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From spirituals to spirted hip-swiveling, Elvis impersonator covers the gamut

By Lenora Lake, Times Correspondent
Billy Lindsey, an Elvis Presley tribute artist, performs at a Halloween Party at the Haleyâ\u0080\u009A\u0080\u0099s Cove Community Living Center at the James A. Haley Veterans Hospital. He will be at Throwback Sunday on Nov. 12 at St. Paul Lutheran Church in Seminole Heights. Photo by LENORA LAKE

SEMINOLE HEIGHTS — Dressed in a sequined blue jacket with blue suede shoes, Billy Lindsey swiveled his hips and belted out All Shook Up, Don’t be Cruel and Blue Suede Shoes.

Veterans and family members at the Haley’s Cove Community Living Center at the James A. Haley Veterans’ Hospital were all smiles as the Elvis Presley tribute artist played music from the 1950s and 1960s at their Halloween party.

The concert was just one of many volunteer appearances the 61-year-old performer gives around the Tampa Bay area including ones for the Children’s Miracle Network and the Veterans Day Celebration in Port Charlotte.

On Sunday (Nov. 12), he will be part of the sixth annual 1950s Throwback Sunday service at St. Paul Lutheran Church,

Lindsey, a Marine and a Vietnam veteran, also performs at local clubs and for parties as himself or Elvis. He said he enjoys performing as Elvis because he sees "how happy it makes people... all the memories it brings back."

Suzanna Hargraves, a VA recreation therapist serving Halloween cake during Lindsey’s Halloween appearance, said: "They like that he is a veteran himself giving back to veterans. He’s also a great showman, entertainer."

She added: "All I have to say is say ‘Elvis will be here’ and I get people showing up."

Originally from Indiana, Lindsey moved to Florida in 1984. He lives in Sun City Center with his wife, Lori, whom he married on July 4.

He said the first concert he attended was Elvis in 1974; it was the only time he saw the performer who died in 1977.

Lindsey played with a group that performed often at Happy Days in Valrico until he started working solo about 20 years ago and also started portraying Elvis on occasion.

"It just seemed the right thing for me to do," said Lindsey who won The "Elvis Extravaganza" Contest at the Florida State Fair several times. "And then it just took over."

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Lindsey connected with Throwback Sunday organizer Jimmy Dunn several years ago and has performed at several of the special services where attendees often wear "dress" clothes of suits, ties, flowing dresses and hats.

The event, which includes a church service and ice cream social on the grounds afterwards, "was created to bring attention to our church and our neighborhood," said Dunn who was inspired by National Football League and Major League Baseball Throwback Games, where players wear uniforms of times past.

"The congregation and visitors have fond memories of the ’50s and Elvis," said Dunn, who graduated from Hillsborough High School in 1955 and began the throwback event recruiting schoolmates to it. "Plus it gives them an opportunity to socialize with friends ."

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This year, like last, Lindsey will sing traditional and more modern hymns with the choir. Last year’s selections included How Great Thou Art, Amazing Grace, Swing Low, Sweet Chariot and more.

After church he will perform highlights of his Las Vegas act outside under the tents.

"The first two years, Throwback Sunday was all about the ladies’ hats and dresses plus the ice cream social, " Dunn said. Now it’s hats, dresses, coats, ties, ice cream social and Elvis.

Over the years, a variety of local political and business leaders including former Tampa Mayor Dick Greco and Hillsborough County Commissioners Les Miller and Pat Kemp have attended the event, which is open to the public.

Contact Lenora Lake at [email protected]

IF YOU GO

Throwback Sunday

The sixth annual 1950s service will be at 10:30 a.m. on Nov. 12 at St. Paul Lutheran Church, 5103 N Central Ave. An ice cream social on the grounds will follow about noon. The event is open to all and there is no charge to attend but attendees can contribute to the church offering during the service. For information about the event, call (813) 239-3113. To learn more about Billy Lindsey, visit billyelvislindsey.com.