see, our car was a Ford Pinto, and they have the gas tank in the rear, and they’re noted for blowing up when they get hit in the rear. Ours didn’t, and that was an omen.”
“I think Tortelvis is kinda modest, he draws everyone together under this innertanement umbrella. It’s a beautiful thing. I wept when I first saw it.”
Tortelvis: “But Daddy Telvis is a great fan, a great fan of the band. He’s very into The Stranglers also. He came to me and said, Son, ah kinda like that Stranglers group.”
Fully endorsed by Robert Plant, Dread Zeppelin discovered that the Presley estate was less amused.
“We flew to Graceland, an’ ah’ve never seen a bunch of guys rally round their man like they did, a very emotional thang. One of the boys even cried when he talked about Elvis and then we all broke down. There was a few things they didn’t like on the LP, an’ we changed them. Because they’re good people, and hopefully when ah’m dead ‘n’ gone my boys will take care of me like that.”
Dread Zeppelin say their next LP will be a rock opera about a deaf, dumb and blind guy who can’t cut it as a musician so he becomes a music critic. It’ll very probably be called ‘Albert’.
Tortelvis: “Ah’m doin’ what Elvis never had a chance to do, that’s right, never had a chance. Of course, ah’m gonna die at 42, so that gives me 13 years to get this to the public. Hopefully there’ll be another Elvis person created so ah can tell him…ah’ll tell him, New Kids On The Block, reggae style, the way it’s meant to be done.”